I Know You Are But What Am I?

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Coach House Books, Apr 19, 2000 - Fiction - 220 pages
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'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.


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About the author (2000)

Heather Birrell is the author of two story collections, "Mad Hope" and "I know you are but what am I?". Her work has been honoured with the Journey Prize for short fiction and the Edna Staebler Award for creative non-fiction, and has been shortlisted for both National and Western Magazine Awards. Birrell's stories have appeared in many North American journals and anthologies, including "The New Quarterly" and "Toronto Noir". She lives with her husband and two daughters in

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