Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997

Fifth Issue of Our Literary Journal Foment

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Paranormal Prose

Host and science fiction/fantasy literature author Marie Bilodeau welcomed the speakers Nathan Alder, Kristi Charish and Kelley Armstrong to talk about their latest novels. Each of the authors read an excerpt from their books, telling stories of monsters, zombies and other strange creatures.


Nathan Alder, a member of the Lac Des Mille Lacs First Nation, began by recording of himself chanting the words for monster and story in the language of the Lac Des Mille Lacs First Nation people. He played the recording while he read from his debut novel Wrist, creating an eerie effect perfect for an indigenous ghost story. “Sometimes there isn’t much of a difference between magic and staying alive,” Adler read. Chilling and powerful, Adler’s novel is about dinosaur hunters, monsters, and dark family secrets and demonstrates the authors fearlessness to explore the darker side of life.


Before she was a novelist, Kristi Charish was a scientist. With a PhD in zoology from the University of British Columbia, Charish  “I’m the kind of person who should not have become an author, yet that’s the direction I went,” she said. She read from her novel, The Voodoo Killings. Kincaid Strange, a twenty-seven year old voodoo practitioner who picks up the phone ready to hang up on another kid wanting her to grow them a zombie, and is surprised to hear the voice of a man claiming to be the real thing. Suddenly she’s no longer running séances for university students, she’s chasing real live zombies. If the novel says one thing, it’s to except the unexpected, however ordinary a rainy day in Seattle may seem.


Number one New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong took the stage to read from her short story The Orange Cat, inspired by “The Black Cat,” by Edgar Allen Poe. Her latest novel Betrayals is the fourth book in her Cainsville series. Not wanting to give anything away for those who hadn’t finished the first three books, Armstrong read from her short story, The Orange Cat, inspired by “The Black Cat,” by Edgar Allen Poe. The story begins with a man comes into a lawyer’s office asking about killing his cat with it’s “one yellow eye, staring at me all the time.” The story examines the nature of guilt with dialogue and imagery that do indeed remind the reader of Edgar Allen Poe’s haunting gothic stories such as “The Tell Tale Heart.”


During the question and answer period, the authors discussed the kinds of worlds they created in their novels. The three authors all have something in common: real world settings with otherworld creatures. Urban fantasy is different from high fantasy because it’s set in the modern world, Adler explained. For Charish, her science background influences her style. Everything works in terms of cost and benefit, you’ve got to work with the rules that are there, she said. Similarly, Armstrong said that her novels are based in the real world, but with something extra.


The authors also discussed the influence of folklore and traditional tales in their work. There’s a lot of folklore in Cainsville, the story has very Welsh roots, Armstong said. She gave the example of the folk story of Matilda, the story of a woman who loved to hunt but was told she would be forbidden to do so after her upcoming marriage. The night before her wedding she goes out for a last hunt against the wishes of her intended husband. After that she is forced to lead a wild hunt forever.


Adler said that a lot of traditional stories influenced his book. Wrist was greatly influenced by Aboriginal monster stories his grandmother told him. Charish stated that one of the things she wanted to do with her novel was to bring back the idea of voodoo zombies. There’s a lot of viral zombies out there, she said, people sometimes forget that traditionally stories were about voodoo zombies.


An audience member posed a writing question: what comes first, character or plot devices such as the influence of folklore? Charish said the characters are especially important for her as she needs play things out in her head when she is writing. Adler said he mixes it up. Armstrong said she uses both, and the important thing is that the story doesn’t lean too far one way or theory other.


The event was a place for readers and writers alike as the novelists offered advice on writing and also entertained the audience with stories that feel real, yet also involve the mysterious and unexpected from other realms. “What kind of ghost lives in Seattle,” Charish asks. One must read on to find out.

Guy Gavriel Kay: Children of Earth and Sky

One could be forgiven for thinking that Guy Gavriel Kay, author of thirteen works of historical fiction and fantasy, has his feet firmly rooted in the past. After all, his writing has long been lauded as eminently well researched, a meticulously crafted blend of the real and the fantastical. But when hearing him speak it becomes clear that though Kay has an intimate relationship with the past, it is his ability to use history as a lens to tell universal stories that sets him apart as one of Canada’s greatest writers.

