Bridget Canning describes her latest novel as a coming-of-age story for her protagonist, shifting between a small outport community named St. Felix's and St. John's in the late 1980s and early 1990s — an era Canning calls a time before political correctness.
"For me, the purpose of most art is to consider human connection and build empathy, and when I'm writing it's very important for me for people to see the character making big mistakes," said Canning, adding that her main character in Some People's Children, Imogene Tubbs, makes a lot of big mistakes and doesn't always have the best judgment.
"[She's] 11 years old and she gets an inkling that this sanitized version of what she'd been told about who her father is, it's not what most people believe. And there are a lot of rumours connecting her mother to the local drug dealer, and people thinking Imogene's actually his child. So it's her trying to figure out who she is and who she is not throughout her formative years."
Some People's Children is one of the contenders in the latest N.L. Reads competition, running from November to February with four books by local authors up for voting.
Canning's book is facing off against All I Ask by Eva Crocker (House of Anansi Press), We, Jane by Aimee Wall (Book*hug Press) and The Stolen Ones by Ida Linehan Young (Flanker Press).
Each book has an advocate, and Sarah Bartlett will defend Canning's book Some People's Children.
Canning chose the time period because those were also her formative years, and led to her thinking about how "we talk about rape culture … and the blasé way people would talk about a young girl getting pregnant by an older man. When we think about that now it's horrifying, and it was just as horrifying then, but there was a lot of glazing over of that."
In Some People's Children, Canning explores that from a child's perspective, and delves into how it would feel.
This novel is Canning's second published novel, following The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes (set to be given the film treatment).
"This book, Some People's Children, I've been writing on and off for years," she said. "So this is technically my first novel but it was the second one published."
It was published by Breakwater Books in May 2020, which meant she couldn't have a book launch because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but she said her publisher came through and got her into a warehouse so she could have socially distanced signings for people who did pre-orders.
Breakwater was also "pretty much driving around town and delivering books to people, which was really lovely," said Canning.
As a young child, Canning was surrounded by books and stories, with a librarian mother and storytelling father.
"I remember being in Grade 2 and thinking, 'Oh, I want to write a book someday. I want to be a writer.'"
Ultimately, she said she ended up picking up and putting down that dream over the years. At university she studied English and went on to earn a master of literacy education from Mount Saint Vincent University and a master of arts in creative writing from Memorial University.
Canning went into teaching but she said she was always writing on the side. Then, about 13 years ago she started to show her work to others when she got the point she wasn't afraid of people seeing her work, which has led to a career as an author.
How to participate in N.L. Reads
Throughout the event, libraries will have unlimited copies of e-books for each of the four featured titles so as many people as possible can read along. Each e-book will be available during the month it's featured, as follows:
November — Some People's Children, Bridget Canning.
December — All I Ask, Eva Crocker.
January — We, Jane, Aimee Wall.
February — The Stolen Ones, Ida Linehan Young.
You may also cast your ballot in person by visiting your local branch. A library card is not required to vote.
For more information on N.L. Reads, visit here.