In 2009, the French publisher Michel Lafon announced that they would be publishing a new edition of the Quebec best seller series Le journal d’Aurélie Laflamme. That news made my day, a book that I loved would be read by more people and they would get to learn about our education system, the slang we use and what it’s like being a kid in Quebec! Then I learned the book wasn’t only getting a cover redesign. It was being rewritten for a French audience.
That announcement broke my heart.
You see, back then most books I read were either translated from English or from France. We didn’t get special editions or footnotes explaining what kiffer means or telling us what CM1 was. If Quebec was mentioned at best there would be long explanations about our swearing (with ungrammatical examples) and at worse it would make fun of our accent or the words we used.
And then the one book that could bring my perspective abroad was ripped of everything that made me identify with it.
Since then my reading habits changed dramatically. Most of the books I now read are in English and most of them are from American authors. I will have to write about why that change happened eventually, but for now I need to tell you why those reading habits won’t change.
Quebec publishes less than 3000 novels each year. That’s less than the number of books currently in the new releases section of Penguin Random House.
With what we know of diversity in American publishing you can imagine that the selection of books with queer, POC, and disabled characters is laughable. I don’t want to find harmful messages every time I open a book so I rely on the (wonderful) anglophone reading community for most of my book recommendations.
This is the heart of my struggle: I want the world to read books from Quebec, but I’m also unhappy with what we put out.
I don’t have solutions, or a plan on how to move forward. This is a topic I think a lot about so I hope to bring you more of my thoughts about it in the next few months.
I’ll just leave you with a recommendation for a book that was recently translated into English:
This guy came to my high school every year, which is a bit odd since this enters the NSFL area.
What happens when a man gets his hands on his daughter’s killer?
Is this the best thriller I’ve ever read? No, but it’s good enough that I’m tempted to pick up the translation.
Bon, je vous laisse…
Let me know what you think of this topic, especially if you also come from somewhere with a small book industry.