It’s All in Your Perspective

By Kristen Ann Coulas

To quote Aminata Diallo from Lawrence Hill’s award-winning novel, The Book of Negroes: “When it comes to understanding others, we rarely tax our imaginations.” I’m sure most of us would agree this is a fair point. Even when we try to imagine the perspectives of others, it can be difficult to wrap our heads around concepts we haven’t experienced or don’t understand. That is why it’s so valuable to have literature from a rich and diverse variety of people.

Through the magic of immersing ourselves in the worlds created by authors, we gain the ability to see our own world through different lenses. Suddenly, our views gain new depth and nuances. By expanding our views of the world, we enrich ourselves and become better friends and neighbours.

Here are a few recent works from authors who have added their perspectives to Canada’s National Collection.

Non-Fiction

I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You: A Letter to My Daughter by David John Chariandy

ISBN: 978-0-771018-07-7

The son of black and South Asian migrants from Trinidad, David Chariandy takes a break from his award-winning fiction to draw upon his personal and ancestral past. In this touching non-fiction work dedicated to his daughter, Chariandy talks about navigating and cultivating a sense of identity in Canada.

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott

ISBN: 978-0-385692-38-0

Tuscarora writer Alicia Elliott is a bold and visceral author. Drawing on intimate details from her own life and her experience with intergenerational trauma, Elliot’s A Mind Spread Out on the Ground offers unique insight. In this book, Elliot examines every aspect of life, asks tough questions and touches on topics like the ongoing legacy of colonialism.

Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto

ISBN: 978-1-443417-97-6

Mark Sakamoto’s memoir details his journey to forgiving his mother, who suffered from alcoholism. By inviting readers into his family’s past, starting with his grandfather’s experience as a Canadian POW held by the Japanese army and his grandmother’s experience as an internee – born in Canada of Japanese ancestry – held by the Government of Canada during during the Second World War. Sakamoto discovers a common thread of forgiveness and traces how it led to his very existence. A winner of Canada Reads 2018, Forgiveness is a family’s history understood.

Étienne Boulay, le parcours d’un battant by Marc-André Chabot

ISBN: 978-2-764812-82-2

Marc-André Chabot’s recent work describes his long-time friend Étienne Boulay’s tortuous journey as he battled addiction. However, this is far from a book on addiction. It’s an honest look at how Boulay’s life shaped the man he is today and shows the importance of having a strong team around you.

Poetry

heft by Doyali Islam

ISBN: 978-0-771005-59-6

Prizewinning poet Doyali Islam’s second book, heft, is lyrical and innovative and includes works done in her original “parallel poem” style. This compilation includes works published by the Kenyon Review Online and The Fiddlehead, as well as poems that won national contests and prizes.

This Wound is a World by Billy-Ray Belcourt

ISBN: 978-1-927823-64-4

Billy-Ray Belcourt is an award-winning poet and CBC Books named him as one of six Indigenous writers to watch in 2016. In this stunning compilation, Belcourt brilliantly navigates themes of queerness, desire and survival. This Wound is a World won the 2018 Griffin Award for Excellence in Poetry as well as the 2018 Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize.

Fiction

Things Are Good Now by Djamila Ibrahim

ISBN: 978-1-487001-88-9

Things are Good Now is the debut collection of short stories by Djamila Ibrahim, an Ethiopian-born writer who moved to Canada in 1990. Ibrahim examines themes like remorse, race, hope, friendship, human relationships and the power of memory through the lens of the immigrant experience. Engaging and poignant, each story has an authenticity that belies its fictional status.

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

ISBN: 978-1-481499-24-8

Saints and Misfits is an empowering coming-of-age story told through the lens of a teenage Muslim girl. This young adult novel tackles real and difficult issues like sexual assault and abuse of power while also exploring teenage anxiety and identity. S.K. Ali’s debut novel is full of faith and devotion and worthy of its position on the longlist for Canada Reads 2018.

