I love audiobooks for the fact that they allow me to read at times when I would otherwise be forced to not read (see: exercising, cleaning, doing the dishes, walking) but Canadian audiobooks can be hard to find, let alone queer Canadian audiobooks. All is not lost, though: I have tracked down five of queer Canadian audiobooks for your ear-reading pleasure. Enjoy and let me know if you’ve listened to any of these!
Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald
This powerful, dark, beautifully written book is a must-read queer Canadian classic (warning: there is some very upsetting incest). I read it so long ago that it was before I started this blog and I’ve planned to re-read for years so I can review it; maybe I’ll listen to the audiobook soon. Here’s the synopsis: “They are the Pipers of Cape Breton Island — a family steeped in lies and unspoken truths that reach out from the past, forever mindful of the tragic secret that could shatter the family to its foundations. Chronicling five generations of this eccentric clan, Fall on Your Knees follows four remarkable sisters whose lives are filled with driving ambition, inescapable family bonds, and forbidden love. Their experiences will take them from their stormswept homeland, across the battlefields of World War I, to the freedom and independence of Jazz-era New York City.” Although that synopsis doesn’t point it out, there is some delicious lesbian content in the 1920s New York section of the book.
There are two audiobook versions of Fall On Your Knees to choose from. Nikki James’s version has atmospheric music and from the excerpt I listened to, her narration was clear and bright, but felt a bit too cheery for the atmosphere of the book. The other voice actor is Cassandra Campbell has a slower pace and a more sombre tone which I personally preferred. Like I said, I’ve only heard the samples of each of these so if someone has listened to either on them in full, I would love to hear what you thought!
Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson
Our protagonist is Makeda and she has a unique yet familiarly dysfunctional relationship with her twin sister Abby. The fact that the two girls were born conjoined is the most ordinary part of their lives. You see, their mother is human but their father is a celestial, a demi-god—not the top god, but you know, the kind with a lot of the powers and magic you would expect a god to have but the faults and quirks of a human. Their dad’s family wasn’t exactly thrilled with his choice of partner so they’ve punished him by turning him into a temporary mortal and Makeda’s mom into a giant silver lake creature who lives in Lake Ontario. The circumstances surrounding the girls’ separation are mysterious—Abby was left physically disabled (she uses crutches) and Makeda has been left with a distinct lack of celestial mojo (magic). So she’s a part of this magical world, but has none of her own magic to participate in it. She lives biculturally, not really fitting into the ordinary claypicken Toronto world, but feeling intensely left out of her sister’s world. When her father goes missing Makeda is forced to reconcile with her sister and jump back into the magical world she tried to leave. Here’s my full review.
Y’all, ROBIN MILES does the voice acting for the audiobook version of Sister Mine. If you’re not big into audiobooks you maybe haven’t heard of her, but I am here to tell you that she is one of the very best audiobook readers and that anything she reads is guaranteed to be amazing. (She also does, for example, The Fifth Season, Binti, various Jamaica Kincaid books, Another Brooklyn, and many other awesome books by Black women, many of whom are also queer). Her performances are exuberant and full of life and she is supremely talented at different accents, including the Caribbean one needed for some of Sister Mine.
Tomboy Survival Guide by Ivan Coyote
In case you had the wild notion that it wouldn’t be: Ivan Coyote’s latest and unbelievably 11th book is just as great, and possibly greater, than everything they’ve done up until now. If you’ve never read an Ivan Coyote book before, Tomboy Survival Guide would be a great one to start with, as I think it really shows this celebrated writer and storyteller at the height of their powers. Like in all of their work in various forms, Coyote’s writing in Tomboy Survival Guide is full of their trademark generosity and care. Characters that you might remember from previous collections, like their aunt Cathy who rode horses and was tough as nails when she broke her leg tobogganing with the kids, show up, and you get to meet some new folks, like Barry the sweet straight guy from Coyote’s electrician program who asks for advice on how to help patch things up with his long-time wife who he hasn’t been intimate with in a long time. Full review here.
Well, Ivan Coyote narrates their own book here so that’s pretty much all I need to tell you. It is delightful and possibly even better than reading the print version. Coyote’s a masterful live storyteller; their talent and skills are showcased in the seemingly effortless delivery of these amazing personal stories. If you’ve ever seen Ivan Coyote perform in person you know how great a performer they are. This audiobook is a lovely chance to get to hear their smooth, intimate delivery and gorgeous, friendly voice.
Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab by Shani Mootoo
Mootoo’s most recent novel employs multiple viewpoints to tell us the story of a parent and son, and the distances—literal and figurative—they have travelled on their own journeys and to reunite later in their lives. The person through whose voice we hear most of the story is Jonathan, who grew up in Toronto in the 80s with two moms; when the couple break up, his adoptive parent disappears dramatically from his life and he is left with his birth mom, a selfish aristocratic British-born woman absorbed by her work as a writer and unwilling to assuage his feelings of loss and abandonment. As an adult, Jonathan searches for his beloved parent, only to find the person he knew as Sid now goes by Sydney and is living in his native Trinidad. As the title suggests, the story does not move linearly, but rather goes back and forth in time and place (Toronto to rural Trinidad and back).
The audiobook version of Mootoo’s is narrated alternately by Graham Rowat and Kevin R. Free, who bring the two central characters Jonathan and Sydney to life. I especially liked being able to hear Sydney’s voice, since the Trinidadian accent and vocabulary are unfamiliar to me and it’s lovely to hear it as it should be heard. Mootoo’s writing is beautiful and it’s a treat to hear out loud lines like
Surely it is a failure of our human design that it takes not an hour, not a day, but much, much longer to relay what flashes through the mind with the speed of a hummingbird’s wing.
Landing by Emma Donoghue
This is one of my all-time favourite books so it’s pretty exciting to know that there is not one but two audiobook versions! Landing doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a love story. The lovers are the epitome of opposites attract: Jude is a twenty-five year old archivist born, raised, and still living in a small town in Southwestern Ontario; Síle (an Irish name pronounced ‘Sheila’) is a thirty-nine year old flight attendant from Dublin who considers herself a citizen of the world. The funny thing is, Jude is really an eighty-year-old in disguise, whereas Síle still has the stamina of an eighteen-year-old. Also, Jude is a rural butch, and Síle is a classy urban femme. Despite these differences, Donoghue quite convincingly paints a picture of the slow development of genuine love between these two women, along with some really amazingly well crafted side characters and hilariously witty dialogue. Read my full review here.
So the audiobook version that seems to be more popular is the one read by Laura Hicks. The job of narrating this book is tough: there are characters with Canadian, Irish, and English accents. Hicks’s narration is done in a standard North American accent which sounds just fine, but to me her Irish accent leaves a bit to be desired, to be honest—it doesn’t sound like someone who’s actually Irish for sure. But she does have good comedic timing! The other version is done by Stephanie Cannon; I couldn’t find a full version to check out so I only heard the Canadian and English voices, which seemed pretty good to me. I did find a review that said, similar to the other version, Cannon’s Irish accent leaves something to be desired. Have you listened to either version of this audiobook? I’d love to hear from someone who’s listened to the whole thing. Also check out the audiobook versions of other books by Emma Donoghue such as Frog Music, Kissing the Witch, and Hood!