Sunday, October 31, 2021

October 2021 Reading Roundup

Here are some highlights from my reading in October. If you want books by Indigenous authors, check out yesterday's Indigenous Books Bonanza.

The Barnabus Project by the Fan Brothers

Barnabus, a genetically engineered half mouse, half elephant, makes a dramatic escape from the failed experiments shelf, and saves a bunch of others too. All three of Toronto's Fan brothers (Eric, Terry and Devin) collaborated to create the digitally coloured graphite illustrations that reward lingering over details in this magical picture book. Best of all is the beautiful message of inclusivity. Winner of the GG (Juvenile Illustration) and the TD Canadian Children‘s Literature Award.

The Wind and the Trees by Todd Stewart

Framed as a conversation between two trees across the years, this Canadian picture book is a quiet masterpiece about the cycle of life. Todd Stewart‘s silkscreen art is simple and striking. The background colours shift with each page turn, capturing many moods. Birds and animals add drama, also changing with each page turn: a treasure hunt for young readers. The interconnectedness of all is a comfort for readers of any age.

A Dream of a Woman: Stories by Casey Plett

Quiet, acute and bittersweet. I highly recommend this Giller longlisted collection featuring trans women who are as real as real can be. They deal with ordinary adult concerns—jobs, longtime addictions, looking for love that will last—complicated by their unique experiences of being trans. One of the stories is a novella split into 5 chapters, interleaved with the other stories, a style decision which is somehow more effective than reading it of a piece.

Truth was, you could be trans and not pass, and this might suck, but it didn‘t make you any less trans or less of a woman. You could be trans if it made you a homo, be trans without taking hormones, be trans and keep your old friends if they weren‘t dicks, be trans and keep your dick, be trans if you wanted to be out about it, for God‘s sake. You know what being stealth does to your soul?

Her inner conception of her appearance is amorphous and difficult to describe, but if she had to try, she might say it is of something masculine without a face, a muscular crush of feathers travelling through a room.

Some people say it was Menno shit, or small-town shit, but Gemma knows better. None of it‘s special. There‘s a line in a book by Miriam Toews herself: “It‘s just something that happens sometimes, a story as old as time, and this time it happened to me.”

“That‘s the thing,” Robyn had said softly. “After a certain age, bio family is chosen family, too. You choose to keep it up—or you don‘t. Both kinds can be unhealthy. Both kinds can be good. And you‘re never obligated to do a thing to someone who isn‘t good to you. Ever.”

We were sold that what‘s written on the internet was forever, but the fact is, so much of it was impermanent daydreams and abysses, gone the second you forgot how to look it up or the owner deleted it or unfriended you, or it lived on a remote subdivision that the Wayback Machine just wasn‘t meant to capture.

Was David gonna transition? Who fucking knew? Not him. It was a scary thought. For years, he‘d spent nights on the internet, discovering how one went about this. And every night, he‘d gone to bed blocking out more fears than he‘d started with. The spectre of poverty and rejection and violence alone were enough to instill an understanding in his body: You only do this if you‘re 300 percent sure.

Glorious Frazzled Beings by Angelique Lalonde

How do I tell you about the cumulative impact of these fierce yet whimsical stories? They are about home and motherhood and sisterhood and womanhood… alongside teeny tiny ghosts, a fox shapeshifter, a supernatural gardener… The charming elements are mixed with profound statements like: “I am good at pretending I know how to be where I am on this land I own that does not belong to me.” I absolutely love this Giller-shortlisted book.

The little fly on my nightstand puked all over my journal. I was so upset I messaged its mother, but its mother was dead because she had already lived out her long 15 days on earth by the time I was able to track down her number.

She frazzled in the bowels of her grief for a good long while, coming out somewhat composted on the inside. No longer so lithe, no longer so young, Carmen had more layers to her. A soil test would have told her she‘d become a more balanced ecosystem, ground in which greater diversity could thrive.

We learn such confidence from books, feeling like if we just look in the right place, the thing that brought us happiness will be there again, waiting, every time we turn the page back to where it was the last time!

You understand motherly sacrifice and motherly overwhelm. Motherly exasperation and motherly joy. You understand the big fat food duty and pending outbursts of the improperly fed, the overly tired, the wired-up or disconnected, the greedy little wanting-everything-for-yourself hatefulness of family. The untidiness of calling all of this love.

