This year is the second edition of our annual reading resolution, and in 2016 we encourage you to explore new, emerging, diverse voices that Canada’s innovative and independent presses cultivate and curate. It’s essential for Canadians to have a vital, forward-looking literary culture, and literary publishing is at the vanguard of this. The LPG members that make up All Lit Up develop and publish some of the most creative and experimental voices in our country that are not well represented in commercial publishing, and reflect our richly diverse regions, communities, and populations.
The LPG’s membership includes Kegedonce Press and Theytus Books, First Nations-owned and -operated companies. Arsenal Pulp Press and Insomniac Press publish LGBTQ literature. Bookland Press publishes Aboriginal poets in Cree and English, as well as books in French. Invisible Publishing recently released a book by a disabled, queer, feminist, sex educator. A number of LPG publishers produce books for young readers. Inanna Publications focuses on feminist titles, and books on race and disability. Mawenzi House Publications acquires multicultural works, especially those that pertain to Africa and Asia (You can explore all of our publishers’ unique mandates, lists, and histories through All Lit Up’s In-House blog series here).
This Read New Voices booklist highlights recent favourites from fall 2015, and features books we’re excited to read spring 2016. All of these selections are by emerging authors, and reflect the breadth and diversity of Canadian literature offered by fiercely independent presses. For forthcoming titles currently listed on All Lit Up, you can sign up to be notified when books are available for sale (or use that reminder to visit your local indie bookstore or library).
Karyotype, Kim Trainor, Brick Books
A remarkable debut that expresses humanism grounded in physiology.
- Vanished people, Siege of Sarajevo, invasion of Iraq, human genetic and cultural texts, survival.
Jabbering with Bing Bong, Kevin Spenst, Anvil Press
A coming-of-age narrative of lower-middle class life in Vancouver’s suburb of Surrey, embroidered within a myriad of pop—and post-Mennonite—culture.
- Loss, mental health, religion, heavy metal.
Forthcoming! The Red Files, Lisa-Bird Wilson, Nightwood Editions
A debut collection reflecting on the legacy of the residential school system: the fragmentation of families and histories, the blows that resonate through generations.
- Colonial violence, residential schools, resistance, reconciliation.
Forthcoming! Slouching the Dream, Spencer Butt, Now or Never Publishing
Poems about the past and the future and getting older and not having a clue what you’re doing with your life but knowing that it has to, probably, maybe, hopefully all get better somewhere along the line, right?
- Contemporary, experimental, love, lust, heartbreak, wrestling.
Forthcoming! even this page is white, Vivek Shraya, Arsenal Pulp Press
A bold, timely, and personal interrogation of skin―its origins, functions, and limitation, breaking down the barriers that prevent understanding of what it means to be racialized.
- Racism, queerness, gender, desire, pop culture, contemporary.
Forthcoming! Assi Manifesto, Natasha Kanapè Fontaine, translated by Howard Scott, Mawenzi House
A celebration of the Innu land in the tradition of Joséphine Bacon.
- Environment, women, colonialism, anxiety, anger, healing, solitude, love.
Forthcoming! Magyarázni, Helen Hajnoczky, Coach House Books
This faux-Hungarian language primer, written in direct address, invites readers to experience what it's like to be "made Hungarian" by growing up with a parent who immigrated to North America as a refugee.
- Refugees, first-generation cultural identity, folk art.
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The Last Wife, Kate Hennig, Playwrights Canada Press
Kate Parr’s a rising star in a world of intense competition, complicated by an obligatory marriage rife with threat of danger and lure of deceit, and faces major risks to gain authority in her relationship and political career.
- Patriarchy, sexual politics, women’s rights.
Amity, Nasreen Pejvack, Inanna Publications
Amity provides a window to the wreckage caused by wars: the destruction and displacement that leave pain and life-long psychological disorders, here specifically within the contexts of Yugoslavia's dissolution and Iran's revolution.
- Refugees, activism, mental health, war, healing, friendship.
Rumi and the Red Handbag, Shawna Lemay, Palimpsest Press
A journey to the Museum of Bags and Purses in Amsterdam, a journey to find Rumi, the soul, and the secret hidden in a red handbag.
- Women writers, academia, travel.
Grand Menteur, Jean Marc Ah-Sen, BookThug
Crime fiction exploring the secret world of Mauritian street-gangs, reflecting the island-nation’s convoluted history of colonialism, poverty, and down-and-out hardship of a shadow class of immigrants from the 1940s to the 80s.
- Crime, violence, gangs, colonialism, poverty.
Let Us Be True, Erna Buffie, Coteau Books
From the killing fields of Europe to the merciless beauty of the Canadian prairies, Let Us Be True tells the story of three women, whose lives have been shaped and damaged by secrets – their own and those that stretch back through time, casting their shadow from ones generation to the next.
- Ancestral secrets, Great Depression, war, mortality.
Do You Think This is Strange, Aaron Cully Drake, Brindle & Glass Publishing
Freddy has problems. Some of them are because he's autistic. Most of them are because he's a teenager.
- Coming-of-age, autism, single-parent family.
The Swallows Uncaged, Elizabeth McLean, Freehand Books
Ambitious, emotionally resonant stories about the lives of women and girls in Vietnam over the past thousand years.
- Historical and fictional characters, Vietnam, wives and daughters.
Live From the Underground, Corinne Wasilewski, Mansfield Press
Haunting, hilarious, ultimately hopeful account of two colliding worlds (Communist Poland and the Bible belt of New Brunswick), and of two outsiders allied through displacement and tragedy.
- Imprisonment, politics, religion, small-town, teenagers.