An eager crowd awaited him on Friday evening, despite the unrelenting rain and gloom. The audience buzzed with excitement. Which was your first? they asked one another. Tigana , some replied. Or Ysabel. Or Sailing to Sarantium. His titles were whispered and passed around like some form of communion among his devoted fans, perhaps fitting as we sat in a church.

Ottawa Citizen journalist and fantasy author Kate Heartfield delivered a brief introduction before Kay took the stage to a hearty round of applause. He began by introducing his practiced formula of crafting fictional worlds out of real historical events, a process he described as “rich historically and ethically,” as it allows him to write freely without the uncomfortable assumption that he’s occupying the minds of real people. His latest novel, Children of Earth and Sky, is set in a world that resembles 16th century Croatia and the collapse of Constantinople. The passage he read was from a female perspective and drew the audience in, despite the awkward interruption due to audio difficulties.

For the question period, Kay had his hosts do something unique: paper was passed around for those with questions to write them down, rather than have people line up for a microphone. His theory was that sometimes the best questions are missed when people don’t wish to stand up in front of a crowd, and instead ask them later when getting their books signed. His social experiment was a success; host Kate Heartfield had more questions than time, and it gave her an opportunity to weed out redundant questions or those that would spoil the plotlines of Kay’s books.

The discussion between host and author was rich and interesting. Heartfield, being an author herself, was keen to ask questions about the craft of writing, which can sometimes bore an audience of readers, but Kay knows how to make a story out of even the most potentially mundane topics. He touched on how his goal as a storyteller is to avoid writing about the power players of history and instead focus on the people who were trying to get on with their lives. He spoke of how historical fantasy writing can be a commentary on contemporary times, and how the past fascinates him both because of the different worldviews of people in other times and the similar fears and desires that unite humans all throughout history.

A highlight of the evening was when Kay asked the audience to give a round of applause for the absent Ursula Le Guin on her 87th birthday, acknowledging the work she did and the path she forged for all the fantasy writers who came after her.

A question about the state of publishing fantasy did not elicit what could have been a wholly negative response from Kay, who implored writers to simply “write as well as you can,” claiming that the climate of the publishing industry is not as dire as others would have us believe. The barrier between genre and literary works is thinning as the next generation of writers and publishers grew up on Star Wars/Trek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They also grew up on the works of Guy Gavriel Kay, as evidenced by the audience before him. Perhaps he will be for our generation what Le Guin was for his: a seminal figure whose body of work helped to lay down a path for those who came after him. Fittingly, only time will tell.


Stories About Canada with Jane Urquhart

Rarely is a book so well suited to its launch venue as Jane Urquhart’s A Number of Things: Stories of Canada Told Through Fifty Objects was to the event space at Library and Archives Canada. After a decade of closed doors, being permitted into the second floor room felt like being allowed back into history, a perfect segue to Urquhart’s first book of non-fiction.

On its face, the project behind A Number of Things was both immense and contained: In honour of Canada’s sesquicentennial, Urquhart would tell a story of this country through 50 objects of her choosing. “Our story is here, in at least some of its forms,” Urquhart said, by way of explaining that her book is not the history of the country, but rather one look at our collective story.

Flanked by large TV screens showing slides, Urquhart’s presentation was the kind of generous, open look at a writer’s life and process that attendees at book launches dream of. Opening with a black and white photo of her young, pre-child parents sitting on the steps of a farmhouse, Urquhart told the story of how they travelled to northern Ontario — where she and her siblings would be born and raised — and of the dreams and objects they took with them.

A small, intricately painted and delicate sugar pot — already passed down through multiple generations before being carefully packed up and brought north; a pair of moccasins Urquhart was given as an infant from the chief of the Anishnawbe across the lake; a small Inuit carving of geese her father brought her from a trip farther north — Urquhart’s personal objects both inform and are completely separate from the ones she chose to include the book.

