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Prairie Writers

A selection of recent books by writers from the Canadian Prairies.

Eleven Huskies

- Philipp Schott

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Peter Bannerman, veterinarian and amateur detective, deserves a summer vacation. Peter and his family head to a remote fishing lodge in northern Manitoba for a canoeing trip with his champion sniffer dog, Pippin. But a series of incidents color their plans. The lodge's sled team of huskies has been poisoned and, at the same time, a floatplane crashes into the lake, killing the pilot and both passengers. While Peter works to save the huskies, it is discovered that the plane crash wasn't an accident. It was murder.

It's been a hot and dry summer, and one morning the Bannerman family wakes up to find a forest fire spreading quickly. They manage to dodge the conflagration, making it back to the lodge before it becomes cut off from the outside world. Peter soon figures out that the murderer, who probably also poisoned the huskies, must be among the other guests or staff trapped with them at the lodge. The power fails. The now-enormous fire draws nearer. Can Peter discover the culprit in time?

A Simple Carpenter

- Dave Margoshes

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Part biblical fable, part magic realism, and part thriller. A ship's carpenter becomes stranded on a small Mediterranean island. He has completely lost his memory but in exchange has acquired the ability to speak, write, and understand all languages. After his rescue, he spends time in a Lebanese coastal village recuperating with a group of nuns who, observing him perform what appear to be small miracles, take him to be the second coming of Jesus Christ. Later, in Beirut, he's hired as a translator for the UN peacekeeping force, and is recruited as a messenger for Black September. Feeling disillusioned with both of these occupations, he treks on foot across the Galilean hills to the Sea of Galilee, encountering a series of strange communities evoking biblical times. He eventually settles with a Palestinian family and unwittingly becomes entangled in a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth.

Prairie Edge

- Conor Kerr

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The Giller Prize-longlisted author of Avenue of Champions returns with a frenetic, propulsive crime thriller that doubles as a sharp critique of modern activism and challenges readers to consider what "Land Back" might really look like.

Meet Isidore "Ezzy" Desjarlais and Grey Ginther: two distant Métis cousins making the most of Grey's uncle's old trailer, passing their days playing endless games of cribbage and cracking cans of cheap beer in between. Grey, once a passionate advocate for change, has been hardened and turned cynical by an activist culture she thinks has turned performative and lazy. One night, though, she has a revelation, and enlists Ezzy, who is hopelessly devoted to her but eager to avoid the authorities after a life in and out of the group home system and jail, for a bold yet dangerous political mission: capture a herd of bison from a national park and set them free in downtown Edmonton, disrupting the churn of settler routine. But as Grey becomes increasingly single-minded in her newfound calling, their act of protest puts the pair and those close to them in peril, with devastating and sometimes fatal consequences.

For readers drawn to the electric storytelling of Morgan Talty and the taut register of Stephen Graham Jones, Conor Kerr's Prairie Edge is at once a gripping, darkly funny caper and a raw reckoning with the wounds that persist across generations.

mmm... Manitoba

- Kimberley Moore , Janis Thiessen

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A tasty oral history

In 2018, Janis Thiessen, Kimberley Moore, and collaborator Kent Davies refashioned a used food truck into a mobile oral history lab. Together they embarked on a journey around Manitoba, gathering stories about the province's food and the people who make, sell, and eat it. Along the way, they visited restaurant owners, beer brewers, grocers, farmers, scholars, and chefs in their kitchens and businesses, online, and on board the food truck. The team conducted nearly seventy interviews and indulged in a bounty of prairie delicacies, from Winnipeg's "Fat Boys" to Steinbach's perogies to Churchill's cloudberry jam.

Thiessen and Moore serve up the results of this research in mmm... Manitoba. Mixing recipes, maps, archival records, biographies, and full-colour photographs with fascinating stories, they showcase the province's diverse food histories. Through the sharing and preparing of food, the authors investigate food security and regulation, Indigenous foodways and agriculture, capitalism's impact on the agri-food industry, and the networks between Manitoban food producers and retailers. The book also explores the roles of gender, ethnicity, migration, and colonialism in Manitoba's food history.

Hop on the Manitoba Food History Truck and journey into the province's past with engaging essays and easy-to-follow recipes for kjielkje and schmauntfat, snow goose tidbits, chicken karaage, the Salisbury House flapper pie, duck fat smashed potatoes, Ichi Ban cocktails, pork inihaw, and more. mmm... Manitoba offers a thoughtfully nuanced, deliciously digestible, and wholly unique regional history that is sure to satisfy.

