Time Capsule: The ’90s

The 1990s in Canada was marked by the continued recession of the ’80s, grunge-rock, the rise of celebrity culture and tabloids, and the Information Age. (And dangerous children’s toys. See: moon shoes.) Scroll down to see what historical and literary happenings we dug up. 


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After catching up on historical books this January, we’re cracking open time capsules from each decade to see what books – and publishers born during that time – will fall out.

The ’90s

What went on

  • Nunavut separates from the Northwest Territories officially in 1999 becoming its own Canadian territory and results in the first major change to Canada’s political map since 1949.
  • Canada gets a new $2 coin and calls it a “toonie.” 
  • Female musicians in Canada receive a lot of firsts: Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill  becomes the first Canadian album to sell 2-million copies in Canada; Alannah Myles becomes the first female Canadian artist to get a diamond album in Canada; Susan Aglukark becomes Canada’s first major Inuk recording artist. 

Books of note

  • Words out There published by Roseway Publishing in 1999, was a pivotal collection of poetry by women writers in Atlantic Canada that spoke to the decade’s burgeoning of poetry by women. 
  • ARP Book’s Thinking Forward by activist and economist Michael Albert shared an unconventional approach to thinking about capitalism and economics, and imagined an economy based on progressive values.
  • Jan Zwicky’s Songs for Relinquishing the Earth, which was self-published in 1996 and later picked up by Brick Books, went on to win the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry in 1999.
  • Céline: Beyond the Image from ECW Press tells the story of Céline Dion—who rose to fame in the ’90s—through 600 previously unpublished photographs and a foreword by the musician herself.
  • SKY Lee’s Disappearing Moon Cafe, published in a new edition by NeWest Press this year, tells the story of a Chinese Canadian family through generations from the nineteenth-century to the late twentieth century, and was nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction in 1990.

Publisher birthdays

* * * That’s a wrap for ’90s! Stay tuned next Tuesday and Thursay for our next capsule unveiling. (And don’t forget to catch up on the dirt from previous decades starting with the ’50s.)