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Choice of three

Crocker, Hickey, Major: Coast Lines book club to vote on second pick

By Heidi Wicks

Newfoundland and Labrador’s literary landscape is teeming with talented, captivating authors – many of whom also happen to be alumni and friends of Memorial.

Coast Lines book club encourages members to connect through a common love of reading and literature that sparks discussion about the ever-changing, ever-evolving landscape of this province.

Coast Lines’ first pick, The Innocents by alumnus Michael Crummey, is already igniting heated conversations online among book club members. That selection will culminate with an event that features Mr. Crummey (BA’87) in conversation with CBC’s Angela Antle (BA(Hons.)’91) on Dec. 15.

The second selection is as yet undecided, with three more Memorial alumni authors in the running. The next Coast Lines choice will be one of the below, decided by vote by book club members only. Interested in joining Coast Lines? Sign up here!

Eva Crocker (BA’13, MA’15)

 All I Ask has been described as a defining novel of a generation.

Eva Crocker
Photo: Steve Crocker

Protagonist Stacey awakes just before 7 a.m. one morning to find the police pounding at her door, seizing her computer and phone, telling her they’re looking for “illegal digital material.”

Left reeling from what has just occurred, and with a little help from her friends, she must find a way to seize back the privacy and freedom she feels she has lost.

Author Eva Crocker credits professors such as Dr. Larry Mathews, Dr. Robert Finley and Jessica Grant during her time as a student at Memorial for fuelling her fire, as well as Dr. Sonja Boon.

“Sonja’s gender studies course on the body was hugely influential for me, and many of the short stories in my first book, Barreling Forward, are inspired by ideas I encountered in that class,” she said.

Ms. Crocker says the book is about St. John’s at a particular moment.

“I wanted to explore how the crashing economy and the pervasive sense of doom around the failure of the Muskrat Falls hydro-electric dam has impacted people’s interpersonal lives and relationship to institutions,” she said.

“There were waves of protests erupting across the province, a huge momentum behind the Indigenous-led resistance to the project. It was a very dark time, but also a time when it felt like change was possible.”

All I Ask has received rave reviews from the Toronto Star and was longlisted for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Gemma Hickey (BA’03)

Almost Feral celebrates the community of support that gathered around Mx. Hickey, as they began their 908-kilometre walk across the island of Newfoundland to raise awareness and funds for survivors of religious institutional abuse.

Gemma Hickey
Photo: David Howells

“Feminist literature saved my life,” said the author, as they recalled the community of support surrounding them during their time as a student at Memorial.

“I have Dr. Vicki Hallet to thank for that. She challenged me to think about things in a new way, especially when it came to understanding myself in relation to this island. Writing this book, I wanted my writing to be accessible, and Dr. Hallett’s auto-ethnography courses showed me how to be both accessible and academic. Almost Feral was born that way, and I’m so very proud of it.”

Mx. Hickey asserts that Almost Feral isn’t a story about someone who is transgender, or a survivor of sexual abuse.

“It’s really about how identities intersect and influence who we are,” they said. “How on a deeply human level, as much as we’re different, we’re all the same because of how we embody our emotions. We needn’t be shackled to an identity, history, religion or tragedy.”

Almost Feral is the recipient of the best Atlantic-Published Book Award Winner, the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award, a Canada Book Award, the IPPY Awards Silver Medal and was featured on the CBC Books Writers to Watch list.

Dr. Kevin Major (B.Sc.’73, Hon.D.Litt.’11)

Dr. Kevin Major
Photo: Submitted

One for the Rock is a fast-paced murder mystery set in St. John’s, with a wide range of somewhat offbeat characters, explains Dr. Major, who is well-known for his adolescent anti-heroes.

His celebrated 1979 novel, Hold Fast, follows two brothers who are uprooted from their tight-knit Newfoundland community after their parents are killed in a car accident. The novel is considered a Canadian classic.

A former educator himself, Dr. Major completed an education course on young adult literature while he was a student at Memorial, which was a definite influence on the direction of his early years as a writer (for both Hold Fast and Blood Red Ochre).

He says his focus has changed over time, and that he now writes for an adult audience.

“But if there’s a remnant of those early years in One for the Rock, it’s the fact that the main character, Sebastian, has a spirited teenage son who plays a limited but significant part in helping his father track down the murderer.”

Dr. Major classifies One for the Rock as crime fiction with a sense of humour.

“I’d love for readers to get caught up in trying to figure out who did the deed, but I’d like for them to find a few things to smile at along the way.”

Anyone in the Memorial community, including alumni, donors, friends, employees or students who are interested in joining Coast Lines book club may do so any time.

Voting period for the next selection takes place between Nov. 10-24. The author event with Michael Crummey will be livestreamed from the Signal Hill Campus on Dec. 15. Ticket information will be available in the coming days.

Follow the alumni office on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates.

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