BOOKMARKS: Bison are let loose in Edmonton in Conor Kerr’s Prairie Edge

Article content

Conor Kerr is looking to go bigger with his sophomore release: a bigger world, a bigger title and, hopefully, a bigger audience.

The Edmonton author’s latest book, Prairie Edge, focuses on what “Land Back” might look like on the prairies, and how to return to a form of indigenous governance, getting partway there through the release of massive prairie animals in city parks. The book was released April 16 from Strange Light, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Article content

Ezzy and Grey are an odd pair, one a prominent activist in the city and the other the product of group homes and incarceration, just trying to avoid a return to the system. But Grey has an idea, a crazy idea about moving bison from national parks and farms into the city, setting them loose to disrupt life and get the community talking.

But even the protagonists in Kerr’s book have flaws and make mistakes. His characters are flawed and even those working as activists are sometimes in it for themselves, lending the book a gritty and somewhat dark tone.

“We often see with this western narrative around Indigenous people, that if you’re working in activism, you’re a warrior, a perfect stereotypical character,” says Kerr. “But as all humans, we have our flaws.”

Prairie Edge is Kerr’s second novel and his third book. His first title, Avenue of Champion, was long-listed for the Giller Prize in 2022, one of the country’s most prestigious book awards. That same year, it won the RELIT award for first novel and was shortlisted for the Amazon/Walrus Debut Novel Award.

It made sense for Kerr to return to Edmonton, the setting for his first release and the hometown of the Metis author. He says it was the perfect place to tell a story about the importance of the connection between the land and Indigenous rights.

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

“Edmonton has an interesting relationship with Indigenous people,” says Kerr. “A city like this in the northern prairie is well situated for a book like this, a start of a movement, a start of something bigger than who we are.”

Edmonton author Conor Kerr
Edmonton author Conor Kerr’s latest book, Prairie Edge.

Kerr is working on a poetic novella called Beaver Hills, also set in Edmonton, following four Metis characters navigating life in an urban centre. He’s also working on a novel called Duck Blind about cultural appropriation. He’s also an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta.

Audreys Books is hosting a book launch for Prairie Edge at Biera (9570 76 Ave.) on April 20 at 7 p.m. For more information about the author, visit his website.

Edmontonians among finalists in literary awards

The finalists for the Alberta Literary Awards were released earlier this month, and among them were a long list of Edmonton and area authors.

Both Kate Boorman and Natasha Deen were nominated for the Award for Children’s Literature, Boorman for Into the Sublime and Deen for The Signs and Wonders of Tuna Rashad.

Two local authors were nominated for the George Bugnet Award for Fiction. Thomas Wharton was nominated for his book, The Book of Rain, which had also been longlisted for a Writers’ Trust award. Jessica John’s book Bad Cree was also nominated in that category.

Advertisement 4

Article content

John’s book was also one of five books on this year’s CBC Reads and was MacEwan’s Book of the Year.

Astrid Blodgett was nominated twice for her work with short stories, while Premee Mohamed received one nod for the short story award category.

The winners will be announced at a gala on June 8. Audreys Books will host a reading with some of the finalists on May 5 at 2 p.m.

To see the full list of finalists, visit the WGA website.

New poetry from trio of poets

Three poets with connections to Edmonton and Northern Alberta will be releasing new work in April, which is National Poetry Month.

Former Edmonton Poet Laureate Nisha Patel will release A Fate Worse Than Death, out April 2 from Arsenal Pulp Press, featuring work about living with treatment-resistant diabetes, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety and complex chronic pain. Patel was the city’s eighth poet laureate, a title she held from 2019 to 2021. Her last book, Coconut, was released by Edmonton publisher NeWest Press in 2021.

Former Edmonton Poet Laureate Nisha Patel
Former Edmonton Poet Laureate Nisha Patel will release A Fate Worse Than Death, out April 2 from Arsenal Pulp Press.

Patel will be at a launch event for A Fate Worse Than Death at Audreys Books on April 20 at 3 p.m., alongside Courtney Bates-Hardy, who will be there with her new book Anatomical Venues.

Advertisement 5

Article content

Edmonton author and poet Tim Bowling will celebrate the publication of The Capital City of Autumn, his newest collection released April 16 from Wolsak & Wynn. His new book focuses on autumn, using the changing of seasons as an allegory for the passage of time.

Bowling was twice nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry.

Edmonton author and poet Tim Bowling
Edmonton author and poet Tim Bowling will celebrate the publication of The Capital City of Autumn, his newest collection released April 16 from Wolsak & Wynn.

Finally, Northern Alberta poet Dallas Hunt focuses on grief, death and longing in his new collection Teeth, released April 13 from Nightwood Editions. The book is about grappling with the realities Indigenous communities face. But he seeks joy in the every day, in the flourishing of people and in the world to come.

Hunt is Cree and a member of Wapsewsipi in Northern Alberta. His first children’s book, Awâsis and the World-famous Bannock, was published in 2018 and was nominated for several awards. Creeland, his first poetry collection that was published in 2022, was also nominated for numerous awards.

He currently lives in Vancouver and teaches at the University of British Columbia.

Northern Alberta poet Dallas Hunt
Northern Alberta poet Dallas Hunt focuses on grief, death and longing in his new collection Teeth, released April 13 from Nightwood Editions.

A new poet laureate for St. Albert

St. Albert has a new poet laureate, announced earlier this week.

Advertisement 6

Article content

Arienette Zak will be the newest ambassador for poetry in the city, a role she will hold for the next two years. She will represent the city during readings at city functions and public events.

Zak grew up in St. Albert and was active in the local poetry scene in her youth and joined the STARK Poets, a poetry group for youth in St. Albert, where she mentors young writers. She has also performed in the Edmonton International Fringe Festival and Skirtsafire. In 2020, Zak released a spoken album, To Love and to be Loved, alongside former poet laureate Julia Sorensen.

For more information about the St. Alberta poet laureate program, visit their website (https://www.sapl.ca/poetlaureate).

Celebrating local bookstores

Book lovers will be able to show their love to local businesses with Canadian Independent Bookstore Day next week.

It’s an annual day for the community to celebrate independent bookstores and find their favourite read at a locally-owned business. This year’s event happens April 27.

Local stores such as Audreys Books, Daisy Chain Books and The Book Boudoir will be celebrating the day with special guests, children’s story time and a stamp collection event, where collecting all 11 stamps could lead to a hamper full of book goodies for one lucky winner.

Purchases from local bookstores are eligible to be entered to win a national grand prize of a $1,000 gift card to an independent bookstore. Purchases that include Canadian authors receive two entries, with entries available through the Canadian Independent Bookstore Day website.

Recommended from Editorial

Article content