Maybe I am like others like me—an accident or designed outcome of the generations that came before. Left here with garbled stories because each generation tries to efface or correct the stories of the last in our attempts to settle ourselves.

Finances make her want to hide in her little shell and do turtle things until all the talking is over.

So cold in the desert night, her inner fire just a bare ember, spirit body needing spirit fire to ignite, keep herself going through this world. Knowing water alone would just freeze, that‘s how cold her insides were. Dump a good dose of whisky in the first glass, hot wetness to drown out dry nerves.

If you asked she would tell you that she loves him like a sheep loves clover: wrapped into its tongue and pushed sideways, mashed into sweet liquid green and fibre in the crush of its grinding teeth.

em by Kim Thuy
Translation by Sheila Fischman

The forward movement from character to character, chapter to chapter, would be dizzying if not for Kim Thúy‘s pure, spare prose that clearly shows the links, establishing order amidst the chaos of the war in Vietnam. True events, especially the My Lai massacre and Operation Babylift—are central to the story. I wept. Love is the antidote to trauma and this Giller-longlisted novel is full to the brim with love. A balm for the heart. Impeccable translation by Sheila Fischman.

If I knew how to end a conversation, if I could distinguish true truths, personal truths from instinctive truths, I would have disentangled the threads for you before tying them up or arranging them so that the story of this book would be clear between us.

During her visit to a camp in 1975, Tippi Hedren, actress in the Alfred Hitchcock film The Birds, received compliments from the Vietnamese refugees for her impeccable fingernails, which gave her the idea of organizing a manicure class for 20 or so women. Her first students, new Californians, passed their knowledge on to 60 more, who themselves trained other manicurists and so they multiplied, becoming 360, 3060 and more.

Upon arrival at their destination, the coolies worked as hard as beasts on sugar cane plantations, down in mines, building railroads, often dying before the end of their 5-year contract without having received their promised and longed-for salary. Companies involved in the trade assumed beforehand that 20, 30, or 40 percent of the “lots” would perish in the course of the voyage at sea.

During the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 and the following year, the rate of infections contracted sexually by the troops grew from less than four percent to more than seventy-five percent, which later led, during the First World War, to the German government‘s giving high priority to the production of condoms to protect its soldiers, even though there was a serious shortage of rubber.
Certainly, bullets kill, but so, perhaps, does desire.

The Octopus Has Three Hearts by Rachel Rose

Do you love stories about odd people? Do you love stories about animals? Then this Giller longlisted collection is for you! Animals and people and some weird situations with very real emotions. And so much heart! 

“Do you have a title yet?' asked Mandy. “How about The Goat Whisperer?“
“Not bad, Mandy, not bad. But I think I'll call it G is for Goat.“
“Well, isn't that a little obvious?“
“Exactly. Keep it simple. This English lady wrote a bestseller, H is for Hawk. I read it. Nothing happens except she is alone and depressed and lives with this hawk that she feeds bits of torn-up rabbit and trains to hunt. My book will be way, way better.“

Binge: 60 Stories to Make Your Head Feel Different by Douglas Coupland
Audiobook [6 hr] read by the author and about 18 other narrators, many of them well-known

Apparently, this collection of flash fiction is called 'Binge' because you can‘t read just one. Apparently, I found them addictive because I listened to the entire audiobook twice! The darkly funny tales are tangentially interconnected—through characters; Rubbermaid bins; classic muscle cars; noravirus, SARS and covid; murder… Also, I‘ll never look at cargo carriers on cars the same way, so the subtitle about changing my brain is true. The stories are intimate, and as if told by many different people; the audio production with multiple narrators works really well.

I realize this isn‘t even an actual story, with a beginning and end, I‘m telling you here. It‘s bits of autobiography. But if our lives aren‘t stories, what are they? Glorified microbes on a Petri dish?

For six months or so after my recovery, the people where I worked were greatly relieved when I telecommuted. Telecommuted. Boy, what an old-fashioned word that is. I worked from home.

I didn‘t dread sex, but pleasure-wise, it rated somewhere around having to vigorously use a coal tar shampoo to get rid of lice. Just something you have to do.