Thelma, Louise et moi by Martine Delvaux

ISBN: 978-2-924666-55-5

In this striking French language portrait of feminism, Martine Delvaux examines the influence of the film Thelma and Louise. Through film anecdotes and personal reflections, Delvaux contemplates how her view of the film changes. This work reminds us of how important it can be to reclaim ourselves when facing a society ready to make us self-doubt.

Children’s Books

Takannaaluk by Herve Paniaq and illustrated by Germaine Arnaktauyok

ISBN: 978-1-772271-81-2

This gorgeous picture book tells the origin story of Takannaaluk, the mother of sea mammals and the most important being in Inuit mythology. Respected elder Herve Paniaq’s vivid storytelling comes to life through the work of acclaimed Inuit artist Germaine Arnaktauyok.

To borrow these books, visit your local library or search Library and Archives Canada’s new catalogue Aurora.


Kristen Ann Coulas is an acquisitions librarian at Library and Archives Canada

Maritime voices: Alistair MacLeod

By Leah Rae

About 360 kilometres from downtown Halifax, on the west coast of Cape Breton Island, lies the tiny community of Dunvegan. Too small to be a town, Dunvegan is a fork in the road located between Inverness and Margaree Harbour. It was here, in a small, hand-built shed overlooking the Atlantic Ocean (with Prince Edward Island in the distance) that writer Alistair MacLeod spent his summer vacations. It was in this shed that he wrote some of the greatest short stories in the English language and his one and only novel No Great Mischief.

A handwritten first page of The Boat.

Front page of the manuscript for The Boat by Alistair MacLeod. © Estate of Alistair MacLeod (e011213687)

Like many “Capers” before him, MacLeod spent his youth working as a miner and a logger. He used his income to pay for his education, earning both his undergraduate degree and teaching degree from St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. MacLeod spent his career as an English and creative writing professor at the University of Windsor in Ontario. Between the demands of being a full-time professor and a father to six children, he found it challenging to find time for his writing during the school year. However, during his summer vacations, he and his family returned to the family home in Dunvegan (named for Dun Bheagan on the Isle of Skye in Scotland) where he had the opportunity to focus on his writing. MacLeod’s work examines the daily struggles of the people of Cape Breton Island. What gives MacLeod’s writing its power and its majesty is its lyricism: MacLeod often read his work out loud as a way to perfect the cadence of each line. He was a slow and methodical writer, carefully considering every word. Although he produced a very small body of work in his lifetime, the quality of that work is outstanding.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is lucky to be the repository for the Alistair MacLeod fonds. In the early 2000s, LAC acquired about 4.5 metres of material (both textual and graphic) created by MacLeod in Ontario and in Nova Scotia. The material spans his career as both a writer and a teacher. The fonds includes manuscripts, correspondence, essays, thesis notes, clippings, photos of MacLeod and more.

A black-and-white photograph of a man sitting at a rough desk with paper and pen in hand.

Alistair MacLeod working in his writing shed in Dunvegan, Nova Scotia. © Chuck Clark (e011213686)

Looking at MacLeod’s original manuscripts gives us a fascinating glimpse into his process as a writer. He was known in the Canadian literary community as a perfectionist, and you can see this is true in his manuscripts. The first draft of his short story The Boat is handwritten in an examination booklet from Notre Dame University (where MacLeod earned his PhD). If we look at the published version of the first paragraph of that story—perhaps one of the most beautiful paragraphs in English literature—it is nearly identical to the author’s draft version.

MacLeod continued the practice of handwriting his work throughout his career (a practice perhaps perceived by many writers today as very old fashioned!) He also wrote part of his manuscript for his novel No Great Mischief by hand. It is quite a special thing to see a work of this calibre written in long hand rather than as typewritten words on a page that we are so used to seeing nowadays. It gives you a very personal sense of MacLeod working diligently away during his few precious hours of free time, overlooking the beautiful cliffs of Cape Breton and the sea below.


