2022: A promising year for CanLit

2022 may look bleak for most of us, but there’s one upside to the new year: new books! Here are six releases that you won’t want to miss out on

Considering the current state of the world, there’s perhaps no better way to ring in a new year than by getting lost in some fictional worlds. The good news is that 2022 appears to be an exciting year for CanLit. Short story enthusiasts will be particularly satisfied with this year’s upcoming releases. Below is a non-exhaustive list of some books to look forward to. Happy reading!

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

Chan’s highly anticipated debut novel is nothing short of harrowing. Perhaps that’s what makes it so worthy of binge-reading. The novel’s main character, Frida, must prove her ability to be the perfect mother following a brief error in judgement. Sent to a reeducation centre for unfit mothers, she must do everything she can to demonstrate that she is a good caregiver or risk losing her child forever. The School for Good Mothers functions as both a commentary on surveillance in modern society, while also providing readers with a riveting tale about the lengths a mother will go to protect their child.

Release date: Jan. 4

People Change by Vivek Shraya

Shraya once again delivers a profoundly moving work that dares to explore collective fears and ideas surrounding change. Shraya delves into the universality of change and hopefully, by the end of this (extremely) digestible book, readers might harbour a new perspective when considering how change shapes each of our lives.

Release date: Jan. 4

A Hero of Our Time by Naben Ruthnum

Ruthnum’s latest novel is a breath of fresh air for the CanLit sphere, one that is simultaneously comedic and very much relevant for the current state of race politics in Canada. A Hero of Our Time does an impressive job exposing the arteries of Canada’s not-so-covert racism in the form of seemingly well-intentioned executives and their workplace diversity policies. Not only does the novel take a hard look at the role race plays in relation to one’s career, but it also explores the repercussions that follow when an attempt from a minority employee is made to dismantle and expose the superficiality of these policies.

Release date: Jan. 11

Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century by Kim Fu

Fans of Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s eccentric style will appreciate Fu’s ability to craft fictional worlds where bizarre characters and occurrences are plausible and simply a part of everyday life. Fu’s collection is an ideal choice for those who are new to surreal or speculative fiction and who aren’t necessarily ready to commit themselves to a full-length abstract narrative. This collection of twelve stories is guaranteed to transport readers to peculiar places who may be in desperate need of an escape. This is one book that promises to linger in your mind long after you’ve finished it.

Release date: Feb. 1

Why I’m Here by Jill Frayne

Frayne’s upcoming release is expected to deliver an emotionally heavy narrative that follows teenager Gale and her counsellor, Helen, as they both struggle with their own family issues. As with her 2003 novel, Starting Out in the Afternoon, readers can once again expect vivid descriptions of the Yukon’s pristine and untamed beauty. The only downside of this book is having to wait until summer for its release. Sigh.

Release date: May 1

No Stars in the Sky by Martha Bátiz

Another short story collection that you won’t want to miss out on is Bátiz’s latest book. All stories feature resilient women protagonists who are, in some way or another, undergoing a crisis. Bátiz’s work often explores current social issues, especially those concerning immigrant women. Readers who enjoyed the author’s 2017 collection titled Plaza Requiem: Stories at the Edge of Ordinary Lives can expect to thoroughly enjoy this upcoming collection just as much.

Release date: May 3


Graphic by James Fay


A brief introduction to Dionne Brand’s poetry

Having produced an extensive body of work throughout her life, the multi talented writer is perhaps best known for her poetry

Canadian writer Dionne Brand has become a staple in Canadian literature over the last several years, churning out 18 books, with the majority being poetry collections. The writer’s work often addresses issues pertaining to sex, gender, race, migration, and more. Though Brand is certainly multitalented, having written an array of fiction and nonfiction books, held teaching positions at several post-secondary institutions in British Columbia and Ontario, and even writing and co-directing several films, her poetry is arguably what she is best known for.

Brand was born in 1953 in Guayaguayare, Trinidad, and later moved to Toronto in 1970 to study at the University of Toronto. Shortly after the completion of her BA in English and Philosophy, she released ‘Fore Day Morning: Poems, the book that put her work on the map.

Her work began garnering praise in 1997, with her poetry collection Land to Light On earning her both a Trillium Book Award and the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry. Following this success, Brand released two more highly acclaimed works, one in 2002 titled thirsty and another in 2010 titled Ossuaries. 

Her work often seeks to challenge the idea that Canada’s multicultural identity has created an innately accepting country, free from frequent instances of racism. Her poems are especially engaged with the experience of immigrant women in Canada, and they aim to convey the challenges these women face, like language barriers and unequal access to employment and education. Brand’s poems are proof that the act of writing can serve as a powerful form of activism, as it has the capacity to empower marginalized readers.