In the 1950s they were dropping bombs like firecrackers all over Nevada. In the casinos, they‘d announce the blasts so the gamblers could go outside to view the mushroom cloud. It was fun! But if you dropped one small nuke now people would freak out like little babies and run around suing whoever they could and, I don‘t know, getting hysterical thyroid cancer

Paul at Home by Michel Rabagliati
Translation by Helge Dascher and Rob Aspinall

Multi-award-winning Quebec cartoonist Michel Rabagliati captures the humour of daily life in his series of graphic novels about Paul. I believe this is the sixth one, and it‘s definitely his most poignant. Paul, who hates change, must come to terms with aging and loneliness. I especially love the portrayal of Paul‘s little dog companion, Cookie. Paul at Home is currently a finalist for the 2021 GG Translation award.

The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki

“What makes a person want so much? What gives things the power to enchant, and is there a limit to the desire for more?” This fable-like novel draws on Zen wisdom, speaks through a talking book, and balances seriousness with whimsy in a story about psychic diversity, social justice, and our emotional attachment to objects. If you believe the public library is “a shrine of dreams” you may be as enchanted by this book as I was.

This historic image, dubbed the Blue Marble, became a symbol of the environmental movement and caused a profound shift in the way people conceived of the planet, shrinking it from something incomprehensibly immense and awesome into a fragile, lonely orb that you could cradle in the palm of your hand or crush beneath a careless heel.

She wanted to tell them, Your life is not a self-improvement project! You are perfect, just as you are!

Immersed in the minuscule details of daily living, we believe our lives to be separate & our selves to be separate too. But this is a grave delusion. The truth is that everything depends on everything else.

Of course the solution was quite simple: people just had to stop buying so much stuff, but when she mentioned this on a recent call with the American producers […] asking her not to talk about: consumerism, capitalism, materialism, commodity fetishism, online shopping and credit card debt. Speaking critically of such topics was un-American, they explained. American consumers wanted proactive solutions. Not buying was not proactive.

"Let me tell you something about poetry, young schoolboy. Poetry is a problem of form and emptiness. Ze moment I put one word onto an empty page, I hef created a problem for myself. Ze poem that emerges is form, trying to find a solution to my problem."

“Hasn‘t a book ever made you cry?”
He thought about ‘Medieval Shields‘ and ‘Byzantine Garden Design.‘ “No.”
“Okay, wow. Well, maybe you should try reading different books.”

Over the summer, he‘d become familiar with the patrons and staff, and learned how the rhythms of the Library fluctuated during the day. Early mornings belonged to the seniors: the elderly men in threadbare jackets, hovering over the newspaper pages like patient old herons; the gray-haired ladies in tracksuits and sun visors, perched like pigeons on the edges of their chairs.

Disorientation: Being Black in the World by Ian Williams
Audiobook [6 hr] read by the author

Ian Williams reads his own audiobook with warmth and humour. It's a collection of essays about his experiences of anti-Black racism in Canada. They‘re examples of systemic barriers as well as person-to-person interactions, often nonverbal. From childhood onward, all the negative ways that Williams has been made aware that he is different have shaped his sense of self and continue to take a toll on his state of mind. He quotes from writers like James Baldwin, Audre Lorde and Claudia Rankine. He says encouraging things like: “Hope lies in caring for something beyond the self.” It‘s a thoughtful conversation-opener for non-Black Canadians.

The cost of choosing a path that leads you through elite schools and respected jobs is lifelong alienation. You become a kind of Black person who is kind of Black.

Its kindergarten report card would say: Whiteness is encouraged to regulate its emotions and behaviour. Whiteness is encouraged to share. Whiteness is encouraged to play nicely with the other children.

The Air Year by Caroline Bird

I was enthralled by the slightly mysterious meanings and the sheer energy of imagination in the poems in this award-winning collection. They are full of dark humour and are about desire, intimate lesbian relationships, and going through hard times. It's invigorating! Winner of the Forward Prize (Best Collection) and shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award.

I haunt my own home, silent but for the buzzing / of the fridge with the wine in it, with the secret / light no one can see until they open the door.

You were so beautiful I felt a commotion in the pit of my throat / like my words were fighting over you.

