Letter from Guest Editor Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer
The O Canada Issue ~ Winter 2020 Issue
This issue of Hairstreak Butterfly Review comes from the heart of Canada to the heart of the USA.
I was asked to guest edit in the fall of 2019, long before the threat of pandemic hit the global community. We certainly did not know that our beautiful friendly border would close to all except essential travel or that our hospitals and care facilities, restaurants and shops would be closed. And we did not quite realize how we might help one another and also the extent to which our countries share already—economy, travel routes, food, resources. Or perhaps we knew in some abstracted, grade nine geography and social sciences way, but we didn’t yet know in an embodied way.
It is also likely true that Canadians generally knew their neighbor more than their neighbor knew them. This might be cultural. The US has risen as a super-power in ways that Canadians, culturally, resist. We tend to find shows of might a little embarrassing and, possibly, we are shocked by them. When I tell Americans that I live in Canada and hold a Canadian passport, they will often say that they have visited Niagara Falls or that they spent time on vacation in Toronto or Montreal or Vancouver. If I am asked, I say that I live near Belleville or Kingston. To this, I am usually (understandably) met with blank stares. So I will add that I live in Ontario. To say one lives in Ontario is pretty absurd. Ontario is over a million square kilometers and touches four of the Great Lakes. It runs from the US border to the wilds of the north—Hudson’s Bay and beyond. Ontario is massive. But if I say I live in Ontario, Americans often seem unsure of where it is. And so I have taken to saying that I live in the middle of Nowhere. I am thinking now that we all live in the middle of Nowhere.
A virus is unbounded, cares not (or not much) about location. It travels freely on unwitting, susceptible bodies. It comes with us. It doesn’t care where. And so we have (collectively and individually) had to think differently about geography. About how we move through space and what impact we might have on those spaces we move through. We have also had to consider how panic spreads, how it has us reacting to borders and limits. This is an awful opportunity (but an opportunity nonetheless) to rethink how we care for one another, how we manage our local economies and food, and how we are only able to be brave in connection with each other. In the face of scarcity, we can be fearful and clench down on what we have – but that is a choice. We can also share. We can share our belongings, our money, our compassionate impulses. We can share our food, our art, our stories. These pieces were written without the current state of affairs in mind but it was always my hope and intention that they might whisper into your ears in generosity. So, let them be small gifts from Canada to the Unites States of America in these odd times and let them tell of the weird and the wild and the loving in the hopes you might want to get to know us.
Kathryn Walsh Kuitenbrouwer is the bestselling author of the novels All The Broken Things, Perfecting, and The Nettle Spinner, as well as, the short story collection Way Up. Her work has won the Sidney Prize, a Danuta Gleed Award and been nominated for CBC Canada Reads, the Amazon.ca First Novel Award, The Toronto Book Award, and the ReLit Prize. Kuitenbrouwer’s recent work has been published in Granta, The Walrus, 7X7 LA, Joyland, Maclean’s, and Storyville. She holds a Ph.D from The University of Toronto and is visiting faculty at Colorado College.