“When I first read Sunnybrook: A True Story with Lies by Persimmon Blackbridge, I couldn’t stop holding my breath, this hard ache in my chest solidified like a fierce, red hot ember throbbing through every page. It’s impossible to ask an author to pick only one favourite Canadian queer book to share—there’s just way too many! But when I was a bookseller at the (sadly) now closed This Ain’t The Rosedale Library in Toronto’s queer village, I was always compelled to recommend Sunnybrook by Blackbridge (member of the Kiss & Tell Collective) as often as possible.
“Diane lies about her credentials to get a job at Sunnybrook, an institution for ‘the mentally handicapped.’ At work, she hides her scars under long sleeves and gets her girlfriend to type her reports because she doesn’t know how. Diane juggles conflicting multiple identities—professional vs. imposter, guilt over her complicity in the ‘treatment programs,’ and camouflaging her personal life and past as a shameful secret.
“Sunnybrook’s striking, art-graced pages complement the terse and sharp prose of the poignant main narrative which is patched together with sidebars that question the ‘truth’ of the story, and are juxtaposed with ironic passages from a Harlequin-esque novel, Honeymoon for Nurse Holly.
“Every raw part of this gritty book chips away at each other like ice floes ramming to fit beside, inform one another, and call each other into question. Blackbridge creates a painfully complex and gorgeously unsteady universe where nothing is sure and you don’t want to look away. This is a book that cuts you open and calls us out on our collective bullshit—with unrelenting, wry humour that slices all the way to the powerful end in a world where nothing is what it seems.”
Debra Anderson is the author of Code White and the winner of the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Dayne Ogilvie Prize & teaches Creative Writing workshops. She’s working on a second novel, Hush.Hush, about the struggles of female adolescence in the suburbs, supported by the OAC Writers’ Works in Progress Grant & OAC Writers’ Reserve Grants, and a poetry collection, Please Do Not Hesitate (to Contact Me)