Full Spectrum: How the Science of Color Made Us Modern by Adam Rogers

A fascinating book of popular science that begins 400 million years ago with the geological forces that made titanium and ends with futuristic colours that exist only in our heads. (Pixar mind manipulation!) And remember all the fuss about The Dress? Was it blue-and-black, white-and-gold, or some other colours? Rogers wrote about The Dress in Wired in 2015 and says that over 38 million people read it. (Me included.) Across the centuries, people have worked hard to widen our art palette and solve the puzzle of colour vision—Newton even stuck a giant needle in his eye for the sake of knowledge—and Adam Rogers has an engaging way of writing about all of it.

We learn to see, and then we learn to create, and then we learn more about how we see from what we‘ve created. It‘s a grand oscillation between seeing and understanding.

Carbon‘s ability to stick to all kinds of other atoms in all kinds of ways is what makes “organic chemistry” organic. Be grateful for carbon‘s profligacy; that‘s life, as the saying goes.

Nobody makes colours alone. Nobody sees them without a context, without a contrast or a constant, without geology and biology and history and chemistry and physics. We all make colours together.

[…] we just have to tacitly agree that when I say “blue” you know what I mean […]. Colours may be less about cognition and more about communication.

The single most important thing that determined how you saw The Dress was how your brain identified, unconsciously, the colour of the light illuminating the image—maybe even what time of day you thought the picture was taken. The Dress undermined or outright broke almost every assumption scientists had about colour constancy and the daylight bias of human vision.

The cargo of the Belitung wreck [c 826 CE] redefined the history of colours as commodities, their materiality & technology as valuable as gold, silk, or spices. The way people made & used those colours was the era‘s highest of high tech. And the delivery mechanism was literally hardware, the killer app of the day: porcelain.

You‘ve probably heard of other Chinese inventions—gunpowder, movable type, the needle compass, paper money. Porcelain predated all of that, and was every bit as important, technologically and culturally as significant, as silk and ink. Northern white and southern celadon were two of China‘s greatest exports, the products of an almost magical technology.

In 1859, the novelist Charles Dickens decided to use his fortune to make explicit the radical political and economic subtext of his stories. He started a magazine, All the Year Round, and made himself a columnist. As a journalist myself, let me say that this is a good scam.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Indigenous Books Bonanza

This month I've read so many noteworthy books by Indigenous authors that I decided to highlight them in a separate post instead of including them in my monthly round-up.

The Strangers by Katherena Vermette

A companion novel to Vermette's The Break. It's been a month since I read this, and the characters are still with me, representing three generations of Métis women in Winnipeg. Their reality is intergenerational trauma, poverty, addiction and incarceration. On top of that, living in a place and time—Canada, now—that does not value Indigenous women, clearly takes its toll. They don‘t want pity from the reader. They face the world on their own terms. Above all, this is a powerful story of resistance.

Then the world went to shit, and everybody started wearing masks and face shields, but really Phoenix‘s life wasn‘t all that different. She‘d been social distancing her whole life.

I was doing a story for English. It was a slipstream, a girl who could travel through history and meet a bunch of strangers who turned out to be her ancestors. Her family. [I like what Vermette did here, referencing her 'Pemmican Wars' graphic novel series that begins with A Girl Called Echo.]

Nishga by Jordan Abel

What does it mean to be Indigenous but to grow up in a city, severed from Indigenous community, knowledge and land? Are you still Indigenous if you have mixed heritage and don‘t know the language of your ancestors? How does one deal with intergenerational trauma from residential schools? In this visually striking and moving memoir created from found texts, transcripts, photographs, his father's art and his own concrete poetry, Jordan Abel grapples with these questions.

I work with found text because that was my first real connection to Indigeneity, and, as an intergenerational survivor of Residential Schools, I create art that attempts to reflect my life experience, including my severance from Indigenous knowledge and land.

When someone tells us their story, that story becomes a part of us.

During the question period, a professor raised his hand and spoke for several minutes before coming to his question: “What is new about this?” He didn‘t really care about how I might respond. He just wanted me to know that he didn‘t think my work had any value. If he asked me that now, I would say: “Nothing. This is an old, sad, painful story that hurts just as much yesterday as it does today. There's nothing new about it but it's still not going anywhere."

I remember meeting my Dad for the first time and asking him twenty-three years worth of questions. I can‘t remember most of what I asked him. I can‘t remember most of his answers. He wasn‘t what I had expected. I had always assumed that I had no expectations. But it turned out that wasn‘t true at all. I was disappointed that the hole in my life was still there after we met. I always thought it would go away. But I guess it's something that I will carry with me everywhere now.

