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Fall preview 2012: Canadian non-fiction, part II

The season of high-profile literary awards and author festivals is on its way, and there’s no shortage of new releases from marquee names. In the July/August issue, Q&Q looks ahead at some of the fall’s biggest books.


In 2009, police discovered a car in the Rideau Canal just outside of Kingston, Ontario. The car contained the bodies of three sisters – Zainab, Sahar, and Geeti Shafia – and 50-year-old Rona Amir Mohammad. Authorities later arrested the girls’ father, brother, and mother, all of whom were convicted of first-degree murder for their roles in the honour killings. Paul Schliesmann’s Honour on Trial (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, $19.95 pa., Oct.) examines the facts behind the case that horrified Canadians.


He’s been a dragon in his den and gone to prison for his reality-television show, Redemption Inc. Now, Kevin O’Leary, businessman, pundit, and author of the hybrid memoir/business guide Cold Hard Truth, returns with The Cold Hard Truth about Men, Women and Money (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., Dec.), a guide to avoiding common financial mistakes. • O’Leary’s left-leaning opponent on CBC’s The Lang and O’Leary Exchange, Amanda Lang, has a leadership book out this season. The Power of Why: Simple Questions that Lead to Success (HarperCollins Canada, $33.99 cl., Oct.) postulates that asking the right questions leads to increased productivity.


From the internal combustion engine and cold fusion to the Internet and the artificial heart, all scientific discoveries and technological advancements are the product of human ingenuity. In the 2012 CBC Massey Lectures, Neil Turok argues that science represents humanity’s best hope for progress and peace. The Universe Within: From Quantum to Cosmos (House of Anansi Press, $19.95 pa.) appears in September. • Terence Dickinson is editor of the Canadian astronomy magazine Sky News and author of the bestseller NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe. His new book, Hubble’s Universe: Greatest Discoveries and Images (Firefly Books, $49.95 cl., Sept.), is a visually sumptuous compendium of images from the Hubble Space Telescope.


Novelist and short-story writer Thomas King, who was also the first native person to deliver the prestigious CBC Massey Lectures, has long been a committed advocate for native rights. In The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America (Doubleday Canada, $34.95 cl., Nov.), King examines the way European settlers and natives have viewed each other via pop culture, treaties, and legislation. • Poet and critic Kathleen McConnell explores the portrayal of women in pop culture through the ages in Pain, Porn and Complicity: Women Heroes from Pygmalion to Twilight (Wolsak & Wynn, $19 pa., Nov.).

In A Civil Tongue, philosophy professor and public intellectual Mark Kingwell predicted the devolution of political discourse into a schoolyard-like shouting match. His new collection, Unruly Voices: Essays on Democracy, Civility, and the Human Imagination (Biblioasis, $21.95 pa., Sept.), is about how incivility and bad behaviour prevent us from achieving the kind of society we desire.

Poet, publisher, and critic Carmine Starnino turns his incisive and cutting attention to CanLit in his new collection of essays, Lazy Bastardism (Gaspereau Press,  Sept.). • James Pollock believes that Canadian poetry lacks an authentic relationship with poetry from the rest of the world. His new book, You Are Here: Essays on the Art of Poetry in Canada (The Porcupine’s Quill, $22.95 pa., Nov.), attempts to situate Canadian poetry in a global context, through examinations of the work of writers such as Anne Carson, Eric Ormsby, and Karen Solie.

A new anthology from Women’s Press brings together essays addressing specific concerns of LGBT communities and individuals across the country. Edited by Maureen FitzGerald and Scott Rayter, Queerly Canadian: An Introductory Reader in Sexuality Studies ($64.95 pa., Sept.) takes up issues of education, law, and religion, among others. • For a brief moment in the 1960s, Montreal became a hotbed of Civil Rights activism, radically challenging traditional conceptions of racial hierarchies. The 1968 Congress of Black Writers included activists and spokespeople such as Stokely Carmichael, C.L.R. James, and Harry Edwards. David Austin chronicles this important gathering in Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal (Between the Lines, $24.95 pa., Nov.).

Belles Lettres (McArthur & Company, $29.95 pa., Nov.) is a collection of postcards from authors such as Baudelaire, Flaubert, Proust, and Charlotte Brontë, collated and annotated by Greg Gatenby, the founding artistic director of Toronto’s International

Festival of Authors. • In The Other Side of Midnight: Taxi Cab Stories (Creative Book Publishing, $19.95 pa., Oct.), writer and anthologist Mike Heffernan chronicles the experiences of St. John’s cab drivers and their clients.