Suggested Pick

Though each reader’s favourite Brand book will vary, her long poem titled Inventory (published in 2006) is undoubtedly one of the author’s most influential pieces of literature. The book seeks to understand what an inventory for the early years of the 21st century might account for. Inventory can be read as a sort of catalogue, one that recounts both specific historical events, such as Hurricane Katrina, and more widespread events that continue to occur today, such as systemic violence against marginalized people. Her poems address mounting instances of violence, humanity’s growing reliance on technology, the steady shift to a surveillance state, and more. While this book may not be an ideal choice for someone seeking a leisurely read due to its unsettling content, Brand never fails to pen lines that confront the brutal and honest truth.


Graphic courtesy of James Fay



Deepening our connection to nature with ecopoetics

Ecopoetry can help readers better understand the natural world they inhabit by focusing on how humanity interacts with their environments

In an age where ecological destruction has become more prevalent than ever, some writers have turned to ecopoetry as a way of addressing concerns they have with the climate crisis, the plight of endangered species, and humanity’s responsibility for the environment. Although the term “ecopoetics” may be interpreted to mean poetry about the environment and natural elements, it is actually quite multidisciplinary in its approach; ecopoetry often looks at the relationships between nature, culture, history, anthropology, and more. For some, ecopoetics can be considered as a call to action, and not just a meditation on the beauty of our world. It can encourage us to look beyond ourselves and consider the tiny lives that we coexist with, while hopefully inspiring us to invoke some sort of change, be it big or small.

If you’re not already intrigued, here are three ecopoetry books that will grab your attention and, perhaps, have you consider taking up residence in a Thoreau-esque cabin by the water. A walk in the woods will also suffice.

Between Dusk and Night by Emily McGiffin

McGiffin’s debut poetry collection follows the writer on her journeys around the world as she attempts to not only understand the relationship she shares with the many environments she encounters, but also aims to address the responsibility humans have in preserving the natural world. She spends the majority of the collection carefully reflecting on how humans got here and she wonders, at times, if we even deserve to be here.

Between Dusk and Night is an excellent introduction to ecopoetics with its multidisciplinary approach to nature and humanity. McGiffin’s collection is an honest attempt at understanding how the micro and macro parts of the natural world interact.

Small Arguments by Souvankham Thammavongsa

Although Thammavongsa may be best recognized for her short story collection titled How to Pronounce Knife, Small Arguments is a book that readers who are interested in ecopoetry won’t regret reading. Thammavongsa’s poems offer a perceptive account of the most minute natural elements, whether it’s a piece of dirt or a raindrop. Through her “small arguments,” she seeks to establish the importance of these elements despite their tendency to be overlooked by humans.

Like many of us, she looks for a grander meaning in the things that occupy her space, and tries to make sense of her own existence in the process. Small Arguments is a breezy and relatively short read despite the gravity of some of its content.

Deactivated West 100 by Don McKay

Since the 1970s, McKay has been considered a pioneer in the realm of Canadian ecopoetics, releasing 12 collections dedicated to the country’s unique landscape and wildlife. His poetry often uses defamiliarization, a technique where writers present their readers with common things in an unfamiliar way. This technique allows, as McKay puts it, “the mind’s categories to glimpse some thing’s autonomy — its rawness, its duende [soul], its alien being.”

In Deactivated West 100, readers follow McKay as he journeys around Vancouver Island, looking to deepen his understanding of home and his place in nature. This book is brimming with big questions, ones that a trip to Vancouver Island surely won’t be able to help answer. But this doesn’t stop McKay as he reflects on how humanity coexists with nature, while simultaneously encouraging his readers to temporarily lose themselves in their surroundings in order to better appreciate them.


Graphic by James Fay


Four Indigenous authors every Canadian should be reading right now

While this article only covers a fraction of the talent that can be found from Indigenous writers, here are four suggestions for getting started

The landscape of Canadian literature is vast and varied. However, it has long been dominated by several household names, such as Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, and Leonard Cohen. As a result, many of Canada’s Indigenous writers have yet to receive the recognition they deserve within the Canadian literary sphere. Although this article aims to showcase several gripping works from four writers, it covers a sliver of the Indigenous talent that can be found within CanLit. With that said, I encourage you to expand your horizons next time you may be at Indigo, instead of expanding your Atwood or O’Neill collection.

Many of the books mentioned below undoubtedly deal with difficult subject matter, but they also offer a firsthand account from individuals who have been impacted by Canada’s failure to acknowledge the country’s devastating colonialist handling of Indigenous people. Here are four authors that will have you binge-reading way past your bedtime.

Eden Robinson

Even though Eden Robinson has released several successful books, the author is still deserving of a wider audience. The Haisla and Heiltsuk writer is best recognized for her first book Traplines. This collection of short stories is hard to put down, as it follows several characters who navigate life on a reservation. This work is a great choice for those who might find themselves struggling to become invested in novels, as each short story is not only digestible but will have you yearning for more.

