Holiday Book Buying Guide: Diverse Local Authors Tell Unique Stories

 

By Rachel Rosenberg

As 2019 creeps towards its end, we are starting to see the signs of the upcoming holiday season: lit-up trees in people’s windows, that hurried walk of present shoppers, the joyful tunes of holiday music being piped into stores. Regardless of which holiday you are exchanging gifts for, books are always a solid present because often they show our loved ones what we know about them and what we think they might appreciate. There is also something very satisfying about giving a gift that is intrinsically tied to the giver — I’ve always liked getting locally-made presents and books can fulfill that need. By finding the writing of local authors, we have the opportunity to learn more about our city and the people who live in and around it. These seven titles, a mix of fiction, memoir and children’s, were published between 2017-2019.

I’ve compiled this list of must-read titles by local artists, and I’d suggest you head down to your closest book store and grab them while you can. Local bookstore Pulp Fiction has three locations for your perusal, and they will order books for you if they don’t already carry them.

Fiction

We All Need to Eat
by Alex Leslie

A collection of interlocked short stories, We All Need to Eat won the 2019 BC Book Prize for fiction (the Ethel Wilson prize) and is currently shortlisted for the 2020 Kobzar Prize. Leslie’s poetic fictions rotate around the life of a young, queer Vancouverite named Soma. Each story has its own unforgettable atmosphere, and this critically acclaimed compilation will root down into your heart and stay there. Find out more about Alex Leslie here.

Moccasin Square Gardens
by Richard Van Camp

Called “Canada’s greatest oral storyteller” by Canadian book bible Quill & Quire, these ten short stories are a great example of Van Camp’s skills. His stories about Indigenous life vary in genre and style, weaving through comedy, slice-of-life, horror, and noir. Van Camp is a wonderful author to keep on your radar, as he prolifically writes books aimed at children and adults. Read more about Van Camp here.

Someone You Love Is Gone
by Gurjinder Basran

This mixes two great literary conventions — ghosts and intense family dynamics. I love an unexpected ghost story. Someone You Love Is Gone is a novel about loss and family, following the experiences of Simran as she tries to cope with grief from the death of her mother, who was her last living parent. Read more about Basran here.

Tilly and the Crazy Eights
By Monique Gray Smith

I’ve been a fan of Smith since reading her children’s nonfiction book Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation. A Cree-Lakota-Scottish author living in Victoria, she’s written a sequel to her novel Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience. In this, Tilly has grown into middle age — a mother of two at a life impasse, who decides to drive a group of eight Elders, all of whom are on their way to scratch off “bucket list” items at the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in Albuquerque. This is a joyful, loving novel that readers will enjoy. More info about Smith can be found here.

Nonfiction

The Way Home
by David A. Neel

This autobiography is about an Indigenous man attempting to reconnect with his long-lost Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw background. When Neel was a child, his father died and this severed David’s connection to his homeland for many years. As an adult, he finds a mask carved by an ancestor and it leads him to move back, where he strives to rejoin his culture and to become an established artist representing his community.

For Children

Juno and the Fantastic Fashion Adventure
by Eva Chen and Derek Desierto

Chen and Desierto revisit Juno’s magical closet in this follow up to Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes. In this bright, playful, preschool-aged picture book, Juno’s magical closet introduces her and her brother to historical feminist icons. Visit Vancouver-based illustrator Desierto’s site here, and our interview with him here.

Birdsong
by Julie Flett

Flett is an author/illustrator who tells children’s stories from a Cree-Metis perspective. Using mixed media and often incorporating drawing, painting and textiles, her distinctive art has won many awards and her books are always enchanting. Her latest, Birdsong, is shortlisted for the 2019 Governor General’s Award and is about cross-generational connections. Find out more about her many books here.

 

Rachel Rosenberg is a writer and library technician who is a proud member of the LGBTQ2+ community. She writes for Book Riot and can be found on Twitter @LibraryRachelR

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