Time for round 2 of the 2021 Cookie Chapters!
Each week in December, I’m sharing book recommendations based on holiday treats, accompanied by my sister who’s sharing her baking for the feature. Last week was a mix of sweet and salty reads to pair with our family’s favourite peanut butter bars and I have even more book recs for you today!
Feel free to join in and share your own list of book recommendations based on holiday cookies! Grab the button in the sidebar and use the hashtag #TheCookieChapters or share your post in the comments below!
This week is all about a Canadian classic:
Butter tarts are one of my favourite treats year-round and one of the only times I find raisins in baked goods acceptable. They’re a super recognizable Canadian treat so I wanted to pair this with books about and set in what is now known as Canada. These also happened to be some of my favourite reads of the year so I hope you enjoy!
Cass once again made this week’s bake, the delicious butter tarts pictured above. Unfortunately I can’t taste test them because I’m in a different country. But I can attest to many of the treats she’s made that I have been able to try! 😛 You can find many more of her creative bakes on Instagram @WhatWillCassCreate! Also if you want the recipe for last week’s peanut butter bars, check out her website.
Some Canadian-inspired reads:
Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson
Genre: Literary Fiction
“My friend, who recommended the book to me (and I’m so glad she did!), described it as the author having unified the spirit world, the environment, and trauma and I wholeheartedly agree. The trauma aspect feels more subtle at first and sneaks up on you but it works beautifully and then by the end you realize, oh I’m reading a book about trauma.” – my review
So clearly this is a heavy book and you can head to my full review for more detail on the content warnings. The book takes place in British Columbia, Canada and follows Lisamarie, a member of the Haisla First Nation, who learns of the disappearance of her brother and revisits memories of her childhood as she races to save him. Trauma is a large part of her life and the lives of her family members, and while she doesn’t identify it as the resulting impacts of colonialism as a child, it’s clear how Canada’s racist policies against Indigenous peoples have disrupted her family and home.
Robinson’s descriptions of the land and Lisamarie’s journey across the water, both in her childhood and the present day, are rich and immersive, and these coastal towns are as central to the story as the characters. The beauty of this setting is at times at odds with the heavy content of the book but it almost provides some peacefulness to turn to in light of these events, and it’s also a reminder that the land is there for all the good and bad times.
It’s a truly beautiful book and even more special if you’re familiar with some of these locations and can recognize them through Robinson’s writing.
Take D Milk, Nah? by Jivesh Parasram
“While the humour flies quickly, Jivesh doesn’t pull punches or mince words. He’s honest and doesn’t shy away from sharing the histories of colonialism in Canada and beyond, and the microaggressions and outright racism that many racially marginalized people experience.” – my review
This play in written form takes a hard look at Canada’s colonial history and the impacts that colonialism and racism continue to have to this day, particularly on marginalized people. It’s not specifically about Canada but the playwright does consider how living in Canada has influenced, created, and attacked the identities he holds.
While a personal account of the author’s own experiences in coming to terms with identity, it’s also a relatable account for many and Parasram provides the space for others to feel welcome and understood. It’s funny as well as honest and all in all, a great theatre experience.
Thanks to Playwrights Canada Press for a copy to review! They always have the best plays!
Pauls by Jess Taylor
Genre: Short Stories
“It’s a little bleak with some hope as the characters, oh so many Pauls, try to navigate work and family and relationships, quite ordinary things that still make for a powerful collection. I also loved that it’s set in Ontario and while not every story is set in the big city of Toronto, it made me very nostalgic being able to recognize the different settings.” – my review
Another of my favourites of the year, I’m so glad the quirky title and blurb got my attention so I’d pick this one up. As I said in my full review, I love sad books so this is pretty near perfect for me. Some CWs though so check out my review linked above if you need it.
This cast of characters are all 20-somethings living in Toronto, or near it, and there’s nothing like reading about characters who could so easily be you, even if I didn’t share many other characteristics with them. But mostly I loved getting to experience Toronto again through these stories and to recognize each neighbourhood that I’d once been in.
There aren’t necessarily happy endings here but it feels very human and relatable so it was quite a touching collection.
This Place: 150 Years Retold foreword by Alicia Elliott
Genre: Short Stories | Graphic Novel
“Even as these stories are beautifully told, it’s incredibly frustrating and heartbreaking and painful to see all the ways that Indigenous peoples have had to fight for their rights and their lives over the years. So not an easy read by any means but a worthwhile one.” – my review
I very recently reviewed this one and it’s the most obvious choice for a “Canadian read” as this graphic novel anthology looks at the history of Canada through Indigenous peoples’ perspectives.
Each story within takes on a different historical (or recent past) figure or event, such as Chief Billy Assu and his and his community’s resistance to the potlatch ban, the Sixties Scoop, protests over pipelines, and Francis “Peggy” Pegahmagabow, an Ojibwe WWI soldier who faced discrimination after he returned home from war. For many, including myself, these names are new or unfamiliar and so the authors provide a welcome and inviting entry point to learn more about Canada’s history and discriminatory policies, and all the ways it has affected the current day.
A beautiful and challenging collection that shows off the artistry of so many Indigenous authors and illustrators.
Some great choices here for stellar Canadian content that both shows off and critiques this country’s land and history. Can’t wait to show off more books and treats next week!
What are some of your favourite Canadian reads?
Do you enjoy reading books set in your hometown?
I received a copy of Take D Milk, Nah? in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Cover images from Goodreads.