Winnie’s Tongue, Nic Labriola, Insomniac Press
Searching for her lost mother and the son whom she believes was taken from her at birth, Winnie must confront her buried past, while battling addiction, heartache and demons.
- Addiction, wanderers, death, Atlantic Canada.
Bitter Rose, Martine Delvaux, translated by David Homel, Linda Leith Publishing
A little girl is growing up in an Ontario village after her father has taken off, and the world is full of dangers she doesn't understand.
- Coming-of-age, single parent family, missing and murdered girls.
Breathing Lessons, Andy Sinclair, Vehicule Press
Breathing Lessons is the story of Henry Moss, a homosexual everyman whose life knows none of the limitations or abuses his predecessors experienced.
- Gay fiction, infidelity, sexuality.
Meadowlark, Wendi Stewart, NeWest Press
A luminous, deeply imagined story of a young woman’s hard-won triumph over heartbreaking personal tragedy.
- Death, single parent families, grief, abuse, adoption, Aboriginal character.
Forthcoming! Shade, Mia Herrara, Inanna Publications
After her plans for the future are disrupted by an unexpected breakup, Benni, born and raised in northern Ontario, seeks escape from her everyday routine by visiting her father in the Philippines – the fantastical land of ghosts and glamour that her parents described to her as a child.
- Alcoholism, poverty, family, immigration, identity.
Forthcoming! Saints, Unexpected, Brent van Staalduinen, Invisible Publishing
When fifteen-year-old Mutton is robbed at gunpoint while working in her mother’s Hamilton thrift store, the thief makes off with an item that Mutton knows isn’t meant for him, hurling Mutton and her family into a summer of remarkable and heartbreaking events.
- Crime, violence, mystery, family drama.
Forthcoming! Mountain Girl, Shelby Cain, Oolichan Books
A missing teenager returns four years later to a hospital with a lifeless child in her arms, and a man she calls her husband, who is soon charged with her kidnapping.
- Stockholm syndrome, abuse, love, justice.
Forthcoming! Wrist, Nathan Adler, Kegedonce Press
Set in the fictional town of Sterling and Ghost Lake Reserve, Wrist is Nathan Adler's debut novel that fuses a traditional horror writing style with Indigenous monsters.
- Horror, Indigenous, urban, fantasy.
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Travel Is So Broadening, Wasela Hiyate, Quattro Books
Each one of protagonists in these stories experiences a life-changing epiphany while visiting a place away from home.
- Social justice, freedom, spirituality, travel.
Debris, Kevin Hardcastle, Biblioasis
Written in a lean and muscular style and brimming with both violence and compassion, these stories unflinchingly explore the lives of those—MMA fighters, the institutionalized, small-town criminals—who exist on the fringes of society, unveiling the blood and guts and beauty of life in our flyover regions.
- Crime, violence, small town life.
What Can’t Be Undone, dee Hobsbawn-Smith, Thistledown Press
Protagonists struggle to navigate the domestic troubles common to life everywhere, including children attempting to make their parents proud, the disintegrating of romantic relationships, and dealing with death and loss.
- Homelessness, domestic violence, child abuse, family, marriage, Western Canada.
Forthcoming! Somewhere a Long and Happy Life Probably Awaits You, Jill Sexsmith, ARP Books
The off-kilter heroes and heroines in Jill Sexsmith’s debut collection of short stories find themselves camping in elm trees set to be felled; seeking refuge in a spare bedroom carved out of an abandoned opal mine; singing to a stranger on the other side of bathroom wall.
- Contemporary, humour, relationships.
Forthcoming! Come On With The Punt: March Hare Stories, Paul Dean, Pedlar Press
A collection of stories Paul Dean wrote for the March Hare literary/musical festivals that originated in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and has since spread across the island and to venues in Ontario, Nova Scotia and Ireland.
- Newfoundland history, traditions, family.
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Voyageur, Jeff Sturge, illustrated by Nick Marinkovich, Guernica Editions
Compelling characters drive a fast-paced story set in the 17th century that addresses themes of alienation, a young boy's coming of age and a fish out of water thrust into a strange new world.
- Alienation, coming-of-age, historic realism.
Long Red Hair, Meags Fitzgerald, Conundrum Press
In this graphic memoir, Fitzgerald paints a lively childhood though suspects she is unlike her friends, taking us from her first kiss to a life sworn off romance.
- Relationships, sexuality, sisterhood, sorcery.
Forthcoming! Metamorphadox, Jarret Heckbert, Porcupine’s Quill
Jarrett Heckbert's Metamorphadox is a wordless novel in which wood engravings tell a story of the perils of technological mediation to the ever-evolving human existence.
- Wordless narrative, dystopian future, virtual reality.
Forthcoming! Great Fortune Dream, The Struggles and Triumphs of Chinese Settlers in Canada, 1858-1966, David Chuenyan Lai and Ding Guo, Caitlin Press
Chinese migration and life in Canada according to the four periods of Canada’s policies on Chinese immigration, ranging from Free Entry to Exclusion.
- Immigration, discrimination, multiculturalism, displacement, Chinese Canadians.
Forthcoming! Eight-wheeled Freedom: The Derby Nerd’s Short History Of Flat Track Roller Derby, D. D. Miller, Wolsak & Wynn Publishers
In this entertaining and thorough book the Derby Nerd (D. D. Miller) explains roller derby to newcomers and charts the sport's rise from small groups of women looking for people to skate with over the internet to the world presence it is today.
- Riot Grrrl, DIY culture, LGBTQ, women’s sport, feminism.
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If you're looking for a method to expand your reading horizons this year, why not try out some of our picks on the new Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD)'s reading checklist?