In Response: the Process of Reconciliation in Canada

June 2, 2021

Canada has a long tumultuous relationship with the Indigenous peoples that have lived on and cared for this unceded, occupied land. Often this is captured in writing by Canadian authors and in literature about Canada. In response to the recent discovery of the remains of 215 children found buried at a former B.C. residential school by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, we’ve put together a reading list from our archives. We hope these articles and editorials both help demonstrate the importance of knowing the history in which such events take place and also sheds light on why we need to continue to discuss, critique, and insist these news stories are considered seriously as events that impact the present and future of Indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world.


In “The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada,” Margery Fee contextualized the Commission and its role in Canadian culture. She writes, “this has been the ongoing paradox of the Canadian system of colonization. An interested party, Canada, runs the legal system and the bureaucracy.” The recent discovery of the mass grave is part of the process of reparation, of learning about Canada’s violent history towards marginalized peoples and figuring out how we can move forward. Fee advocates for “restorative justice”; honouring the communities that lost children during the many years the residential school system operated is one way. Published in 215 Indigenous Focus (2012), this issue also includes Renate Elgenbrod’s “The ‘look of recognition’: Transcultural Circulation of Trauma in Indigenous Texts,” which discusses memory and the links between colonialism and multiculturalism as part of the larger conversation around Indigenous reconciliation.


In her 2003 article, “A Residential School Memoir: Basil Johnston’s Indian School Days,” Deena Ryhms contextualizes Johnston’s “narrative re-creation of the life at the Garnier Residential School for Boys.” Mentioning Celia Haig-Brown’s Resistance and Renewal: Surviving the Indian Residential School, Isabelle Knockwood’s Out of Depths, Rita Joe’s Song of Rita Joe, and Tomson Highway’s Kiss of the Fur Queen, Rhyms asks, “Do such accounts serve to purge a dominant culture’s sense of culpability or to heal a lingering pain in survivors and Native audiences?” From 178 Archives and History (2003), the question is near the surface as community groups respond to the discovery in B.C. and the potential for more graves to be found. If the response is to read the deaths as in the past, what responsibility do those individuals have to the very real, lingering pain that continues to circulate within Indigenous communities?


Sam McKegney’s article, “‘pain, pleasure, shame. Shame.’: Masculine Embodiment, Kinship, and Indigenous Reterritorialization,” argues that “the gender segregation, the derogation of the feminine, and the shaming of the body that occurred systematically within residential schools were not merely by-products of Euro-Christian patriarchy, but rather served—and serve—the goal of colonial dispossession by troubling lived experiences of ecosystemic territoriality and effacing kinship relations that constitute modes of Indigenous governance.” Published in Issue 216 (2013), McKegney explores what makes meaningful reconciliation possible. The shame, as McKegney points out, isn’t past but continues to affect Indigenous communities today, in the present, even as the residential schools have been closed for over two decades.


Demonstrating how canonical publications often fail to represent important marginalized voices, Linda Warley captures the historical attitude toward Indigenous writing in the 1970s: “to name Native writing ‘protest literature’ is another way of dismissing it, for such writing is ‘not really considered part of Canadian ‘literature’ as defined by English departments and literary scholars in the mainstream’.” Warley’s article, “Unbecoming a ‘dirty savage’: Jane Willis’s Geniesh: An Indian Girlhood,” describes the importance of this underread Canadian autobiography about ” a harsh indictment of a paternalistic government, which sought to manipulate and control Native children through agencies such as residential schools, but it is also a subtle and often humorous text, which explores the complex processes through which the Native child was turned into a subject of the Canadian state.” You can read the full article by downloading Issue 156 (1998).


For many, the discovery of the grave challenges local, settler narratives of peaceful colonization. It unsettles and contests “the role of the small town archive in the production of local knowledge,” as Dallas Hunt writes in “Nikîkîwân: Contesting Settler-Colonial Archives through Indigenous Oral History” from Issue 230-231: Indigenous Literature and the Arts Community (2016).


