Is it Canadian?

I wasn’t going to post this today.

I was going to write something else, comfortable in the knowledge that I knew (probably) what I was talking about. But then I went on Twitter today, and I came across a topic of much debate in my circles, one that I’ve danced around for a long time. So why not blog about it?

Basically, the Giller Prize long list came out this morning, and I couldn’t be happier. For those of you who aren’t Canadian, the Giller Prize is one of a few main annual literary CanLit prizes, and it’s juried by some incredibly influential Canadian writers/editors.


The long list is twelve books, and as I merrily made my way to each book’s respective blurb, something happened: I made a realization that I’d made before, and to me, that means I should be thinking about it more than I am. It’s not only come up once, but twice (and probably more if I’m being honest).

Why are Canadian books always set in other countries?

I counted. At least six of the twelve books on the long list are set in other countries. A few more of them are ambiguous regarding the setting.

And please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this is in any way a bad thing. If I were to write a book (when I write a book) I would probably set at least some of it outside my homeland. What I want to know, and the purpose of this post, is why?

Why does this seem to be a characteristic of Canadian literature, that we are so eager to leave home? Why do we lack a sense of identity? (I don’t accept beavers and hockey and igloos and whatever other clichés spring to mind when one thinks of Canada). And really, in this day and age, does it even matter? 

The more I think about it, the more I realize how un-nationalistic we are these days. The internet blurs things. It would make no difference to me if the people I talk to on this website, or any other website for that matter, lived across the street or on a completely different continent.

I think, too, that Canada’s multicultural diversity probably comes into play here. While it’s not perfect, I know that my country tries to welcome others into it with open arms. And that’s reflected in our art. Given recent events in the book blogging-sphere in the past few days, the value of this diversity is something I’m holding a little closer to my heart. 

So does it matter that we seem pretty split in the middle about where CanLit should take place? I don’t think so. I do think it’s interesting, and it probably alludes to a bigger picture story. For now, I’m glad to be celebrating Canadian authors, quietly being inspired to think that one day I could be one of them.

*sigh* This post has been very ramble-y and mainly featured me working through my thoughts. I’m not sure I’ll ever reach a conclusion on this, but I feel better than I did twenty minutes ago, so that’s good enough for me.

For now, I’m especially looking forward to reading 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad, which not only sounds like it addresses some significant issues surrounding body image, but is also set in a town about 40 minutes from where I live! 

Happy Wednesday lovely readers!

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I'm Emma Kath. Welcome to my blog! This is where I post my original book reviews, litstyle (lifestyle for the lit-nerd), and other bookish things. A little about me: I'm Canadian, and currently a student majoring in English lit and cultural studies. I'm an introvert (INFJ, if you believe in that sort of thing), sarcastic to the bone, I love art and history, and hope to one day travel around a bit. Until then, I'll be reading, writing, and trying to spread a little kindness around the internet. If you have any questions or inquiries, feel free to contact me!

2 thoughts on “Is it Canadian?

  1. This is a really interesting observation. I was thinking recently that Orphan Black, a Canadian produced TV show doesn’t even seem to name a nearby city or province! It talks about Minnesota, where one character is going to school but doesn’t give any of the other clones a sense of national identity, unless they are from elsewhere.

    There’s a longer essay in here somewhere.

    On another note, 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl sounds interesting. I’ve seen it around and I really want to give it a read. Another book that I was interesting in reading was Smoke by David Vyleta.

    Liked by 1 person

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