Nothing reveals more about a place than its literature. Whether filled with fact or fiction, the words written about places like Prince Edward Island tell you more about the land, its people, its culture, and its values than any other means of research.
What would you recommend for visitors to Prince Edward Island? If you had a new friend coming to visit the Island for the first time, and they wanted to read all about the Island before arriving, what would you suggest?
Certainly, the first suggestion would be about a certain red-haired girl that we all know about. But what then? Here are five books that we suggest would be a great place to start. Agree or disagree, write a comment and let us know. What would you add to the list?
David Weale is one of the most prolific writers on PEI culture and history, and is also the editor of the very popular Red magazine. His series of books capture the little things about Island life that make the people of Prince Edward Island a special breed, and sets them apart from everywhere else. This book – It’s an Island Thing: Quips and Witticisms – invites the reader into a self-description of Prince Edward Island through its people. Clever language, turns of phrase, double meanings, and witty humour are all prized aspects of Island conversation and storytelling. This book captures some of the best lines heard around the Island, demonstrating how Islanders relate to each other.
Understanding a place requires an understanding of its history, and how it arrived at where it is today. From the Mi’kmaq pre-history through modern times, the separation of Prince Edward Island from the rest of the continent has shaped the Island’s geography and people. A former teacher at the University of Prince Edward Island, Douglas Baldwin has captured the historic events that have shaped Prince Edward Island. Through early Mi’kmaq settlement, European colonization, land ownership, Confederation Conference and debates, and through the opening of the Confederation Bridge, this book shows how the past of Prince Edward Island has shaped its present.
Moving from the past to the present, it would be hard to find anyplace else in Canada that has as close a relationship with our national broadcaster than Prince Edward Island. The faces on CBC’s nightly news program are Island celebrities. As the main anchor, Bruce Rainnie has become a modern Island institution himself. His nightly partnership with Kevin “Boomer” Gallant provides a cultural cornerstone for the Island that is rarely ever served by television. Whether visiting friends or at community gatherings, don’t be surprised if you hear the question “did you see Bruce and Boomer last night?” This collection of stories, although somewhat personal in nature, are the stories that Islanders share every day, gathered around television sets, and serve as the basis for tomorrow’s conversations.
Patrick Ledwell has emerged in recent years as one of the top comic performers in Prince Edward Island. Whether through his on-stage performances every summer in venues around the Island, or with his now-regular appearances on CBC radio, he introduces Island culture to the world through his dry and witty humour. I Am An Islander, partially taken from his stand-up performances, lays out the pride, the insecurities, and the world-view of Prince Edward Islanders, all while delivering up laughs to the reader.
As a relatively small Island surrounded by the sea, it is not surprising that so much of the history and identity of PEI is taken up by water. Up until the last few years when a fixed bridge to the mainland was finally built, shipping was the lifeline for the Island. So, it’s not surprising that much of the Island’s lore is centered around its shipping and seafaring tales. Julie V Watson, one of the Island’s prolific authors, has collected a number of these tales into her book on Shipwrecks and Seafaring Tales of Prince Edward Island.