Tuesday, September 21, 2021

My Indigenous Books TBR

One of the things my dear friend Shawn is doing to celebrate the fourth anniversary of his booktube channel is an invitation to submit a camera flip. In other words, he's posting videos other people have created. I made a 15-minute recording talking about some Indigenous literature that I plan to read soon. You can view the video here: Lindy on Shawn the Book Maniac's channel . And while you are over there, sample some of Shawn's offerings. My favourites are his Friday Reads episodes and also his playlist of Bite-Sized Book Chats. 

Shawn also is offering prizes to celebrate the happy occasion. Scroll through his recent episodes to find his Book Cover Fragment Contest and his Book Giveaways.

Keep on vlogging, Shawn!


These are the TBR books I spoke about in the video:

Nishga by Jordan Abel

it was never going to be okay by jaye simpson

awacis: kinky and dishevelled by Louise B Halfe Sky Dancer

The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson

The Swan Book by Alexis Wright

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

2021 Giller Longlist Reaction

Wow! My first reaction upon seeing the Scotiabank Giller Prize judges' longlist is surprise. Lots of surprises on this list, actually. 

It is a challenge to keep up with new Canadian fiction, so I'm happy that there's a Craving Canlit page on the Scotiabank Giller website. My fellow shadow jurors and I have relied on this list of eligible titles to prepare our own longlist predictions. One of the longlisted titles (Swimming Back to Trout River) wasn't on this site, so it escaped my notice entirely. 

Three of the titles won't be published until the end of September (A Dream of a Woman; Em; and The Strangers) and one was just released yesterday (Glorious Frazzled Beings). Another was first published in 2019 and then reissued in May 2021 (Son of the House), so I wasn't aware that it fell within the eligibility requirements.

I've only read four out of the twelve on the longlist, and my prediction yesterday included only five out of the twelve. Not a very accurate forecast. 

I'm overjoyed to see Fight Night on the list, because I consider it to be a perfect novel. 

What Strange Paradise speaks to our shameful times, of refugees treated like unworthy human beings. With the focus on individuals, and particularly on one child refugee, this novel is capable of opening hearts.

Astra highlights our connections to other people, and how perspectives shift depending on time, relationship, and viewpoint. Maria Mutch's Molly Falls to Earth does a similar thing -- and does it even better! -- using prose that sings, so I'm sorry that it isn't on the list as well.

The Listeners speaks to our times also: the splitting of society into two distinct groups, conspiracy theories, our search for community and for something more meaningful than the daily grind. I hadn't predicted that this would make the longlist because I perceived a few flaws, but it's a spellbinding novel and I'm not displeased to see it on the list. 

I'm surprised and sad that Sheung-King's You Are Eating and Orange. You Are Naked. didn't make the list. This one has an innovative fragmentary format, beautiful flowing prose, and captures the in-betweenness of having multiple nationalities so well.

I look forward to reading the rest of the longlist and plan to come up with my own shortlist before the official announcement on October 5, 2021.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

2021 Giller Prize Prediction

Tomorrow, September 8, the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist will be announced. This is my second year as a shadow juror, a role I take seriously even though it is just for fun. It is a huge pleasure to read so many great novels, short stories and graphic novels by Canadian writers. So far, I've read 46 eligible titles and bailed on an additional four. Some books that I think might be strong contenders have not yet been published, and so I will have to guess about them. Before revealing my longlist prediction (plus wish list) for the 2021 Giller, I want to talk about my judging criteria. 

This is what I'm looking for:

Life-affirming stories that acknowledge the complexities of existence and that make me think. I want lots of white space, by which I mean room to wonder and imagine, rather than having everything neatly laid out.

Style. Whether it's using a conventional structure or an innovative format, the writing is crafted with rigorous care. I want to experience freshness and surprise, through word choice and perspective. I'm especially drawn to a unique narrator's voice.

Believable characters. I slip into characters as I read, so I need to trust that the author is treating their characters with respect, no matter what kind of character I inhabit. Also, I immediately resist if I feel like my emotions are being manipulated.

Insight. Feeling a resonance with the issues our society is grappling with, such as colonialism, xenophobia, feminism, social isolation, conspiracy theories, and aging with dignity.

Setting. A sense of grounding in time and place that enriches the story experience.

Plot. The story must have intrinsic coherence and hang together. I want to sense the narrative arc over the course of a novel or short story, whether the action is internal or external.

Enlargement. An inner expansion that comes as a result of reading a particular piece of literature.

Okay, so here are my nine longlist picks in alphabetical order by title:

Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch by Rivka Galchen

Fight Night by Miriam Toews

Molly Falls to Earth by Maria Mutch

Return of the Trickster by Eden Robinson

Shadow Life by Hiromi Goto and Ann Xu

Speak, Silence by Kim Echlin

We Want What We Want by Alix Ohlin

What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad

You Are Eating an Orange. You Are Naked. by Sheung-King

And, because there are so many fine possibilities, I also have a wish list composed of honourable mentions (which I've read) and books not yet published (which I haven't read, so they are marked with an asterisk):

Astra by Cedar Bowers

The Book of Form and Emptinessby Ruth Ozeki

Em* by Kim Thuy

A Funny Kind of Paradise by Jo Owens

Ghost Lake by Nathan Niigan Noodin Adler

Manikanetish* by Naomi Fontaine, translated by Luise von Flotow

The Strangersby Katherena Vermette

To Know You're Alive by Dakota McFadzean

What do you think? I look forward to seeing what the Giller judges have chosen this year.