In seeking to support the Indigenous communities of Canada, we hope this reading list helps demonstrate the important conversation that’s been happening and continues to take place. We hope it shows why it’s important to think of a discovery of the burial site as a present day event, not something that happened in the past and is therefore unimportant. And, finally, we hope that our readers will continue to seek out knowledge on this topic and share what they learn with ever-widening communities.

New Issue: Returns #243

May 27, 2021

We are thrilled to announce the arrival of Canadian Literature, Issue 243, Returns. Christine Kim writes in her editorial:

[A] common investment in the past is a noteworthy coincidence and one that transforms this general issue into an unplanned but shared project of returns. I take these common interests, as articulated within this issue and also as they circulate more broadly within our readerly and critical communities, as a provocation to think about what drives such acts of return. I am interested in thinking through our desires to return to earlier moments and understanding what it is that each of us imagines we are doing to the past as well as for the present. Are we in need of fuller, more accurate depictions of history? Different aesthetic representations of the past? What are the principles that guide our interpretation of whether something is a better representation or more useful critique than those that preceded it? And how do the histories of fields, institutions, and places shape how we enact these returns now?

– Christine Kim, “In Return

This issue also features:

  • Articles by Melanie Dennis Unrau, Andrea Beverley, Margaret Steffler, Vikki Visvis, and Thomas Hodd
  • A forum on Smaro Kamboureli’s Scandalous Bodies by Paul Barrett, Myra Bloom, Smaro Kamboureli, Malissa Phung, Andrea A. Davis, Asha Varadharajan, Sarah Dowling, Kit Dobson, and Libe García Zarranz
  • Poetry by Beatrice Achampong, Andrew Faulkner, Jagjeet Sharma, John Reibetanz, Neil Surkan, and Clayton Longstaff
  • Opinions and Notes by Botao Wu

The new issue can be ordered through our online store. Happy reading!

Asian Heritage Month in Canada

May 10, 2021

Here, at CanLit, we are proud of all the opportunities we’ve had to promote Asian Canadian Literature. In recognition of Asian Heritage Month, we’ve put together a post that highlights Asian-Canadian experience in Canada.
Having published many critical articles and special editions on a variety of topics that demonstrate the contributions Asian Canadians have made to Canadian culture, we know there are still many ways we need to continue to support, amplify, and up-lift their voices in the face of anti-Asian racism. We hope this post offers a resource for individuals to use to help them learn more about the context of Asian “Canadianess” in Canada and Canadian literature. 
From our archives:
A snapshot of the “multiculturalism” of the 1980s, George Woodcock reviews M.G.Vassanji’s edited critical editions on South Asian identity alongside Bharati Mukherjerr’s Darkness in “Mulberry Bush.” You can download the full issue here. If you’d like to find a variety of material on Asian Canadian literature, we have a link for you! You can search “Asian Canadian” on our website to discover more.
In our special edition, “Asian Canadian Studies” (2008), we feature the forum “Asian Canadian Studies: Unfinished Projects,” which includes contributions by many well-known authors in the field, such as Chris Lee, Guy Beauregard, Iyko Day, and Roy Miki. And don’t forget the poetry: this issue showcases Asian Canadian poets.
In “Asian Canadian Critique Beyond the Nation” (2015), guest editors Christine Kim and Christopher Lee describe how the categories of South and East Asian Canadians “may be misleading, incomplete, or even complicit in histories of racism” (6). The issue challenges readers to reconsider how Canada defines minority categorization.
Finally (though, there’s much more in our archives), we’ve recently published issue #240 on “Decolonial (Re)Visions of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (2020). This special edition, edited by Lou Cornum and Maureen Moynagh, delves into the potential for genre fiction to resist master narratives and shift the conversation. Trust us, it’s worth the read! Purchase your digital copy on our website or hit up your local library for a subscription. 
And the work continues.
From all of us here at Canadian Literature, may you have a thoughtful and thought-provoking Asian Heritage Month.

