By Emmy Nordstrom Higdon
In the world of books and reading, there is always a young, electric author that the media has their eye on. Whether they are a recent MFA graduate primed and ready to pump out a new book every year or a fired-up youth with community roots, readers are eager to consume what youthful voices have to say. In an ageist society with a whitewashed literary canon, older authors, particularly those who inhabit traditionally marginalized identities, can sometimes struggle to get the same attention.
This month, we at the FOLD have chosen to focus on books by marginalized authors over 60. In Canada, we have a wealth of experienced and sage voices to turn the spotlight on, all of whom are writing in diverse genres.
First, let’s start with nonfiction with WILLIE, co-written by Willie O’Ree himself. This quintessentially Canadian winter sports memoir tells the story of the NHL’s first Black player. O’Ree, now aged 85, joined the Boston Bruins as a winger in 1958. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November of 2018, and his literary debut seems like it ought to be under every holiday tree in the country come December.
Nalo Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born Canadian speculative fiction author, perhaps best known for her 1998 award-winning novel, BROWN GIRL IN THE RING. Blessedly, Hopkinson is still publishing thought-provoking stories of imagined worlds. In 2018, she began work on the graphic series HOUSE OF WHISPERS for DC/Vertigo, the third volume of which, WATCHING THE WATCHERS, was released in 2020.
Poet and author Helen Humphreys is an icon of LGBTQ+ literature in Canada, and I am particularly excited about her 2020 novel, RABBIT FOOT BILL. Although this title is based on a true story – making it the perfect selection for true crime readers and little-known-history enthusiasts – it is notably a valuable contribution to the often-overlooked genre of the Canadian prairie Gothic novel. It feels like just the right book to curl up with as the leaves start to change this fall.
I don’t think it would be possible to talk about older authors without highlighting the work of the prolific poet, novelist, essayist, and documentarian Dionne Brand, Toronto’s third poet laureate and member of the Order of Canada. She was born in Guayaguayare, Trinidad and Tobago, and emigrated to Canada in the 1970s. Although Brand has a wealth of works to choose from if you want to sample her masterful writing, her most recent title comes from the University of Alberta Press: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF READING.