Leah Rae is an archivist based in Halifax in the Regional Services and ATIP Division of Library and Archives Canada.

Juvenilia in the archives: a reading of Jane Urquhart’s early works

By Sara Viinalass-Smith

Juvenilia is defined as works produced by an author while still young. Juvenilia can provide unique insights into a creator’s early influences and the evolution of their writing. For many reasons, researchers will unfortunately find that examples of juvenilia are not always present amongst an author’s papers. Over time, juvenilia might go missing, be discarded, or even destroyed.

Some famous examples of lost juvenilia include Ernest Hemingway’s early works. When Hemingway was 23, a suitcase full of his early drafts and their carbon copies was stolen at a train station. All that remained of his early works, then, were a couple of short stories, a poem and some carbon copies of articles he had written. In the case of Truman Capote, his lost juvenilia weren’t really lost at all. Upon his death, his papers were donated to the New York Public Library (NYPL). Amongst them were several short stories written by Capote in his teens and early 20s. In 2013, a researcher came across the stories, and in 2015 they were published in The Early Stories of Truman Capote (Random House) and hailed as newly discovered texts. However, the NYPL’s Manuscripts and Archives Division was quick to make the distinction between “undiscovered” and “unpublished” in the media. While the stories had not necessarily ever been in print, they had been catalogued and were available to anyone wishing to consult Capote’s papers.

Though there are many reasons why early works might not find their way into the archives, Library and Archives Canada’s Literary Archives Collection is fortunate to include a variety of pieces of juvenilia. One very special example comes from the Jane Urquhart fonds.

The celebrated author of such works as The Underpainter and The Stone Carvers showed an early interest in creative pursuits. Urquhart (née Carter) was keen to experiment with different literary forms and studied acting from a young age. As a girl in the 1950s, she loved the books of Lucy Maud Montgomery, and adapted the novel Anne of Green Gables into a play.

A notebook with pencil handwriting of a dramatization of Anne of Green Gables.

A page from Jane Urquhart’s notebook titled “Anne of Green Gables” (e011202224)

Written in a blue Hilroy notebook, an elementary school mainstay for decades, Urquhart’s play opens with the familiar scene of Matthew Cuthbert and Anne Shirley in what Urquhart describes as a stage coach, on their way to Green Gables for the first time. While the script represents only a small portion of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s novel, the text illuminates Urquhart’s own early reading interests and writing style. Even at such a young age, Urquhart follows the conventions of scriptwriting by beginning with a setting description and designating dialogue to different speakers. She was perhaps familiar with how a script is formatted because of her interest in acting. Within a few years of drafting her adaptation of Anne of Green Gables, Urquhart was a member of an acting workshop under the direction of Canadian theatre pioneer Dora Mavor Moore.

What makes this example of juvenilia even more important is how it contributes to our understanding of the lasting influence of Lucy Maud Montgomery and her works on Urquhart. Montgomery’s novels continue to have a worldwide audience, even though more than a century has elapsed since the original publication of Anne of Green Gables. Like many girls and boys, Urquhart discovered Montgomery’s novels as a child. Urquhart, however, had the unique opportunity of reflecting on Montgomery and her works as an adult, formally encapsulating her feelings about the books and their author in a biography written for Penguin Canada’s Extraordinary Canadians series. L. M. Montgomery was published in 2009. In it, Urquhart examines Lucy Maud Montgomery, the writer and the woman. She describes the struggles of an author who achieves commercial success, but who is ignored by literary critics who dismiss her writing as sentimental and lowbrow—criticisms levelled at female Canadian authors such as Carol Shields even decades later. Perhaps the most personal section of the biography is the final chapter entitled, “Her Reader.” In it, Urquhart describes an 11-year-old girl’s discovery of Anne Shirley in the 1920s, an experience that provokes the desire to write herself. That young girl, Marian, grew up to be Jane Urquhart’s mother, and it was Marian’s own copy of Montgomery’s first novel that Urquhart read as a child, inspiring one of her very first literary efforts.

