NVCL Reads: Canada 150

Canada150Want to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, expand your experience of Canadian literature, have fun, and maybe win a prize?  Then NVCL Reads: Canada 150 is for you!

NVCL Reads is a reading bingo game that allows readers of all ages on the North Shore to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday by reading Canadian authors and having fun.

How to Play

  • We have three bingo cards to choose from: children’s, teen, and adult.  Download the card of your choice, or pick up a bingo card from any information desk at the library.
  • Find and read books by Canadian authors to cross off bingo squares. You need a line of 5 to get a bingo.
  • Share the love!  Post about your reads on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to tag us @northvancitylib and use the hashtag #NVCLreads
  • When you have a bingo, let us know!  Come into the library and hand the bingo card in at any desk to get a draw slip, or submit the bingo card electronically. Please visit www.nvcl.ca to find out how.
  • For each line of five you complete, you’ll be entered into a draw for prizes.  The contest closes on September 5, 2017.  Winners must be able to pick their prizes up from the North Vancouver City Library; we are not able to mail your prize to you.

For full contest details, visit our website.

We’ll be blogging suggested reads for each square all summer long.  If you have questions about the program, please email plesku@cnv.org

Happy Canadian reading!

 

-Patricia

NVCL Reads: Over 400 Pages

If you’re doing #NVCLreads this summer and are a particularly ambitious reader, then this category is for you!  Great for long (long) days at the beach, or hiding inside from sunburn, here are our picks for #NVCLreads400:

fallonyourkneesFall on Your Knees, by Ann Marie Macdonald (566 pages)
Recommended by Fereshteh

Following the curves of history in the first half of the twentieth century, Fall On Your Knees takes us from haunted Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, through the battle fields of World War One, to the emerging jazz scene of New York city and into the lives of four unforgettable sisters. The mythically charged Piper family–James, a father of intelligence and immense ambition, Materia, his Lebanese child-bride, and their daughters: Kathleen, a budding opera Diva; Frances, the incorrigible liar and hell-bent bad girl; Mercedes, obsessive Catholic and protector of the flock; and Lily, the adored invalid who takes us on a quest for truth and redemption–is supported by a richly textured cast of characters. Together they weave a tale of inescapable family bonds, of terrible secrets, of miracles, racial strife, attempted murder, birth and death, and forbidden love.*

* could alternately be used for#NVCLreadsWinner or #NVCLreadsHistorical

agoodmanA Good Man, by Gay Vanderhaeghe (464 pages)
Recommended by Fereshteh

A Good Man culminates what could be thought of as a trilogy of books set in the late nineteenth-century Canadian and American West, and it is a masterpiece. Vanderhaeghe skilfully weaves a rich tapestry of history with the turns of fortune of his most vividly and compellingly drawn cast of characters yet. Vanderhaeghe entwines breathtaking, intriguing, and richly described narratives that contain a compelling love story, a tale of revenge and violence, a spectacular battle scene, the story of an incident in Welsely’s past that threatens his relationship with Ada, and much, much more. While raising moral questions, this novel weaves the historical with the personal and stands as Vanderhaeghe’s most accomplished and brilliant novel to date.*

* could alternately be used for #NVCLreadsHistorical

lightgetsinHow the Light Gets In, by Louise Penny (405 pages)
Recommended by Margarete

In the 9th Chief Inspector Gamache Novel from Louise Penny,  most of his best agents have left the Homicide Department, his old friend and lieutenant Jean-Guy Beauvoir hasn’t spoken to him in months, and hostile forces are lining up against him. When Gamache receives a message from Myrna Landers that a longtime friend has failed to arrive for Christmas in the village of Three Pines, he welcomes the chance to get away from the city. As events come to a head, Gamache is drawn ever deeper into the world of Three Pines. Increasingly, he is not only investigating the disappearance of Myrna’s friend but also seeking a safe place for himself and his still-loyal colleagues.*

tyrantsthroneTyrant’s Throne (Greatcoats #4), by Sebastian DeCastell
(601 pages). Recommended by Margarete

