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September 21, 2016
Guest post by The Booktrail
The Word On The Street is 27 years old this year. That means for 27 years, they’ve been sharing and revelling in the wonder of books. I have a great deal to thank for this festival. Not only is it one of the best and most varied I’ve ever been to, but it was also a huge part of how thebooktrail.com came into being.
The Booktrail is all about seeing the locations where books are set, through the eyes of the authors and their characters. Travelling literary-style allows a reader to discover new cultures, new parts of Canada and new sides to the Canadian identity. It really fuels that wanderlust too!
My Canadian literary journey started when I was about five and I ‘met’ the lovely Anne of Green Gables, who made her home on PEI. From that moment on, I wanted to travel there through books, and soon. By the time I’d discovered Three Pines and Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, Canada was at the top of my reading list!
Discovering Canada one book at a time is a great way to really get into the culture and mindset of the country. And the pick of the bunch at The Word On The Street this year really shows off Canada in style:
Often, the most insightful books into the Canadian identity are children’s books. What better way to learn about the world and a new country than through the eyes of a child?
This is a lovely story by Nadia L. Hohn all about family and community: a little girl living in the Caribbean is missing her mom who’s moved to Canada to work. Malaika is worried that in her mom’s absence her Carnival costume is not going to be as good as it could be, and even worse, what happens if there is no costume at all?
This is a poignant story about how a little girl copes with her mom living overseas, especially at a time when the people of the Caribbean celebrate their culture in this iconic festival. The rich colours of the illustrations and the warm message about missing someone in the book really made me smile. It makes me realize how I’ve missed people when travelling.
I Am Not a Number
To really see what Canada is like through the eyes of a child, there’s no better book than I Am Not A Number by Jenny Kay Depuis and Kathy Kacer. Jenny is a member of the Nipissing First Nation and has written a tale of a young girl, Irene, who is removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school.
Being taken into a new and unfamiliar world, she’s confused and frightened. She tries to remember who she is and where she came from despite being told to do otherwise. This is a book which has merged two unique insights into the Canadian identity: how two cultures can mix and live side by side whilst conserving what makes them great, and how understanding of both is the best education there is.
Once in while, a book comes along which shows you a world you would never thought existed. What about a city the size of an oil rig off the coast of the Maritime provinces? Canadian science fiction hasn’t been this good since I spent time with Alias Grace.
Company Town, the new book by Madeline Ashby, has the unique landscape of an oil-rig the size of a city, just off the coast of the Maritimes. It’s called New Arcadia, with a nod to the past Owned by the wealthy, powerful Lynch family, the island city is populated by bio -engineered people apart from one, Hwa.
Hwa is a fighter and so is valued in the community and when there’s a series of murders on the island, Hwa is the one chosen to look into the problem. Company Town is obviously built on stormy waters if the Maritime Provinces are anything to go by.
Take Us to Your Chief
In his new book Take Us to Your Chief, he frames classic science-fiction tropes in an Aboriginal perspective. I would never have thought about comparing the cultural implications of alien contact to those of the arrival of Europeans in the Americas, or thinking about how someone from the First Nations could retain his identity in space for example.
Drew has spent 15 years writing and researching aboriginal humour. He’s certainly helped me understand and learn even more about Canadian spirit.
An author to watch this year is Nathan Adler who is a member of the Lac Des Mille Lacs First Nation. This First Nations culture and literature is one of the most fascinating and unique in the world – tales of folklore, heritage, and the heartbeat of Canada today and yesterday. In his debut novel Wrist, Nathan writes about nature as a character in itself:
A forest doesn’t know what the future holds, but it is patient.
His book reads like a song and illustrates a story, heritage and rich culture in one swipe of the pen.
So what does it mean to be Canadian, honorary or otherwise? It means having a literary heritage as rich as the geographical one, a love of hockey that can even turn a non sporty Brit and a cultural and linguistic background to be proud of. Literary travel really is the best way to discover what really makes a country tick, what makes it great, unique, and how authors see the country and its people.
Books really do take readers places in more ways than one.
The Booktrail is a Literary Travel Agency – travel via fiction and see the world through the eyes of authors and their characters!
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