Verse Forward 2: Poetry on the Front Lines

May 1, 2021

Verse Forward dot Event brite dot C A








We are very excited to announce the second iteration of our Verse Forward poetry reading series!

Join us May 25th at 4:30 pm PDT for a conversation with award-winning poets Liz Howard, Larissa Lai, and Canisia Lubrin.

Following their conversation with emcee Phinder Dulai, the poets will read from their latest books plus share a new Canadian Literature exclusive poem. We’ll wrap up the evening with an audience Q & A. We hope to see you there!

Verse Forward: Poetry on the Front Lines is a new Canadian Literature poetry reading series featuring diverse poets speaking to the urgent themes of home, race, identity, and the environment we live in.

Book your tickets at:


National Poetry Month at CanLit

April 28, 2021

As the “cruelest month” winds down, we’re looking towards poetry for some solace. We are 459 days into the pandemic but have found comfort in the little things.

Many of us have experienced the urge to crawl “into / the deepest of basements, / pressed in by imagination’s // limits,” as Kevin Spenst writes in “The Geology of a Moment” or watch as “Spring goes on without us,” envisioning, as Isabella Wang does, that “It’s getting harder… Can’t tell in this night, where we end, / and the universe begins” (“Hindsight“), where “…you can’t help / but inhale because you wonder how / suffering could have a smell” (from Camille Lendor’s “TTC“). But, we want to resist complacency, the spaces “Where desire’s falling flat and stays so” (uttered on a cooling night in John Barton’s “What We Live For“).

Yet, as Fred Wah’s “Basalt” suggests, the world is constantly in a state of regeneration:

way flow talks that little hidden
fender of itself to measure whatever’s
in the way not a mistake just a fissure
an isolated vent where the water will
find around the rocks intentional waves
an invert floor of floating worlds
another culvert for an old old story

And, as we look towards the future, we seek support, perhaps wondering “…who will / teach us what to call this new feeling?” as Jillian Christmas asks in “a mouth full of useless words” (a fitting title for a poem published during the pandemic?).

Poetry whispers “Romantic or rhapsodic adventures” (from Yuan Changming’s “By Definition of Preposition“) to us, eliciting grins and knowing glances. The days blur together, causing us to watch how, as the narrator in Bill Howell’s “Further Surveillance” utters, the “Polished sand falls through / an ageless hourglass.” Poetry reminds us of what it means to “be young and type lines / on a discarded typewriter” (states the afternoon occupant in Jen Currin’s “The Local“) or to reminisce about the hum of “Garden pinwheels” (as Kenneth Sherman does in “A Walk Along Lakeshore Drive“).

No doubt, during National Poetry month 2021, we need poetry more than ever. Whether it’s to escape or commune in the shared experiences of the devastation the pandemic continues to cause. In 2020, we looked to the words of the Academic of American Poets–“we can rely on poems to offer wisdom, uplifting ideas, and language that prompts reflection that can help us slow down and center mentally, emotionally, spiritually”–and this year, the words still ring true.

From all of us here at Canadian Literature, we wish you a thoughtful and uplifting National Poetry Month.

Laurie McNeill wins 2021 Killam Teaching Prize

April 13, 2021

Congratulations to UBC Department of English’s Laurie McNeill for winning this year’s Killam Teaching Prize!

McNeill is a long time reviewer and contributor to Canadian Literature with a specialization in life narratives and auto/biography. We are pleased to feature some of her writing to celebrate this occasion.

In our issue on Literature and War, McNeill looks at an author’s self awareness—“how her narrative must disappoint, describing a time marked above all by boredom instead of heroics, ‘discomfort’ instead of real pain.” Read her full article “Preforming Genres: Peggy Abkhazi’s A Curious Care and Diaries of War” by downloading the full issue here.

