The Quiet is Loud (forthcoming from Invisible) is a zeitgeist zirconia, a choker of sparkling speculation for Gen Z readers whose reading tastes are migrating toward adult literary spec fic. For her debut novel, Toronto writer Samantha Garner pours her curiosity into an approachable, recognizable narrative structure that is just right for this audience: the world as we know it, but with one important, uncanny difference. In Quiet, that key difference is the existence of people with telepathic and telekinetic powers—“vekers.”
Garner is deeply attentive to the social consequences of the world she has created. As we might expect in a reboot of The Twilight Zone or in an X-Men spin off, vekers are misunderstood and feared; their nickname is a slur. Most have no choice but to hide their identities, including our protagonist, Freya. Though in her mid-20s, Freya’s maturity and independence are hindered by a childhood tragedy that occurred just as she was discovering her psychic abilities. With the support of a trusted cousin and a handful of new veker friends, Freya’s story becomes a coming-of-age narrative that allows her to develop and heal.
Who am I is a question many biracial and bicultural people ask themselves. Society and family often demand they choose a side. Hollay Ghadery was born in Ontario to a white Canadian mother and an Iranian, Muslim father. Her memoir Fuse (Guernica Editions; MiroLand, 2021) is a revealing and thoughtful book about her hybrid, perhaps multiple, identities.
Written as series of short essays, Fuse explores identity and health from childhood through adulthood and motherhood in poignant anecdotes. Ghadery sets out to write about the “prevalence of eating disorders and body image issues in biracial women.” The project quickly broadens as she considers the intersections of these issues with culture, religion, family, and language. Intense anxiety begins at a young age for Ghadery and fuels obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and depression. Is her mixed background the cause? There is also a family history of mental illness. A therapist informs Ghadery that when racial and cultural origins are very different within an individual, anxieties are more likely. Continue ReadingFuse
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.