Those who prefer a hearty novel should consider reading the Trickster trilogy. Robinson infuses a sense of subtle magic within each book; however, the plot is still grounded in the everyday lives of the main character, Jared, and his family. Robinson recently released the last book of the trilogy, Return of the Trickster, this year. Readers certainly won’t be disappointed.

Tomson Highway

Although the Cree writer is best associated with playwriting, he’s also released several children’s books and novels. His well-known work The Rez Sisters is a two-act play, and readers will find themselves drawn in by the raw dialogue and believable characters. Highway’s style is free of gimmicks; he says it as it is, so readers will respect the amount of honesty he instills in each of his works.

For those seeking a novel, consider checking out Highway’s Kiss of the Fur Queen. This novel follows two brothers who are torn from their family and sent to a residential school. While subject-wise many parts of this book are hard to get through, Highway’s characters are resilient, and their passion for music sustains them during difficult times. This heavy read is worth every second.

Joshua Whitehead

You’ve most likely seen the two-spirited, Oji-nêhiyaw writer’s latest book Jonny Appleseed on display at many independent bookstores around the city. Jonny Appleseed is an emotional read, one that follows the two-spirited protagonist’s journey, both off the reserve and back to it, as he prepares for his stepfather’s funeral.

Whitehead is also well known for his poetry collection titled full-metal indigiqueer. This collection follows Zoa, a hybridized Indigiqueer trickster, as they attempt to “re-beautify and re-member queer Indigeneity.”

Michelle Good

This Cree writer is best known for her compelling book Five Little Indians, which won her a Governor General’s Literary Award. While this book is fictional, it is based on real-life experiences from five Indigenous children who endured numerous atrocities at residential schools during the 1960s. This is another difficult read, but very much worth your time. It demands your attention, and will have you struggling to put it down, especially near the end.

Though Five Little Indians is her debut novel, an assortment of Good’s poetry can be found in collections, such as The Best Canadian Poetry 2016 and Gatherings Volume VII. Good utilizes natural elements, such as rivers and stones, to capture feelings of grief that she has grappled with throughout her life. These poems demonstrate Good’s keen eye for detail, as she crafts vivid landscapes that every reader will appreciate.


Graphic by James Fay


A brief look at the life and work of Gwendolyn MacEwen

Having published over 20 books in her lifetime, the work from this Canadian writer still remains underappreciated to this day

Despite publishing over 20 books in her lifetime, Canadian poet and novelist Gwendolyn MacEwen remains one of Canadian literature’s most elusive and underappreciated writers. Born in Toronto in 1941, MacEwen grew up during a time when many young male writers, such as Leonard Cohen and Daryl Hine, were being discovered in Canada.

This made it extremely difficult for women to be accepted into the arts community as established writers. As well-known Canadian author Margaret Atwood notes in the introduction to MacEwen’s Volume One: The Early Years, “Women artists of any kind, in that still heavily-Freudian era, were assumed to have adjustment problems… if women insisted on doing rather than being, they were likely to end up with their heads in the oven.” This certainly didn’t deter MacEwen, and Atwood adds, “MacEwen wanted to be out on the sharp edge with the boys, not back in the kitchen with the girls.”

By age 16, she had several poems published in the well-respected literary journal The Canadian Forum. By 18, she left high school to continue honing her skill as a writer, and she soon wrote her first novel Julian the Magician. While many had warned her that adopting a career as a writer wasn’t a good move for a young woman, especially during the late fifties, she continued to churn out spellbinding work that would eventually win her the Governor General’s Literary Award in 1969.

While a quick Google search will offer relatively limited information about the writer, it remains clear from brief biographies that MacEwen’s life was a turbulent one. Her mother suffered from mental illness, spending long periods of time away from home in mental health institutions. Additionally, her father suffered from alcoholism.

In 1987, the writer’s own life came to a tragically early end due to complications arising from her own struggles with alcoholism.

Despite these unfortunate circumstances, MacEwen turned to writing as an escape. Atwood later notes in the introduction that “Her childhood was stressful; but the conviction that she would be a poet came to her as a saving grace in early adolescence.” MacEwen was able to not only craft fantastical settings and characters for herself, but also for her readers. While her work offers an escape, it also holds up a mirror to readers and demands that they take time to reflect on the world around them. Take for example this particular verse from one of her most well-known poems The Discovery. MacEwen writes:

When you see the land naked, look again / (burn your maps, that is not what I mean) / I mean the moment when it seems most plain / is the moment when you must begin again.

In her poems, she often encourages readers to push the boundaries of things they may interpret as both real or unreal. She also encourages readers to scrutinize even the most unsuspecting and ordinary of objects around them, such as clocks and coins.

MacEwen’s poems are guaranteed to take you on an adventure, but it certainly won’t be a breezy one. It’s one that challenges you, one that guides you to the darkest corners of the mind. And although MacEwen’s readers are left with many questions, they know not to expect answers. Perhaps that’s just part of her charm, and ultimately, her legacy.


Feature Graphic by James Fay

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