I am, and always have been crazy for Canadian literature. Ever since I was a young child and could say the words Anne of Green Gables I have gravitated towards Canadian Literature. Some people complained about having to read Canlit in junior high and high school and I tried to take as many classes as I possibly could. Give me the David Adams Richards, the Margaret Laurence and Robertson Davis and don’t let it stop.
I have never understood when people say that Canlit is boring. Canlit has so many diverse authors and ranges. From YA to indigenous, fiction to non-fiction there is so, so much out there.
I make it a point to read mostly Canadian literature. It is just the way I am. I like relating to things I am reading and there is so much to learn about this country that I don’t know. Everyone reads for different reasons, but one of the reasons I read is to learn about people and to better understand those different than me. It has made me a very open, kind and empathetic person who goes out of her way to interact with as many unique people and cultures as she can.
Last night, for the first time I attended the Gillerlight bash here in Halifax to see who the winner of the Giller Prize for 2017 was going to be. I thought I was going to be surrounded by fellow book nerds and find my people. I was very surprised when we were asked to raise our hands if we had read all of the books and only about 10 people did. I was more surprised when nobody on the panel, defending their books, had read all five?! I felt it was an honour to attend and made it my duty to get involved in the books (although I do every year). I was also more surprised, and quite frankly disgusted, when one of the panelist basically put down Canadian literature saying he tended to shy away from it. WHAT? It is so far from old and stuffy I could barely stop myself from screaming.
Have you tried Fruit by Brian Francis, about an overweight 13 year old gay boy coming to terms with who he is? How about All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai, an incredibly fascinating sci-fi dystopian? Have you read Fatty Legs: A True Story by Christy Jordan-Fenton, an incredible graphic novel based on the author’s experience in residential schools?
I know not everyone reads as much or as passionately as I do, but I was very disappointed about the lack of enthusiasm from the panel and especially about my great love, Canadian books.
And while I enjoyed myself, despite going home without a prize, proving that book love doesn’t guarantee winning, I was a little underwhelmed. My love for Canlit seemed undermined and stale and it is anything but.
The future of Canadian literature is so bright and there are so many stories to tell.