The refrain “This isn’t in the book” became a kind of running joke as Urquhart presentation veered increasingly into the personal, feeling at times like a glimpse at a family slideshow. “I think this is the last one,” Urquhart said about numerous slides, each time finding that, no, there was another — Urquhart as a young girl, afraid of horses (“A horse is one of the objects in the book,” she said), a Japanese sword guard, given to her at the launch for her 2001 novel The Stone Carvers , and many photos of her cottage in Ireland.

Of course, some of the photos lined up with the book. Many of the objects she wrote about have no connection to her, but Urquhart said she did find herself and her “pioneer” upbringing creeping into the essays.

One of the objects, Tent, was very particular for Urquhart. Although she left many of the objects mysterious or merely hinted at them — “You’ll have to buy the book,” she winked — she read the short essay she wrote for Tent in full. It is a story that starts with Irish immigrants working to build Maple Leaf Gardens. Among that crew is a man named Danny Henry who, after making his way to the mining towns in northern Ontario, would become her father’s best friend and her godfather. The titular Tent, Urquhart says, is really Henry’s prospector’s tent, the only real home he owned for nearly 40 years. But, tents have a much longer history in Canada, and Urquhart’s essay folds in a beautiful passage about the “skin tent” used by First Nations, detailing its construction, utility and portability.

That push-pull between the objects of immigrants and those of Canada’s First Nations is a ribbon throughout the book, and a theme to which Urquhart returned throughout her talk, as well as during the discussion with CBC’s Sandra Abma. It didn’t matter what object she was focusing on, Urquhart said, all the research came back to Canada’s Indigenous people and what has happened to them.

In part, Urquhart told Abma, that is why the book opens with the Beothuk legging. For Urquhart it is the most resonant object in the book, but more than that, she wanted it front and centre, where it could not be ignored.

Throughout the evening, Urquhart was warm, open and generous in both her presentation and, later, the way she answered audience questions. Surely one of Canada’s most celebrated authors, Urquhart is a respected poet, novelist and, with A Number of Things, has now taken the plunge into non-fiction. That breadth of experience makes Urquhart a perfect author to headline a night that was also a celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Governor General’s Literary Awards — an award Urquhart won in 1997 for her novel The Underpainter . Books, of course, are objects too, and if “material culture” tells us what we value (as Urquhart asserted), then what better book to usher us toward both a celebration of our country’s 150th birthday and our longest running appreciation of the literature created here.



The Promise of Canada

Charlotte Gray once got into trouble for referring to Library and Archives Canada as “a morgue,” but on October 17th, the scene at the LAC was most definitely alive. After being introduced by Festival director Sean Wilson and LAC director Guy Berthiaume, Gray asserted that the past is where Canadians must look if they are to find a coherent present. It is precisely in the archives, she argued, where we will find both our current identity and our future together. Gray’s newest book, The Promise of Canada: 150 Years – People and Ideas That Have Shaped Our Country is a deliberately open-ended story of a nation whose story is still evolving. Structured as a series of nine short biographies, The Promise of Canada portrays the country as the product of its citizenry. The choice of which individuals to include is obviously subjective, and Gray acknowledges that the presence of neither prime ministers nor hockey players will undoubtedly be a shock to some readers. Instead, the better- and lesser-known figures included in Gray’s book portray a country where stereotypes fall apart on closer inspection, where the act of inclusion – whether in publishing, legislation or storytelling is an act of nation-building. Gray presents The Promise of Canada is an immigrant’s sesquicentennial gift to her new home country. That gift is not just the story of the nine figures profiled in The Promise of Canada, but the start of a new conversation about what it means to tell the story of a nation.    

Gray began her presentation with some of the highlights from her research: phenomenal images by painter Emily Carr; political intrigue and scandal-worthy gossip about George-Etienne Cartier and the moving life story of Elijah Harper, who rose to prominence as an Aboriginal leader in the Manitoba legislature in the 1990s. Gray tied each individual’s story neatly to her main themes of Canadian national identity: a commitment to federalism; an evolving dialogue of inclusion and multi-culturalism; the on-going human relationship with Canada’s vast and unforgiving natural landscape. The themes of immigration and outsider status also work their way through the Gray’s project, as does the recognition of a certain national tendency towards pragmatism and away from heroics. (Why, Gray asked, do so many Canadian narratives feature the lone survivor as a protagonist, as if public attention was merited only by the accident of survival from disaster?) Humorously conceding that her book is a reflection of her own interests and experiences, Gray invites readers to make their own lists of influential people and ideas. The Promise of Canada is a lively remedy for what Gray sees as a public tendency to disengage with Canadian history.

