Books of Affection – Rachel McCrum

Rachel McCrum, 39 (Interview on July 28, 2021)

Rachel McCrum is the curator in the Atwater Poetry Project since 2019. Prior to this, she also worked for the Quebec Writer’s Federation, an organization for English language writers also held in the Atwater library. Moving from Northern Ireland in 2017, she found in the Atwater Library a second home and refuge while she was adapting to a new life in Montreal.


McCrum’s reading habit goes through phases. She reads a lot of poetry, both because of her job and for pleasure. She also enjoys reading novels and nonfiction. Currently, she’s trying to read more Canadian and Quebecois authors to better understand the literature produced in the nation. To find new books, she follows the reviews of the Montreal Review of Books and book Instagrammers such as Heather O’Neill and Helen Chau Bradley. She also has a book club with her school friends from Northern Ireland where they exchange book recommendations.

McCrum’s favourite books are The Minted by William McClelland (Outremont, Quebec: Blue Leaf Press, 2016) (from her own collection) and The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi (New York : Riverhead Books, 2020) (from the Atwater Library collection).

In The Minted, McClelland writes about a slightly futuristic Canada, where there is a giant ecoterrorist moose trying to foment rebellion of the animals against money in Canada. This imaginative dystopian story is a socio-political criticism of colonial structures in Canada. It introduced McCrum to Canadian writing which is imaginative, critical and quite mischievous.

William McClelland, The Minted (Outremont, Quebec: Blue Leaf Press, 2016). Digital Montreal, QC. 2021. Photographed by Rachel McCrum.

In The Death of Vivek Oji, Emezi tells not only about the main character’s death, but also how their life unfolds. Along with this narrative, the book addresses the Nigerian culture in a beautifully written narrative. For McCrum, this book puts in the spotlight a Nigerian voice that, while not deeply explaining the culture throughout its pages, is capable of transmitting it through a beautifully conceived story.

Akwaeke Emezi, The Death of Vivek Oji (New York: Riverhead Books, 2020). Digital Montreal, QC. 2021. Photographed by Wanessa Cardoso.