Gather: Richard Van Camp on the Joy of Storytelling by Richard Van Camp

“Edanet‘e? Hello! How are you, Cousin? I‘ve missed you.” With this friendly opening, Richard Van Camp shares the joys of storytelling in a collection that includes his own tales about growing up Tlicho in the NWT, his current life with a wife and family in Edmonton, plus a few stories from Elders like Tomson Highway, plus lots and lots of encouraging tips on how to engage an audience and be a great storyteller yourself.

Please know that when you stand up to share a story, people are automatically rooting for you. People want to visit. People need to visit! We are social animals, just like wolves!

I am lucky to tour as an author and storyteller and I find that when I‘m marketed as a writer visiting a community, we can sometimes pack a room, but when I‘m marketed as a storyteller, it‘s standing room only. I think this is because we are all lonesome for stories; we are all lonesome for connection and community. It‘s stories that unite us and remind us of our place in the world as brothers and sisters and it‘s an honour to be known as a great storyteller.

The sense that we are part of cultural genocide has never left me, and this is why I write. This is why I share stories. This is why I record my Elders: so I can help others who are looking for their cultures too. [This resonates with what Jordan Abel writes about in his memoir Nishga; his search for cultural connection began in libraries.]

it was never going to be okay by jaye simpson

jaye simpson—nonbinary trans, Oji-Cree plus Scottish and French ancestry—grew up in foster care. Their autobiographical poems express anger at the harm inflicted on them as a child, and later as a sex worker, while their noncapitilized use of “i” gentles their treatment of self, pointing towards healing and joy. Powerful imagery and emotions, plus a sense of mythological history contrasted against brief individual lives.

call me sea glass:
because i once was sharp
broken tossed in
tumultuous tides
thrashed on barnacle- & coral-clad rock,
pitched on log after drunken sunset
witnessed by shifting bonfire light.

they hardly ever remember
i used to cut.


i am illusion enough for now / shapeshifters are monstrous / in their own / infinite possibilities / & how mundane the beholder.


i want touch that isn‘t born of fetishization or desperation, i want touch born of healthy intentions, sure and full of consent. i do not want touch purely because of my fatness, nor my transness. i want touch because someone wants to hold me and because i am me.

On the Trapline by David A Robertson and Julie Flett

A word in Swampy Cree language sums up each piece of text in this gentle picture book set in present day: a story about a Cree Elder who takes his grandson to visit far northern Manitoba where his trapline was located.  The
 reality of vast distances is clear: getting to this place requires a flight in a small plane and then travelling onward in a motorboat. It's an introspective celebration of connection to land and history, by a pair of award-winning co-creators with Swampy Cree heritage. Julie Flett‘s artwork is made with pastels in earthy colours, to peaceful effect. A short glossary and pronunciation guide is included at the back.

An example from the text: "Wapahtam means 'he sees it.'" David Robertson, in an interview with CBC‘s Shelagh Rogers, said: “What I love about Cree is that one word can mean so much. Cree is such a beautiful language.”

Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know by Brittany Luby and Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley

Concepts of seasons and colours are presented in this charming dual-language
—Anishinaabemowin and Englishpicture book created by an Anishinaabe team from Ontario. Ojibwe artist Joshua Pawis-Steckley includes elements of Woodlands style in his depiction of the animals. Some Indigenous children will find a familiar northern landscape and language, while other young readers will learn about a way of life different from their own. Any child might enjoy spending time searching for the creatures on each double-page spread. It's also a good book for generating conversation about how young readers recognize the signs of the seasons in their own environment.

When Loon opens her red eyes / to call across the water / and green Luna Moth hides / among birch leaves.
When yellow Bumblebee collects purple / fireweed with me / and we spy brown Screech Owl / asleep in the tree.
When blueberries drop readily / and the sand is hot enough to sting.
When insects billow black from the trees / and the sun slips into an orange dream.
This is how I know summer.

Walking in Two Worlds by Wab Kinew
Audiobook [8 hr] read by Joelle Peters

Anishinaabe journalist and political leader Wab Kinew has created a wonderfully nuanced teen character in Bugz, which is short for Bagonegiizhigok. (Wab, by the way, is short for Wabanakwut.) Bugz is a star in an online multiplayer game, but struggles with her self-image in the real world. The two worlds of the title could be Indigenous/mainstream; real/virtual; or inner/outer self. Exciting gamer-centred YA about being authentic.