Wînipêk

- Niigaan Sinclair

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From ground zero of this country's most important project: reconciliation

Niigaan Sinclair has been called provocative, revolutionary, and one of this country's most influential thinkers on the issues impacting Indigenous cultures, communities, and reconciliation in Canada. In his debut collection of stories, observations, and thoughts about Winnipeg, the place he calls "ground zero" of Canada's future, read about the complex history and contributions of this place alongside the radical solutions to injustice and violence found here, presenting solutions for a country that has forgotten principles of treaty and inclusivity. It is here, in the place where Canada began--where the land, water, people, and animals meet-- that a path "from the centre" is happening for all to see.


At a crucial and fragile moment in Canada's long history with Indigenous peoples, one of our most essential writers begins at the centre, capturing a web spanning centuries of community, art, and resistance. 

Based on years' worth of columns, Niigaan Sinclair delivers a defining essay collection on the resilience of Indigenous peoples. Here, we meet the creators, leaders, and everyday people preserving the beauty of their heritage one day at a time. But we also meet the ugliest side of colonialism, the Indian Act, and the communities who suffer most from its atrocities. 

Sinclair uses the story of Winnipeg to illuminate the reality of Indigenous life all over what is called Canada. This is a book that demands change and celebrates those fighting for it, that reminds us of what must be reconciled and holds accountable those who must do the work. It's a book that reminds us of the power that comes from loving a place, even as that place is violently taken away from you, and the magic of fighting your way back to it.

The Good Walk

- Matthew R Anderson

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A motley group's long trek across the prairies, witnessing the land, reflecting on the past, and creating new paths for the future
 
Equal parts memoir, travelogue, and manifesto, The Good Walk recounts the adventures of settler and Indigenous ramblers who together retrace the earliest historical trails and pathways of the prairies. Readers will share the experience of trekking thousands of kilometres on swollen feet along the Traders' Road, the Battleford Trail, and the Frenchman Trail - prairie paths that haven't been trod for over a century.

The story is steeped in Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 history and is edged with Canadian, nêhiyaw, and Métis stories, politics, and poetry. It braids Indigenous and settler perspectives together along routes increasingly emptied of the family farms and small towns that once defined a province and doesn't shy away from the 1870s and 1880s clearing of the plains nor the 2016 killing of Colton Boushie.

Travel with the group of dreamers who instigated these annual prairie pilgrimages through prairie storms, small-town welcomes, and humorous chance encounters, all while bearing witness to the evolving politics of land ownership and the racialization of access.
 

What's Not Mine

- Nora Decter

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"Nora Decter has written a wrenching, knowing, and wry novel about coming of age into a rough world." -- Meg Wolitzer, author of The Female Persuasion

For fans of Miriam Toews, an absorbing, darkly funny story of family, addiction, and survival

The summer Bria Powers turns 16 is sinister. Waves of insects plague her hometown of Beauchamp, where fentanyl has recently infiltrated the drug stream. Forest fires muddy the normally wide-open skies, and everything smells like a barbecue all the time. It's also the summer Bria goes from having saved a life to ruining her own.

Since her drug-dealing father disappeared and his girlfriend overdosed, Bria has lived with her aunt Tash and best friend/cousin Ains. By day, Bria and Ains babysit Ains's younger siblings and sling fast food at Burger Shack. But at night, Bria has her own secret world, sneaking out to see Someboy, an older guy who captivates her sometimes. Other times, he angers-insults-upends her, and that has a certain charm too.

But trouble comes for Beauchamp and for Bria in the form of bears that wander into town, dick pics texted from a mystery number, and a creeping dependence on what Bria should hate most of all.

Steeped in tragicomedy and written in starkly observed prose, What's Not Mine explores inheritance, addiction, and survival when the odds are against you.

The Principle of Rapid Peering

- Sylvia Legris

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Self-seeding wind

is a wind of ever-replenishing breath.

        --from "The Walk, or The Principle of Rapid Peering" 

The title of Sylvia Legris' melopoeic collection The Principle of Rapid Peering comes from a phrase the nineteenth-century ornithologist and field biologist Joseph Grinnell used to describe the feeding behavior of certain birds. Rather than waiting passively for food to approach them, these birds live in a continuous mode of "rapid peering." Legris explores this rich theme of active observation through a spray of poems that together form a kind of almanac or naturalist's notebook in verse. Here is "where nature converges with words," as the poet walks through prairie habitats near her home in Saskatchewan, through lawless chronologies and mellifluous strophes of strobili and solstice. Moths appear frequently, as do birds and plants and larvae, all meticulously observed and documented with an oblique sense of the pandemic marking the seasons. Elements of weather, ornithology, entomology, and anatomy feed her condensed, inflective lines, making the heart bloom and the intellect dance.

Acutely Life

- Sue Sorensen

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There's a woman somehow veiled in marble who is only forme so I take her out of the Art Institute through a back wayand no one notices: she lives with me now, happier than inthe gallery with the cold white lights, in my home she is seenfor who she is, though the veil cannot be removed, itshardness impenetrable, but now she can be touched.