After years of struggle and sacrifice, Falcio val Mond, First Cantor of the Greatcoats, is on the brink of fulfilling his dead king’s dream: Aline, the king’s daughter, is about to take the throne and restore the rule of law once and for all. But for the Greatcoats, nothing is ever that simple. As the nobles of Tristia and even the Greatcoats themselves fight over who should rule, the Warlord of Avares threatens to invade. With so many powerful contenders vying for power, it will fall to Falcio to render the one verdict he cannot bring himself to utter, much less enforce. Should he help crown the young woman he vowed to put on the throne, or uphold the laws he swore to serve?*
Haven’t read this series? Try the first one – Traitor’s Blade – for #NVCLreadsSciFi!

waterratThe Water-Rat of Wanchai: an Ava Lee novel, by Ian Hamilton
(412 pages). Recommended by Margarete

In the first book of the Ava Lee series, Ava – young Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant who works for an elderly Hong Kong–based “Uncle,” who may or may not have ties to the Triads – travels across continents to track $5 million owed by a seafood company. But it’s in Guyana where she meets her match: Captain Robbins, a huge hulk of a man and godfather-like figure who controls the police, politicians, and criminals alike. In exchange for his help, he decides he wants a piece of Ava’s $5 million action and will do whatever it takes to get his fair share…*

The Way the Crow Flies, by Ann Marie Macdonald (820 pages)crowflies
Recommended by Fereshteh

The optimism of the early sixties, infused with the excitement of the space race and the menace of the Cold War, is filtered through the rich imagination of high-spirited, eight-year-old Madeleine, who welcomes her family’s posting to a quiet Air Force base near the Canadian border. Secure in the love of her beautiful mother, she is unaware that her father, Jack, is caught up in a web of secrets. When a very local murder intersects with global forces, Jack must decide where his loyalties lie, and Madeleine will be forced to learn a lesson about the ambiguity of human morality — one she will only begin to understand when she carries her quest for the truth, and the killer, into adulthood twenty years later.*

Something for the ambitious teen…

bloodredroadBlood Red Road, by Moira Young (458 pages)
Recommended by Kate

In a distant future, eighteen-year-old Lugh is kidnapped, and while his twin sister Saba and nine-year-old Emmi are trailing him across bleak Sandsea they are captured, too, and taken to brutal Hopetown, where Saba is forced to be a cage fighter until new friends help plan an escape.

This is the first in Young’s Dustlands series, and could instead be used for #NVCLreadsSciFi or #NVCLreadsDystopia squares.

And something for the ambitious tween…

airbornAirborn, by Kenneth Oppel (417 pages)
Recommended by Linda

This award winning book is sure to capture  a child’s imagination as 14-year old Matt Cruse sets sail in an Airship called the Aurora. As a cabin boy in this fantastical ship Matt has a series of adventures  including strange cloud cats and pirates.

*Descriptions from the publishers

-Kat

NVCL Reads: Folk and Fairy Tales

If you’re doing #NVCLreads this summer with the kids, they might want to read some Canadian folk and fairy tales for #NVCLreadsFairyTales. (And you may want to read some for #NVCLreadsIllustrated or #NVCLreads200.)  Homa from our fabulous Children’s Department has some ideas about where to start:

Our collection of folk & fairy tales aims to engage children in timeless stories and help them to discover diversity.  This collection represents a range of traditions from various cultures and countries.  Here are some of the Canadian authors that have written fables, fairy tales, legends and myths.

fingerlingLittle Fingerling by Monica Hughes

This familiar Japanese folktale, a cross between Tom Thumb and David and Goliath, is given sophisticated treatment in this attractive picture book. Hughes’s telling is leisurely and formal, with a traditional tone that suits the material. In ancient Japan, a tiny son is born to an elderly couple. As he grows older — but no larger — his courage and resourcefulness see him through many exciting adventures.

41Q+Z8fVfsLThe Nervous Prince and other stories by Michael B. Kerr   

What was Cinderella’s prince really like? Was Red Riding Hood rescued by a woodsman, or not? Was Jack’s beanstalk genetically modified? Why were Hansel and Gretel searching for carbohydrate treats in the forest? And who styled Rapunzel’s hair? These updated versions of popular folk and fairy tales answer all these burning questions and more.

