To celebrate Earth Day, we’ve compiled a list of Canadian-authored books that speak to our many relationships to nature – celebratory, contemplative, curious and complex. Feel free to add more in the comments!
Nibi Emosaawdang / The Water Walker by Joanne Robertson, translated by Shirley Williams and Isadore Toulouse (Second Story Press)
The story of the determined Ojibwe Nokomis (grandmother) Josephine Mandamin and her great love for Nibi (water). She, along with other women, men and youth, have walked the perimeter of the Great Lakes and along the banks of numerous rivers and lakes. The walks are full of challenges, and by her example Josephine invites us all to take up our responsibility to protect our water, the giver of life, and to protect our planet for all generations. Dual language book English and Anishinaabemowin.
Animal Metropolis: Histories of Human-Animal Relations in Urban Canada, edited by Joanna Dean, Darcy Ingram, Christabelle Sethna (University of Calgary Press)
Animal Metropolis aims to create a starting point for an ongoing conversation about the place of animals in historical analysis and, in turn, about the way issues regarding animals fit into Canada’s political, social, cultural, economic, environmental and ethical landscapes… By focusing explicitly on urban contexts the book aims deliberately to cleave from a more obvious focus on wild animals and the wilderness environment that are so iconic to Canada.
Gold Rush by Claire Caldwell (Invisible Publishing)
From the Klondike to an all-girls summer camp to the frontier of outer space, Gold Rush explores what it means to be a settler woman in the wilderness. Many of these poems portray a climate in crisis, suggesting that even wilderness buffs are complicit in climate change.
Following the Curve of Time: The Legendary M. Wylie Blanchet by Cathy Converse (TouchWood Editions)
Widowed in 1926, Blanchet cruised the coast with her five children and their dog in a 25-foot boat that had been rescued from the seafloor. The Curve of Time, Blanchet’s resulting book, remains a bestseller and a classic in the annals of nautical literature, but little is known about the rest of her life. Converse offers insiders’ recollections of this enigmatic woman, along with updated information.
Better Nature by Fenn Stewart (Book*hug Press)
Rather than waxing poetic about the untouched Great White North, Stewart inlays found materials (early settler archives, news stories, email spam, fundraising for environmental NGOs, and more) to present a unique view of Canada’s “pioneering” attitude towards “wilderness”—one that considers deeper issues of the settler appropriation of Indigenous lands, the notion of terra nullius, and the strategies and techniques used to produce a “better nature” (that is, one that better serves the nation).
Wrist by Nathan Niigan Noodin Adler (Kegedonce Press)
An Indigenous monster story. In 1872, dinosaur hunters become embroiled in a battle over the discovery of fossils in Northern Ontario as their excavation crews are driven mad by a bizarre and terrifying illness. Over a hundred years later, Church and his family show signs of the same monstrous affliction. As he begins to unravel his family’s dark history, Church must race to protect the secrets buried deep in bones and blood.
Glory by Gillian Wigmore (Invisible Publishing)
A northern gothic tale about resilience and belonging. In a boom town dominated by a man-eating lake, Renee and Danny Chance start a new life in his grandfather’s cabin. A polyphonic fable riddled with tall tales, Glory explores what it means to be a woman in north-central BC by flooding the shores of the human heart.
Bad Endings by Carleigh Baker (Anvil Press)
While steadfastly local in her choice of setting, Baker’s deep appreciation for nature takes a lot of these stories out of Vancouver and into the wild. Salmon and bees play reoccurring roles in these tales, as do rivers. Occasionally, characters blend with their animal counterparts, adding a touch of magic realism. Nature is a place of escape and attempted convalescence for characters suffering from urban burnout.
From the Poplars by Cecily Nicholson (Talonbooks)
Polar Island is a landscape marred by colonization, where Indigenous smallpox victims from the south coast were forced into quarantine, substandard care, and burial… From the Poplars is the poetic outcome of archival research and of keeping an ear to the ground – of listening to the stories of an earth scoured by colonization, inequality, and extraction. It is a meditation on an unmarked, twenty-seven and a half acres of land held as government property: a monument to colonial plunder on the waterfront of a city built upon erasures.
The Girl and the Wolf by Katherena Vermette, illustrated by Julie Flett (Theytus Books)
While picking berries with her mother, a little girl wanders too far into the woods. When she realizes she is lost, she begins to panic. A large grey wolf makes a sudden appearance between some distant trees. Using his sense of smell, he determines where she came from and decides to help her. Through a series of questions from the wolf, the little girl realizes she had the knowledge and skill to navigate herself—she just needed to remember that those abilities were there all along.
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline (Dancing Cat Books)
Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands.
beholden, a poem as long as the river by Fred Wah and Rita Wong (Talonbooks)
Comprised of two lines of poetic text flowing along a 114-foot-long map of the Columbia River, this powerful image-poem by acclaimed poets Fred Wah and Rita Wong presents language yearning to understand the consequences of our hydroelectric manipulation of one of North America’s largest river systems.
Euclid’s Orchard & Other Essays by Theresa Kishkan (Mother Tongue Publishing)
In this collection of essays Kishkan unravels an intricately patterned algorithm of cross-species madrigal, horticulture, and love. Opening with ‘Herakleitos on the Yalakom,’ a turbulent homage to her father, and ending in ‘Euclid’s Orchard,’ amidst bees and coyotes, her touchstones of natural history and family mythology are re-aligned and mortared with metaphysics and math.
Lands and Forests by Andrew Forbes (Invisible Publishing)
The stories in Lands and Forests survey the emotional landscapes of women and men whose lives, though rooted deeply in the land and their small communities, are still rocked by great cultural change.