I’m trying to read Douglas Coupland’s Generation A. He’s among my favourite artists, but I’m realising I enjoy his nonfiction much more than his fiction. This one is about five people from different countries who are stung by bees in a near-future world where bees are extinct. I’m more than halfway now, so I’ll probably finish it. Mostly because something has to happen soon.
The interesting thing, though, is the five people are brought to Haida Gwaii, an archipelago off the BC coast. Coupland grew up in North Vancouver, so I’m not surprised this is the remote island he would choose when his characters need to escape.
Even more interesting is I’ve recently been researching Haida Gwaii so I can write a novel set there, too. It’s a place I’ve long wanted to visit because it’s such a difficult place to visit. It’s the ancestral land of the Haida Nation. When I was still in school, the government returned and renamed the islands—from the Queen Charlottes to Haida Gwaii.
That was the first time I remember learning the truth about Canada and the Indigenous people. A few years later, the federal government created a whole new territory in the north: Nunavut. Suddenly, we had a new map to memorize. I look forward to when we can erase all the royal names from our map.
Canada has a long way to go, and it may seem small, but it’s kinda cool to see the name “Haida Gwaii” in a novel. I had been worried that Americans and others, even Canadians from the east coast, would have trouble pronouncing it (“hi-duh gwi”).
But if Coupland can do it, so can we all. Introduce the rest of the world to a little known piece of your home. Show off your best parts.