Give Canadian books for Christmas

Give Canadian books for Christmas. A novel idea some might say, but I’ve been giving Canadian books as gifts since I immigrated to the country in 1971.

Canadian books include every genre and can evoke every emo­tion. I’ve giggled, sniffled and even been creeped out on oc­ca­sion. Canadian au­thors have also in­formed and en­lightened me about our vast and var­ied mul­ti­cul­tur­al coun­try and provided in­sight into the hu­man psyche.

Most of my family lives in the USA. What’s at the top of their Christmas wish list each year? Books by Canadian authors. And chocolate, but that’s another story.

This year, relatives ranging in age from 13 to 77 will be getting Canadian books from this household (and not just ones written by me or my partner).

I come from a long line of readers. Being read a bed time story was a favourite

Thanks to Canadian authors Steve Pitt and Kristen den Hartog for the idea, text and image.

part of my early family routine. I remember the excitement of finally being able to read books on my own. And the naughty thrill of draping a towel over my bedside lamp so I could do so late into the night.

Of course, Mom saw the light under the door. But instead of giving me heck, she said it was okay to read but not to start a fire.

Turns out reading in bed is a family tradition. My relatives tend to travel in herds. In the past, five or more have come to visit at once. And it doesn’t matter if they sleep on the pseudo-Murphy bed in the sun room, on the futon in the basement, on the couch or on a cot, every one of them reads before they go to sleep. Finding enough bedside lights is more of an issue than rounding up bedding and pillows.

Personally, I can’t think of a better way to spend a winter evening than cuddled up with a book by a Canadian author. So, if it isn’t already part of your holiday ritual, consider giving Canadian books as gifts this Christmas.

I posted parts of this blog in 2011 and 2015 but I still believe in giving books – especially Canadian ones – as gifts!



Canadian books make great Christmas gifts

Give Canadian books for Christmas. A novel idea some might say, but I’ve been giv­ing Canadian books as gifts for more than 40 years.

I come from a long line of read­ers. Being read to was a treasured part of my early childhood. And I can still remember the thrill of being able to read on my own any time I wanted! When I was 10 I decided that included late at night.

Not sure if reading past bedtime was allowed, I draped a towel over the lamp on my night table to avoid detection. Mom still saw the light under the door. But instead of giv­ing me heck, she said it was okay to read but not to start a fire.

Canadian books cover every genre and evoke every emotion. I’ve giggled, sniffled and even been creeped out on occasion. Canadian authors have also informed and enlightened me about our vast and varied multicultural country and provided insight into the human psyche.

Although 99% of our books are currently living in a storage unit, here are a few of the Canadian books I found in a 60 second cruise around our apartment.
Although 99% of our books are currently living in a storage unit, here are a few of the Canadian books I found in a 60 second cruise around our apartment.

Most of my family lives in the USA but, even so, Canadian books are always on their Christmas wish lists. Some I’m wrapping as presents this year include:

Light Years: Memoir of a Modern Lighthouse Keeper by Caroline Woodward

Tide Rips and Back Eddies by Bill Proctor and Yvonne Maximchuk

Once They Were Hats by Frances Backhouse

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Watershed Moments: A Pictorial History of Courtenay and District by Christine Dickinson, Deborah Griffiths, Judy Hagen and Catherine Siba

There are others I can’t mention as my partner, fellow author Rick James, reads my blogs and would find out what he’s getting for Christmas!

With the exception of Station Eleven, which was published in 2014, the above books are all fall 2015 releases. But many Canadian books are what I call ‘keepers’ and have permanent homes on my bookshelf.

So if you’re interested in Canadian classics, here are a few of my favorites:

Who Has Seen the Wind by W.O. Mitchell

The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence

Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat

Wolf Willow: A History, a Story, and a Memory of the Last Plains Frontier by Wallace Stegner

Books open the door to other worlds, both imaginary and real, as well as different ways of thinking, eating and moving. They are companions on dark, winter nights and allow us to escape the drudgery or demons of everyday life. I can think of no better gift.




On the Edge

A couple of years ago I worked on a photo-documentary project with photographer Barry Peterson. We interviewed and photographed people who were homeless, had been homeless or were in danger of becoming homeless.

The stories were moving in a way I never expected. I learned that no matter where or how a person lived, they still had hopes and dreams, just like I do. They experienced joy, sadness, fear. They did whatever was necessary to survive.

Every October I post one of the stories and photos from that project on my blog. I do this to honour the people I met, to recognize their strength in the face of adversity and their ability to find humour in the bleakest of moments.

Below is Jessica’s story. I got an email from her last year. She’d had her operation, was doing some volunteer work and was dating. There were still challenges in her life but she was happy.

Jessica, age 45 

      Jessica had it all: a spouse, a car, a job and a house in Europe. But every time her life seemed perfect, it fell apart. At 28, divorced and unemployed, a friend stuck a needle in her arm to make her feel better. That was the beginning of a 12-year cycle of drug addiction, rehab, building a life and then disappearing into the streets and drugs again.

As a homeless person Jessica has been beaten unconscious and urinated on in Victoria, witnessed murders in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and gotten food poisoning from dumpster diving. She’s been pronounced DOA three times and, while living in a Courtenay tent city, bulldozers flattened her tent and belongings. “When you’re homeless people look at you like you’re not worthy of breathing the same air,” she says. “But I’ve met lots of intelligent, articulate people on the street. Heroin and cocaine don’t discriminate.”

Two years ago Jessica realized the only way to beat her drug addiction was to deal with the fact that she was a female stuck in a man’s body. She’d grown up in Ontario and Victoria and was a jock in high school. But when she was 17 her mother discovered her hidden girl clothes. After that traumatic scene, Jessica did everything she could to hide her sexuality. But 25 years later she knew she had two choices: live her life as a woman or commit suicide. A street nurse helped her obtain hormone therapy and Jessica moved to Courtenay to make a clean start. She currently lives in a small basement room, is drug-free and eagerly awaiting her vaginoplasty. Once her transition is complete she wants to become an esthetician.

Jessica’s grateful to be off the street but life’s a struggle. After rent, there’s less than $100 for groceries and with “38D boobs and a voice like Joe Cocker,” she’s often faced with cruel and even violent behaviour when out in public. “It’s sad that people fear and ridicule transgendered people,” she says. “It’s something that happens at birth, not a matter of choice. I’m happy now; I wish people could accept that.”