School Books: A List

It’s back-to-school time! For some, a happy haze of nostalgia sets in. For others, the supplies are bought and the outfits arranged in honour of that first week: you can be a new you. Maybe this year.

In honour of the back-to-school season, we’ve gathered a list of our favourite school-related Talonbooks. As though your fall reading list isn’t long enough already.

1. U Girl by Meredith Quartermain

Meredith Quartermain’s new book tells the meta-fictional, feminist story of Frances Nelson, a first-year university student who wants to write a novel. This nostalgic novel is set in Vancouver in the early 1970s, but its characters and conflicts ring just as true today.

Throughout September, students who order U Girl will get 20% off! (Regular price: $19.95; student price: $15.95) How? Use your student email address (we trust you) to order through, mentioning the student special, and we’ll get your copy of U Girl in the mail as soon as can be.

2. Schoolhouse by Leanna Brodie

Schoolhouse is an inspiring play that celebrates the one-room-schoolhouse era and the teachers who worked so hard to help their students succeed. Canadian Literature praised this play in the following words:

Under the (quite-skilled) storytelling, the play is an exuberantly theatrical and moving tribute to the schoolhouse itself, filled with memories and local details distilled from Brodie’s extensive interviews with former teachers and students who shared the experience of the one-room school.

3. They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School by Bev Sellars

Get schooled in the history of Canada’s treatment of its aboriginal peoples.

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. The trauma of these experiences has reverberated throughout her life. The first full-length memoir to be published out of St. Joseph’s Mission at Williams Lake, BC, Sellars 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.

They Called Me Number One spent 44 weeks on the British Columbia bestsellers list in 2013–2014. If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?

4. Jabber by Marcus Youssef

In a contemporary Canadian high school, a white boy and a Middle-Eastern girl strike up an unlikely proto-romance. But will a social-media-saturated society let their spark catch?

High school, like no other social space, throws together people of all histories and backgrounds, and young people must decide what they believe in and how far they are willing to go to defend their beliefs. Inside a veritable pressure cooker, they negotiate cross-cultural respect and mutual understanding. Jabber does its part to challenge appearances – and the judgments people make based on those appearances.

The Winnipeg Free Press wrote that Jabber

Smartly probes the lives of high schoolers struggling with peer expectations and identity problems. As they attempt to navigate the minefield that is the high school hallway, they are warned repeatedly that actions have consequences.

5. “Amigo’s Blue Guitar“: by Joan MacLoed

In this play, a college student’s life is given meaning when he chooses to sponsor Elias, a Salvadoran refugee, as a class project. When Elias arrives, his hosts Sander and his family learn what it means and feels to be a refugee and how to relate to someone who has endured such intense personal grief. The warmth and humour of the characters invite us to embrace the situation – be at once moved and threatened by it – and to consider how we ourselves would react.

Amigo’s Blue Guitar won the Governor General’s Drama Award for Drama in 1991.

Given Canada’s recent efforts to embrace refugees and welcome them to our home and school communities, this play is due for a revisit.