21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality by Bob Joseph

The title says it all. The contents are eye-opening and succinct. Bob Joseph is a well-spoken member of the Gwawaenuk Nation (Kwakwaka'wakw).

My personal quest is to change the world, one person at a time. The continued interest in the article [from which this book sprung] indicated to me that a book expanding the 21 things would provide a service to Canadians, and others, who are ready to learn about the Indian Act and its ramifications. This book is for people who want to walk with informed minds and hearts along the path to reconciliation.

Indian in the Cabinet: Speaking Truth to Power by Jody Wilson-Raybould
Audiobook [12 hr] read by the author

Jody Wilson-Raybould of the We Wai Kai Nation (Kwakwaka'wakw) famously served as Canada‘s first Indigenous Minister of Justice and Attorney General. In her excellent memoir, she writes about her ethical principles surrounding the SNC Lavalin scandal that resulted in her getting booted from the Liberal caucus, as well as other underhanded pressures—approve this pipeline and then maybe we will pay attention to your social justice concerns!—from the Prime Minister‘s Office. 

The Liberal government exiled us to the margins of the House of Commons. I made my journey from the front bench on the government side to the farthest back corner on the opposition side.

In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience by Helen Knott
Audiobook [9 hr] read by the author

Helen Knott says she was an adult before she learned that not every Indigenous girl experiences sexual violence. She says this memoir is especially aimed at women like her who have struggled with addiction as a way of coping with trauma. It‘s a story not only of survival but of triumph and accomplishment. Knott is of Dane-Zaa, Nehiyaw, Métis and European descent and grew up in northern BC.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Encounters with Tim Hortons While Shadowing the Giller

This entry is part of my continuing collection of Tim Hortons references as I come across them in my reading. I hope these excerpts will prompt you to pick up and read the books in their entirety. All of the titles in this post were published between October 2020 and September 2021, making them eligible for Canada's Giller prize in 2021.


    The road is an intermittent companion. It was made to wrap around natural features, whereas I am compelled to push straight through. I'm heading more or less west from home. If I walk long enough, I'll fall into the ocean. Wouldn't that be poetical?
    My ambition is too blunted to contemplate such a lofty goal. I'll come across a derelict Tim Hortons before too long--maybe that's good enough.

Emily Brewes, The Doomsday Book of Fairy Tales, p 272


    Butand there is a but, and not a minor onethe two women's children couldn't stand each other. As soon as they were in the same room, they would turn their backs on one another. "As if they were like poles of two magnets," Suzan sighed when the conversation got to that point. (Desmond, whom I met at a Tim Hortons in Sudbury, had another explanation: "I couldn't stand the way she looked at me. There was something in her that struck a nerve. I couldn't tell you what it was. A huge void, or a vortex. It would take me days and a lot of work to extract myself from it.")

Jocelyne Saucier, And Miles to Go Before I Sleep (translated by Rhonda Mullins), p 56 


    Up ahead, someone has taken three of the brownies. Now there are only five left.
    "I'm going to make you an offer," says Loomis, trying to channel Vito Corleone, "that you can't refuse."
    "Make sure he doesn't cheat you," says Paula.
    I check the display case. Now there are only three.
    The mayor puts his arm around his wife. "Don't know why you insist we come here," he whispers. "Timmy's has a better selection and better prices."
    In addition to the real estate company, Mayor Bob also owns the two Tim Hortons in town.
    "Sure," says Paula. "If you want frozen lumps of lard."
    "Canadian company," says Bob. "Buy local."
    "Company hasn't been Canadian since 1995," says Paula.

Thomas King, Sufferance, p 47


    The hardware store sat at the centre of Main Street in a town of three thousand and thirty-nine people. There was one Tim Hortons (facing impending closure), two pizzerias, a hospital, one public school, one Catholic school, a liquor store, a cafe, a pharmacy, a bookstore, the corner store, five churches, and Lou's hardware store. Indigo Higgins owned the local bookstore. She stocked poetry from Western Canada, Bart Hastings' murder mysteries, and books about birds. It was a well-known fact that Indigo could name collective nouns for birds in any situation, and she often created opportunities to mention an asylum of cuckoos, a museum of waxwings, a charm of goldfinches, or a pretense of bitterns. Each Christmas since Lou had married Edward, she had bought him a book from Indigo's store -- usually one of the select few that wasn't about birds and wasn't authored by Bart Hastings. Lou never knew what else to get him. This year, they hadn't exchanged gifts at all.

