Publishing and Canadian Identity

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“Books made in Canada, by Canadians, for Canadians,” has long been the rallying cry of Canadian publishers who have been met with challenges and success while battling foreign competition and catering to the broad range of interests and tastes of Canadian readers. Yet, prior to 1950, most Canadian firms necessarily were branch-plant publishers or acted as agents for American or English companies. A cultural nationalist, Jack McClelland transformed Canadian publishing, taking McClelland & Stewart into a new direction with a primary emphasis on publishing Canadian authors.
Navigating the complex waters of bilingualism, translators such as Paul Wilson, David Lobdell, and Wayne Grady, and Montreal publisher Harvest House, have opened the doors for cultural exchange. Canada’s Aboriginal authors, including Basil Johnston, Edward Ahenakew, Maria Campbell, and Grace Brant Monture, brought their voices to new audiences through books and short stories. Canlit pioneers such as teacher Brita Mickleburgh, ensured that a varied, quality selection of Canadian materials were available to high school students, while further promotion of Canadian publishing has been achieved through the Governor General’s Literary Awards, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s popular “Canada Reads” competition.
It would be impossible–even unpatriotic–to ignore the surge of hockey books published in the 1950s, now far-surpassed by Roy MacGregor’s Screech Owl series, with sales of over one million copies since 1995. Proving that we are not all ice and winter, acclaimed gardening expert Marjorie Harris’s The Canadian Gardener (1990) continued what Catharine Parr Traill began with Canadian Wildflowers (1868), while few Canadian children have not savoured the delights of Dennis Lee’s celebrated Canadian-themed poems in Alligator Pie (1974).

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