Anne Cameron, Bright's Crossing

If you want a sense for small-town Vancouver Island in the 1970s or 1980s, the obvious choice is Jack Hodgins, and it's the smart choice.

But make room for Anne Cameron's Bright's Crossing, which is feminist as hell, funnier, and driven by (mostly) more believable characters than are Hodgins' stories.

In brief, this is a collection of eleven stories, each one named after a woman who lives for at least a time in the small Vancouver Island town of Bright's Crossing, which is fictional but seems awfully like either Ladysmith or Nanaimo. Old or young, Cameron's women suffer consistently as a consequence of the attentions and depredations of men, though in some stories it's more a structural issue that's led to a particular crisis or painful circumstance. Generally they speak up for themselves, and act for themselves, and so there's a terrific sense of class and power and gender dynamics beneath the characters and stories we're being given.

Cameron came in for a great deal of flak when cultural appropriation was first being discussed openly and broadly, and for good reason. Things are complicated, though, and cultural productions from before those discussions need to be viewed through a more complicated lens than a twitter-honed sense of culture tends to promote. Personally, I'm comfortable that so many readers experience discomfort with Cameron's Indigenous-related art, because it's deeply problematic. However, I'm also comfortable that in 2010 she received a lifetime achievement award from the BC Book Awards.

And you should totally read or re-read Bright's Crossing. It's so worth your time, and I don't say that only because it can be a fast read: these are terrific characters, and I recognize so clearly the larger place within which the town of Bright's Crossing exists.


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