Amy LeBlanc, Unlocking, p 11


    "What's for breakfast?" I ask Amina, watching her fold my quilt into a perfect rectangle. Particles of dust fly up as she beats my mattress with a coconut broom and smooths out the creases in the bedsheet.
    Aunty, my mother's sister, says Amina is a couple of years younger than me, which means she is about seventeen. Yet a solemn maturity lurks behind her youthful olive skin, beneath the surface of the innocent wonder in her large chocolate-coloured eyes.
    "Porota, omelette, potato fry, tea," she says with a smile, exposing her rust-coloured, betel-stained teeth.
    Instantly, my mouth moistens. Over the past year in Toronto, I've only come to know cereal and Tim Hortons muffins for breakfast. The few times I tried the store-bought porota from No Frills supermarket, it felt as though I was eating rubber.

Silmy Abdullah, Home of the Floating Lily: Stories, 'Across the Ocean,' pp 50-51
Note: Two other stories in Abdullah's collection also have Tim Hortons references. I will let you discover them for yourself.


    We reject the crumbling donuts and thin coffee offered in the hotel lobby, the elegant sounding "Continental Breakfast." We stop at a Tim Hortons on the outskirts of town. Next stop, the mountains and the new monument that is the reason for our visit.
    We avoid the drive-through, several cars making a figure eight in the parking lot, and join the line on the inside. I tell Dad he can find us seats while I wait to get our English muffins, but he doesn't. He's perturbed by the long line, so needs to exercise his annoyance, to take it for a walk like a small dog. He's mostly perturbed, I soon see, by the sight of the only person taking orders, an older South Asian lady. She's clearly distressed and requires help, but her colleagues are all occupied: two giraffe-like blonde teenage boys bobbing and weaving behind the soup/sandwich counter, and a gaggle of girls administering to the drive-through traffic, radio headsets fastened to their ears. I suggest to Dad that we'd be better off going through the drive-through, but he gives me a look as if I've asked hime to cut off his right hand.
    We wait. [...] Once or twice, the poor woman, confused by the onslaught of requests, Double-cream no sugar, one cream three sugar, double-double, double-milk one sugar, one decaf black, a maple dip not maple cream donut, an old-fashioned plain donut, not a glazed old-fashioned plain donut with vanilla sprinkles, sets both her hands on the counter and closes her eyes. The lineup of customers grows and surges.
    Dad makes a nocturnal sound and steps, figuratively and literally, out of line. I shrink. He shouts, "Can't anyone help this poor woman? What kind of place you running here?" The whole place pauses. Heads pivot, patrons at tables in mid-sentence mid-bite and mid-sip, coffee cups or iPhones at the ends of their arms. Things resume. The coffee machine begins again. I see a commotion through the door behind the counter, and a young woman, not in the standard Tim Hortons uniform, but in a black halter top, with a bracelet-of-thorns tattoo circling her right arm--she looks vaguely Goth, wholly angry--comes out and punches open a second cash register, narrows her crow eyes as if daring anyone to approach.
    Once we're sitting, he starts in.
    "Disgraceful. Immigrants forced to take these jobs. Part-time, you can bet, then they don't have to pay benefits. We shouldn't patronize these people."
    "She seems to be handling it all right."
    "It's in the job description. You can't frown at Timmy Hortons."
    Before we leave, a middle-aged man, around my age, in crisp new jeans and scuffed silver cowboy boots, long greying hair in a ponytail, stops by our table and says to my dad, "Thanks for saying something. Place makes money hand over fist. Canada's Goldman Sachs."
    Dad barely responds, just whispers, "You bet," without looking up. The man waits for a more meaningful interaction. I say, "Thanks," He nods and moves off. His cowboy boots snap along the sticky floor.

John O'Neill, Goth Girls of Banff, 'From Castle Mountain,' pp 124-127
Note: As with Abdullah's book (see previous entry) two other stories in O'Neill's collection have Tim Hortons references.


