Set in Calgary in 1982, during the recession that arrived on the heels of Canada's National Energy Program, The Western Alienation Merit Badge follows the Murray family as they struggle with grief and find themselves on the brink of financial ruin. After the death of her stepmother, Frances "Frankie" Murray returns to Calgary to help her father, Jimmy, and her sister, Bernadette, pay the mortgage on the family home. When Robyn, a long-lost friend, becomes their house guest old tensions are reignited and Jimmy, Bernadette and Frances find themselves increasingly alienated from one another.
Part family drama, part queer coming-of-age story, The Western Alienation Merit Badge explores the complex dynamics of a small family falling apart.
Nancy Jo Cullen
Nancy Jo Cullen is the 4th recipient of the Writers' Trust Dayne Ogilvie Award for an Emerging Gay Writer. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph Humber. Her fiction has appeared in The Puritan, Grain, filling Station, Plenitude and Prairie Fire. Her short story "Ashes" was selected for the Journey Prize Anthology in 2012. Cullen is also the author of three critically acclaimed collections of poetry with Frontenac House Press. Her first collection, Science Fiction Saint, was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Award, the Writers Guild of Alberta's Stephan G. Stephansson Award and the Alberta Publishers Trade Book Award. Her second collection Pearl was shortlisted for the W.O. Mitchell Calgary Book Prize and won the Alberta Publishers Trade Book Award. A transplanted westerner, Cullen lives in Toronto with her partner and children. She is at work on a novel and a fourth collection of poetry.
"At first blush, this is a quirky, queer coming-of-age novel. In her stripped-down, everyday prose, Cullen details the small hurts and moments of silence that break Frankie's heart when she refuses to hide her sexuality from her conservative family.... The Western Alienation Merit Badge is a moving portrait of fathers and daughters, sisters, friendship and the mistakes we all make along the way." - Dene Moore, Toronto Star
"The Western Alienation Merit Badge was a pleasure to read, and in terms of craft is remarkable for two particular features. The first is for its points of view, which move between characters providing vastly different perspectives on the same situation, and while the few times this happened mid-chapter it was a bit jarring, the result of this approach is a complex and multi-layered narrative that is really effective in particular because of how Cullen avoids cliches and sentimentality in creating her characters and their dynamic." - Kerry Clare, Pickle Me This
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