I Know You Are But What Am I?
'Birrell has a grand eye for the small detail that is the hallmark of a well-made story.' -- The Toronto Star
Kleptomaniacs, convicts, roof-walkers and homicidal hippies: populated as they are with lives both ordinary and extraordinary, Heather Birrell's stories pull at the sinews of the strange until the strangeness shapes itself into something familiar. At the same time, they mould the day-to-day into something new and wholly unexpected. Oldrick must come to terms with his ex-girlfriend's new lover and a belligerent barista in the midst of a smelly garbage strike. Young Misha learns about the complexities of grownup love when his mother is bitten by a stingray. Home-schooled Rational gets a tutor and learns that his 'hunker in the bunker' family isn't quite what he thought it was, and bus-bound Marion, in love with a married man, finds solace in conversation with a convict. The stories in I know you are but what am I? are like snow domes – perfect little self-contained worlds that you can hold in your hand, turn upside down, shake until the meaning settles in a hundred different ways. Here are children and adults, men and women, all struggling to define themselves, all searching for ways to belong. This is a lucid, dextrous collection that marks the ascension of a writer to watch.
Heather Birrell's stories have been shortlisted for both the Western and National Magazine Awards and have appeared in numerous Canadian literary journals. A frequent book reviewer and winner of the Journey Prize, she also works as a high school teacher and a creative writing instructor.