In the years following Liz Worth’s Treat Me Like Dirt, the market for books about the Canadian punk music scene has been as frenzied as the audience at a Fucked Up concert. In Perfect Youth: The Birth of Canadian Punk, (ECW, $22.95 pa., Oct.), Sam Sutherland looks at the historical context for Canadian punk progenitors such as D.O.A., the Viletones, and Teenage Head. • One early Canadian punk band – Victoria’s NoMeans­No – is the subject of the latest book in the Bibliophonic series from Invisible Publishing. NoMeansNo: Going Nowhere ($12.95 pa.), by Halifax author Mark Black, is due out in October.

Marc Strange, who died in May, was known for mystery novels such as Body Blows and Follow Me Down. He was also the co-creator (with L.S. Strange) of the seminal Canadian television series The Beachcombers. Bruno and the Beach: The Beachcombers at 40 (Harbour Publishing, $26.95 pa., Sept.), co-written with Jackson Davies, the actor who played Constable John Constable in the series, chronicles the iconic show and its equally iconic lead actor.

Since its release in 1971, Ken Russell’s notoriously blasphemous film, The Devils, has been the subject of heavy censorship in both the U.S. and the U.K. Canadian film scholar Richard Crouse examines the history of this cult classic in Raising Hell: Ken Russell and the Unmaking of The Devils (ECW, $19.95 pa., Oct.), which includes an interview with the film’s director, who died in 2011.


Former model and current stay-at-home mom Kelly Oxford has found her largest measure of fame as a result of her sarcastic Twitter feed (@kellyoxford), which features such Oscar Wildean witticisms as “IDEA: ‘Bless This Mess’ novelty period panties” and “Some parents in China get their kids to work in factories and I can’t get my kid to pass me some Twizzlers.” The essays in Everything’s Perfect When You’re a Liar (HarperCollins Canada, $24.99 cl., Sept.) promise more of the same. • If you prefer your humour with a larger dollop of political satire, you’ll be pleased to know that Rick Mercer has a collection of brand new rants on the way. A Nation Worth Ranting About (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., Oct.) includes the author’s description of bungee jumping with Rick Hansen, and a more serious piece about Jamie Hubley, a gay teen who committed suicide after being bullied.

If you want to know whether you might be a redneck, ask Jeff Foxworthy. If you want to know whether you might be a native of Saskatchewan, check your birth certificate or consult the new book from author Carson Demmans and illustrator Jason Sylvestre. You Might Be from Saskatchewan If … (MacIntyre Purcell/Canadian Manda Group, $12.95 pa.) appears in September.


Rob Feenie is the latest Food Network Canada celebrity chef with a new cookbook. The host of New Classics with Chef Rob Feenie, who famously defeated Masaharu Morimoto on Iron Chef America, offers innovative approaches to classic, family-friendly fare in Rob Feenie’s Casual Classics: Everyday Recipes for Family and Friends (D&M, $29.95 pa., Sept.). The recipes have undergone stringent quality control, each one having been approved by Feenie’s children, aged 3, 6, and 7.

Camilla V. Saulsbury’s 500 Best Quinoa Recipes: Using Nature’s Superfood for Gluten-free Breakfasts, Mains, Desserts and More (Robert Rose, $27.95 pa., Oct.) provides more healthy recipes based on the reigning superstar ingredient. • Aaron Ash, founder of Gorilla Food, a Vancouver restaurant that features vegan, organic, and raw cuisine, has achieved popularity among celebrity fans including Woody Harrelson and Katie Holmes. His new book, Gorilla Food: Living and Eating Organic, Vegan, and Raw (Arsenal Pulp, $24.95 pa., Oct.), collects 150 recipes, all of which are made without a heat source.


Rocker Dave Bidini returns to his other passion – hockey – in A Wild Stab for It: This Is Game Eight from Russia (ECW, $22.95 cl., Sept.), in which the author talks to various Canadians about the influence of the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series. The release of the book is timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the iconic series. • The man who made that series so memorable also has a book out this fall. Co-written with sports commentator Roger Lajoie, The Goal of My Life (Fenn/M&S, $32.99 cl., Sept.) traces Paul Henderson’s route through the OHL and the NHL, on his way to scoring “the goal of the century.”

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup, ex–CFL quarterback and coach Frank Cosentino has penned the appropriately titled The Grey Cup 100th Anniversary (McArthur & Company, $29.95 pa., Oct.). • Crime fiction writer Michael Januska offers his own take on 100 years of Canadian football history in Grey Cup Century (Dundurn, $14.99 pa., Sept.).

Q&Q’s fall preview covers books published between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2012. • All information (titles, prices, publication dates, etc.) was supplied by publishers and may have been tentative at Q&Q’s press time. • Titles that have been listed in previous previews do not appear here.

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Stephenie Meyer and David McKee among most frequently challenged authors, librarians say

Racism, insults, and support for “wealth inequality” are among the most common complaints against children’s books at U.K. libraries, according to an article in the Telegraph. Books featuring classic characters such as Babar and Tintin were accused of being racist, but the largest number of complaints were reserved for books by author David McKee.

