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God Isn't Here Today
Long-listed for the 2023 Carol Shields Award for Fiction
Finalist for the 2023 Indigenous Voices Award
"Even as they flirt with the fantastic, Cunningham’s stories unfold with the innate elegance of a spring fern, reminding us of the inherent dualities in human nature—and that redemption can arise where we least expect it."
The stories in Francine Cunningham’s debut collection God Isn’t Here Today ricochet between form and genre, taking readers on a dark, irreverent, yet poignant journey led by a unique and powerful new voice.
Driven by desperation into moments of transformation, Cunningham’s characters are presented with moments of choice—some for the better and some for the worse. A young man goes to God’s office downtown for advice; a woman discovers she is the last human on Earth; an ice cream vendor is driven insane by his truck’s song; an ageing stripper uses undergarments to enact her escape plan; an incubus tires of his professional grind; and a young woman inherits a power that has survived genocide, but comes with a burden of its own.
Praise for God Isn't Here Today
“This is a fierce collection: fiercely smart, fiercely funny, fiercely inventive. Francine Cunningham takes the reader from strip clubs to God’s waiting room, from a tormented ice cream truck driver to a bored ghost with career aspirations. This collection almost reads like a novel, as the characters move in and out of each other’s stories—sometimes solo, sometimes in chorus—spilling out their tormented, glorious, messy lives to the lucky, greedy reader.”
—Annabel Lyon, author of Consent
“Cunningham is uniquely funny even through homophobia, whorephobia, death and aching loneliness… Opening this collection feels like stepping into a lively discussion between friends you’ve known since kindergarten when someone is already mid-rant, in a good way.”
—Sarah Ratchford, Maisonneuve
“The stories in God Isn’t Here Today reveal Francine Cunningham as a gimlet eye observer of humanity, with boundless empathy and a searing sense of humour. The prose is intimate and direct, like an honest best friend breathlessly telling all, while embarking on formal experimentation that guides the reader through the grand possibilities of fiction.”
—Doretta Lau, author of How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun?
“God Isn’t Here Today is a collection, I feel, that is whispered in the calligraphy of ghosts. Cunningham continues to both astound and haunt all who discover her. Wow!”
—Richard Van Camp, author of The Lesser Blessed
“‘Pornorama,’ ‘Spectre Sex,’ ‘Mickey’s Bar’: these Francine Cunningham stories pop and pull my heart out. In her first collection, God Isn’t Here Today, the Goddess is most definitely here. An essential new voice.”
—Linda Svendsen, author of Sussex Drive: a novel
“Cunningham’s characters find light in darkness, music in silence, and moments of transformation when they least expect it.”
—The Quarantine Review
BC & Yukon Book Prize 2020
for The Jim Deva Prize for Writing that Provokes.
Indigenous Voices Award 2020
for a poetry book in English
The City of Vancouver Book Award 2021
In her debut poetry collection ON/Me, Cunningham explores, with keen attention and poise, what it means to be forced to exist within the margins.
Francine Cunningham lives with constant reminders that she doesn’t fit the desired expectations of the world: she is a white-passing, city-raised Indigenous woman with mental illness who has lost her mother. Cunningham does not hold back: she holds a lens to residential schools, intergenerational trauma, Indigenous Peoples forcibly sent to sanatoriums, systemic racism and mental illness, and translates these topics into lived experiences that are nuanced, emotional, funny and heartbreaking all at once. ON/Me is an encyclopedia of Cunningham, who shares some of her most sacred moments with the hope to spark a conversation that needs to be had.