Amazon Canada First Novel Award finalist
A brilliant novel whose lead character returns home to their long-estranged mother who is now suffering from dementia.
Alani Baum, a non-binary photographer and teacher, hasn’t seen their mother since they ran away with their girlfriend when they were seventeen — almost thirty years ago. But when Alani gets a call from a doctor at the assisted living facility where their mother has been for the last five years, they learn that their mother’s dementia has worsened and appears to have taken away her ability to speak. As a result, Alani suddenly find themselves running away again — only this time, they’re running back to their mother.
Staying at their mother’s empty home, Alani attempts to tie up the loose ends of their mother’s life while grappling with the painful memories that — in the face of their mother’s disease — they’re terrified to lose. Meanwhile, the memories inhabiting the house slowly grow animate, and the longer Alani is there, the longer they’re forced to confront the fact that any closure they hope to get from this homecoming will have to be manufactured.
This beautiful, tenderly written debut novel by Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers winner John Elizabeth Stintzi explores what haunts us most, bearing witness to grief over not only what is lost, but also what remains.
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John Elizabeth Stintzi is a non-binary writer who grew up on a cattle farm in northwestern Ontario. They are the 2019 recipient of the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award, and their work has appeared in The Malahat Review, Kenyon Review Online, Ploughshares, and in their poetry collection Junebat (House of Anansi). Their debut novel Vanishing Monuments (Arsenal Pulp Press) was published in 2020. They have an MFA in Creative Writing from Stony Brook University in Southampton, NY and currently teach critical and creative writing at the Kansas City Art Institute.
Published: November 2021
“An enchanting story with a truly compelling protagonist, Stintzi has marked themself as a writer to watch.” — Seattle Times
“The real pleasure of reading John Elizabeth Stintzi's book is to see a sensitive mind work through an internal landscape, and to watch them do it with such patience and generosity.” — Sara Majka, author of Cities I've Never Lived In
“Vanishing Monuments is a beautiful portrait of disassociation at once between countries, family, gender, identities, and, most importantly, “the distance between … you and yourself.” Stintzi braids the Metamorphoses together with the expansiveness of Winnipeg, those rolling prairies, all wondrously and ravenously superimposed together to form a work that is wet with memory. With a keen eye for image and an attuned ear for the whistling screams of Manitoba, we move slowly but steadily through the memory palace that is a childhood home abandoned — here, memory serves to animate said house with a beckoning siren call that asks us to conceptualize the art of staying affectively with a mother whittling away from dementia and a narrator storytelling from a double exposed aperture. An absolute monumental achievement of a first novel.” — Joshua Whitehead, author of Jonny Appleseed
“A surreal, poetic meditation on the struggle to feel at home with the past, family, and one's own body.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Vanishing Monuments is a remarkable novel, a beautiful puzzle of place and belonging, identity and vocation, duty and love. John Elizabeth Stintzi’s writing is full of welcome and true surprise — I found myself underlining passages on every page, and then going back to underline more.” — John K. Samson, musician and poet