Criticism centred on three books[:] Tusk Tusk, about a dispute between black and grey elephants, which parents said was racist; Denver, which is accused of supporting wealth inequality, because the title character is far richer than the others; and Two Monsters, which features two bickering characters.

Readers objected to the aggressive language of their insults, which include “stupid peabrain,” “twit,” “dumbo,” and “ignoramus.”

At the risk of rousing parental ire, Quillblog would like to suggest that anyone who considers “stupid peabrain” and “twit” egregiously aggressive probably hasn’t spent much time in a schoolyard lately.

Meanwhile, the Guardian’s Alison Flood reports that Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series has achieved a dubious milestone, scoring fifth on the American Library Association’s list of most frequently challenged books:

This is the first time the Mormon author’s novels have appeared in the line-up – J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman are both veterans of the list – with complaints about both their level of sexual explicitness and their “religious viewpoint.”

“It is the books which are read frequently which are frequently challenged – with all the hype around Twilight and the movies and the celebrities I was actually surprised Meyer’s books weren’t higher,” said Angela Maycock at the ALA’s office for intellectual freedom. Vampire books in general accumulated a host of complaints last year, Maycock said, with “the idea of vampires and other supernatural entities in opposition to certain religious viewpoints.” J.K. Rowling doesn’t make it into this year’s list but her Harry Potter books were the most challenged of the last decade, the ALA said today, with complaints over their “satanism” and “anti-family themes.”

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Book links roundup: Audible’s new author services; book your Hunger Games theme wedding; and more

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Book links roundup: CanLit Hunger Games, Kyung-sook Shin wins Man Asian Literary Prize, and more

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Book links roundup: Encyclopaedia Britannica print edition gets axed, Timothy Taylor on self-promotion, and more

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Two iconic Toronto bookstores hit hard times

Two of Toronto’s longstanding independent bookstores will face major changes in 2012.

This morning, Sue Houghting, owner of The Book Mark in the city’s Kingsway neighbourhood, announced she will close shop after 46 years in business. In a press release, Houghting cites an “unaffordable rent increase and high property taxes” as factors that have made the bookshop, believed to be Toronto’s oldest surviving indie, unsustainable. Houghting is aiming to shut down by Jan. 21, “but if stock dwindles before that we will close earlier,” she says.

News of The Book Mark’s demise follows reports that Glad Day Bookshop, the city’s iconic LGBT bookseller, is seeking new ownership. Last week, owner John Scythes told the Toronto Star he’s hoping to find a buyer within his customer base before opening the sale up to the general public.

Glad Day, the world’s oldest existing gay and lesbian bookshop, has struggled financially throughout most of its 42 years. A 2010 social media campaign by store staff brought its money problems to public attention. At the time, co-manager Sholem Krishtalka chalked them up to a steady decline in book sales, combined with significant legal fees left over from a decades-long censorship battle with the Ontario Film Review Board.

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Burning of Lawrence Hill’s Book of Negroes planned for today

Lawrence Hill learned last week that a Dutch activist – Roy Groenberg, leader of a group known as the Foundation Honor and Restore Victims of Slavery in Suriname – objected to the use of the word “negro” in the title of the Hamilton author’s most famous novel, The Book of Negroes (published in Dutch as Het Negerboek).

Groenberg informed Hill in a letter that he intends to burn several copies of the book today in an Amsterdam park that contains a monument commemorating Dutch slavery and the struggle for freedom. The chilling publicity stunt has provoked strong reactions, most notably from the author himself. In an even-handed yet forceful op-ed in Monday’s Toronto Star, Hill wrote:

Burning books is designed to intimidate people. It underestimates the intelligence of readers, stifles dialogue and insults those who cherish the freedom to read and write. The leaders of the Spanish Inquisition burned books. Nazis burned books.

Hill went on to discuss the fungibility of terms used to describe race, noting that “racial terminology will always fail, because it is absurd to try to define a person by race.” Describing the “kaleidoscopic evolution” of racial terminology over the past five decades, Hill concluded there are no easy answers:

I tell my own children that no single word is entirely out of bounds. One must simply know the heft of each word, and use it appropriately. If that means employing discretion around archaic or racist terms, so be it. I don’t use “Negro” in day-to-day language. To this day, I still cringe at the sound of “Nigger” or “Nigga” in hip hop lyrics. But there is sometimes room to use painful language to reclaim our own history.

New Yorker blogger Ian Crouch has picked up on the story, comparing the burning of The Book of Negroes to a similar stunt perpetrated by radical Florida pastor Terry Jones, who torched a copy of the Koran earlier this year. In both cases, Crouch argues, totalitarian tactics are being used to scandalize the public. From The New Yorker‘s Book Bench blog:

[I]n Amsterdam, another small, passionate political group is using book-burning as a way of getting attention. The political motivations and desired ends are much different, but the means are precisely the same: spectacle, provocation, brutish and simple acts in response to complex issues.