The-King-and-the-Tortoise-1200x972The King and The Tortoise by Tololwa M. Mollel

Who is the cleverest creature of all? In order to find out, the king has issued a challenge: who can make him a robe of smoke? The swift hare, the sly fox, the fierce leopard, and the mighty elephant try but each one fails.  It is up to the tortoise, patient and slow, to win the day through wit alone.  In this gentle traditional story from Cameroon, master story teller Tolowa Mollel has woven a tale of humor and wisdom as magical as a robe of smoke.

mermaid's museThe Mermaid’s Muse: The Legend of the Dragon Boats by David Bouchard 

History meets myth in this dramatic re-telling of the story of Qu Yuan, celebrated poet-in-exile of ancient China. In Bouchard’s tale the poet and a sea dragon, in the appearance of a mermaid, develop a mutually inspiring friendship that drives them to sail away together, to the mistaken alarm of Qu Yuan’s neighbors. The surprising climax illustrates the traditional Chinese origin of dragon boats. Spectacularly illustrated, this book is truly amazing — you should read it!

TwoSistersThe Two Sisters by E. Pauline Johnson

Many thousands of years ago, two little girl with eyes of spring and hearts of summer had the courage to ask their father to stop a war. He does as they ask, and this brings about a lasting peace in the land. This book will lead you on your own adventure through the rich history of the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest.  I highly recommend it. It is a book for all ages with a valuable message and fabulous illustrations.

 

howsummerHow Summer Came to Canada Pictures by Elizabeth Cleaver Retold by William Toye

When the giant Winter came down from the North to live in Eastern Canada the land became frozen and white. Glooskap, mythical lord and creator of the Micmac Indians, saves his people from endless cold when he brings a beautiful Queen to his country. Her name is Summer and she persuades Winter to relax his icy grip every Spring while she awakens the land from its deep sleep and gives life to everything that grows. The beautiful illustrations of this book feature scenes of icy desolation and sunny flowering greenness.

Let’s read more folk and fairy tales this summer to better understand ourselves and others.

-Homa

NVCL Reads: Dystopic Canadian Novels

Reading today’s headlines it is no surprise that dystopian fiction has attracted a new audience.  Book sales of classics like 1984 and Brave New World have skyrocketed, meanwhile Canada’s dystopic diva Margaret Atwood has found a new fanbase for her classic, The Handmaid’s Tale, with Hulu’s dark and wildly popular TV series.

In honour of these dark times, may I present #NVCLreadsDystopia

 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandelstation eleven

I absolutely LOVED this book.

Station Eleven asks a question that most dystopian novels miss: how do the survivors of a worldwide epidemic learn to enjoy life after they’ve learned how to survive? What happens to art when 99.9% of the world is dead? Emily St.John Mandel weaves convincing characters together with the most intriguing elements – Shakespearean theatre, a traveling symphony, cults, kidnappings, a very fluffy puppy, secret poets, sci-fi comic books, the life of the rich and famous, and the life of a paparazzo. Station Eleven is one of those books that sits in your mind, begging for attention, long after it’s over. (From the publisher).

The Handmaids Tale and Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
handmaidstales

Although it was originally published in 1985, as mentioned earlier The Handmaids Tale is likely the best known piece of Canadian dystopian fiction today. Set in a near-future totalitarian England, the Republic of Gilead,  the novel explores themes of women in subjugation and the various means by which they gain individualism and independence.

If you’ve had enough of Gilead, Margaret Atwood has plenty to offer for those interested in imagining just how bad things could get.

As the first book in the dystopic trilogy, and soon to be it’s very own HBO series, no Canadian dystopic list would be complete without Margaret Atwood’s riveting novel Oryx and Crake. 

