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Read This Season’s Buzziest Books From Canadian Women Writers
Put them on your top shelf.
by : Patricia Karounos- May 4th, 2022
Background: Getty Images
With endless hours of content competing for our attention, it can seem impossible to find the time to sit down (screen-free!) and read. When we do finally have a spare half-hour, figuring out which book to pull out of our ever-growing pile is about as easy as stopping our fingers from scrolling through TikTok. That’s why we’re highlighting some of the season’s buzziest new books from Canadian women writers. From a coming-of-age tale in hazy Ontario cottage country to a globe-trotting satire, these stories will shock and delight you and plunge you into new worlds—which makes them more than deserving of a spot on your bedside table.
Some Of My Best Friends by Tajja Isen
Tajja Isen’s life could have looked a lot different. Growing up as a theatre kid in Toronto, she first started voice acting—lending her talents to animated shows like The Berenstain Bears—as a child. She has always considered herself a writer but had planned on pursuing a career as a lawyer until, just before graduating from law school, she realized that logging endless hours at a firm wasn’t for her. “I’d wanted an artistic life for so long, but it had always been this thing on the side,” she says. “I wanted to know what it would look like if I allowed myself to make it full-time.” Now, she’s the editor of digital literary mag Catapult and has just released her first book, Some of My Best Friends. The often hilarious, always thought-provoking essay collection examines issues that have long preoccupied Isen, like questions about race and equity and how they intersect with culture. She delves into her time at law school, colour-blind casting in animation and what it really means when corporations tokenize the language of social justice—what it says about our world that equity is constantly packaged and sold to us. Isen’s aim is to articulate that weird yet familiar feeling most Internet users get from seeing this unfold online. “We keep seeing the same kind of disingenuous speech on social media—it feels like we’re living through something very specific, and I want to codify and capture it,” she says.
Available: May 3 (Shop here.)
A Bit Much by Sarah Jackson
Toronto’s Sarah Jackson has always been a writer—she just never had any intention of sharing her work with others. Years ago, she wrote a chapter of a book but put it aside, lacking the confidence to call herself a novelist. She picked up writing again while doing temp work, and before she knew it, she had this “massive, bloated” novel that, again, she pushed aside. But when an industry pal asked if she wrote, Jackson knew it was time. She promised to share her work—the woman eventually became her editor—on one condition: “You have to still be my friend even if you hate it,” Jackson told her. A couple of years later, Jackson’s debut novel, A Bit Much, is finally about to reach a wider audience. The book is a dark, funny, deeply relatable Sally Rooney-esque exploration of love, friendship and zillennial life that follows BFFs Mia, who is being treated for a serious illness, and Alice, who is struggling to figure out her own life while trying to care for her friend. Partly inspired by her own adolescent battle with cancer, Jackson wanted to show that there’s levity to be found in the darkness of both physical and mental illness. “People are capable of having these lighter moments while experiencing very difficult situations,” she says. “I hope readers will see that, find it entertaining and feel compassion.”
Available: June 7 (Pre-order here.)
Every Summer After by Carley Fortune
Torontonian Carley Fortune always wanted to write a book, but thanks to a busy career in journalism—which most recently saw her as the executive editor of Refinery29 Canada—she wasn’t sure it would ever actually happen. But, like many of us, Fortune spent 2020 asking herself questions about what she wanted in life. She spent that summer at a cottage, which had her reminiscing about her own youth in Barry’s Bay, Ont., a small lakeshore town west of Ottawa. Finally, after one particularly stressful work call, something in her snapped. Fortune decided she was going to write her book and worked out the math to make it possible: If she wrote 388 words a day, she’d be able to complete a manuscript by the end of the year and, hopefully, have it in working shape to submit to agents. From there, Every Summer After just emerged from her. The absorbing, nostalgia-tinged romcom follows Persephone Fraser across two timelines: her teenage summers spent in Barry’s Bay, where she grows inseparable with boy-next-door Sam, and her present-day return to the town years later. It’s the type of book that you’ll want to finish in one sitting and that will leave you with a giddy, butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling one minute and break your heart the next. “I am so tremendously proud that I actually wrote the thing,” says Fortune, who has now left journalism to focus on writing fiction full-time. “Writing this book for me was very much an escape, and I want to be able to give that to my readers as well.”
Available: May 10 (Pre-order here.)
Jameela Green Ruins Everything by Zarqa Nawaz
Zarqa Nawaz’s first-ever novel was nearly a decade in the making, and it came out of a period when she was contemplating her connection to her faith. Around the same time, ISIS was gaining global prominence, heightening stereotypes and discrimination against Muslims. Wanting to channel her anger into something, the Regina-based writer—best known as the creator of groundbreaking CBC sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie and the author of the 2014 memoir Laughing All the Way to the Mosque—sat down and started writing. “I have always processed the world through comedy,” she says, and this endeavour was no different. Jameela Green Ruins Everything is a sweeping, breakneck satire about the titular Jameela, a disillusioned American Muslim woman who seeks out her local imam, Ibrahim Sultan, for spiritual guidance and instead accidentally becomes embroiled in a plot against a dangerous terrorist group. The writer infused a bit of herself into her protagonist (when we meet her, Jameela is also a disillusioned memoir writer who’s questioning her faith), but she also offers big picture commentary on the role American foreign policy has played in shaping the modern-day Middle East. The book moves at a frenzied pace but is grounded in Jameela’s journey through grief, motherhood and figuring out her sense of self. “Whenever I worked on the last chapter, I would always cry because Jameela felt whole again,” says Nawaz. “It’s a real hero’s journey—I wanted to write a story where a woman saves everyone at the end.”
Available: March 8 (Shop here.)
Sari, Not Sari by Sonya Singh
The idea for journalist turned publicist Sonya Singh’s debut novel arose from the convergence of two things. Early in the pandemic, the Torontonian began helping friends write thoughtful, respectful breakup emails since they couldn’t see their partners IRL. Around the same time, Singh herself was in the middle of an on-again, off again relationship that she knew wasn’t working. In between watching romantic comedies like Bridget Jones’s Diary and Sex and the City—in which she never saw any women who looked like her—she started writing something to process her feelings about the split. “That moment [provided] the perfect formula to write this book,” she says. The result is Sari, Not Sari, an effervescent romcom about Manny Dogra, the ambitious CEO of a company that facilitates breakups. Raised in America, Manny has always felt detached from her Indian heritage, so she follows client Sammy Patel to a big family wedding for a cultural crash course. Many of the conversations in the book were inspired by Singh’s own experiences, including growing up in a mostly white neighbourhood in Guelph, Ont., which left her not knowing how to express or talk about her culture. Now, she hopes to share her roots and boost the diversity that’s been sorely lacking in the genre. But she also hopes the book does more. “I want any woman to relate to something in this book—whether it’s the loss of parents or a relationship, going through the motions or being disconnected from your culture, friends and family,” says Singh.
Available: April 5 (Shop here.)
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