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To celebrate International Women’s Day, we asked all our women staff members to recommend a favourite Talon book that contributes to the advancement of women, and which they themselves enjoyed reading.
(Plus, an interesting coincidence! This list includes at least one book from each genre that Talon publishes: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and drama. We swear we didn’t do that on purpose.)
Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal, translated by Jessica Moore
Our office manager and aquisitions editor, Vicki, recommends this new novel.
Mend the Living is the story of a heart transplant, centred around Simon Limbeau, the boy whose heart is given, and his family. Taking place within exactly twenty-four hours, the novel traces the thrill of an early-morning winter surf session, the terrible accident that follows, and all the urgency and compassion of the hospital workers, and shock and grief of Simon’s family as they negotiate the question of organ donation.
“It’s rare that you read a book and then you feel the characters have become members of your family,” Vicki notes. A recent visit to the ocean shore brought the memory of Simon (the memory of reading about the character, Simon) back to Vicki. How wonderful it is when a book stays with you, and its story continues to ebb and flow within you.
Vicki was also reminded of the recent news about Sarah Burke, the Canadian Olympic athlete (skiing) from Squamish, BC, who passed away in 2011. News recently surfaced that Burke became an organ donor and donated all possible organs; they were in great shape, since she was a healthy athlete. Inspiring!
They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School by Bev Sellars
Managing editor Ann-Marie recommends the memoir They Called Me Number One.
Now retired, Xat’sull Chief Bev Sellars spent her childhood in a church-run residential school whose aim it was to “civilize” Native children through Christian teachings, forced separation from family and culture, and discipline. In addition, beginning at the age of ﬁve, Sellars was isolated for two years at Coqualeetza Indian Turberculosis Hospital in Sardis, British Columbia, nearly six hours’ drive from home. The trauma of these experiences has reverberated throughout her life. She tells of hunger, forced labour, and physical beatings, often with a leather strap, and also of the demand for conformity in a culturally alien institution where children were conﬁned and denigrated for failure to be White and Roman Catholic.
Ann-Marie writes: “My choice for recognition on International Women’s Day is warrior woman Bev Sellars, who with her family and community has long fought for survival against repressions of the Indian Act. Bev voiced her anger through the written word, and the best-selling memoir that resulted has opened the eyes of many readers to the indignities of the residential school experience. From a young age Bev promised herself that one day she would write the story of three generations of women attending these schools – and she did! I am humbled by the opportunity to work with her.”
This frank and poignant memoir spent more than 40 consecutive weeks on the B.C. bestseller list in 2013 and 2014, and won or was nominated for a number of awards in its first year, including the 2014 Burt Award for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Literature (3rd Prize); the 2014 Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize, one category in the B.C. Book Prizes (Shortlisted); and the 2014 George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature (Winner).
COSMOPHILIA by Rahat Kurd
Next up: a recommendation for COSMOPHILIA, from our production co-ordinator, Chloë.
This emotionally powerful collection of poetry follows the elaborate, unexpected turns of the poet’s imagination, enlisting intricate details of memory and language and the occasional plain truth. They intertwine political conflict and family history, and they translate multiple glittering facets of Muslim culture into, and then reflect back, the immediacy of embodied, urban Canadian experience.
“Kurd covers so much ground, so intricately, in this little volume,” writes Chloë. “Her childhood, her cultural touchstones, the objects and handicrafts that texture her world, her travels, the evolution of her relationships – meditating on her grandmother and her ex-husband, in particular – and her becoming a world citizen, living in many languages and loving each for a different reason. It’s poetry, and it is what it is: smart, humourous at times, accessible and not pretentious, and with real literary strength – the warp and weft of carefully chosen words. Also, #weneeddiversebooks!”
Read the final poem of the book, “Married to English”, on Meta-Talon, our blog.
Impeccable Regret by Judith Fitzgerald
Shazia, our editor, recommends the last book of poems by Canada’s prolific lady of arts and letters, Judith Fitzgerald.
In Shazia’s words, “Impeccable Regret is a book to make any disillusioned reader and poet fall: (a) further into disillusion, particularly at 3 a.m.; (b) in love with Fitzgerald; (c ) out of one’s closeted romanticism; (d) all of the above.
“Impeccable Regret did all of the above for me. Fitzgerald’s poems dive into loss, regret, grief, and despair in a way that I can only describe as being similar to the starry and glass-shard feeling I experienced when I first read ‘Patience’ by Phyllis Webb.
“In her poetic language, Pig Latin and colloquialisms are hurled together, and lines take root at the heart of loss. The trace of each word becomes a linguistic event, marking an absence that can be filled only by the framework of experience and attention the reader is willing to bring to the poem.
“The beauty of Impeccable Regret speaks for itself, and will not go unnoticed!”
Read two poems from Impeccable Regret on Meta-Talon.
Moss Park and Tough! by George F. Walker
Jenn, our digital production assistant, recommends George F. Walker’s book of two plays, Moss Park and Tough!.
In Tough!, Tina and her violently supportive best friend, Jill, drag Bobby, Tina’s on-again-off-again boyfriend, to a park near their low-income housing complex. Tina springs it on Bobby: she’s pregnant. What are they going to do? Bobby is inept but lovable, and Tina is smart but stuck in a socio-economic rut, and the play gets all too real as they eliminate options, one by one. And yet, the humour! Tough! has become a YA drama classic for a reason.
Two years later, Bobby and Tina meet up in Moss Park. They aren’t married, or even living together, but they have a young child, and another is on the way – a fact Bobby learns from Tina early in the play. Bobby wants Tina to take him back – he’s always wanted that – but she has serious doubts about his ability to hold down a job. We root for them even as we are exasperated by them.
Jenn picked these two plays because “they are so relatable, almost embarrassingly so. Walker is so good at showing us the absurdity and comedy of our ordinary, everyday lives and our healthy – and not-so-healthy – relationships.”
Happy International Women’s Day!