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Photo of Camilla Gibb.
Camilla Gibb

Roadmap for Life

Camilla Gibb's new book, This is Happy, reflects on past moments and intense grief and joy

After spending four years reading Canadian memoirs in order to compile an anthology, novelist Camilla Gibb (BA 1991 UC) decided to write one of her own.

Her fifth and newest book, This Is Happy, reflects on past moments of intense grief and joy, alienation and belonging. Having immigrated to Canada as a small child, Gibb missed the way family history had linked her to her environment in England. “I understood, somehow, that something between here and there had been broken,” she writes.

After her daughter was born, Gibb realized she could provide her child with that missing sense of continuity and connection – through stories of her own life. “Because I didn’t grow up in a house of stories, there wasn’t much of a roadmap for life,” says Gibb. “I risk, perhaps, oversharing because we all need roadmaps – particularly our children.”

As she finished writing the memoir, Gibb found herself recalling happier moments that had hidden among tragic memories. “It showed me how we construct a narrative based on which details we choose to reveal,” she says. “It is the selective nature of memory at work, where our need to put things together in a way that makes sense requires some creativity.” She hopes that readers will reflect on, and reconcile, their own lived experiences with self-compassion. For Gibb, telling her story has been just that – going back in order to move forward.

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