Anne Degrace

COLUMN: Reading in our neck of the woods

Anne Degrace writes about some of her favourite BC books.

I experience pride of place as something that happens in concentric circles.

Pride in my community, in the Kootenays, in British Columbia, in my country. Within a global context, local is what you make it.

Simply looking within the circle of BC books to books by Kootenay authors, there’s plenty to celebrate. I’ve put together a non-comprehensive mini-list of novels written by local authors that are also set locally, because there’s nothing quite so pride-inducing as reading about ourselves.

Alphabetically by author (because we’re a library, after all), there’s A Canterbury Trail by Angie Abdou, about a strange pilgrimage of an odd assemblage of rednecks and hippies to a ski hut—with a nod to Chaucer—near a town a whole lot like Fernie.

In children’s author Ann Alma’s Summer of Changes, a girl and her border collie hide out in the oh-so-familiar Kootenay mountains. Ann’s books bring us sharply back to the experience of childhood while challenging her characters—and our expectations.

In Never Going Back, by Antonia Banyard, a group of friends reunites in Nelson to attend a funeral and revisit their collective past. The local environment as seen through these under-30s is sharply rendered.

Open Secret by mystery writer Deryn Collier involves an underground industry, a familiar location, and a murder. Her previous novel, Confined Space, is set in a town strangely reminiscent of Creston in a brewery strangely reminiscent of—I’m sure you can guess.

Treading Water, written by your columnist, traces a community from its early days to the construction of the High Arrow dam in a novel inspired by Renata, B.C.

This close-to-real-history fiction was just a little terrifying for the author, but former Renata residents gave it the nod (which makes sense; they really helped a great deal).

Ernest Hekkanen offers close-to-home satirical fiction in Of A Fire Beyond the Hills.

Remember the Our Way Home sculpture debacle? This is just plain, intelligent, sardonic fun.

Head Cook at Weddings and Funerals is a collection of the late Vi Plotnikoff’s lively, thoughtful stories of Doukhobor life.

I loved every one of these stories published in 1994, which gave me my first window into this rich culture.

The late Holley Rubinsky wrote about the town of Ruth during one smoky summer in Beyond this Point, and readers will be hard-pressed not to recognize Kaslo. The title story of Holley’s first collection, “Rapid Transits”, won the coveted Journey Prize.

Blewett was the inspiration for the community in Cyndi Sand-Eveland’s novel for kids, Dear Toni, in which a school journal project leads to much more.

Sixth-grader Gene Tucks has a fresh, authentic voice, which is partly why the book won the Silver Birch Award and was nominated for several others.

Fred Wah’s The Diamond Grill, about his dad’s Baker Street restaurant, is pretty nearly a classic; it’s a beautiful prose poem with a compelling narrative that offers a revealing window into Nelson a few decades ago.

And Boundary Country (2007) by Slocan Valley author Tom Wayman offers a collection of stories steeped in place—this place.

Ditto some of the unforgettable stories in his 2015 collection The Shadows we Mistake for Love.

Great books require great writers, and the library is dedicated to promoting reading— and writing.

All through November the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writ-ing Month) participants have been meeting regularly to pound out words, and our next generation of writers—teens—can join a free, drop-in creative writing group with author Rayya Liebich on the fourth Thursday of each month beginning again in February.

Anne DeGrace is the Adult Services Coordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. For more information go to nelsonlibrary.ca.

 

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