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The late Barbadian author Austin Clarke in his home office in Toronto where he did most of his writing, rounds out our list of reissued treasures with his first published collection of short stories depicting the Caribbean diaspora’s experience in Canada. Photo: Peter Power/The Toronto Star/Getty Images

> The Listicles

Hidden Gems

From Susan Taubes' Divorcing to Terry Southern's Blue Movie, we round up our favourite reissued books that didn't get their due / BY Nathalie Atkinson / January 13th, 2021


These reissues of worthy out-of-print works and curiosities didn’t get their due when they were first published or have fallen into obscurity. Here are our picks for hidden gems to surprise and delight.

Obsessive Book Buyers: Zoomer editors have carefully curated our book coverage to ensure you find the perfect read. We may earn a commission on books you buy by clicking on the cover image. 

1DivorcingSusan Taubes

A soon-to-be-dead woman narrates the story of her life and failing marriage in this fragmented, dream-like modernist novel of ambition, second wave feminism and domestic life. It was originally published in 1969 by Taubes, a Hungarian Jewish immigrant and Columbia University religion professor who committed suicide soon after. Highly recommended for fans of Renata Adler and Margaret Atwood’s Cats Eye.


2When He Was Free and Young He Used to Wear SilksAustin Clarke

New to the publisher’s A List reissues, this one comes from the acclaimed literary critic and Giller Prize-winning writer of The Polished Hoe and Canada’s pre-eminent Black writer, who was born in Barbados but left in 1955 to study at the University of Toronto. The 11 searing short stories in Clarke’s first published collection from 1971 chronicle facets of the Caribbean diaspora’s experience in Canada with characters who face racism and economic hardship in their new home.


3The Morgan TrustRichard Bridgeman and Seth

Chosen and designed by the one-name-only Canadian graphic novelist Seth (the first cartoonist nominated for the Giller Prize), this is the latest revival in an ongoing series of out-of-print Christmas ghost stories. While previous publications in the series included spooky tales by Edith Wharton, Elizabeth Gaskell and Daphne Du Maurier, this 1961 story by a British writer centres on an amateur psychic investigator in Wales.


4Prologue to LoveMartha Ostenso

Another evocative discovery in Invisible Publishing’s Throwback reprint series, this 1931 sprawling historical romance and intergenerational love/loss/redemption story is set on a B.C. ranch in the early 20th century. Ostenso, who was born in Norway but grew up in Manitoba and Minnesota, founded of a style of writing called Prairie realism.


5Tomorrow Will Be BetterBetty Smith

Smith’s novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn remains a beloved classic, but her story about a timid young woman’s love, loss and emergence from poverty in 1920s Brooklyn (first published in 1948 and long out of print) should be as well known.


6Hunter with HarpoonMarkoosie Patsauq, transl. by Valerie Henitiuk and Marc-Antoine Mahieu

This was considered the first Inuit novel ever published when it appeared in Inuktitut 50 years ago, but before his death at age 78 earlier this year, Patsauq worked with scholars on a more accurate English translation and new contextualization of this cultural milestone, an Arctic coming-of-age story based on an Inuit legend.


7SwallowedRéjean Ducharme, trans. by Madeleine Stratford

L’avalée des avalés was sent unsolicited to esteemed French publisher Gallimard and became a sensation upon its 1966 publication. Its author, the reclusive Montreal novelist and playwright Ducharme, was a three-time winner of a Governor General’s Literary Award, wrote the screenplay for classic Canadian film Les bons debarras, and the novel (about a nine-year-old who runs away from her dysfunctional family), was studied in Quebec schools. It shaped the zeitgeist for several generations of French-Canadians, yet aside from a 1968 translation briefly available in the UK, has never been before been published in Canada in English.

(If you know the movie Léolo, the protagonist always has this book with him.)


8Blue MovieTerry Southern

This vivid and profane Hollywood satire was originally published in 1970 by the
Academy Award-nominated screenwriter of Easy Rider, Dr. Strangelove and The
Cincinnati Kid. It’s about a revered director (who happens to share initials and traits with
Stanley Kubrick, hint hint) who’s determined to shoot the most expensive and high-class
X-rated movie ever made. Hilarious and scathing on the vulgar sexism, and racism of
auteurs, actors, and the ego-driven apparatus of filmmaking as only a true insider could
deliver, the novel has new resonance given the industry’s current #MeToo reckoning.


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