This example of juvenilia and others can be found in fonds within the Literary Archives Collection. To browse the collection, visit LAC’s website.


Sara Viinalas-Smith is a literary archivist (English language) in the Social Life and Culture Private Archives Division of Library and Archives Canada.

From the Lowy Room: Rebecca’s Bible

By Michael Kent

One of my favorite things about working with rare books is that these books have a potential to connect me with history in ways that extend beyond their written content. One such example of this potential is the 1786 Book of Leviticus published by Lion Soesmans. What makes the copy now located in the Jacob M. Lowy collection special is that it contains the signature of one of its former owners, Rebecca Gratz (1781–1869).

A colour photograph of the frontispage of a Bible showing the third book of Moses.

Rebecca’s Bible (AMICUS 45161685)

While you may not have heard of Gratz, you quite likely have heard of a far more famous fictional Rebecca: Rebecca of York, the heroine of Walter Scott’s 1819 novel Ivanhoe. A work of historical fiction, this novel helped spur the popular images of Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, King Richard and Prince John. This Rebecca is a dark-haired beauty, a healer, and the central female character of the novel. Desired by men, kidnapped, tried for witchcraft, and ultimately fleeing England, Rebecca of York is an empowering fictional Jewish woman.

While the inspiration for Scott’s Rebecca is debated among scholars, many point to Gratz as the origin. As legend has it, Scott heard about Gratz while visiting his friend, writer Washington Irving, at his home in Abbotsford, Scotland, during 1817. Irving was reported to have had great admiration for Gratz, and he imparted these sentiments to Scott.

While the fictional Rebecca is no doubt an inspirational character, the real life Rebecca is far more impressive. Born in 1781 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, her family would move to Philadelphia during her childhood. In Philadelphia her family would become prominent in the Jewish community and in wider society.

From a young age, Rebecca would become a leader in philanthropy and community work. At 20, she helped found the Female Association for the Relief of Women and Children in Reduced Circumstances, a non-sectarian charity aiming to help poor families. One of her next major initiatives to help the poor came in 1815 when she helped establish the Philadelphia Orphan Asylum.

A black-and-white painting of a young woman dressed in fashionable clothes of the period.

Rebecca Gratz portrait by Thomas Sully. Courtesy of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.

Gratz was also heavily involved with Jewish charitable organizations. In 1819, she helped organize the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society, which is presently the oldest continuously operating Jewish charitable organization in the United States. The goal of this organization was to provide assistance to Jewish woman in need. This organization functioned independently of any synagogue, but also sought to counter similar work by Christian organizations seeking to convert Jewish woman in need. Her quest to help the poor would continue in 1855, when she helped establish the Jewish Foster Home and Orphan Asylum. This organization would go on to become a model for foster care in the United States. She was also involved with United Hebrew Beneficent Fuel Society and the Hebrew Ladies’ Sewing Society.

Arguably, one of Gratz’s biggest accomplishments in the Jewish community was in the area of education. In 1838, she founded the Hebrew Sunday School Society with the sponsorship of the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society. Inspired by the Christian Sunday schools, her school offered a free Jewish education to any Jewish child in Philadelphia. This school also provided one of the first opportunities for Jewish education for female students in the United States. Gratz’s model for Jewish education is still alive and well today in Jewish supplementary schools across Canada and the United States.

Perhaps most impressive is that Gratz accomplished all this charitable work while raising her sister Rachel’s orphaned children.

Learning about all her accomplishments, it is not hard to understand why Rebecca Gratz has been compared to Mother Teresa.

