It’s cruel to ask a writer to pick just one book, ever, for any reason. And so, in this case, I’m going with two—a particular pairing at a particular time. When I was sixteen, I gobbled up Anne Cameron’s backlist until I came to The Journey. I slowed down then, because I never wanted it to end. A romping Western set in the 1800s starring a fourteen-year-old plucky heroine escaping abuse who falls in love with a prostitute running away from a life of despair? Yeehaw!
I’m sure that I read Marilyn Hacker’s Love, Death and the Changing of the Seasons immediately after. Or maybe I didn’t. Maybe it was days or weeks or months, but in my mind, it was minutes after. The collection of sonnets portrayed the rise and fall of a love affair, and showed me what real queer sex could be. Not implied by the side of a campfire, not the manicured and scripted stroking of typical porn, but a push/pull of desire and need—hot and messy and satisfying.
Together, those two books were the right story at the right time—a tale of new love and a hard life, and the permission to fuck instead of pine.
Carrie Mac is the award-winning author of eleven novels for young readers. Her next novel is coming out in 2017 from Knopf. She recently won the CBC Literary Prize for Creative Non-Fiction, and is at work on a collection of short fiction.