When the story opens, the narrator Snowman is sleeping in a tree, wearing an old bedsheet, mourning the loss of his beloved Oryx and his best friend Crake, and slowly starving to death. He searches for supplies in a wasteland where insects proliferate and pigoons and wolvogs ravage the pleeblands, where ordinary people once lived, and the Compounds that sheltered the extraordinary. As he tries to piece together what has taken place, the narrative shifts to decades earlier. How did everything fall apart so quickly? Why is he left with nothing but his haunting memories? Alone except for the green-eyed Children of Crake, who think of him as a kind of monster, he explores the answers to these questions in the double journey he takes – into his own past, and back to Crake’s high-tech bubble-dome, where the Paradice Project unfolded and the world came to grief. (From the publisher).

Neuromancer by William Gibson neuromancer

Neuromancer was  the first novel to win the Nebula, Huge and Philip K. Dick Award–an unprecedented achievement which thereby legitimized cyberpunk as a mainstream branch of science fiction literature. Set within the Matrix, a world within the world and global consensus- hallucination, Neuromancer follows the story of Henry Case. Case had been the sharpest data-thief in the business, until vengeful former employees crippled his nervous system. But now a new and very mysterious employer recruits him for a last-chance run. The target: an unthinkably powerful artificial intelligence orbiting Earth in service of the sinister Tessier-Ashpool business clan. With a dead man riding shotgun and Molly, mirror-eyed street-samurai, to watch his back, Case embarks on an adventure that ups the ante on an entire genre of fiction. (From the publisher).

 

Company Town by Madeline Ashby

companytown

New Arcadia is a city-sized oil rig off the coast of the Canadian Maritimes, now owned by one very wealthy, powerful, byzantine family: Lynch Ltd.

Hwa is of the few people in her community (which constitutes the whole rig) to forgo bio-engineered enhancements. As such, she’s the last truly organic person left on the rig—making her doubly an outsider, as well as a neglected daughter and bodyguard extraordinaire. Still, her expertise in the arts of self-defense and her record as a fighter mean that her services are yet in high demand. When the youngest Lynch needs training and protection, the family turns to Hwa. But can even she protect against increasingly intense death threats seemingly coming from another timeline?

Meanwhile, a series of interconnected murders threatens the city’s stability and heightens the unease of a rig turning over. All signs point to a nearly invisible serial killer, but all of the murders seem to lead right back to Hwa’s front door. Company Town has never been the safest place to be—but now, the danger is personal. (From the publisher).

 

Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji  nostalgia

For fans of the HBO series Westworld, comes a taut and thought-provoking novel about the personal identity and the power of one’s past.

In the indeterminate future in an unnamed western city, physical impediments to immortality have been overcome. As society approaches the prospect of eternal life, a new problem must be confronted: with the threat of the brain’s storage capacity being overwhelmed, people want to move forward into the future free from redundant, unwanted and interfering memories. Rejuvenated bodies require rejuvenated identities–all traces of a person’s past are erased and new, complete fictions are implanted in their stead. On occasion, though, cracks emerge, and reminders of discarded lives seep through. Those afflicted suffer from Leaked Memory Syndrome, or Nostalgia, whereby thoughts from a previous existence burrow in the conscious mind threatening to pull sufferers into an internal abyss.

Doctor Frank Sina specializes in sealing these memory leaks. He is satisfied in his profession, more or less secure in the life he shares with his much younger lover, content with his own fiction–a happy childhood in the Yukon, an adulthood marked by the influence of a mathematician father and poet mother. But one day, Presley Smith arrives in Frank’s office. Persistent thoughts are torturing Presley, recurring images of another time and place. As he tries to save Presley from the onslaught of memory, Frank finds clues that suggest Presley’s past may be located in war-torn, nuclear-ravaged Maskinia, a territory located in the southern hemisphere, isolated from the north by fiercely guarded borders and policy barriers. Frank’s suspicions are only intensified when the Department of Internal Security takes an interest in Presley. They describe him as one of their own, meaning his new life was one they created for him, and they want him back. Who was Presley before the Department remade him, what secrets are buried in the memories that are encroaching upon him? As Frank tries to save Presley from both internal and external threats, cracks emerge in his own fiction, and the thoughts that sneak through suggest a connection with the mysterious Presley that goes well beyond a doctor and his patient. (From the publisher).

