Tomboy Survival Guide by Ivan E. Coyote

Tomboy Survival GuideTomboy Survival Guide by Ivan E. Coyote

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ivan’s voice is so refreshingly Canadian…I feel so strongly about this voice (new to me but not new) and its place in the Canadian canon. Ivan speaks from the heart of the Yukon, and then BC and although they have had lots of urban experience, there’s a rural twang that’s everlasting. Ivan speaks of rural isolation, attachment to family, and struggling to make ends meet. Interwoven in this memoir is the gradual revelation of Ivan’s sexuality and gender identity, which becomes more certain as Ivan does. This book is not only sensitive and sweet, it’s really freakin’ funny. I laughed out loud while listening to the audiobook on my commute. If I had to compare Ivan’s sense of humour in their writing to another author, I’d say somewhere between James Herriott (the veterinarian stories you read in your grandma’s bookshelf) and Terry Fallis (a sardonic wit mixed with Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town). I think Ivan E. Coyote should be considered for the prestigious Stephen Leacock award. There. I said it. Don’t miss out on this gem.

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Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

Three Day RoadThree Day Road by Joseph Boyden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like many settler Canadians, I am on a remarkable journey started just this year to connect with a past that was hidden from me about the atrocities towards First Nations people. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Having read and enjoyed Boyden’s Through Black Spruce a few years ago, I needed to explore more about the controversy around author Joseph Boyden and the appropriation accusations that have been made against him. I didn’t expect that Boyden’s book Three Day Road would feel as important to me as The Odyssey in terms of its place in Canadian literature. I was delighted to read Boyden’s masterful and painful character revelation and the searing hot pain of alienation, war and betrayal.

I think the argument goes that Boyden isn’t native enough to be revealing the sacred secrets of ritual and belief. Perhaps my point of view doesn’t matter, but I found this book to be accessible, to be inviting into a culture not my own, and above all, to be a really really good story.

I will recommend this to all of the students in my secondary school library at the senior level.  There are mild suggestions of sex, and the issues of violence and drug addiction are more appropriate for mature readers.

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The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence

The Stone AngelThe Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A classic Canadian tale of a pioneering woman’s spirit. This is living proof the survival theme as part of the Canadian identity. People who will particularly enjoy this book are: someone who knows the Canadian Prairies, mothers, and single women. I’m not sure why it’s sometimes suggested reading for high school students other than it is part of the Canadian literary canon. I thoroughly enjoyed it …. but it would have to be a very special student that I would recommend it to.

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