A few weeks ago, I decided to make it my mission to read more Canadian literature — from the more serious, award-winning novels, to the fun genre novels, and to the pile of books by Canadian authors I pulled off of my shelf. I even started a new page on the blog to track my progress east coast to west coast, provinces to territories. Though, as I was making this list up and going through the books I had previously read, I hit a road block.
What exactly classifies as Canadian literature?
There were two authors in specific that sparked my curiousity. First, we have Jessica Martinez. She was born in Calgary, Alberta but currently lives in Florida. One of her books that I’ve read, The Space Between Us, takes place in Banff, Alberta. But I was still confused — since she lives in Florida, is she still considered a Canadian author?
Next, there was Sarah Mlynowski, from whom I’ve only read one book (and it didn’t take place in Canada). She was born in Montreal, but now resides in New York City. In fact, I didn’t even know that she had any Canada relation until looking her up online. Is she still considered a Canadian author?
Then we have the authors who were born or lives elsewhere, but now call Canada their home — Michael Ondaatje, Yann Martel, etc. Obviously, in this case, their citizenship comes into play because by now (at least, I’m assuming) they’re both Canadian citizens which would make them Canadian authors. But then does that mean if you’re born here and were a citizen and you move away, does that mean you aren’t a Canadian author anymore?
When I brought up the question on Twitter (a great place to bring up questions like this), the answers varied. Some people said it has to do with citizenship (which makes sense) and other people said that Canadian literature are works published by Canadian publishers.
This is where I get even more confused.
Canadian publishers publish a WIDE range of authors, from U.S. to international. If an author across the oceans publishes his or her work with a Canadian publisher, how does that make it Canadian literature?
THEN, there are the books by authors who aren’t Canadian but who WRITE about Canada. Books like Canada by Richard Ford or The Shipping News by Annie Proulx (thank you to Jason Lee Bateman for the examples). In a way, I could see these being classified as Canadian literature because they are about parts of this great nation, but they’re still not by Canadian authors.
The final question for me is, when it comes to reading more Canada, what exactly does that mean? Does that mean reading books by Canadian authors, books published by Canadian publishing houses, or books that take place in Canada?