“Reading and Teaching Canadian Auto/biography in 2021: On Eternity Martis’ They Said This Would Be Fun: Race, Campus Life, and Growing Up and Samra Habib’s We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir“
This forum is an edited version of a conversation recorded on February 12, 2021. We decided to do this book review as a conversation, because we are the co-authors of the forthcoming Routledge Volume on Auto/biography in Canada, the first volume to be written about different forms of life writing in what is currently called Canada, also known as Turtle Island. Doing the work for the volume has made us very aware of the role we have as editors—and as teachers—not only to think through the importance of personal non-fiction in Canada, but also to consider carefully the role auto/biography plays and has played in struggles against racism and colonialism. Since we work as a collective, and because we don’t think the same way about everything, we also feel that it is important to bring multiple voices into conversation; after all, there is more than one way to read the story of Canadian non-fiction. Because we are located in four different time zones, from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts, this conversation took place on Zoom. We transcribed and then collaboratively edited the resulting text.
Sonja Boon is Professor of Gender Studies at Memorial University. Passionate about stories and storytelling, she has published on a variety of topics, from considerations of gender, embodied identity, and citizenship in eighteenth-century medical letters, to breastfeeding selfies and virtual activism, autobiographies of infanticide, auto/ethnography and the embodiment of maternal grief, and craftivism in the feminist classroom. Her literary work appears in ROOM magazine, The Ethnic Aisle, and Geist, as well as in edited collections. She is the author of four books, most recently Autoethnography and Feminist Theory at the Water’s Edge: Unsettled Islands (co-authored with Lesley Butler and Daze Jefferies, Palgrave 2018), and What the Oceans Remember: Searching for Belonging and Home (Wilfrid Laurier University Press 2019). In October 2020, she was awarded the Ursula Franklin Award in Gender Studies by the Royal Society of Canada.
Laurie McNeill is a Professor of Teaching in the Department of English Language and Literatures at UBC. Her research in auto/biography studies focuses on the production and reception of life narratives and testimony in digital and archival spaces. She is co-editor (with Kate Douglas) of Teaching Lives: Contemporary Pedagogies of Life Narratives (Routledge, 2017), and, with John David Zuern, Online Lives 2.0, a special issue of the journal Biography (2015). Her most recent articles and chapters have been published in the journals a/b: Autobiography Studies and English Studies in Canada and in the collection Inscribed Identities (Routledge, 2019).
Julie Rak holds the Henry Marshall Tory Chair in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta, Canada. Her latest book is False Summit: Gender in Mountaineering Nonfiction (2021). She has written many other books, collections and articles about auto/biography, life writing and other nonfiction, popular culture and print culture.
Candida Rifkind is Professor in the Department of English at the University of Winnipeg, where she specializes in graphic narratives and Canadian literature. She is co-editor of Documenting Trauma in Comics: Traumatic Pasts, Embodied Histories, and Graphic Reportage (Palgrave, 2020); Canadian Graphic: Picturing Life Narratives (Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2016), which won the 2016 Gabrielle Roy Prize; and a special issue of a/b: Auto/biography Studies on “Migration, Exile, and Diaspora in Graphic Life Narratives” (2020). Her monograph Comrades and Critics: Women, Literature, and the Left in 1930s Canada (2009) won the 2010 Ann Saddlemyer Prize.