Recommended Reads: A Wave of Women in Nonfiction

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It seems quite fitting that we have a trio of recommendations for non-fiction books by female authors as we wrap up October, which is Women’s History Month, and enter “Non-Fiction November”. In no means exhaustive or comprehensive, these three recommendations certainly depict a range of women filled with determination, love, passion, and also faced with challenges, and weakness.

Heidi Greco recommends Beckoned by the Sea: Women at Work on the Cascadia Coast by Sylvia Taylor

Sylvia Taylor’s first book, The Fisher Queen, tracked her adventures as a deckhand on a fishing boat that plied the waters of the BC coast. This time, rather than chasing hauls of fish, she’s a fisher of stories.

Beckoned by the Sea (Heritage House, 2017) gathers conversations Taylor recorded with 24 women whose lives are linked to the coastal waters of the Cascadia region. She’s sorted them into six categories – Harvesters, Travellers, Creators, History Keepers, Teachers, and Protectors – and after introducing each participant, Taylor allows them free rein in telling their stories. All of these women have answered a particular calling from the sea, and each has played out her response to that call in her own way, in roles from tugboat captain to First Nations paddle tour guide, from kelp harvester to professional mermaid.

Intriguing characters, one and all, this is a book you can dip into – as if it’s its own ocean of conversations – and, just as if you were dipping into the sea, you’re bound to come up with something new and surprising every time.

Heidi Greco writes in many genres—from essays and fiction to interviews and reviews. Her most recent book is from Caitlin Press, Flightpaths: The Lost Journals of Amelia Earhart.

Sheila Peters recommends Searching for the April Moon by Nancy Robertson

Nancy Robertson’s Searching for the April Moon (Creekstone Press, 2008) is a collection of essays that takes us out into the world and brings us back home again. Her passionate spirit illuminates the exotic worlds of moonlit beaches, international art museums, and desert landscapes with an exceptional eye for detail. Her wise and generous heart links those experiences to her parents’ journeys, first her father and then her mother, from fierce independence to a warm appreciation for the love and care of their family and the community, Prince Rupert, in which they all so deeply rooted.

For those of us with aging parents, Iain Lawrence said it beautifully in a 2008 review of the book: It’s such a heartfelt journey through aging and death that I couldn’t bear at first to read more than a few pages at a time. But it’s told so beautifully that it was impossible not to keep reading. And soon the book became a comfort, because it’s not only an account of the journey but a map as well. It made me see what still lies ahead, and it made me less fearful to carry on.

Sheila Peters is the author of six books including A Taste of Ashes (Caitlin Press) and the weather from the west (Creekstone Press). Her latest project is a blog celebrating 40 years living beside Driftwood Creek which flows from the heart of the Babine Mountains just outside Smithers.

Annette Lapointe recommends I Might Be Nothing by Lara Gilbert, edited by Carole Itter

I Might Be Nothing (Trafford Publishing, 2004) is abridged from 3200 handwritten journal pages left behind by Lara Gilbert after her 1995 death. Covering the years from 1987-1995, the book follows a young woman struggling with mental illness but also filled with enormous insight and creative energy. Gilbert’s adolescence and young adulthood move through the city of Vancouver, from the downtown east side where she lived for much of her life to the shining hills of UBC. It’s an intimate tour of a life and a city.

This isn’t an easy read, but it’s a worthwhile one. Gilbert’s writing style is mature in spite of her youth. She struggles over a period of years to come to terms with traumatic memories whose reliability she constantly questions. She wants to be a doctor, and she rebels against psychiatry. Her desire to achieve, to be admired, struggles with the desire to rebel – to become a model in a family of artists and intellectuals, to lose herself on Hastings Street.

Annette Lapointe’s first novel, Stolen (2006), was nominated for a Giller Prize, won two Saskatchewan Book Awards, and received numerous other accolades. Her collection of stories, You Are Not Needed Now, was recently published by Anvil Press. Annette teaches at Grande Prairie Regional College and edits The Waggle magazine. Lara Gilbert was a member of Annette’s extended family, although they never met. Annette remains close to Lara’s mother.

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