Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Day 14 - Me on YA and Canada

Day 14. It's the last day of the event. And we were having so much fun, too. :)

I think in Canada we're more well-known for our contributions to literary fiction, 'novelists' like Mordecai Richler, Margaret Atwood, Saul Bellow, Yann Martel, and Carol Shields. Books that highlight our perseverance and tenacity and openness as Canadians are discussed more often, I feel, than picture books, middle grade, and young adult novels. We seem a little high-brow at times, a little polite and classy. I'm not knocking it, I'm just saying we can lighten up when it comes to the novels we write. (I'm not going to get into genre fiction, although I do love Margaret Atwood and her love of zombies.)

In April and in May, I took a trip to a couple of Chapters bookstores. It's our big chain bookstore here. I wanted to see if they had any kind of set up or section just for Canadian authors and their books. The best I found at one seemed to be a section titled "Local Interest." It consisted a few bookcases filled with non-fiction books detailing the different sights, sounds, flora, and fauna of the Lower Mainland area, plus an additional bookcase all about traveling in Canada.

I'll admit, I was a little put out. It's possible there was another section featuring books written by Canadians because I didn't look at every shelf in every corner of the bookstore, but I didn't think I'd need to hunt around.

When Canada Day rolls around on July 1st, I imagine there will be more of a focus on Canadian books and Canadian content, but I don't think a year-round table near the front or the middle of the store would hurt. Maybe highlight a few standards of Canadian lit plus a few new releases, mix it up to include non-fiction and genre fiction. We write it all.

I also wanted to take a trip down to the nearby library, look around there, but I couldn't (my recent health issues screwed up a lot of things recently). But I remember some things. Quite often, the library will add this extra red maple leaf to the spine of the book, letting readers know the author is Canadian. I love that. I sort of wish they could do this in bookstores. Not a sticker, but perhaps a tucked-in card or note on the edge of the shelf. Last January when John Green's The Fault in Our Stars came out, I saw some teenage girls tucking little 'Who the Eff is Hank?' notes with the link to their YouTube channel into his books. I thought it was genius. (Also, yay Nerdfighters. :))

I like what I've read in the past few years by Canadian YA authors. I want more of it. I want Canadians to feel they can write children's books and middle grade and young adult. Not everyone has to write the next great Canadian novel.

I want more of what's out there now, more big publishers taking on books by Canadian authors, more small publishers still publishing short stories and novels by Canadians that are often read in schools. I love what's out there now, unique stories and complex characters and intricate world-building, and I want to keep reading it.

And I don't want authors to be afraid to set their books in Canada, in the far north of the territories, across the flat plains that go on for miles in the Prairies, on East Vancouver's weird and eclectic Main Street, up high in the snow-capped Rockies of the BC Interior, in the hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto, in the memories of Old Québec, or near the 1000 year old Norse/viking settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows at the northernmost tip of Newfoundland. I know we're seen as a more polite and possibly boring version of America, but it can be fun and exciting here, too. It's a big, weird, wild, amazing country. Just check out this video. :) (If you can, watch it in full screen.) (Also, check out Amy McCulloch's post from Day 12.)
Since Me on Books started back in 2010, I've read close to 60 books written by Canadians and reviewed approximately 35 of them. In 2012 alone, 23 of the 208 books I read (that's 11%) were by Canadians, 20 of which were reviewed. So far this year, it's currently 8 written by Canadians out of 68 books read total (almost 12%). 4 more are part of my current to-read/to-review list.

60 in about 2 and a half years. I wish I could read 60 books by Canadian YA authors EVERY YEAR. Some of that's on me for not as actively searching out books written by Canadians (I know a good chunk of that on me, put away your pointing fingers), but I understand that sometimes it's hard for small publishers to get the word out about their authors and their books. There are some wonderful but small Canadian publishers up here that are fairly regional.

The reason I'm holding this event, the reason why I going to keep hold it every year, is to spread the word, to share books with people who love reading. If I lived somewhere else, in the USA or in the UK or who knows where, I imagine I'd try and feature more authors from that part of the world. But I live in Canada, where we can get over-excited about hockey, where we serve fries covered in cheese and warm gravy so the cheese melts and it's all gooey, where winter happens (but not always in my part, thank you temperate rain forest climate). I want to share these authors with you because you might find their books interesting.

So, those are my thoughts on Canadian YA. I want more of it, I'm going to try and read more of it, and I'll be sharing it with all who come to read about it. Deal?

What are your thoughts on YA in Canada? Is what you see different from what I see? Do you also want more Canada in your Canadian YA?

Thank you so much to everyone who dropped by over the past two weeks, who commented on guest posts and Q&As, and to all the authors who took part and answered my silly questions. Without you, this event wouldn't exist. :)


  1. Lindsay thank you SO MUCH for holding this again. I can't imagine the effort it takes to coordinate it and bring it all together. You so totally rock!

    Also, The Indigo in Charlottetown, PEI has (at least they used to) a display in their teen section just for Canadian YA authors. It was pretty great. I might have teared up when I saw it.

  2. This is such a fantastic post Lindsay!

    I think you're right. When it comes to the Canadian book scene the focus is often on the "literary" authors. And while those authors are fantastic (I'm a total Atwood addict) it leaves out the other talent found within our borders.

    Everything you've said here about children/teen book authors in Canada I've also heard from/about genre fiction authors. For example I once read that Robert J Sawyer has never been approved for a Canada Council of the Arts Writing Grant - even though he's applied for every book he's ever written. And he's a best selling author! Multiple times! Our current set up just doesn't value these other areas of fiction and it's really disappointing.

    Thank you for doing this event! It was great to find out about so many authors I had never heard of before.