Whether or not Gratz truly inspired Scott, these two inspirational women—one real and one fictional— share a deep commitment to community service. In Scott’s novel Ivanhoe, the fictional Rebecca expresses this sentiment before leaving England, referring to herself in the third person: “. . . since the time of Abraham downward, have been woman who have devoted their thoughts to Heaven, and their actions to works of kindness to men, tending the sick, feeding the hungry, and relieving the distressed. Among these will Rebecca be numbered.”

Being able to handle this historic Bible, I am humbled to think of its former owner and her truly remarkable legacy.

Related link


Michael Kent is curator of the Jacob M. Lowy collection at Library and Archives Canada.

New podcast! Check out our latest episode, “Get Your Summer Read On, Part 2”

Our latest podcast episode is now available. Check out Get Your Summer Read On, Part 2.

The TD Summer Reading Club is Canada’s biggest bilingual summer reading program. Developed by the Toronto Public Library, in partnership with Library and Archives Canada, this free program highlights Canadian authors, illustrators and stories. The goal of the program is to foster literacy by encouraging kids aged 12 and under to read during the summer months.

In the second of this two-part episode, we talk with the TD Summer Reading Club French author for 2018, Camille Bouchard. Camille has been a children’s author since the 1980s, and has written over 100 books! He has also won multiple awards, including a 2005 Governor General’s Award for his book, Le Ricanement des hyènes. We also talk with a special surprise guest during this episode—a famous Canadian writer who was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and once served as Canada’s National Librarian.

Subscribe to our podcast episodes using RSS, iTunes or Google Play, or just tune in at Podcast–Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage.

For more information, please contact us at bac.balados-podcasts.lac@canada.ca.

Found in translation: discovering Canadian literary translations

By Liane Belway

Discovering new and exciting books and authors is a rewarding experience for most readers. In Published Heritage—the library side of Library and Archives Canada (LAC)—we connect with the publishers who bring us these works and make our diverse published Canadian heritage accessible to a wider audience.

When Canadian publishers make material available, they deposit copies with LAC with the help of our Legal Deposit team. What kinds of material do we acquire in Legal Deposit? A wealth of Canadian content: books, music, spoken-word recordings, magazines and other serials, and digital material as well. Each offers a unique perspective on Canadian society and culture, reflecting the publisher’s vision, interests and identity. One source of new knowledge and literary artistry is the translation of such works, making these publications available to a completely new audience.

Canadian Translations

One way of making great literature available to wider audiences is through literary translation, an often overlooked literary skill but a highly valuable one in a multicultural and multilingual society. Translations offer a window into new perspectives and styles, and a chance to discover literary traditions and innovations often not otherwise easily accessible. In fact, the Governor General’s Awards have a category for Translation, acknowledging the value of bringing French-language works to new readers in English when they would not ordinarily have the chance to read them. Each year, this award recognizes the translation of a work into English for its literary excellence and cultural contribution.

Award Winners

The 2017 Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation was awarded to Readopolis, translated into English by Oana Avasilichioaei and published by BookThug in Toronto. It is a translation of Lectodôme by Bertrand Laverdure, published by Le Quartanier, a francophone publishing house in Montreal. The Peer Assessment Committee had high praise for Avasilichioaei: “In Readopolis, Oana Avasilichioaei has risen to and matched the stylistic acrobatics of Bertrand Laverdure’s Lectodôme. The many voices of Quebecois writing sing through in this intelligent translation – a vertiginous ode to the pure, if rarely rewarded, pursuit of literature.”

David Clerson’s Brothers, a worthy finalist for the same award in 2017, also offers an excellent introduction to a new publisher’s vision. QC Fiction, an imprint of Baraka Books with a fresh perspective, is a Quebec-based English-language book publisher in Montreal. Recognizing the value of translations, QC Fiction’s goal is to publish contemporary Quebec fiction originally published in French, in English translations for a wider Canadian and international audience. Another QC Fiction title, I Never Talk About It, contains 37 stories and as many translators. As Fiction editor Peter McCambridge states, “37 different translators to translate each of the short stories published in a collection by Véronique Côté and Steve Gagnon. It’s a reminder that there are at least 37 different ways to translate an author’s voice—something to consider the next time you pick up a book in translation!”