For the second half of the evening, the OIWF invited Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella to converse with Gray about her writing process. Abella, whose own impressive biography would probably merit inclusion in a sequel volume, led Gray and the audience through a series of thoughtful questions which could hardly be answered in a single night. This reviewer is still thinking of new answers for Abella’s questions, which included: “What holds Canada together?” and “Who helped embed Canadian qualities, whatever they might be, in the national psyche?” Gray responded with a distinct awareness of her role as a biographer, as well as great clarity about her own perspective as a British immigrant to Canada. Gray, who arrived in Canada during a “wobbly moment” of national identity in the late 1970s, has had time to think deeply about the role of individuals in creating a nation. Yet the story of Canada, like that of any other vibrant nation, is never complete. Each generation, Gray and Abella agreed, write their own story of their homeland, be it native or adopted.

Irish Culture and History

On October 22nd we are featuring two Irish writers at our festival for two fresh looks at the culture and history of Ireland. 

The Easter Uprising of 1916 with Dermot Keogh
The insurrection of Easter Week, 1916 led to the creation of the Irish Republic and continues to have a profound impact on Irish politics and the Brexit fallout. As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of this seminal event Dr. Dermot Keogh, Emeritus Professor of History, University College Cork, will put the political and international aspects of The Rising into context and engage us in a lively conversation that will weave together the many threads that underpin contemporary Ireland. Click for tickets and details.

Prosperity Drive by Mary Morrissy
Mary Morrissy is the winner of the Hennessy Award and a Lannan Literary Foundation Award and has published three previous novels: Mother of Pearl, The Pretenderand The Rising of Bella Casey -- and a collection of short stories, A Lazy Eye (1993).  Her most recent novel, Prosperity Drive , has been praised by both The Guardian  for its "compassion, immediacy, humour and delicacy"  and The Irish Times, "clear-eyed vision and her deep compassion, along with her lovely sense of the comic and her exceptional literary articulacy, make this an outstanding collection." All the characters in Prosperity Drive  begin their journeys on a single suburban Dublin street, and everything eventually returns to it. It is an Ireland in miniature. The novel is laid out in stories, linked by characters who appear and disappear, bump into each other in chance encounters, and join up again through love, marriage or memory. She currently teaches at University College Cork. Morrissy will be joined on stage by Man Booker Prize nominee David Szalay and debut novelist Jowita Bydlowska. Click here for tickets and details.

A Window into Canada

Identity shapes how we see the world and how others interact with us. Through fiction, poetry and journalism, these writers illuminate the realisties of  racism, isolation, identity and history for Indigenous people across Canada. Writing offers a new window onto the world and through their books stories these Indigeous writers are shifting the conversation about Idigenous rights in Canada.

Wrist by Nathan Adler's Wrist

October 21 @ 8:30PM
Nathan Adler is a member of Lac Des Mille Lacs First Nation. His debut novel Wrist is an indigenous monster story that will draw you into the lives and stories of the Ojibway people. In 1872, a group of dinosaur hunters in northern Ontario were driven made by a bizarre and frightening illness. Over a hundred years later, the same illness threatens Church and his family. He must delve into his family’s dark history to protect the secrets of his people. He will be part of our Paranormal Prose panel with Kelley Armstrong and Kristi CharishClick here for tickets and information.

Passage by Gwen Benaway
October 23 @ 8:30PM
Two-spirited Indigenous poet Gwen Benaway’s new collection of poetry, Passage, explores the the effects of violence and the burden of survival for indigenous people. The poems in her collection take readers from Northern Ontario to the Great Lakes, looking at family issues, a legacy of colonization and a new sexuality and gender. She will be joined by Vivek Shraya and Ivan Coyote. Click here for tickets and information.

