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September 2022 Adult Top Picks

A Minor Chorus
A Novel
By (author): Billy-Ray Belcourt
Billy-Ray Belcourt


Hamish Hamilton



Product Form:



General / adult
Sep 13, 2022
$27.95 CAD


7.76in x 5.13 x 0.69 in | 0.52 lb

Page Count:

192 pages
Penguin Canada
Hamish Hamilton
FICTION / Indigenous


An urgent first novel about breaching the prisons we live inside from one of Canada’s most daring literary talents.

An unnamed narrator abandons his unfinished thesis and returns to northern Alberta in search of what eludes him: the shape of the novel he yearns to write, an autobiography of his rural hometown, the answers to existential questions about family, love, and happiness.

What ensues is a series of conversations, connections, and disconnections that reveals the texture of life in a town literature has left unexplored, where the friction between possibility and constraint provides an insistent background score.

Whether he’s meeting with an auntie distraught over the imprisonment of her grandson, engaging in rez gossip with his cousin at a pow wow, or lingering in bed with a married man after a hotel room hookup, the narrator makes space for those in his orbit to divulge their private joys and miseries, testing the theory that storytelling can make us feel less lonely.

Populated by characters as alive and vast as the boreal forest, and culminating in a breathtaking crescendo, A Minor Chorus is a novel about how deeply entangled the sayable and unsayable can become—and about how ordinary life, when pressed, can produce hauntingly beautiful music.

    STAR AUTHOR: In his short career, Billy-Ray has already cemented his position as a writer beloved and respected by authors across generations, and he’s charmed audiences at festivals and events, including most recently Read for the Cure.

    ANOTHER GENRE DEBUT: With A History of My Brief Body, we had the opportunity to introduce the poet Billy-Ray as a memoirist. Now we have the opportunity to introduce Billy-Ray the novelist, with his most widely accessible work to date.

    AWARDS CONTENDER: Since winning the Griffin Prize for his first poetry collection, Billy-Ray has twice been a finalist for the Lambda and Governor General’s Literary Awards, and he won a BC Book Prize for his memoir.

    RESONANT SUBJECT MATTER: At the centre of this novel is the story of the narrator’s cousin, whose arrest and imprisonment highlight the brutality with which the police and prison system target Indigenous life.

    US PARTNER: We’re publishing alongside W. W. Norton in the US.

BILLY-RAY BELCOURT (he/him) is a writer from the Driftpile Cree Nation. He won the 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize for his debut collection, This Wound Is a World, which was also a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award. His bestselling memoir, A History of My Brief Body, won the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and the Governor General’s Literary Award. A recipient of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship and an Indspire Award, Belcourt is Assistant Professor of Indigenous Creative Writing at UBC.

Author Residence: Vancouver, BC

Author Hometown: Joussard, Northern Alberta


“No one breaks your heart as elegantly as Billy-Ray Belcourt. Innovative, intimate, and meticulous, A Minor Chorus is a thoughtful riot of intersections and juxtapositions, a congregation of keenly observed laments gently vivisecting the small, Northern Alberta community at its core.”
—Eden Robinson, author of Son of a Trickster
“The literary child of Rachel Cusk’s Outline trilogy and James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, this novel builds on both, and is yet still something so new. It has the guts to centre Indigenous queer life as worthy of serious intellectual and artistic inquiry—which, of course, it always has been. We will be reading and re-reading and learning from A Minor Chorus for decades to come.”
—Alicia Elliott, author of A Mind Spread Out on the Ground
“An absolutely dazzling confluence of big ideas and raw emotions, told in Billy-Ray Belcourt’s singular poetic voice. A Minor Chorus is about loving, questioning, and fighting for your life, and it’s as compelling a debut novel as I’ve read in years.”
—Jami Attenberg, author of I Came All This Way to Meet You
“A truly exceptional novel about how the disregarded sometimes live the most remarkable lives, and how storytelling will redeem us somehow, make us less lonely. A Minor Chorus is like a song that’s over too soon; I want to play it on repeat, to memorize the words so that I can sing them to myself.”
—Katherena Vermette, author of The Strangers

“An achingly gorgeous debut novel of Indigenous survival…This is a breathtaking and hypnotic achievement.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Registers less as minor chorus than symphony…Belcourt’s boldest, freest, and most linguistically assured work yet.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“Poet Billy-Ray Belcourt’s first novel is, unsurprisingly, a genre-defying masterpiece …. This book is unlike anything else I’ve ever read: it’s academic and anti-academic, full of poetry, longing, theory, and philosophy.”
Book Riot

“Belcourt crafts sentences like only a poet can, each one precise and shimmering. He writes with ferocious intensity and beauty about Grindr hookups, queer Indigenous friendship, police violence, the open wounds of Canada’s residential schools, loneliness, and longing.”
“Belcourt is a brilliant writer and this book is further proof.”

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