Six colourful book covers with similar designs laid out side by side, displaying all titles: Listening for Jupiter, I Never Talk About It, Behind the Eyes We Meet, Brothers, The Unknown Huntsman, Life in the Court of Matane.

A selection of publications from QC Fiction, including Brothers (2016), the finalist of the Governor General prize for translation. Image used with permission from QC Fiction.

Providing works in translation allows audiences outside of Canada access to a large and, in our ever more connected world, growing national literature, and Canadian authors are enjoying an increasingly international audience. QC Fiction is also a great example of Canadian fiction’s global appeal. Says McCambridge: “So far the formula seems to be working: 3 of our first 5 books have been mentioned in The Guardian newspaper in England and bloggers from Scotland to Australia have picked up on what we’re doing and praised our ‘intriguing light reads.’”

With these award-winning publishers—just two examples of the innovative work in the world of Canadian literary translations—Canadian publishing remains a creative, varied, and thriving world that LAC strives to collect and preserve for readers now and in the future. To see what else LAC has in its collections, try our new search tool at: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/lac-bac/search/all.


Liane Belway is the Acquisitions Librarian for English monographs in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

New additions to Rare Books album now on Flickr, 2018

Colour photograph of a row of books: left to right: Euclid’s Elementa, 1482; Milton’s Paradise Lost, 1758; Relation de ce qui s’est passé en la mission des pères de la Compagnie de Iésus …, 1651; Sophocleos Tragoediai, 1502; The Lower-Canada Watchman, 1829.

Row of books [left to right: Euclid’s Elementa, 1482; Milton’s Paradise Lost, 1758; Relation de ce qui s’est passé en la mission des pères de la Compagnie de Iésus …, 1651; Sophocleos Tragoediai, 1502; The Lower-Canada Watchman, 1829. [Filename IMG_3472]

The Rare Book Collection at Library and Archives Canada is one of the largest collections of rare Canadiana in the world. Canadiana is defined as works printed in Canada or printed outside of Canada but concerning Canada, written or illustrated by Canadians.

Visit the Flickr album now!

The literary season has just wrapped up; did you see it go by?

By Euphrasie Mujawamungu

In early autumn or more likely in late summer,
Before the birds—great and small—pull up stakes and fly south,
Well before Parliament resumes sitting,
And on the eve of the back-to-school rush,
While some employees are still enjoying the sun,
The new literary season magazine appears,
Awaited by bookshops, readers … and especially librarians,
Not to herald the falling leaves, oh no—
New releases, new novels, new poems, new ways of doing things, and more.

Publishers release most of their books during this period, to put themselves in a strong sales and marketing position. Those few months before the end-of-year holidays give readers the chance to shop and to benefit from the recommendations of other book lovers for holiday gifts. This is also when avid readers stock up on their literary supplies so they can curl up with good books during the fall and winter.

This is the time when publishers and bookshops suggest lists of candidates for various awards, as most of these are handed out in the fall. Books that win awards or are named “staff picks” are in high demand among readers; another reason not to miss the literary season!

It bears mentioning that according to the provisions of the Library and Archives of Canada Act, all publications, regardless of medium or form, must be legally deposited by their publishers or authors. Legal deposit enables Library and Archives Canada to collect, preserve and make accessible all of Canada’s published documentary heritage.

Colour photo of a book cart with two copies of each book.

A book cart with new releases.

Many publishers and authors meet their legal deposit obligations when their publications are released. Consequently, the Legal Deposit team receives more publications in the fall than during other times of the year.

Just imagine the passion of the authors, the enthusiasm of the bookshops, the excitement of the readers!

Books in all formats have a place of prominence—the library—cared for by a devoted staff!

