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Spring preview 2013: Canadian non-fiction, part one

Rumours to the contrary notwithstanding, publishing is alive and well moving into spring. In the January/February issue, Q&Q looks ahead at some of the spring’s biggest books.

Memoir & Biography

Readers of Laurie Lewis‘s previous memoir, Little Comrades, followed the author “ who went on to have a successful career as a book designer “ from her childhood in Western Canada to New York City. The follow-up, Love, and All that Jazz (The Porcupine’s Quill, $22.95 pa., June), describes her brief first marriage and remarriage to a man whose drug addiction (fuelled by his involvement in the 1950s jazz scene) forced her return to Canada.

There have been many memoirs describing the experience of coming out as gay, but few have dealt with what it’s like to be raised by a gay parent. Vancouver author Alison Wearing does just that in Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter: Growing Up with a Gay Dad (Knopf Canada, $24 pa., May), which originated as a one-woman show. ¢ Men write about the loss of their fathers “ from divorce, death, or emotional abandonment “ in Lonely Boy: Stories About Sons and Fathers (Cormorant Books, $23 pa., June), a collection edited by journalist Carla Maria Luchetta and including pieces by David Miller, RM Vaughan, Tim Falconer, and JJ Lee.

Poet Priscila Uppal hadn’t seen her estranged mother for two decades when they spent 10 days together in Brazil. Despite discovering a shared passion for cinema, the reunion wasn’t as happy as the author would have liked. Uppal describes the intensely emotional experience in Projection: Encounters with My Runaway Mother (Thomas Allen Publishers, $24.95 pa., March). ¢ A bestseller in Quebec, Lise Dion‘s Secret of the Blue Trunk (Dundurn Press, $21.99 pa., Feb.) tells the life story of the author’s mother, a former nun who spent the Second World War in a German concentration camp.

Author and adventurer Jay Ruzesky follows in the footsteps of Roald Amundsen (a distant relation) and other explorers in his new book, In Antarctica: A Pilgrimage (Nightwood Editions, $28.95 pa., Feb.), which interweaves historical narratives with the author’s own insights on journeys to Canada, Norway, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. ¢ In The Truth About Luck: What I Learned on My Road Trip with Grandma (House of Anansi Press, $22.95 pa., March), Iain Reid didn’t exactly hit the road when his 92-year-old grandmother came to stay with him in Kingston, Ontario. Instead, the author of One Bird’s Choice ended up going on a journey of a different sort, learning about his grandma’s inspiring life story and picking up some wisdom along the way.

Helen Humphreys is the well-regarded author of the novels Coventry and Afterimage. In Nocturne: On the Life and Death of My Brother (HarperCollins Canada, $24.99 cl., March), she writes about suddenly losing her brother to cancer when he was just 45.

Amber Dawn has developed something of a cult following as a filmmaker and for her Lambda Literary Award“winning first novel, Sub Rosa (2010). Her follow-up, How Poetry Saved My Life (Arsenal Pulp Press, $15.95 pa., April), uses poetry and prose to examine her experiences as a sex worker on the streets of Vancouver.

Canadian collectors are likely familiar with the name David Mason, an antiquarian bookseller who has maintained a shop in downtown Toronto since 1967. The Pope’s Bookbinder (Biblioasis, $37.95 cl., April), which includes personal anecdotes involving subjects as diverse as William Burroughs and Pope John XXIII, is billed as a must-read memoir for Beat buffs and bibliophiles. ¢ Both Hands: A Life of Lorne Pierce of Ryerson Press (McGill-Queen’s University Press, $49.95 cl., May), by Carleton University instructor Sandra Campbell, tells the story of a man who, as the driving force behind Ryerson Press from 1920 to 1960, once described his editorial desk as an altar at which I serve “ the entire cultural life of Canada.

Politics & current affairs

As the former China correspondent for CBC and Radio-Canada, Michel Cormier witnessed first-hand the struggle for human rights and freedoms within the country. The Legacy of Tiananmen Square (Goose Lane Editions, $29.95 cl., April) takes an historical approach, chronicling the many failed attempts to bring democracy to China over the past century.

In 2012, the CBC dealt with significant budget cuts, but Wade Rowland argues the biggest challenges facing the national broadcaster are still to come. In Saving the CBC: Balancing Profit and Public Service (or Solving the Public/­Private Conundrum) ($14.95 pa., $12.95 ebook, May), Rowland charts a new course for the Mother Corp, laying out his argument in a slim, 80-page volume from Linda Leith Publishing.