The Break by Katherena Vermette
October 24 @ 6:30PM
When Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break—a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house—she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime.   The Break, nominated for the 2016 Writers Trust Award for Fiction and the Governor General's Award, by Katherena Vermette, presents a series of shifting narratives, people who are connected, both directly and indirectly, with the victim—police, family, and friends—tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Through their various perspectives a larger, more comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg’s North End is exposed. Vermette will be joined by Zoe Whittall and David Bergen. Click here for tickets and information.

Invisible North by Alexandra Shimo
October 24 @ 8:30PM
When freelance journalist   Alexandra Shimo   arrives in Kashechewan, a fly-in northern Ontario reserve, to investigate rumours of a fabricated water crisis and document its deplorable living conditions, she finds herself drawn into the troubles of the reserve. Unable to cope with the desperate conditions, she begins to fall apart. Part memoir, part history of the Canadian reserves,  Invisible North: The Search for Answers on a Troubled Reserve   offers a vivid first-person account of life on a troubled reserve that illuminates a difficult and oft-ignored history.   She will be joined by Deborah Campbell and Joy Kogawa. Click here for tickets and information.

A Postcolonial Performance of scenes from The Tempest
October 25 at 6:30PM
As we celebrate the 400 years since Shakespeare's death with Margaret Atwood and retelling of The Tempest in Hag-Seed, we are also inviting Keith Barker  and  Walter Borden to present a Canadian, post-colonial reimagining of some of the key scenes from The Tempest.  Click here for tickets and information.

Witness, I Am with Gregory Schofield
October 26 @ 8:30PM

Gregory Scofield is of Métis of Cree, European and Jewish descent. In his new work, Witness, I am, he addresses themes of identify and belonging and the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women. He weaves  his personal perspective and knowledge of indigenous culture into his work, creating poems that are powerful and moving. Schofield will be part of our Poetry Cabaret with Sandra Ridley, Stuart Ross and Stephen Brockwell.  Click here for tickets and information.

Stories from Behind the Firing Line

This fall four writers take us behind the firing line with stories about war and the people it affects. Drawing on personal experiences, as soldiers, journalists and researchers, each writer places the realities of war in perspective with accounts not often told on the outside.

Trigger Warning with Deni Ellis Bechard, Peter Behrens and Kevin  Patterson

October 23 @ 6:30 pm

In one panel we bring together three novelists who question and explore the theatre of war. In his novel, Into the Sun, Deni Ellis Bechard paints an unsentimental portrait of the impact journalists, mercenaries, messianic idealists, and aid workers have when they flood into war zones. Bechard brings Kabul to life, portraying citizens who are determined, resourceful and as willing as their occupiers to reinvent themselves and survive. Peter Behrens’ Carry Me, is both a love story and a historical epic. The reader gains a fresh perspective on Europe’s violent twentieth century, from the Isle of Wight to London under Zeppelin attack to Germany  during the Weimar period. Kevin Patterson’s new novel News From the Red Desert begins in 2001 when everyone thought the conflict in Afghanistan was over. The novel then delves into the mess, confusion and death of a war that was not yet won, and the lives of the men and women involved. Click here for tickets.

A Disappearance in Damascus
October 25 @ 8:30 pm
In the midst of an unfolding international crisis, journalist Deborah Campbell, undercover in Damascus to report on the exodus of Iraqis into Syria following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, finds herself swept up in the mysterious disappearance of Ahlam, her guide and friend. Haunted by the prospect that their work together has led to her friend’s arrest, Campbell spends the months that follow desperately trying to find her—all the while fearing she could be next. A Disappearance in Damascus: A Story of Friendship and Survival in the Shadow of War  is a frank, personal account of a journey through fear, and the triumph of friendship and courage. Campbell will join Alexandra Shimo and Joy Kogawa to talk about the crossover between journalism and memoir. Click here for tickets.

An Ongoing Battle with PTSD with Romeo Dallaire
November 30th @ 7pm
Roméo Dallaire, traumatized by witnessing genocide on an imponderable scale in Rwanda, reflects in these pages on the nature of PTSD and the impact of that deep wound on his life since 1994, and on how he motivates himself and others to humanitarian work despite his constant struggle. Dallaire wll talk about his struggles with PTSD and how it has motivated him to help soldiers better deal with the muddy reality of modern conflict zones and to revolutionizing our thinking about the changing nature of conflict itself. Click here for tickets.