Our contact information:

Legal Deposit
Library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0N4
Canada

Telephone: 819-997-9565
Toll free (Canada): 1-866-578-7777 (Select 1+7+1)
Toll free (TTY): 1-866-299-1699
Fax: 819-997-7019

Email:
bac.Depotlegal-LegalDeposit.LAC@canada.ca (Physical or Analogue Legal Deposit)
bac.Depotlegalnumerique-DigitalLegalDeposit.LAC@canada.ca (Digital Legal Deposit)
bac.archivesweb-webarchives.LAC@canada.ca (Web Harvesting)


Euphrasie Mujawamungu is an acquisitions librarian with the Legal Deposit team in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Anything to declare? Yes, it’s of Canadian interest

By Louise Tousignant

The mandate of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) includes acquiring published material that is Canadian or of Canadian interest. In collecting this material, LAC aims for a national Canadiana collection that is as comprehensive as possible. Canadian material published in Canada is received through legal deposit while material of Canadian interest is published in other countries but has a Canadian creator or subject. Creators could be authors, illustrators, translators or artists. Works of Canadian interest, being published abroad, are acquired through gifts or targeted purchases.

Of those titles of Canadian interest received recently, there are studies on, and analyses of, Canada: Canada/États-Unis : les enjeux d’une frontière, Comparative North American Studies: Transnational Approaches to American and Canadian Literature and Culture, and Canadian Perspectives on Immigration in Small Cities.

Other works are also related to Canada; for instance, Negotiations in the Indigenous World: Aboriginal Peoples and the Extractive Industry in Australia and Canada and Indian Agents: Rulers of the Reserves delve into Indigenous matters.

Famous Canadians have also been the subject of scrutiny: painter Alex Colville in The Mystery of the Real: Letters of the Canadian Artist Alex Colville and Biographer Jeffrey Meyers; journalist and author Jane Jacobs in the biography Becoming Jane Jacobs; and singer and musician Alanis Morissette, whose work is explored in The Words and Music of Alanis Morissette. Canadians who made their names in Hollywood have also been featured in several books. William Shatner, born in Montréal and an ambassador for his hometown’s 375th anniversary celebrations and best known for his role as Captain James T. Kirk in the “Star Trek” television series, recently released Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man. Acclaimed Hamilton-born actor Martin Short, who became a star on the “Saturday Night Live” TV show, authored the memoir I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend.

A black-and-white photo of a woman with long hair leaning against a wrought iron fence.

Portrait of Alanis Morissette by Bryan Adams. Photo signed by Alanis Morissette. 1999 (MIKAN 3614421)

Here at home, Canadians have also had their works published in other countries: Quebec’s Guy Delisle, with the comic book S’enfuir : récit d’un otage, published by Dargaud; illustrator Yanick Paquette, the man behind Wonder Woman, with his Wonder Woman, Earth One. Volume 1 comic book; and Louise Penny, with The Long Way Home, which was published by Minotaur Books and became a New York Times number 1 bestseller.

Finally, some titles of Canadian interest in the national collection are directly linked to LAC’s archival fonds. These holdings allow for greater in-depth study of authors and their international profiles, and support research into Canadian literature. Examples include translations of works by children’s writer and illustrator Marie-Louise Gay, and by Sri Lankan–born Canadian poet, novelist and filmmaker Michael Ondaatje. Regarding Marie-Louise Gay, ¿Alguna pregunta?, a Spanish translation of Any Questions?, was published in Mexico in 2015; Angela en de ijsbeer is a Dutch version of Angel and the Polar Bear; and Bolle-Bertils sirkus is Fat Charlie’s Circus translated into Norwegian. As for Michael Ondaatje, LAC holds no fewer than 20 translations of his best-known novel, The English Patient, including versions in Bulgarian, Japanese and Italian. His novel won the Booker Prize and the Governor General’s Award in 1992, while the film adaptation received nine Oscars at the Academy Awards in 1997.

