Every January I look forward to when the Ontario Library Association (OLA) announces the newest list of adult Canadian fiction and non-fiction titles nominated for the annual Evergreen Awards. This fantastic Forest of Reading program makes a great reading list for the year. In October, based on votes from readers – the winning title and author will be announced. Past winners include Terry Fallis (Up and Down), Lawrence Hill (Book of Negroes) and Joseph Boyden (Three Day Road) just to name a few.
And the nominees are…
All We Leave Behind: A Reporter’s Journey into the Lives of Others, Carol Off
As It Happens journalist Carol Off and a CBC TV team produced a documentary in 2002 that exposed the horrific war crimes of Afghanistan warlords who happened to be working with American and NATO troops at the time. The story was based on the eyewitness account of Asad Aryubwal. As a result of the documentary Asad and his family were forced to flee their home, and faced an uncertain future. In All We Leave Behind, Carol Off not only delivers a clear, historical account of this troubled country, she also traces the Aryubwal family’s desperate attempt to immigrate to Canada.
American War: A Novel, Omar El Akkad
Omar El Akkad depicts a physically and politically ravaged United States circa 2074 when climate change has caused most of the coastal cities to become lost to the sea, and Mexico has taken over California. In a last ditch effort to control emissions, the government bans the use of fossil fuels. This decision causes outrage among the Southern states who still have access to surplus reservoirs of cheap gasoline, and consequently it instigates the Second American Civil War.
The Clothesline Swing, Ahmad Danny Ramadan
Inspired by Arabian Tales, One Thousand and One Nights, this lyrical story follows two aging lovers in Vancouver as they recount stories inspired by a deteriorating Syria. As the storyteller recalls his childhood in Damascus, he reminisces on the cruel prejudices he faced as a young gay man. As he recounts the fables and tales as a way to soothe his dying partner, the novel’s third main character, Death – lingers nearby.
The Dark and Other Love Stories, Deborah Willis
Among a wide range of themes in this collection of short fiction, The Dark and Other Love Stories features both ‘love and relationships’ in their many unusual forms. Strange, sensual with an element of danger in many of the stories, Willis uses a variety of Canadian settings – from suburban Calgary to the wild B.C. Coast.
Glass Beads, Dawn Dumont
This collection of short stories uniquely interconnects the friendships of four main First Nations characters over a span of twenty-five years. As the four friends evolve through the cultural, political and historical struggles of the 90’s and early 2000s – readers bear witness to their personal wounds, vulnerabilities but also their strengths in this poignant novel.
Gone to Pot, Jennifer Craig
Gone to Pot follows the desperate antics of an out-of-work Grandma who cringes at the idea of living in her son’s ‘granny suite’ and becoming the full-time babysitter. Facing limited employment options when she loses her job, Jess looks to putting her green thumb to work in her hometown of Nelson BC. Her adventures in pot growing are delightfully humorous.
Scarborough, Catherine Hernandez
Longlisted for Canada Reads, Catherine Hernandez’s novel is set in the working class multicultural city of Scarborough, just east of Toronto. The stories are told through a variety of perspectives, using both children and adults. It focuses on survival, the strength of a community and the apathy of it as well. In these accounts, Scarborough champions the families, friendships and heroes while also revealing the poverty and tragedies.
Solitude: In Pursuit of a Singular Life in a Crowded World, Michael Harris
In Solitude, award-winning author Michael Harris identifies how uncomfortable most people have become with solitude, why we need solitude (and how technology intentionally is designed to make sure it never happens), and why being alone matters now more than ever before. In this collection of stories about the power of solitude, Harris draws on the research of the world’s leading neuroscientists and behavioral psychologists, to explain why solitude matters for us all.
Son of a Trickster, Eden Robinson
Blending humour with heartbreak in this unusual coming-of-age novel, Son of a Trickster was a 2018 Giller-shortlisted book. This is the story of Jared Martin, a dope-selling, weapon-toting Native teen with two very messed up parents. Yet despite Jared’s bad choices and family troubles, readers will be surprised by this decent, empathetic and surprisingly caring kid who manages to help and offer stability to others far older than him.
The Last Neanderthal, Claire Cameron
From the author of The Bear, Claire Cameron takes readers on the journey of Paleo-archaeologist Dr. Rosemund Gale, who while working on a dig in present day France, makes an astonishing discovery. She unearths fossilized bones of a Neanderthal girl and a modern day man, facing each other, and buried in the same strata. This story alternates between the present-day life of Rosemund… and the life 40,000 years ago of a Neanderthal family.