At nine years old, I became a big sister, surprised that she was born so small, not a playmate at all, but a baby! Since that day, through all the ups and downs that followed, I have pondered all that it means to be a sister.
We are touched by those people in our lives who are bound to us through blood, and siblings even more so. When parents die, our brothers and sisters become the people who know our histories most intimately. Friends, too, can become our ‘chosen’ siblings, and we gain joy in the closeness that comes through shared moments; eyes catching, pealing laughter, tears. Delightful moments like these are captured in this issue on siblings, like Valerie Hunter’s spunky Jane, the only one enjoying the family road trip in “Summer, 1959.” In her short story, andrea bennett takes us back to those early teen days of sleepovers at girlfriends’ houses that cement the bonds of friendships, and we can see the comedy in Katherine Poyner-Del Vento’s lines: “My half-brother trotted up with the rings / And rolled his eyes” in “Third Wedding.” Readers with competitive siblings will appreciate the twist at the story’s end in Catriona Wright’s rivalrous “National Capital Race Weekend.”
But competition is a double-helix of both rivalry and admiration, and that reverence is found in Eryn Hiscock’s piece, the reflections on a little sister’s ever-present desire to be a part of her older brother’s world, even when it puts his life at risk. Erin MacNair’s narrator blossoms as she experiences a different world through the eyes of her new-found “blood sister.” Emily Davidson uses a child's drawing as a metaphor for familial hierarchies, and Samantha Craggs examines the reconnection of siblings through grief. Sisters at different life stages share an experience of ‘otherness’ in Sonja Larsen’s piece, and Carly Stewart turns a standard female story on its head and explores the strains between brothers, and the female ties that bind them.
Other pieces will touch you with their sense of loss in what could have been. Rebekah Rempel’s delicate poetry startles, an absent brother’s “lungs quitting their blind flutter” in “The Nursery.” Julie R. Enszer’s poems illustrate unexpected and reflective moments on the loss of a sister. The older sibling as caretaker is heartbreakingly told in “Small Flame,” while the companionship between a sister and brother is evident in “Bear Hunting.”
Our issue also considers the wonders of twins. Susan Facknitz’s poem illustrates the evolution of brothers in utero with ostensibly different destinies, and Wendy Donawa allows us a glimpse into the fun-filled days of cousins with twin mothers—until their dads come home—in “Children getting out of hands.”
The art selected for this issue features stunning images created by Geneviève Thauvette, whose series makes a statement about the government-imposed uniformity on the Dionne quintuplets, and Laura Nguyen’s piece, Different Yet the Same, which echoes the quest for individuation between siblings.
The age-old tensions of jealousy are evident in Carol Lipszyc’s poem, whose little sister has the “moon on her left / sun on her right,” and Patricia Young’s poem highlights the cruelty of older sisters as she opens with: “You’re going to die soon, I told my brother.” Yet, amid these rivalries and admirations, throughout the struggles to be different from the other, there are attempts at compassion and peace. We are pleased to present a fiction piece by Giller prize-winning Canadian author Elizabeth Hay, who captures the nuances and tender complexities of sibling relationships in “A Sister and Brother.” While forgiveness remains elusive in Gabriella Brand’s poem, whose narrator describes her sister leaving her behind “like a child’s sock / under the bed.”
The notion of ‘sisterhood’ can also come in spiritual form. Our interview is with Marjorie Mergens, a former nun who spent fifteen years in a Catholic convent. In Roommate, our featured Room reader shares what she is currently enjoying, and in BackRoom, a First Nations researcher describes her own relationship with her sister, and how her Cree culture shapes that bond.
Whether you have biological siblings or ‘blood sisters,’ we hope that as you settle into your favourite chair by the window and begin turning these pages, you will recognize yourself, and be moved.
Eryn Hiscock lives and writes in Toronto. She’s had poems published in Descant and Room magazines and has a poem forthcoming in On Spec. She’s absolutely delighted to have her first prose piece published in Room.
Amber Hitchen lives in Vancouver and has been a member of the Room collective for three years.
Carol Lipszyc earned a Doctorate of Education at OISE, University of Toronto. Her book of poems, Singing Me Home, was published by Inanna Press in 2010. Poems, prose, and educational articles have been published in New Zealand, Rotterdam and England. Carol teaches English teacher education and creative writing at SUNY Plattsburgh.
Geneviève Thauvette is an emerging French Ontarian artist currently residing in Toronto. Her photographs have shown internationally, notably at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, the Perth International Arts Festival and the Vie Jeux de la Francophonie in Beirut. See www.dalesmithgallery.com and www.gthauvette.com.
Geneviève Thauvette est une jeune artiste professionnelle de la relève basée à Toronto. Elle a expose ses photographies lors plusieurs événements internationaux, notamment aux Vie Jeux de la Francophonie à Beyrouth, les Jeux olympiques d’hivers à Vancouver et le Perth International Arts Festival.
Catriona Wright is a Toronto-based writer. She is on the poetry editorial board at The Puritan and her work has previously appeared in various publications such as Free Fall, Contemporary Verse 2 and Existere. She is working on a collection of short stories.