A colour photo of a seated, smiling woman. Blurred pencil crayons can be seen in the foreground.

Marie-Louise Gay. Canadian children’s writer and illustrator. @Groundwood Books

Colour photograph of a book open at the title page written in Bulgarian.

The English Patient published in Bulgarian by Delfi in 2000 (AMICUS 32172817)

Colour photograph of a book open at the title page written in Japanese.

The English Patient published in Japanese by Shinch⁻osha in 1996 (AMICUS 15875585)

Colour photograph of a book open at the title page: Michael Ondaatje Il Paziente Inglese.

The English Patient published in Italian by Garzanti in 2004 (AMICUS 32785464)

This brief overview is just a sampling of the variety of publications about Canada and of Canadian interest. The painstaking work of sorting through published material continues to ensure the growth of Canada’s documentary heritage and the development of the collections, and to make the national Canadiana collection the most extensive in the world.


Louise Tousignant is an acquisitions librarian in the Published Heritage Branch of Library and Archives Canada.

Word recognition: Governor General’s Literary Awards winners in LAC’s collection

By Sara Viinalass-Smith

The Governor General’s Literary Awards are one of Canada’s most prestigious suites of literary prizes, and the awards’ long history can shed light on the evolution of publishing, writing and reader tastes within Canada over the past eight decades. Created by the Canadian Authors Association and supported by prolific author and Governor General John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir, the awards originated in 1937.  This year marks their 80th anniversary. At first honouring works of fiction and non-fiction, over the decades the awards have expanded to include, also, poetry, translation, drama and children’s literature in both French and English.

Since 1969 Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has been building a literary archives collection that includes the papers of many of the English- and French-language Governor General’s literary award winners, such as Robertson Davies, Marie-Claire Blais, Dionne Brand, Gabrielle Roy and Carol Shields. In examining their papers you can, for instance, track the life of an award-winning novel from the author’s original kernel of an idea, developed in notes and drafts, through heavily edited galley proofs and proposed cover art to review clippings and even the author’s invitation to the Governor General’s awards ceremony.

A yellowed black-and-white photograph of an officer in uniform.

Thomas Findley, the source of inspiration for Timothy Findley’s The Wars. (MIKAN 4933177)

The long path a work can take from idea to publication to recognition is well illustrated by Timothy Findley’s The Wars. Findley won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction in 1977 for his novel, which tells the story of a young Canadian soldier who enlists in the First World War. The protagonist of the novel was inspired in part by Findley’s uncle, Thomas Irving Findley. Contained within Findley’s archives is a family album of letters from the front written by Thomas Irving Findley to his relatives in Canada. The album also includes one of the few known photographs of Findley’s uncle, dressed in uniform. Findley used these records as source material for the development of the characters in The Wars. From the letters, you can trace how Findley used the thoughts, feelings and actions of his uncle to create the character of Robert Ross and his fictional, wartime experience. Findley’s research, notes, outlines and drafts show the evolution of the text, and a mock-up of the final cover art shows how the book was physically presented to its original audience. Reviews from the year of publication reveal the book’s initial reception by critics. Finally, scripts Findley wrote for radio and film adaptations of The Wars speak to the overwhelming success of the novel and show how he carried his beautifully crafted prose through to different genres.

To honour this milestone anniversary of the awards, the Canada Council for the Arts, which administers the awards, is hosting an exhibition in Ottawa entitled People – Places – Things: Reading GG Books. The exhibition celebrates the more than 700 winning titles from the awards’ history, the people who write them and the places where we read them. Archival records from LAC’s literary archives collection make up part of the exhibition. These include the photograph of Thomas Irving Findley, the first page of Gabrielle Roy’s handwritten manuscript of Ces enfants de ma vie (1977), and notes and a manuscript for the children’s book Pien (1996) by Michel Noël. The exhibition is on until February 24th.

Related resources


Sara Viinalass-Smith is a literary archivist (English language) in the Private Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.