Generally what lights me up are novels and memoirs that let me suspend disbelief and drop me into a timeless space. That’s magic to transfer mental images through squiggles. It’s not the subject but the resonance. Stories that model community and friendship caught me this year, accepting and rolling otherness into an us.
- Binti: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor (DAW, 2019) is an amazing trip through the universe as a girl comes of age as an extraordinary leader with intergalactic stakes, and forming her family of choice
- The Allspice Bath by Sonia Saikaley (Inanna, 2019) is about living in a conservative Lebanese family and trying to find your own path despite being marriageable age.
- Journey of a Thousand Steps by Madona Skaff-Koren (Renaissance Press, 2015) is a spy story with a protagonist fighting her limits with MS.
- Amusement Park of Constant Sorrow: a novel by Jason Heroux (Mansfield Press, 2018) is absurdist in a way that’s realistic. Oddly it like Skaff-Koren’s novel also involves unwelcome home security systems.
- No one can pronounce my name by Rakesh Satyal (Picador, 2017) follows a few people moving from isolation to connection, confession and to community
- The Kennedy Moment by Peter Adamson (Myriad Editions, 2018) was a compelling thriller of how to drawn government funding to immunization.
- Fish in a Tree: a novel by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (Penguin, 2015) where a special teacher sees through the coping strategy of a funny kid to the dyslexia beneath.
- Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson (Alfred k Knoff, 2017) is inside the world of urban indigenous and trickster magic
- Sister-Mine by Nalo Hopkinson (Grand Central Publishing, 2013) was an absorbing ride through twists of magic and myth
- Grave Importance: A Dr Greta Helsing novel by Vivian Shaw (Orbit, 2019) like a lot of supernatural fiction has a core community of support within the strange contexts. It’s the strongest piece in the trilogy.
- The Uninvited by Geling Yan (Faber & Faber, 2006) follows a poser who accidentally enters the world of newspaper food critic /socialite and lavish eating in an otherwise impoverished neighbourhood. Hooting social criticism but at the same time elicits rooting for characters.
Memoir and non-fiction:
- Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 years by Sarah L Delany and Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth (Dell book, 1993) is a memoir of transcribed interviews of 2 unique and spirited strong women who lived through a century of change for black women in the U.S. There’s a power to oral histories in print in their own voices.
- Becoming by Michelle Obama (Crown, 2018) which is a story of acting for change to give a hand up to make equity and empowerment happen. By audio book hearing it in her own voice was particularly powerful and heartening.
- Love lives here: a story of thriving in a transgender family by Amanda Jetté Knox (Viking, 2019) Is a memoir of a family’s journey as 2 come out as transgender and one as queer. It made us cry and laugh as my partner and I read it all aloud.
- The Howls of August: Encounters with Algonquin Wolves by Michael Runtz (Boston Mills Press, 1997) because he has a thrilled passion for his subject and deep knowledge.
- Brave: Living with a concussion by Kanika Gupta (Language of Growth, 2019) is a brilliant illustrated book on understanding and navigating concussion. See images here: https://www.bykanika.com/brave.html
- Eleven Elleve Alive: poems by Stuart Ross, Dag T Straumsvag & Hugh Thomas (Shreeking Violet, 2018)
- The day the moon went away by Marilyn Irwin (above/ground, 2019) is an economical chapbook but with an impact that doesn’t get less with rereads
- Espesantes by Stuart Ross (above/ground, 2018)
- Concealed Weapons/Animal Survivors by Natalie Hanna (above/ground,2018)
Note, embarrassingly enough I accidentally truncated list in copy and paste and didn’t notice. (Feb 7, 2020)
More favourite poetry from the year:
- On forgetting a Language by Isabella Wang (Baseline Press, 2019)
- Calling Down the Sky by Rosanna Deerchild (Bookland, 2019)
- Choose your own poem by Laura Farina (above/ground, 2019)
- Blood Memory by Neile Graham (Buschek Books, 2000)
- These are not the potatoes of my youth by Mathew Walsh (Icehouse, 2018)
- Welcome to the last earth show by Michael Sikkema (where is the river, 2018)
- Dirty Laundry by N.R. Pillai (battleaxe, 2019)
- A season in Lowertown by David Blaikie (manuscript, 2019)
- The Way of Haiku by Naomi Beth Wakan (Shanti Arts LLC, 2019)
- Rommel Drives on deep into Egypt by Richard Brautigan (A Delta Book, 1979)
- You are enough: love poems for the end of the world by Smokii Sumac (Kegedonce Press, 2018)
- In the Silhouette of your silences: poems by David Groulx (Now or Never Publishing, 2916)