 

NVCL Reads: Science Fiction and Fantasy

First up in our reading recommendations for the Canada 150 #NVCLreads Bingo game (adult version) is the Science Fiction and Fantasy square, #NVCLreadsSciFi! The following is a mix of new(ish), classic, and personal favourites by our talented Canadian SF/FAN authors:

amongothers

Among Others, by Jo Walton (2011)

While Jo Walton is usually categorized as a fantasy writer, I wouldn’t hesitate to also recommend her to non SF/FAN readers as well because of her masterful prose and wonderfully realized characters.  This haunting (and Hugo award winning!) novel follows Mori, crippled and struggling to escape a troubled childhood and the tragic loss of her twin sister, killed in a confrontation with their mother who had been dabbling in dark magics.  But her attempts to build a new life for herself, including a cautious return to magic, bring her back to the attention of her mother and an inevitable confrontation.

If magic isn’t your thing you could try the more speculative My Real Children or, if philosophy is more your bag, her Thessaly trilogy and any of them will count towards the science fiction or fantasy square!

 

walkawayWalkaway, by Cory Doctorow (2017)

Doctorow’s latest is in the speculative fiction genre, and an interesting blend of utopia and dystopia.  Based in post-scarcity society where you can 3D-print any of the basic necessities of life including food and shelter, its premise begins with a young couple who simply choose to walk away from mainstream society and its out of control wealth and power gap and lack of jobs.  Away from society and occupying lands devastated by climate change they and those who join them discover one thing that the ultra-rich have not been able to achieve – a way to conquer death itself.

* could alternately be used for the #NVCLreadsEnvironment or #NVCLreadsDystopia

 

companytown

Company Town, by Madeline Ashby (2016)

Nominated in the 2017 Canada Reads contest (eventually won by Andre Alexis’ awesome Fifteen Dogs), Ashby’s biopunk novel takes place on a defunct, city-sized oil rig that was recently purchased by an uber-wealthy family company. Its main character, Hwa, is one of the few people in her community (the former oil rig) without any biotechnology enhancements, making her the ideal bodyguard for the young heir of the company. While at its basic its a murder investigation, it contains some excellent world-building, and Hwa is a fascinating, compelling character and the true strength of the book.

 

gardensofthemoon

Gardens of the Moon: The Malazan Book of the Fallen #1,
by Steven Erikson (1999)

Ok, now it’s time to admit I haven’t read one of the consistently ranked best Fantasy series of all time. This one’s been on my bucket list for ages, and if it’s on yours too then this is a great excuse to pick it up.  Gardens of the Moon kicks off a 10-volume fantasy epic that spans thousands of years and follows the struggle for power in the Malazan empire. It’s renowned for its world-building, huge cast of characters, and its sheer scale. So, epic fantasy at its most epic.

*coming in at 666 pages, this could alternately be used for the #NVCLreads400

 

Children of Earth and Sky, by Guy Gavriel Kay (2016)

childrenofearthandskyUsually categorized as “historical fantasy”, Kay’s novels are not really fantasy and are only quasi-historical (although they are meticulously researched, so the term “alternate history” might work better), so, here’s a good read for those of you who are not really fantasy readers, but need to fill that square! Kay’s latest is set in near-Renaissance Europe (specifically 16th c. Croatia) and follows the intertwining lives of a large cast of characters – among them a woman out for revenge, a spy, an artist,  a merchant’s son, and a boy training to become a soldier – against the backdrop of a looming war.

 

oryxandcrake

Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood (2004)

I’m not sure how one could responsibly write a post on Canadian science fiction and not mention Oryx and Crake and the Maddaddam Trilogy, so if you haven’t yet read it now’s the time. Science-fiction of the post-apocalyptic variety, this novel follows Sandman, who may be the last human left alive. Mourning his friend Crake and Oryx, the woman they both loved, he searches for answers in a world destroyed by genetic engineering run amok. While many people I know preferred the sequel – The Year of The Flood – to its predecessor, Oryx and Crake remains my favourite for its disturbing and unforgettable vision of the future.