Despite these similarities, though, the protest in Amsterdam does stand out as a rare example of a group with progressive political demands – in this case, the recognition of the ways in which the Netherlands benefited from the slave trade and a call to end contemporary discrimination – resorting to such an odiously reactionary practice…. Hill’s story, looked at more evenly, reminds us that attempts to control language by those who are eager to move society forward can be just as insidious as similar attempts by those who want to hold it back.

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Egypt’s publishing industry picks up the pieces post-uprising

The mass protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square that led to the overthrow of the Mubarak regime and sparked a complete overhaul of the country’s social and political systems, also, unsurprisingly, prompted the cancellation of this year’s Cairo International Book Fair. The demonstrations have given way to talks, the dust has started to settle, and and it’s clear Egypt’s publishing industry has been turned on its head. Small presses have faced huge losses in sales and many have dramatically cut back their lists. And yet, according to Ahram Online, the nation’s publishers are eager to test the waters in this emerging social order and are optimistic about the industry’s future.

From Ahram Online:

Mohamed Hashim, owner of Dar Merit publishing house, talks enthusiastically of an expected major cultural and intellectual renaissance in the coming period. Hashim says he would not accept government compensation for the loss of sales caused by the revolution “no matter how much,” referring to the request by the publishers union for such reparations based on the size of rented space at the Cairo Book Fair grounds. Questions have been raised about the legitimacy of the request, which will be decided on by the minister of culture, the head of the National Book Organization and the minister of finance.

The biggest change will be the relaxing of state censorship policies:

Prior to the revolution, state security played a role primarily after publication, forcing the confiscation of published books and harassing and sometimes imprisoning publishers. After [small press Dar Noun's] publication in April 2010 of ElBaradei and the Dream of the Green Revolution by Kamal Ghobrial, state security investigated details about places [Ahmed Mehanna, the owner of Dar Noun,] visited, cafes he frequented, the address of his office (obviously already known to them), his views about the book’s content and even his opinions about Egyptian and Arab affairs. Mehanna was eventually arrested and spent two days in solitary confinement, and his entire personal library was destroyed.

In a few cases, state security intervened earlier. [Mohamed Salah, owner of Al-Dar publishing house] was harassed for eight months prior to the publication of Ibrahim Eissa’s My Book, which was merely a collection of Eissa’s articles that had been published in Al-Dostour newspaper during his time as editor.

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Freedom to Read Week event round-up

Much of the debate preceding this year’s national Freedom to Read Week (Feb. 20-26) has focused on Alabama publisher NewSouth Books’ edited version of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. No doubt this sensitive topic will be raised again at the Book and Periodical Council’s free event, “Challenging Books: Who Should Decide What Our Children Read?” on Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel. (To get primed, read George Elliott Clarke’s take, “N-Word Wickedness,” from NOW Magazine).

Freedom of sexual expression also generates plenty of public discussion. Here are a few national FTRW events that peer between the sheets:

  • Censoring Manga for Fun and Profit (Feb. 23, Toronto Public Library, Lillian H. Smith Branch)
  • Sexual Outliers: Censorship, Advocacy Journalism and the Gay Press (Feb. 23, Toronto Public Library, Yorkville Branch)
  • Freedom to Read … Out Loud: Risky and Risqué Stories for Adults (Feb. 24, The ARTery, Edmonton)
  • Banned Books: Madame Bovary (Feb. 28, Toronto Public Library, Deer Park Branch)

For a complete list of national events, visit

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Pentagon celebrates Banned Books Week by destroying spy memoir

Just in time for Banned Books Week comes news that the Pentagon has overseen the destruction of a book deemed to contain classified information about the war in Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported that the Department of Defense was attempting to buy the entire 9,500-copy first print run of Operation Dark Heart by former Defense Intelligence Agency officer Lt. Colonel Anthony Shaffer. The Pentagon and publisher St. Martin’s Press have since come to an agreement to publish a redacted version of the controversial memoir.

AFP reports:

With Pentagon representatives looking on, St. Martin’s Press pulped the first print run of Operation Dark Heart a week ago and has released a revised version in a deal with the U.S. government.

“There were approximately 9,500 copies of the book that contained classified information that the department entered into an agreement with the publisher to destroy,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan told reporters.

“The publisher conducted that destruction a week ago on Monday the 20th, with DoD (Department of Defense) observers there to witness it.”

Elsewhere, it has been reported that the DoD, which originally approved the manuscript, has reimbursed the publisher to the tune of $47,000 (U.S). As for the supposedly dangerous secrets contained in the book, they still might see the light of day: apparently, an unknown number of electronic versions of the uncensored first edition have already been sent to reviewers.

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Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

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