    Surely there's a washroom in this building that I could use, said Grandma.
    I'm afraid not, he said, they're not designated for public use.
    She really has to go! I told him.
    You don't have to yell at me, miss, I can hear you. I told you they're not designated for public use.
    Her diuretic kicked in on the streetcar and she'll spring a leak if you don't let her use the fucking washroom, you fascist prick! I said.
    Swiv, said Grandma. She pretended to slice her throat with her finger. The guy finally looked at us and got up and came around to the front of the desk with his hand on his gun. Grandma asked him if it was all right with him if she peed in one of those giant planters by the window. He said no, he couldn't authorize her to do that. Do it! I told Grandma. I'm authorizing it! She said no, no, we'll find a place. She told the security guy she was very tempted to let 'er rip right there in the lobby on that shiny floor and he said ma'am, you do not have a constitutional right to use fighting words with me. Then grandma started talking about constitutional rights but she was huffing and puffing and also dizzy still, and sort of teetering around and it was hard for her to talk. You're gonna have a goddamn cardiac event, Grandma, I told her. I'm telling De Sica. De Sica! said Grandma. Did he call? Don't let this be the hill you die on! I said. Hoooooooooo, said Grandma. You're right. What a ridiculous last stand. I took Grandma's hand and we went to the Tim Hortons next door and bought two Boston cream doughnuts so they would give us the code to the washroom.

- - - - - - - - - - - 

    The cab driver fell in love with Grandma instantly and took her arm and helped her down the stairs and along the little path to the curb, like they were a bride and groom. Shotgun! yelled Grandma. She always had to sit in the front of cars. Normal people sit in the backs of cabs, but not Grandma. She wants to see everything and navigate everything and talk with the driver. The cab driver had to move all his stuff off the front seat. He wiped off the crumbs and chucked some garbage into the back seat next to me. A Tim Hortons cup landed on my leg. Sorry, sorry he said.

Miriam Toews, Fight Night, pp 32-33; 128-129


    A man passed them on the sidewalk, the late thirties overgrown-child type, baggy shorts and hockey-player hair, sandals. He was just walking along, eating a donut, sipping from a big Tim Hortons cup. Marthe wondered shat it felt like to live in the world like that guy did.

Aimee WallWe, Jane: A Novel, p 65


    Aisla hasn't slept for more than forty-five minutes in a row for over a year. She looks at her list again sitting on the toilet, the baby sleeping in that bucket seat on the floor, one of her feet rocking as she tries to pee without splashing all over the toilet and her pants. Have to keep rocking or he'll wake up and getting him to sleep takes up so much of her life that any respite when he is actually sleeping is heavily and anxiously guarded. She has to look at her list again because she forgets something every time. She knows she's forgotten to write things on her list, but the most important things are probably on there. Probably. It's a fifty-two-minute drive into town, and if she's lucky he'll fall asleep halfway and stay asleep for twenty minutes after
enough time for her to grab a coffee at the Tim Hortons drive-thru and take a pee in the mall bathroom before she starts her errands.

Angelique Lalonde, Glorious Frazzled Beings'The Pregnancy Test,' pp 157-158


    Sometimes I watch TV and I want to throw it against the wall. Sometimes I read a book and I want to rip out every page. Sometimes I am in a restaurant, patiently waiting for my takeout, and I see a straight couple my age laughing as they get their bags and go home and I want to block the entrance right in front of them and claw my eyes out and say, "Tell mehow did it happen? Did you meet at a fucking art opening? After a whole dramatic year on Tinder? DID YOU MEET AT FUCKING TIM HORTONS?! Are you going home to your fucking cat or your fish or your ADORABLE CHILD?!
    I have never been an aggressive person, as you know. And I would like to say I don't know where this urge to rage comes from. Except. Of course. I know exactly where it comes from. It shouldn't be so simple.

Casey Plett, A Dream of a Woman: Stories, 'Rose City, City of Roses,' pp 171-172


    "It's a nice day out today. Feels like spring. Never used to melt this much when I was a kid. When I was a kid we had snow up to our armpits and froze all the way through all winter. Not like you kids, always warm and inside. You guys got it easy."
    Phoenix scoffs at this, but only a bit.    
    "Oliver had a hockey tournament this weekend so we went up to Sagkeeng and was in that arena all weekend. Was colder in there than outside. Good thing they have a Tim's out there. I never asked you, are you a tea girl, Phoenix, or coffee? Which do you like better?"

Katherena Vermette, The Strangers, pp 142-143