*could alternately count for the #NVCLreadsDystopia or #NVCLreadsMargaret

 

Need more? Other Canadian Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors include Kelley Armstrong, R. Scott Bakker, Julie E. CzernedaWilliam Gibson, Tanya HuffRobert J. Sawyer, S.M. Stirling, Robert Charles Wilson

Happy reading and Happy 150th, Canada!
Kat

An interview with local author (and NVCL staff member) Michael Kerr

MK-InternetPhoto CroppedTell us about your book, The Nervous Prince and Other Stories.

Well, my book is a collection of short stories, each of which is a modern retelling of a classic fairy tale. I’ve played with point of view – Rapunzel becomes the hairdresser’s story for example – and give lots of allusions to modern considerations such as having Hansel and Gretel search out carbohydrate treats in the forest because their caregiver has put them on a Paleo diet. You might think these kind of twists would go over children’s heads, but that’s partly the point; parents often have to read stories to their children over and over, and I thought the adults should get some amusement out of the deal as well. Besides, children are surprisingly sophisticated in some ways, and often understand more than we adults give them credit for. So they are children’s stories, but geared to an adult audience as well. I think you can tell when you read my book, that I had a great deal of fun writing the stories.

41Q+Z8fVfsLWhy do you write?

There’s something really satisfying about working on a story and having it come together. It’s time-consuming, of course, and I don’t have a lot of time… But as I said, it I get a lot of pleasure out of it. I also really enjoy being part of a writing community and sharing things I’ve been working on. It’s great to see other writers’ works in-progress too and see how they have solved issues and dilemmas with the craft. Plus (at least if people read my work) I get to be part of the cultural conversation we’re all having as we march through life.

hardyDescribe your first ever piece of writing.

I wrote some poems when I was very young, and then in primary school I decided to write a mystery. I think it was grade 2 or 3. I had been reading Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, and was certain I could pull off something exciting like that. I wrote in one of those saddle-stitched scribblers. I don’t remember the plot, but the bad guys were caught in the end.

boyindressI’ve read your book. What should I read next?

That’s a tough one. If you’re a younger reader (or parent who wants something with a bit of depth to the fun) I’d suggest David Walliams’ The Boy in the Dress, or Mr. Stink. Another ‘children’s’ book I read recently – one that I just loved – is The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. I don’t think I can say enough about how great the Bradley book is. If you’re looking for an adult book that is light and amusing (but with a real human touch) you might like something by Alexander McCall Smith –  The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, or The 44 Scotland Street books.

couplandWhat local authors do you love?\

Douglas Coupland is pretty great. And at the North Shore Writers’ Festival, I discovered a new local writer, Alexander Boldizar, who has a rare talent. I haven’t finished his book, The Ugly, yet, but he has a real gift.

suitableWhat is the best book you’ve read so far this year?

Hands down, it’s A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. I reread it this year and it is just so amazing. When I finished, I carried around those characters for days. It’s a 1,500 page novel, and I found myself thinking it was just too short. Thankfully, Seth has written a sequel of sorts, A Suitable Girl, which is supposed to be released next year. I can’t wait.

Where can fans find you?

I’m a Goodreads author, so I have an author page there. I’m also on LinkedIn. But I’m afraid I’m not terribly active in the social media sphere (I don’t think I could market my way out of a wet paper bag). Twitter would work, I suppose – I’m @NVCLMichael

Thanks, Michael!

If you are a published local author who would like to be interviewed for The Top Shelf, please be in touch!  Email me at plesku@cnv.org

-Patricia

 

Mark your calendars! March 21st is the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Aptly, March 21st is a day of new beginnings for a few symbolic reasons. Not only does it mark the first day of Spring, it is also the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. In honor of this worthy occasion, we’ve put together a short list which highlight a few of our favourite books which encourage readers to question biases, confront discrimination, and end intolerance.