Women Making A Difference

Standing up and saying something is the first step to making a difference. This fall our festival is showcasing some amazing women writers whose memoirs and fictions shed light on important social issues, such as quality of life on Canadian reserves, war, immigrant experience, sexual assault and gender identity. Be part of the conversation and stand up to make your own change at these fall events.

The Personal is Political. What does it mean to visit the site of disaster? What is it life to live it? And what do you do once you are a witness? In their memoirs, journalists Deborah Campbell and Alexandra Shimo share their experiences of working on the front lines of journalism in the Middle East and on Canadian reserves. In Gently from Nagasaki, award-winning author Joy Kogawa traces lines between her family's time spent in Japanese internment in Canada and the events unfolding in Japan at the same time. Do not miss these unbelievable stories of strength, perseverance and the desire to drive change. They join us on October 24th.

Fiction Mirrors Fact. Two astounding Canadian novelists explore the darker sides of our family ties on October 24th. Nominated for the Giller Prize, Zoe Whittall's The Best Kind of People takes peers into the darkness that is sexual assualt to understand how it affects the victims and the family of the accused. Set in Winnipeg's West End, Katherena Vermette's Governor Genral's Award nominated book The Break explores the urban indigenous experience from cultural loss to prejudice and family breakdown.

Walking the Line. In their new works of poetry, Vivek Shraya and Gwen Beneway explore both the racial, cultural and gender lines they cross in their lives and art. In Passage , two-spirited trans poet, Gwen Benaway's poems travel from Northern Ontario and across the Great Lakes in poetic voyage through divorce, family violence, legacy of colonization, and the affirmation of a new sexuality and gender. Vivek Shrayas debut collection,   even this page is white, is a bold, timely, and personal interrogation of skin–its origins, functions, and limitations. They will perform on October 23rd.

Truth in Character. In our Character Studies panel, Jowita Bydlowska and Mary Morrissy crawl into the intimate and personal lives of their characters to show us how they think and what makes them tick. Bydlowska's Guy investigates the elements that contribute to toxic masculinity, while Morrissy's Prosperity Drive takes on an Alice Munro approach to the private lives of the men and women that live in the Irish suburbs.

Spotlight on Jane Jacobs. On October 22nd we are putting a spotlight on the woman who radically changed how we see cities and think about infrastructure and design. Two new books take a look at the life of Jane Jacobs, her thoughts and the contributions she made in New York City, Toronto and around the world.

Passed Down Through Generations

Talking to The Guardian about her debut novel Harmless Like You, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan discussed the need to write a variety of characters: “The standard character was a white person,” she says. “I get really excited when I read writers who write people who, let’s be honest, don’t have my exact racial makeup but who are mixed-up in that way.” In her novel Buchanan not only gives voice to Yuki, a half-Japanese woman, but to the fraught relationships between generations of generations: “A lot of what the book is about is how pain shape-shifts down the generations. There is nothing more personal than family, and yet families are so profoundly affected by political decisions,” she told The Guardian. Buchanan is not the only writer at our festival to be exploring the theme of inherited trauma. From Canadian Japanese internment camps, to urban Indigenous life and the immigrants experience, our writers give voice to the darker side of family inheritance.

Time After Time. Rowan Hisayo Buchanan joins Jenn Sookfong Lee and Terry Jordan for a conversation about how fiction can open up the conversation about the unexpected trajectories each decision can set in motion and the lingering echo of the road not taken. Buchanan's book examines the conflicts between generations of Japanese immigrants to America. Lee's book looks at the secrets kept between mother and daughter and the gap between privilege and desire. Jordan's book takes readers through the rise and fall of fishing life in Newfoundland.

Family Matters. When Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break—a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house—she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime.    The Break  by  Katherena Vermett  presents a comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg’s North End is exposed. David Bergen's Stranger is a stirring tale that lays bare the bonds of motherhood, revealing just how far a mother will go to reclaim her stolen child. Íso, a young Guatemalan, works at a fertility clinic at Ixchel, where she becomes the secret lover of an American doctor, Eric Mann. After the birth of her daughter, the baby is taken from her and sent to America. Determined to reclaim her stolen daughter, Íso makes her way north through Mexico, eventually crossing illegally into a United States divided into military zones.