Acclaimed journalist Sally Armstrong travels from Africa to Asia to explore the plight of women around the world who are fighting to gain control over their lives and their bodies. But Ascent of Women (Random House Canada, $32 cl., March) also offers hope, arguing that empowering women is key to social and economic justice.

Whatever Happened to the Music Teacher? (MQUP, $34.95 cl., March) is not a book-length answer to the seemingly innocuous question in the title. Rather it examines how policy decisions are made by government and how the role of public servants is evolving, as described by Donald J. Savoie, who holds the Canada Research Chair in public administration.

Julie Devaney scored a Q&Q Book of the Year nod for 2012’s My Leaky Body, about her experience negotiating the Canadian health-care system as a patient. She’s back this season as co-editor, with Dave Molenhuis, of Mess (Tightrope Books), an anthology of hospital-themed writing. ¢ After the Error: Speaking Out About Patient Safety to Save Lives (ECW Press, $19.95 pa., April), by Susan McIver and Robin Wyndham, collects true stories about the causes of medical errors “ responsible for an estimated 24,000 Canadian deaths each year “ and what we can do to fix them.

Child soldiers in Northern Uganda became a cause célèbre when the Kony 2012 video went viral, but abuses in the region continue. In Child to Soldier (University of Toronto Press, $24.95 pa., March), Toronto-based educator and broadcaster Opiyo Oloya examines how children in warlord Joseph Kony’s infamous Lord’s Resistance Army have been socialized into violence. ¢ The Lucky Ones: African Refugees’ Stories of Extraordinary Courage (Great Plains Publications, April) collects first-hand stories of African refugees who have settled in Manitoba. The volume was compiled by Anne Mahon, a board member of Humankind International.

Good food is not only the domain of fine dining and celebrity chefs “ it can also be a tool for social activism. At least that’s the argument of Nick Saul, who as executive director of Toronto’s The Stop transformed an inner-city food bank into an internationally recognized community food centre complete with gardens, greenhouses, and farmers’ markets. Saul makes his case in The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement (Random House Canada, $29.95 cl., March), written with Andrea Curtis.

Science & environment

As a researcher at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, Lee Smolin is on the front lines of scientific discovery. The U.S.-born physicist “ a noted critic of string theory “ also happens to be a leading popularizer of the latest theories about the origins of the cosmos. He brings readers up to date with Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe (Knopf Canada, $29.95 cl., April).

In The Once and Future World: Nature As It Was, As It Is, As It Could Be (Random House Canada, $29.95 cl., May), Vancouver journalist J.B. MacKinnon “ perhaps best known as co-author of The 100 Mile Diet “ meditates on the wonder found in nature, and calls on readers to rekindle their passion for the natural world. ¢ Novelist George Szanto has long found inspiration in nature. In his memoir, Bog Tender: Coming Home to Nature and Memory (Brindle & Glass, $19.95 pa., March), the author reflects on his creative process and the sanctuary he has discover at his B.C. writing studio, which is situated on a bog. ¢ In Spirit Animals: The Wisdom of Nature (Eschia Books, $18.95 pa., Jan.), Edmonton novelist Wayne Arthurson writes about the tradition of spirit animals in native culture.

How do you get readers excited about a book about, well, crap? A tongue-in-cheek title sure helps. According to the marketing material, in The Origin of Feces: What Excrement Tells Us About Evolution, Ecology, and a Sustainable Society (ECW, $16.95 pa., May), veterinarian and epidemiologist David Waltner-Toews makes a compelling argument for a deeper understanding of human and animal waste.

Residents of the Kirkland Lake region of Northern Ontario were understandably upset by a proposal to ship Toronto’s garbage to the remote community and dispose of it in an abandoned mine. The Watershed: The Story of the Adams Mine Dump War (Between the Lines, $24.95 pa., Feb.) explores the grassroots movement to shut down the mine, as detailed by author and NDP MP Charlie Angus, who cut his teeth in politics protesting the project.

Whether you live in the eastern or western half of the country, Dorling Kindersley has you covered with Birds of Eastern Canada and Birds of Western Canada (both $22.95 pa., April) by the appropriately named ornithologist David M. Bird.

Q&Q‘s spring preview covers books published between Jan. 1 and June 31, 2013. ¢ 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.