For more information about the day, visit the UN’s site here.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates betweentheworldandme

For Ta-Nehisi Coates, history has always been personal. At every stage of his life, he’s sought in his explorations of history answers to the mysteries that surrounded him — most urgently, why he, and other black people he knew, seemed to live in fear. What were they afraid of? In Tremble for My Country, Coates takes readers along on his journey through America’s history of race and its contemporary resonances through a series of awakenings — moments when he discovered some new truth about our long, tangled history of race, whether through his myth-busting professors at Howard University, a trip to a Civil War battlefield with a rogue historian, a journey to Chicago’s South Side to visit aging survivors of 20th century America’s ‘long war on black people, ‘ or a visit with the mother of a beloved friend who was shot down by the police. In his trademark style — a mix of lyrical personal narrative, reimagined history, essayistic argument, and reportage — Coates provides readers a thrillingly illuminating new framework for understanding race: its history, our contemporary dilemma, and where we go from here. (From the publisher)

The Break by Katherine Vermette 

thebreak

 

A 2016 Canada Reads, Governor General’s Literary Award, and Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize  finalist (among many other awards), Vermette’s debut novel is a startling look into the lives of First Nations women in Winnpeg’s North End.

“When Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break — a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house — she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime.

In a series of shifting narratives, people who are connected, both directly and indirectly, with the victim — police, family, and friends — tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Lou, a social worker, grapples with the departure of her live-in boyfriend. Cheryl, an artist, mourns the premature death of her sister Rain. Paulina, a single mother, struggles to trust her new partner. Phoenix, a homeless teenager, is released from a youth detention centre. Officer Scott, a Metis policeman, feels caught between two worlds as he patrols the city. Through their various perspectives a larger, more comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg’s North End is exposed. ” (From the publisher)

hiddenfiguresHidden Figures; The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly 

Now a major motion picture, this phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA at the leading edge of the feminist and civil rights movement, whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space–a powerful, revelatory contribution that is as essential to our understanding of race, discrimination, and achievement in modern America as Between the World and Me and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. (From the publisher)

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whithead  undergroundrailroad

The National Book Award Winner and #1 New York Times bestseller from Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad is a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave’s adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South.

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood–where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned–Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor–engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. (From the publisher)

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie americanah

A searing new novel, at once sweeping and intimate, by the award-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun: a story of love and race centered around a man and woman from Nigeria who seemed destined to be together–until the choices they are forced to make tear them apart. Ifemelu–beautiful, self-assured–left Nigeria 15 years ago, and now studies in Princeton as a Graduate Fellow. She seems to have fulfilled every immigrant’s dream: Ivy League education; success as a writer of a wildly popular political blog; money for the things she needs. But what came before is more like a nightmare: wrenching departure from family; humiliating jobs under a false name. She feels for the first time the weight of something she didn’t think about back home: race. Obinze–handsome and kind-hearted–was Ifemelu’s teenage love; he’d hoped to join her in America, but post 9/11 America wouldn’t let him in. Obinze’s journey leads him to back alleys of illegal employment in London; to a fake marriage for the sake of a work card, and finally, to a set of handcuffs as he is exposed and deported. Years later, when they reunite in Nigeria, neither is the same person who left home. Obinze is the kind of successful “Big Man” he’d scorned in his youth, and Ifemelu has become an “Americanah”–a different version of her former self, one with a new accent and attitude. As they revisit their shared passion–for their homeland and for each other–they must face the largest challenges of their lives. Spanning three continents, entering the lives of a richly drawn cast of characters across numerous divides, Americanah is a riveting story of love and expectation set in today’s globalized world. (From the publisher)

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese Indianhorse

Saul Indian Horse is dying. Tucked away in a hospice high above the clash and clang of a big city, he embarks on a marvellous journey of imagination back through the life he led as a northern Ojibway, with all its sorrows and joys.

With compassion and insight, author Richard Wagamese traces through his fictional characters the decline of a culture and a cultural way. For Saul, taken forcibly from the land and his family when he’s sent to residential school, salvation comes for a while through his incredible gifts as a hockey player. But in the harsh realities of 1960s Canada, he battles obdurate racism and the spirit-destroying effects of cultural alienation and displacement. (From the publisher)