Ask any young person what they think about climate change and the prognosis is likely grim. They’ll recall childhood science classes full of dire nature documentaries and summers that got warmer and warmer with each passing year. I am twenty-one years old and the idea that damage done by the climate crisis will soon be irreparable is not new to me, but that doesn’t make the reality of the situation any less haunting. Life is a constant balance of doing my part for the world and trying not to think too hard about the things I cannot change.
Perhaps for this reason Fauna (Coach House Books, 2020), Christiane Vadnais’s debut eco-fiction, managed to be both beautiful and terrifying, a love letter to mother nature and a warning to those who dare cross her.
Vadnais writes with a beautiful eloquence that brings her lush and terrifying world to life. Given the fresh, natural talent displayed in Fauna, it’s no wonder Radio-Canada named her as a young writer to watch in 2020. Equally impressive, the original novel was written in French and stunningly translated to English by the brilliant Pablo Strauss.
A watershed is actually an area of land—all the land containing rivers, lakes, and streams that drain into a larger body of water, such as the ocean. The Mississippi watershed covers forty percent of continental United States. In Canada, thirty percent of freshwater drains into the Hudson Bay watershed, which spans five provinces. So watersheds are everything, really. Everything we and all other living beings depend on.
Despite this dependence, we don’t often speak of watersheds. Unless you’re a scientist, these days you’re more likely to hear the phrase watershed moment, which derives from the British definition of a watershed: the crest of a ridge dividing two drainage areas. A watershed moment also divides, not land but time. It describes a pivotal moment after which things will never be the same, from which there is no return.
In the few weeks it has taken me to read and review Rising Tides: Reflections for Climate Changing Times (Caitlin Press, 2019), the world has all but forgotten the climate crisis. It is March 2020. Headline stories of wildfires and floods have slipped to the bottom of news websites or disappeared completely. We are consumed by another—seemingly separate—crisis: COVID-19.
But as contributors to Rising Tides show, as all nature writers show, few things are truly separate. A virus moves from wildlife to humans and then, within months, is transported around the world. Is COVID-19 different from the climate crisis, or are both symptoms of a larger problem: our unyielding consumption and exploitation of nature?
Rising Tides is a collection of poetry, fiction, and essays that originated in a workshop on Galiano Island, British Columbia. Most of the forty-plus contributors are from Canada’s west coast; many others are from Ontario, and a few write from the east coast. Despite their range of geographic location and writing genre, Rising Tides’ contributors are united in their portrayal of a world already altered by climate change. Their writing is not speculative, as editor Catriona Sandilands notes in her introduction, but rather bears witness to what we have already lost and what we continue to lose. Right now, every day.
Dancing (or crying) to songs by Tegan and Sara is practically a rite of passage for queer women and girls in Canada and beyond. Both Vancouver-based twins have been open about their sexuality since their music career took off in 1998 and they quickly became icons for the LGBTQ+ community. But before “Closer,” before “Boyfriend,” before the Grammy nomination and the inception of their LGBTQ+ advocacy foundation, Sara and Tegan Quin were just everyday sisters growing up in Calgary, Alberta. Their new memoir, High School (Simon & Schuster, 2019), guides readers through the tumultuous halls of Crescent Heights High as the sisters find love, drop acid, and pick up the guitar.
Told in alternating perspectives—one chapter is Tegan’s, the next Sara’s—the memoir spans grades 10 through 12. By the end, the Quin sisters are beginning to emerge as the queer rock stars that we know today. Though the conclusion is no surprise for Tegan and Sara fans, the raw emotion and honesty of their shared memoir never fail to captivate. The stories that earned High School a 2020 Alex Award (given to adult books with special relevance to teens) offer comfort to people who may be having similar experiences and are as relatable as the duo’s hit songs.
Did you attend the 2019 Atlantic International Film Festival? Are you planning to submit a film to the 2020 festival? We are now about half way between the ’19 and ’20 festivals so what better time to post a review? Last September, we sent our intrepid reviewer Corinne Gilroy to FIN. (Yes, the Atlantic International Film Festival is known as FIN. No, FIN is not an acronym; it’s just a name.) In the diary entries below, Corinne relates her experience at FIN, focusing on select films directed by or about women. Enjoy—and maybe we will see you next year!
Although 2019 was my first FIN, it wasn’t my first kick at the film canister. I was but a young whippersnapper, newly away at school, when the Tidal Wave (now Silver Wave) Film Festival launched in Fredericton in the early aughts. My friends and I made a November ritual of shuttling our bundled-up bodies between the rigid bear-trap seats of an old UNB auditorium and the drafty uptown multiplex. We wrung every last ounce of movie magic out of our student passes and cut our teeth on quirky world cinema in the process.Continue Reading Atlantic International Film Festival: Diary of a Feminist Film-Goer