26@26: Jael Richardson & Katherena Vermette

@ - MT
Series Pass $89
Single Ticket $15
@ - MT
Single Ticket: Oct 5 Katherena Vermette & Jael Richardson
$14.29 + GST
26@26 Series Pass
$84.76 + GST

When they talk about the powerhouses of Canadian publishing – and trust us, people all over the world are talking about Canadian writers in 2021 – the names Jael Richardson and Katherena Vermette are being sung out loud and proud. Bracingly original, Gutter Child and The Strangers cut like knives through our preconceptions about race, belonging, and hope.

The one-hour livestream event on Wordfest.com starts at 7:00 PM MT. (The pre-show begins at 6:50 PM.) The day after the show, we'll email you our unique Digital Doggie Bag, featuring links and extras sparked by the conversation. 

Can't watch live? Want to rewatch? Purchasing the 26@26 series pass or a single ticket gives you exclusive access to this show on demand until midnight on April 30, 2022. 

We’re grateful to HarperCollins Canada and Penguin Random House Canada for making it possible for us to connect you with these authors.

About Jael Richardson

Jael Richardson is the Executive Director of the FOLD literary festival, the books columnist on CBC Radio’s q, and an outspoken advocate on issues of diversity. She is the author of The Stone Thrower: A Daughter’s Lesson, a Father’s Life, a memoir based on her relationship with her father, CFL quarterback Chuck Ealey. The memoir received a CBC Bookie Award, an Arts Acclaim Award, and a My People Award. A children’s edition was published by Groundwood Books. Her essay “Conception” is part of Room’s first Women of Colour edition, and excerpts from her first play, my upside down black face, appear in the anthology T-Dot Griots: An Anthology of Toronto’s Black Storytellers. Richardson received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Guelph. She lives in Brampton.

Visit her at jaelrichardson.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @JaelRichardson.

About Gutter Child

Gutter Child is a story told by a writer brilliant in her craft and keenly attuned to her readers. This is a book you can’t just read; you feel it, you hear it, you carry it with you. You can’t meet Elimina Dubois without loving her and once you do, you’ll follow her to the very last line.” Cherie Dimaline, author of Empire of Wild and The Marrow Thieves

A fierce and illuminating debut about a young woman who must find the courage to determine her own future and secure her freedom.

Set in an imagined world in which the most vulnerable are forced to buy their freedom by working off their debt to society, Gutter Child uncovers a nation divided into the privileged Mainland and the policed Gutter. In this world, Elimina Dubois is one of only 100 babies taken from the Gutter and raised in the land of opportunity as part of a social experiment led by the Mainland government. 

But when her Mainland mother dies, Elimina finds herself all alone, a teenager forced into an unfamiliar life of servitude, unsure of who she is and where she belongs. Elimina is sent to an academy with new rules and expectations where she befriends Gutter children who are making their own way through the Gutter System in whatever ways they know how. When Elimina’s life takes another unexpected turn, she will discover that what she needs more than anything may not be the freedom she longs for after all.

Richardson’s Gutter Child reveals one young woman’s journey through a fractured world of heartbreaking disadvantages and shocking injustices. Elimina is a modern heroine in an altered but all too recognizable reality who must find the strength within herself to forge her future and defy a system that tries to shape her destiny.

About Katherena Vermette

Katherena Vermette (she/her) is a Red River Métis (Michif) writer from Treaty 1 territory, the heart of the Métis nation Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Her first book, North End Love Songs, won the 2013 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry. Her first novel, The Break was a national bestseller and won several 2017 awards, including the Amazon First Novel Award, Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction, Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Prize, and McNally Robinson Book of the Year. She lives with her family in a cranky old house within skipping distance of the temperamental Red River. The Strangers is her second novel.

About The Strangers

The Strangers is a deeply moving story of how colonial institutions continue to bear down on and disrupt the lives of Indigenous women and girls. It is a powerful collective portrait of struggle and resistance, of what it’s like to be in an Indigenous body in twenty-first century Canada. Billy-Ray Belcourt, bestselling author of A History of My Brief Body

From the bestselling author of The Break comes a staggering intergenerational saga that explores how connected we are, even when we’re no longer together – even when we’re forced apart.

Cedar has nearly forgotten what her family looks like. Phoenix has nearly forgotten what freedom feels like. And Elsie has nearly given up hope. Nearly.

After time spent in foster homes, Cedar goes to live with her estranged father. Although she grapples with the pain of being separated from her mother, Elsie, and sister, Phoenix, she’s hoping for a new chapter in her life, only to find herself once again in a strange house surrounded by strangers. From a youth detention centre, Phoenix gives birth to a baby she’ll never get to raise and tries to forgive herself for all the harm she’s caused (while wondering if she even should). Elsie, struggling with addiction and determined to turn her life around, is buoyed by the idea of being reunited with her daughters and strives to be someone they can depend on, unlike her own distant mother. These are the Strangers, each haunted in her own way. Between flickering moments of warmth and support, the women diverge and reconnect, fighting to survive in a fractured system that pretends to offer success but expects them to fail. Facing the distinct blade of racism from those they trusted most, they urge one another to move through the darkness, all the while wondering if they’ll ever emerge safely on the other side. 

A breathtaking companion to her bestselling debut The Break, Vermette’s The Strangers brings readers into the dynamic world of the Stranger family, the strength of their bond, the shared pain in their past, and the light that beckons from the horizon. This is a searing exploration of race, class, inherited trauma, and matrilineal bonds that – despite everything refuse to be broken.

About Host Melanee Murray-Hunt

Melanee Murray-Hunt is an actor, writer, playwright, filmmaker, and director. Her work in front of the camera includes the Universal feature film KPAX, 24, Nickelodeon's 100 Deeds of Eddie McDowdEverybody Loves Raymond, Young Drunk Punk, Heartland, Tribal, and the upcoming Joe Pickett. Stage work includes her award-winning, critically acclaimed solo show, The 'Hoodwink, as well as The Venus of Basin StreetConversations with HairOur Canada, Our Story and Making Treaty Seven. Director/filmmaking credits include the films Race Anonymous and The Trial of Miss Mudimbe. Murray-Hunt is currently in postproduction on The Invincible Jayson Martin, which received funding from Calgary Arts Development, was selected for the Women In The Director's Chair Career Accelerator Program in St. John's and was shortlisted by WIDC for Telefilm's Talent to Watch program. A graduate of Bennington College, she lives in Calgary.


  • First Look: Read an excerpt and see the cover of Katherena Vermette's upcoming novel The Strangers CBC Books
  • Jael Richardson discusses her new novel Gutter Child: What happens when you grow up in a world that's designed for. your failure? Toronto Star
  • Jael Richardson's debut novel Gutter Child is a dystopian look at Black identity and belonging The Next Chapter

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