Canada Reads 2023 Longlist Part 3

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… It’s time for Canada Reads!

The longlist for Canada Reads 2023 came out and I had to share my thoughts on all 15 books, and maybe even predict which books might make the shortlist.

Because there are 15 books, I’ll be posting about three of the books at a time, otherwise, this will go on forever! I was surprised at the variety of books on the list this year, it’s an improvement from the past few years, but I’m still not seeing as many small/independent publishers on this list.

So let’s look at the next four books on the longlist…

Dandelion by Jamie Chai Yun Liew

When Lily was eleven years old, her mother, Swee Hua, walked away from the family, never to be seen or heard from again. Now a new mother herself, Lily becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Swee Hua. She recalls the spring of 1987, growing up in a small British Columbia mining town where there were only a handful of Asian families; Lily’s previously stateless father wanted to blend seamlessly into Canadian life, while her mother, alienated and isolated, longed to return to Brunei. Years later, still affected by Swee Hua’s disappearance, Lily’s family is stubbornly silent to her questioning. But eventually, an old family friend provides a clue that sends Lily to Southeast Asia to find out the truth.

Winner of the Jim Wong-Chu Emerging Writers Award from the Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop, Dandelion is a beautifully written and affecting novel about motherhood, family secrets, migration, isolation, and mental illness. With clarity and care, it delves into the many ways we define home, identity, and above all, belonging.

This will most likely be on the shortlist – a good conversation could be had about perspective. It’s from Arsenal Pulp Press – a few of their books have ended up on the shortlist in previous years. I’ll be getting this one from my library – though it does sound like such an emotional and beautiful read.

We Were Dreamers by Simu Liu

In this honest, inspiring and relatable memoir, newly minted superhero Simu Liu chronicles his family’s journey from China to the bright lights of Hollywood with razor-sharp wit and humour.

When Simu Liu’s parents move from China to America and then Canada, they leave him in the care of his grandparents. When he is four, they bring him to Canada. Life as a Canuck, however, is not all that it was cracked up to be; Simu’s new guardians lack the gentle touch of his grandparents, resulting in harsh words and hurt feelings. His parents, on the other hand, find their new son emotionally distant and difficult to relate to—although they are bound by blood, they are separated by culture, language and values. 

As Simu grows up, he plays the part of the pious child flawlessly—he gets straight A’s, wins national math competitions and makes his parents proud. But as time passes, he grows increasingly disillusioned with the path that has been laid out for him. Less than a year out of college, at the tender age of twenty-two, his life hits rock bottom when he is laid off from his first job as an accountant. Left to his own devices, and with nothing left to lose, Simu embarks on a journey that will take him far outside his comfort zone into the world of show business. 

Through a swath of rejections and comical mishaps, Simu’s determination to carve out a path for himself leads him to not only succeed as an actor but also open the door to reconciling with his parents. We Were Dreamers is more than a celebrity memoir—it’s a story about growing up between cultures, finding your family and becoming the master of your own extraordinary circumstances.

Why am I not shocked? I’ll be getting this from my library as I’m not a fan of memoirs. I have my doubts this will make the shortlist, but I could be wrong. I’m not too stoked to be reading this one just because I’ve seen it blasted on my Bookstagram, and I also don’t particularly enjoy celebrity memoirs… but I’ll give it a shot. Maybe I’ll be surprised?

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.   
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness. 
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

Are you having some deja-vu moments… You won’t be alone. This author had her novel, Velvet Was the Night, on last year’s longlist. I’m hoping this book makes the shortlist, but I’m not holding my breath. This was the first novel I picked up this year… and I’m still plugging away at it. If I squint my eyes I can see how this book fits this year’s theme… I’m just a sucker for gothic novels after I took a Gothic literature class for my English degree.

I’ll do a full review of this book (and the books on the long and shortlist as I read them).

Finding Edward by Sheila Murray

Cyril Rowntree migrates to Toronto from Jamaica in 2012. Managing a precarious balance of work and university he begins to navigate his way through the implications of being racialized in his challenging new land.

A chance encounter with a panhandler named Patricia leads Cyril to a suitcase full of photographs and letters dating back to the early 1920s. Cyril is drawn into the letters and their story of a white mother’s struggle with the need to give up her mixed race baby, Edward. Abandoned by his own white father as a small child, Cyril’s keen intuition triggers a strong connection and he begins to look for the rest of Edward’s story.

As he searches, Cyril unearths fragments of Edward’s itinerant life as he crisscrossed the country. Along the way, he discovers hidden pieces of Canada’s Black history and gains the confidence to take on his new world.

This book was a finalist for GG (Governor General) fiction award. It might be a good fit for this year’s theme and might end up on the shortlist. This will be a new experience in this book taking on the subject matter of the 1920s and Canada’s Black history – which is a seldom talked about subject after school… I’ve already got a copy of this at my bookstore.

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