Three Books With… Nancy Jo Cullen, Author of THE WESTERN ALIENATION MERIT BADGE

western alienation book

Nancy Jo Cullen, whose gorgeous THE WESTERN ALIENATION MERIT BADGE was one of our favourite books of 2019, shares her three essential books, the titles that immediately come to mind when she’s asked to recommend an excellent read.


Thing Feigned or Imagined: A Self Directed course in the Craft of Fiction, by Fred Stenson

This book was very useful to me when I first read it and I still read parts of it when I’m stuck. The stories he uses as examples are all so good.


Like a Beggar, by Ellen Bass

This is a poetry collection that I like to pick up and read again and again. It’s beautiful and never fails to soothe me.


The Journey Prize Stories

Each year I really look forward to the new edition of The Journey Prize. It’s always exciting to read through the anthology to get a sense of what is going on in short fiction in Canada. I love it and I wait until Christmas to read it because it comes in my stocking because Santa knows me very well.


Western Alienation Cover

About The Western Alienation Merit Badge:

Set in Calgary in 1982, during the recession that arrived on the heels of Canada’s National Energy Program, The Western Alienation Merit Badge follows the Murray family as they struggle with grief and find themselves on the brink of financial ruin. After the death of her stepmother, Frances “Frankie” Murray returns to Calgary to help her father, Jimmy, and her sister, Bernadette, pay the mortgage on the family home. When Robyn, a long-lost friend, becomes their house guest old tensions are reignited and Jimmy, Bernadette and Frances find themselves increasingly alienated from one another.

Part family drama, part queer coming-of-age story, The Western Alienation Merit Badge explores the complex dynamics of a small family falling apart.