Alfabet/Alphabet: A Memoir of a First Language by Sadiqa de Meijer
Winner of the 2021 Governor General Literary Award for Non-fiction.
Finding this book about the adjustment from Dutch language and culture to Canadian was somewhat serendipitous, since my father made the same journey a few years before I was born. De Meijer’s story offered me rich images and sounds of the culture I almost knew.
Aside from the personal connection, I loved de Meijer’s blending of the academic and the poetic. Some may find her explanations of Dutch linguistics too dry, but they seem brief enough to me. Alfabet/Alphabet is the kind of book that can be savoured a bit at a time, not necessarily in order, and returned to years later to be enjoyed again.
Follow Sadiqa de Meijer on Twitter.
Listen to de Meijer read from Alfabet/Alphabet in this Kingston book launch recording.
Being Seen: One Deafblind Woman’s Fight to End Ableism by Elsa Sjunneson
Superb. This memoir reveals every aspect of ableism: erasure, reproductive injustice, systemic barriers, limited representation, and more. Sjunneson’s sardonic anecdotes and whip-smart media analyses would be an excellent addition to high school reading lists. If a teen in your life shows an interest in disability justice, slip this into their gift bag next birthday or holiday.
Check out Sjunneson’s website, snarkbat.com.
White Feminism by Koa Beck
Mainstream feminism has ignored and oppressed marginalized communities since the early days of the suffrage movement. With White Feminism, Beck fills the gaps in the history textbook and explores the impact of systemic oppressions from both personal and national standpoints. She also does something I’ve never seen before in a book on socio-political theory: she describes realistic steps that readers can take to improve the system for everyone, not just middle-class white women with corporate careers. Read it, and then act on it.
Visit Koa Beck’s website.
Honourable mention: Sufferance by Thomas King
I actually read this last year, but it’s too good not to add to this list. Unpretentious but profound, Sufferance touches on a number of issues currently at play in Canada (Truth and Reconciliation, unaffordable housing, corporate corruption). The actions of the narrator, who refuses to speak, begins a sequence of changes that draws the whole community into the same current.