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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

BIRDIE is the book Canadian women have been waiting for

What, you haven't read BIRDIE yet? 

Wait — you haven't even heard about it? Let's get you up to speed. Here's the publisher's blurb about Tracey Lindberg's debut novel:



And here's the link to it in iBooks. (Go get it now.)

If you think you’re in for a laugh-a-minute quirky Canadiana ode to The Beachcombers, you’re in for a treat. Because it’s not that. It’s more. It's more meaningful, truer, deeper, richer.

Let's move beyond the blurby concepts of "wounds of the past" and "tragedy" and really get real about "the universality of women’s experience, regardless of culture or race." When we think of the life events of The Other as dark, tragic horror stories, we make them foreign from ourselves when they are actually part of our lives and the lives of the women close to us.

These are the parts of our lives that are not what we catalogue on our résumé, we don't parse them on our Twitter bio, they’re not first date conversation fodder or what we include in emails to Mom.

But the things that happen to Birdie and the experiences they'll evoke from your own life — things like depression, rape, beatings, couch surfing between apartments, drinking too much on the reg, racism, blacking out, sleeping with strangers, guilt, sexism, planning escapes, barricading yourself in your room for safety's sake, running for your life, cutting, being fat and shamed, hitchhiking, clinging to teenage fantasies, having no money, having no power, being stalked, doing sexual favours to cover your bar bill, dreaming of revenge — these are amalgams of Canadian women’s life experience. Not pretty. Not the subject of the male gaze. But certainly not foreign, not imaginary, not a Hollywood horror story with a chainsaw-welding maniac. It's as if you strung together the most shameful parts of your life and the lives of a small handful of the women closest to you, then added fire.

This is real life right now for all kinds of women in Canada. We are all Birdie when we identify with her. And to realize that this is regular life is to wipe away some of the shame.

As Lindberg writes,
“ (Birdie's) palate for pain, though, is well developed. She recognizes the flavour in her mouth as bitter and dull. It tastes like defeat... 

“She didn’t know that you couldn’t really bury your pain and fear. And. While they were not the largest part of her, they rose to the surface like soured cream in coffee.” 

Like all of us, “(Birdie) is a patchwork quilt made up of who she would have been. If her life had turned out differently.”

Appearing on CBC Radio's 'q' yesterday, Lindberg said:

"I started writing it as a love letter to women, and saying that you can love yourself regardless of the violence that enters your life. You can have beauty regardless of no choices, the choices you made, one bad choice, excellent choices. This could happen. But you can find the place where you can be happiest and healthiest."

You can listen to the whole 'q' interview here.

Lindberg's writing also provides us with a whole new vocabulary of evocative compound words that you'll find uses for every day. Regard:
  • skinnyhappiness
  • motherlove
  • fearanger
  • thinkfeeling
  • smilesnarl
  • boymen
  • madeconfidence
  • skinself
  • womenfamily
  • troublegirls
  • griefanger
  • bravadohim
  • hardsoftly
  • needwanted
  • birdself
  • bigself
  • ragemember
  • madefamily
  • and, pointedly for Roman Catholics like me, on the day the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its summary report, a bile-tasting morsel of truth: nunbitches 
If you're white and you've been gorging on news of the Truth and Reconciliation report and you feel like you're approaching peak 'guiltheartbreak,' this book might offer another entrance point for understanding. You may find yourself identifying with the white character, Lola, who “has never seen so many Indians up close before and she is mostly surprised that they are pretty much like her.”

Lindberg appeared on Canada AM yesterday and had this to say about residential schools as they pertain to BIRDIE:

"I heard someone quote it as Residential schools were like a bomb going off in the community,’ and I think that for Bernice (Birdie), the bomb hit fairly close and she was one of the first impacted.

"Her grandmother and great grandmother took the hit hard. Her mother dealt with the hit differently than she did. And Bernice was one of the people that first responders would have tended to in that metaphor. So she’s been hit with a lot of the worst of what colonization has to offer and she rises to it.

"… When you are writing about the bomb, you have to measure the impact that the bomb has had on you. If colonization brings with it an absurd amount of violence, sexual violence, or economic deprivation or the usurpation of women’s roles or pain into men’s lives, you’re never a spectator. There’s always an impact on you as well."


Lindberg says that Birdie is "is an amalgam of every woman I love, have been challenged by and am."

It's a novel that will soften you, soothe you and feed you.

Enjoy.