If You Liked x, Read Y: New to Canada Edition

January 25, 2016

A common theme in Canadian literature is that of the immigrant coming to Canadian shores or airports, encountering displacement, racism, and/or struggle. Whether it’s the harsh climate and terrain in Susanna Moodie’s canonical Roughing it in the Bush, or acclimatizing to new class structures, freedoms, and restrictions in Shyam Selvadurai’s The Hungry Ghosts, these books remind us that the realities of Canada as a welcoming place to newcomers are muddled in its geography, history, and present-day prejudices. We’ve selected four popular books in this genre and matched them with indie titles that have similar themes or experiences.

See more details below

IYLxRy_Header_Updated

A common theme in Canadian literature is that of the immigrant coming to Canadian shores or airports, encountering displacement, racism, and/or struggle. Whether it’s the harsh climate and terrain in Susanna Moodie’s canonical Roughing it in the Bush, or acclimatizing to new class structures, freedoms, and restrictions in Shyam Selvadurai’s The Hungry Ghosts, these books remind us that the realities of Canada as a welcoming place to newcomers are muddled in its geography, history, and present-day prejudices. We’ve selected four popular books in this genre and matched them with indie titles that have similar themes or experiences.

 

roughingit_godforsakenplace

Roughing it in the Bush = This Godforsaken Place 

Susanna Moodie’s classic account of the experiences of a Canadian settler in the 1830s was a tremendously popular book upon its 1852 publication in Britain, and again upon Canadian publication about 20 years later.

Author Cinda Gault in This Godforsaken Place (Brindle & Glass) uses Roughing it in the Bush as a sort of totem for main character Abigail Peacock, who’s moved to tiny Wabigoon, Ontario from London, England with her sickly father. All the repeated readings couldn’t prepare Abigail for the harsh winters, wildlife, and frontiersmen of the non-metropolitan Canadian existence, but neither could it prepare her for self-actualization as a sharpshooter (as opposed to that of a humble Wabigoon schoolteacher and wife).

 

jadepeony_diamondgrill

The Jade Peony = Diamond Grill 

Wayson Choy’s The Jade Peony views the instability in Vancouver’s 1930s-40s Chinatown through the eyes of three Chinese-Canadian siblings. A 2010 Canada Reads finalist, the novel explores racism against and between immigrant populations in the city, as well as the second-generation immigrant experience of belonging neither to birth nor “home” country.

Fred Wah’s Diamond Grill (NeWest Press) is a “biographical novel” following Wah’s life growing up in a Chinese-Canadian cafe, Nelson, British Columbia’s Diamond Grill. His family history, memories, and recipes together weave a story of how culture is influenced by food and vice-versa, and what it was, and often still is, like to grow up visibly mixed heritage in Canada.

 

cockroach_lebanesedishwasher

Cockroach = The Lebanese Dishwasher

Rawi Hage’s novel about a Lebanese immigrant living in the slums of Montreal, his life of petty crime, and the enemies and love interests he meets along the way was defended in 2014’s Canada Reads bout by Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee.

Sonia Saikaley’s The Lebanese Dishwasher (Quattro Books) similarly follows an immigrant from Beirut, Amir Radi, as he reluctantly washes dishes in a Montreal middle-eastern restaurant. The narrative bounces from Amir’s traumatic past in Lebanon and his less-than-ideal Montreal present, as he grapples with becoming his own person despite the baggage that comes with leaving home behind.

 

hungryghosts_makarska

The Hungry Ghosts = Makarska 

Shyam Selvadurai’s Governor General’s Award-nominated novel follows the life of Shivan, growing up under the cloying but preferential treatment of his grandmother in Sri Lanka, then moving to the grittier suburbs of Scarborough, all the while coming to terms with his sexuality and the role he has to play in his family.

Jim Bartley’s novel Makarska (Insomniac Press) is also about a family coming to Toronto after the horrific conflict in their home city of Sarajevo. Protagonist Mirza discovers his homosexual feelings while building an art exhibit about war trauma, but as the damages suffered by each of his family members come to light, it becomes unclear whether Mirza is mature enough to relate that trauma to an audience.


Discuss


comments powered by Disqus