Acutely Life playfully or sorrowfully interrogates works of art, asking fictional characters their views on grief and generosity. Sue Sorensen's poems try out poses learned from other poems or wander off with dead artists who insist on entering places they don't belong.

These quicksilver poems are life studies, or conversations held with all sorts of unsuitable and suitable companions, written in a style full of echoes and dark humour.

Pinching Zwieback

- Mitch Toews

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These loosely linked stories read like a novel. Lives are given form by the past but undergo change as the world reshapes beliefs and circumstances. Focusing on recurrent, related characters with a common reality: small town Mennonite life, this powerful collection connects us to the author's own background and experiences.

Island Falls

- Owen Toews

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A student becomes intrigued by a mysterious friend whose intimate relationship with the history of the mill town where he grew up informs his politics and enigmatic writing. With curiosity that often breaches the private boundaries of friendship, the student's warm and comedic accounts repeatedly shift to a narrative space where the harsh conditions, operations, and confines of the residents of the mill town are explored in clinical detail.

On Community

- Casey Plett

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Finalist for the 2024 Firecracker Award in Creative Nonfiction o Shortlisted for the 2024 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Nonfiction o Finalist for the 2024 Leslie Feinberg Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature o One of CBC Books' Canadian Nonfiction to Read in the Fall o A Tyee Best Book of 2023 o A CBC Books Best Nonfiction Book of 2023 o A Hamilton Review of Books Best Book of 2023 o An Autostraddle Best Queer Book of 2023

We need community to live. But what does it look like? Why does it often feel like it's slipping away?

We are all hinged to some definition of a community, be it as simple as where we live, complex as the beliefs we share, or as intentional as those we call family. In an episodic personal essay, Casey Plett draws on a range of firsthand experiences to start a conversation about the larger implications of community as a word, an idea, and a symbol. With each thread a cumulative definition of community, and what it has come to mean to Plett, emerges.

Looking at phenomena from transgender literature, to Mennonite history, to hacker houses of Silicon Valley, and the rise of nationalism in North America, Plett delves into the thorny intractability of community's boons and faults. Deeply personal, authoritative in its illuminations, On Community is an essential contribution to the larger cultural discourse that asks how, and to what socio-political ends, we form bonds with one another.

The All + Flesh

- Brandi Bird

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Finalist, 2024 League of Canadian Poets' Gerald Lampert Memorial Award
Finalist, 2024 League of Canadian Poets' Pat Lowther Memorial Award
Finalist, 2024 League of Canadian Poets' Raymond Souster Award
Finalist, 2024 Indigenous Voices Award for Poetry in English

I am made of centuries & carbohydrates
the development of my molars
the hunger the teeth grew
has been with me since childhood
I can't escape the mouths of others


?Brandi Bird's long-anticipated debut poetry collection, The All + Flesh, explores the concepts of health, language, place, and memory that connect its author to their chosen kin, blood relatives, and ancestral lands. By examining kinship in broader contexts, these frank, transcendent poems expose binaries that exist inside those relationships, then inspect and tease them apart in the hope of moving toward decolonial future(s). Bird's work is highly concerned with how outer and inner landscapes move and change within the confines of the English language, particularly the "I" of the self, a tradition of movement that has been lost for many who don't speak their Indigenous languages or live on their homelands. By exploring the landscapes the poet does inhabit, both internally and externally, Bird's poems seek to delve into and reflect their cultural lineages-specifically Saulteaux, Cree, and Métis-and how these transformative identities shape the person they are today.

Bounty

- Jason Pchajek

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Nikos Wulf is at the top of his game. Within the sublevels of 2120 Winnipeg, he is the undisputed king of bounty hunters, working for the elite Bounty Commission Eco-Terror Taskforce. The job: maintain the delicate ecological balance in a city holding back climate collapse. But when a series of bounties go wrong, Nikos finds himself on the trail of a troubling new player among the city's anti-establishment. Bound to a sense of duty to the city that made him, Nikos finds himself in a deadly game of catch-up with an insidious enemy bent on bringing down everything he's fought so hard to protect.

The Twistical Nature of Spoons

- Patti Grayson

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Blisse has guarded the family secret for her entire childhood. No one can know the origin of her unconventional birthday gifts Her mother, Ina, has insisted that Blisse never tell a soul - believing it's the only way to keep her daughter safe from a dire fate. Together, mother and daughter must sift through their own versions of events to understand how the secret has led to the unravelling of their lives. Chock-full of masks and curses, art and magic, seduction and spoons, their stories are both fraught with misdirection and awash in whimsy. Can their revelations negate a tragic prediction? Or is the dissolution of love and family inevitable?

This is a selection of our current Prairie Writers titles. To find other titles or authors, or just to browse, please use the search box.

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