If there is such thing as a CanLit cult classic, Birrell’s Mad Hope is it, a book with a fervent following, and a reference point for readers in the know: “Mad Hope.” “Oh, yeah.”
The stuff of this book is the stuff of the world, the whole world, from Ceausescu’s Romania to online pregnancy forums. Birrell deftly makes connections to illuminate the ordinary as extraordinary—and the disturbing as present among us all. It’s an absolutely stunning collection.
Canadian writer Heather Birrell is the author of two story collections, Mad Hope (one of the Globe and Mail‘s top 23 fiction picks for 2012) and I know you are but what am I?. The Toronto Review of Books called Mad Hope “completely enthralling, and profoundly grounded in an empathy for the traumas and moments of relief of simply being human“. Her work has been honoured with the Journey Prize for short fiction and the Edna Staebler Award for creative non-fiction and has been shortlisted for both National and Western Magazine Awards. Birrell’s stories have appeared in many North American journals and anthologies, including The New Quarterly, Descant, Hobart, and Toronto Noir. Recently, her essay about motherhood –its joys and discontents — appeared in The M Word, an anthology that broadens the conversation about what mothering means today.
“BriannaSusannaAlana”, Heather’s third story to be included in the annual Journey Prize Anthology, was awarded the prize in February 2007. Heather was fortunate enough to share the stage with writer and activist June Callwood (1924-2007) at the award ceremony.
Her essay “Further Up and Further In: The Last Battle Re-reading C.S. Lewis in the Wake of Mental Illness”, published in Canadian Notes and Queries Winter 2016 was a notable mention in Best American Essays 2017.
Listen to Heather reading from ‘BriannaSusannaAlana’ at www.authorsaloud.com.
And listen to the dulcet-toned Miette read Heather’s story ‘Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning‘ from Mad Hope and ‘Trouble at Pow Crash Creek’ from I know you are but what am I? at www.miettecast.com.
As a book reviewer, Heather has contributed to such publications as the Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, Quill and Quire, Books in Canada and The Believer. She is also a fellow of several writers’ residencies: Spain’s Fundacion Valparaiso, the MacDowell Colony in the US, and Scotland’s Hawthornden Castle.
Heather also works as a high school teacher and a creative writing instructor. She was recently on leave on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, but is now living back in her hometown of Toronto with her husband, Charles Checketts, and their two daughters.