Fear the Mirror by Cora Siré  – Véhicule Press, 2021, 240 pages

 

I will say it outright: Fear the Mirror, Cora Siré’s newly minted collection of linked short stories, is the most emotionally satisfying book that I have read in a long time. The author takes readers through the aftermath of wars in Europe, evoking places where history seems to be repeating itself and commiserating with people whose lives have been upended by the winds of change.

Cora Siré describes the travails of people, some of them her relatives, forced to flee to the Americas at short notice, but who somehow manage to make a rooted life for themselves in a new environment. She paints a nostalgic picture of a Montréal that was both innocent and deserving of its moniker of “sin city.” She takes us to the imposing Andean Cordilleras and gives us a hint as to why the word gaucho is a symbol of audacity and nobility. The author does all this with a deft pen, while dripping tidbits of local lore, history and humour. Along the way, she allows us a candid peek into her life and heart.

Readers will become acquainted with a grave-digger whose clients are buried under the cover of night; a gringa whose trysts with a Latin lover are really trysts with exotica; a mother who flirts with a young  Russian sailor who had caught the eye of her Canadian teenage daughter; a German poet who highjacks a homage to another German poet’s work in order to showcase his own; the inhabitants of a bucolic Vermont village who are as much prisoners as the prisoners they guard in the nearby penitentiary; a female author who winds up tricking the two writers who are trying to trick her into bed. Long-lost relatives, old friends and new lovers are the protagonists of this complex narrative which is held together by an omniscient voice who turns out to belong to Corita, aka Cora.

Critics fond of using labels are at a loss as to which genre this collection belongs. They can call it a memoir distorted by time, an autobiography under the cloak of fiction, or just creative writing. I will simply call it life sublimated into art.

 

More about the author:

Cora Siré is an author, poet and essayist whose work has been published in Canada, Mexico and the United States. Her novel Behold Things Beautiful was a finalist for the Quebec Writers Federation (QWF) Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Fiction Prize for 2017.

 

 

 

Wrestling with Colonialism on Steroids: Quebec Inuit Fight for Their Homeland by Zebedee Nungak, Véhicule Press, 2017, 132 pages

 

Zebedee Nungak is a writer, broadcaster and one of the chief negotiators in the James Bay Agreement (1971-1975). In this compilation of essays, Nungak delivers an often humorous, in-your-face account of the history of Nunavik, the hardball James Bay Agreement negotiations and the future prospects of Inuit identity in Québec.

The colonization of Inuit territory started with the British Crown through its surrogate, the Hudson Bay Company, which held a trading monopoly between 1670-1870 over the whole of the Hudson Bay drainage area also known as Rupert’s Land. In 1868, an Act of the British Parliament ratified the sale of this territory to Canada, without settling the issue of Aboriginal ownership of the land. The Ungava District, later known as Nunavik, was assigned to Québec in 1912. The author wryly notes that it was only fifty-two years later, in1964, when Québec government officials first arrived there, that Inuit identity and its modus vivendi felt really threatened.

This fascinating account of the intersections between the descendants of relatively recent French colonizers and longstanding Aboriginal populations will make you reconsider any preconceived notions you might have about the righteousness of Québec nationalism.