Gently to Nagasaki. Set in Vancouver and Toronto, the outposts of Slocan and Coaldale, the streets of Nagasaki and the high mountains of Shikoku, Japan,   Gently to Nagasaki   is also an account of a remarkable life. As a child during WWII, Joy Kogawa was interned with her family and thousands of other Japanese Canadians by the Canadian government. Her acclaimed novel Obasan, based on that experience, brought her literary recognition and played a critical role in the movement for redress. In her new book, interweaving the events of her own life with catastrophes like the bombing of Nagasaki and the massacre by the Japanese imperial army at Nanking, she wrestles with essential questions like good and evil, love and hate, rage and forgiveness, determined above all to arrive at her own truths.

Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety.  Ann Y. K. Choi   is a coming-of-age story that portrays the life of a young Korean Canadian girl who will not give up on her dreams or her family. Family secrets, a lost sister, forbidden loves, domestic assaults—Mary discovers as she grows up in the 1980s that life is much more complicated than she had ever imagined. Her secret passion for her English teacher is filled with problems, and with the arrival of a promising Korean suitor, Joon-Ho, events escalate in ways that she could never have imagined, catching the entire family in a web of deceit and violence. 

Do Not Say We Have Nothing. Nominated for the Man Booker Prize and the Governor General's Award, Madeleine Thien's new novel takes a look at the enduring effect of the Cultural Revolution in China. Set in China before, during and after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations–those who lived through Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the mid-twentieth century; and the children of the survivors, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square in 1989, in one of the most important political moments of the past century.

Explore Other Worlds This Fall

While genre fiction might seem like a means of escape, other worlds and the people who inhabit them can often teach us more about history, society and ourselves. Through science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction and re-tellings of history these six acclaimed authors show us how other worlds can help us shape our own.

Children of Earth and Sky with Guy Gavriel Kay
October 21 @ 6:30PM

Guy Gavriel Kay's novels have captured the imaginations of readers for decades. His latest novel, Children of the Earth and Sky takes place in a fictional world inspired by the conflicts and dramas inspired by Renaissance Europe. In a world where danger lurks on every side, the story follows the lives of several characters who set sail on the same ship and find their lives and fates entwined.

Paranormal Prose with Kelley Armstrong, Kristi Charish and Nathan Adler 
October 21 @ 8:30PM

Take a jaunt through the paranormal this month as with New York Times Bestselling author Kelley Armstrong, scientist turned fantasy writer Kristi Charish and Anishnaabe writer Nathan Adler. These three authors blend the real and everyday with the more that haunted feeling you just can seem to shake. In Armstrong’s latest book,  Betrayals, Olivia finder herself investigating the murder of street kids to find the truth and clear her friend's (and lover's) name. In T he Voodoo Killings Charish introduces readers to Kincaid Strange, whose partime gig running séances for university students soon turns into the investigation of a string of murders. Drawing on Indigenous storytelling and the windigo, Adler's novel tells the story of a hereditary monstrous disease  and secrets buried deep in bones and blood that the Church wants to keep secret.

M. G  Vassanji's Nostalgia
October 22 @ 8:30PM

Award winning Canadian author M. G. Vassanji is no stranger to new lands, real or fictional. But his new novel, Nostalgia takes on the dystopian genre in Brave-New-World-esque future set in Toronto. The rich live forever by erasing their memories and implanting new ones. A doctors who is attempting to help others keep their old memories from seeping into their new life suddenly discovers he has his  memories of a past life. But what do these memories mean? And what will he learn about himself?

Margaret Atwood's Hag-Seed

October 25 @ 6:30PM

Margaret Atwood is back with a new retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest in Hag-seed In her retelling, Felix, an Artistic Director of a theatre festival, plans what should be an unforgettable performance of The Tempest but when he is ousted from his position and sent into exile he lands a job teaching theatre in a prison. Atwood once again takes us into an exploration of the prison system where the prisoners as actors, in a theatrical plan to snare Felix's enemies. It’s magic! But will he succeed?