Our special issue on Auto/biography features McNeill’s book reviews entitled “Recovering Women’s Lives” and “Subjects of Empire.” Download the full issue here.

The breadth of McNeill’s knowledge of Canadian life writing and auto/biography is reflected in her reviews published in our special issue on Archives and History.

In her review “Rethinking the Diary,” McNeill writes, “Lejeune’s scholarship has been instrumental in revising such intellectual snobbery (including his own, as he readily admits).” Read the full issue here.

Cheers to a marvellous scholar and professor!

New Issue: Emerging Scholars, Redux #242

March 18, 2021

We are pleased to announce the arrival of Canadian Literature, Issue 242, Emerging Scholars, Redux. Christine Kim writes in her editorial:

Over the past few years, there have been many debates in Canadian literature about the continued marginalization of BIPOC, LGBTQI, and female voices. These questions about power, and perhaps more importantly about empowerment, have continued to demand our attention during these pandemic times. I am interested in looking closely at the multiplicity of emerging voices and forces and asking how they capture the attention of various audiences. Or to put it another way, how do the emergent and its readers come to form a structure of feeling? And for whom? This question of emergent intimacies is especially pertinent given how the imbalances of social power have become even more pronounced over the past year.

– Christine Kim, “On Feeling History and Emerging Otherwise

This issue also features:

  • Articles by Shannon Claire Toll, Orly Lael Netzer, Geoffrey Nilson, and Charlotte Comtois.
  • An Interview with Fred Wah by Nicholas Bradley.
  • A Forum on Souvankham Thammavongsa’s work by Vinh Nguyen, Beth Follett, Anjula Gogia, Bryan Thao Worra, Candida Rifkind, Joanne Leow, Warren Heiti, Guy Beauregard, Denise Cruz, Y-Dang Troeung, and Souvankham Thammavongsa.
  • Poetry by Kevin Spenst, Isabella Wang, Fred Wah, Jillian Christmas, John Barton, Yuan Changmin, Bill Howell, Jen Currin, Kenneth Sherman, and Camille Lendor.
  • Reviews by Cornel Bogle, Nicholas Bradley, Julie Cairnie, Alessandra Capperdoni, Sunny Chan, Patricia Demers, Shoshannah Ganz, Dorothy F. Lane, Christine Lorre-Johnston, Andrea MacPherson, Krzysztof Majer, Dougal McNeill, Neil Surkan, Hilary Turner, Tracy Whalen, and Lorraine York.

The new issue can be ordered through our online store. Happy reading!

Seasons Greetings

December 24, 2020

Happy holidays from Canadian Literature! We hope to see you in 2021 

Verse Forward: Poetry on the Frontlines: Author Spotlight—Jillian Christmas

November 24, 2020

Jillian Christmas is a queer, afro-Caribbean writer living on the unceded territories of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqueam people (Vancouver, BC). She has won numerous poetry titles, notably breaking ground as the first Canadian to perform on the final stage of the Women of the World Poetry Slam. Jillian has presented poetry and theory in a multitude of venues. She is the author of The Gospel of Breaking (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2020).

Come hear Jillian Christmas speak on November 25, 2020 at 7:00p.m. (PST) at the inaugural event of Canadian Literature’s new reading series, “Verse Forward: Poetry on the Front Line.” Register here!

Verse Forward: Poetry on the Frontlines: Author Spotlight—Fred Wah

November 17, 2020

BC poet Fred Wah’s most recent project is Music at the Heart of Thinking: Improvisations 1-170, published by Talonbooks in 2020. Also recently, he has published a collaboration with Rita Wong about the Columbia River, beholden: a poem as long as the river (Talonbooks, 2019), and contributed to the collaboratively created interactive website High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese, An Interactive Poem ( He lives in Vancouver and on Kootenay Lake.

Come hear Fred Wah speak on November 25, 2020 at 7:00p.m. (PST) at the inaugural event of Canadian Literature’s new reading series, “Verse Forward: Poetry on the Front Line.” Register here!