In House: Guernica Editions

Guernica Editions has been publishing books that highlight the multicultural aspects of Canada since 1978. Started by Antonio D’Alfonso after a trip to Europe, he gave the press the name ‘Guernica’ after Picasso’s painting that has become a plea for peace. They strive to publish books that will make this world a better place in which to live and love.

From its first book—Instants by Marco Fraticelli—in the spring of 1979, Guernica has selected titles that dare to cross geographical, intellectual, and social boundaries. They have helped launched the careers of such writers as Barry Dempster, Jim Johnstone, Mary Melfi, and Merle Nudelman with their First Fictions and First Poets series. With their Essential Poets and Essential Writers series they highlight the great writing being done by individuals such as Sheila Watson, Al Purdy, and Austin Clarke. Their latest imprint is MiroLand, which publishes memoirs, how-to, art books, and cookbooks, including Writing Poetry to Save Your Life: How to Find the Courage to Tell Your Stories by Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Hard Lumps by Nancy-Gail Burns.

Since 2010 Guernica Editions has gone through a few transformations, including new leadership. Connie McParland and Michael Mirolla were used to being on the other side of the publishing process as writers when they took over Guerinca but, since becoming publishers, they’ve quickly found their feet. Their recent titles have been nominated for such awards as the Governor General’s Award for Poetry (Exploding into Night by Sandy Pool, 2010; Where the Sun Shines Best by Austin Clarke, 2013), the Toronto Book Award (Paramita, Little Black by Suzanne Robertson, 2012), and the Ottawa Book Award (Fugitive Horizons by Henry Beissel, 2014).

While all of those award nominations stand out in their minds, one title that they’ve published that they feel really gets at the heart of what they’re trying to do is Letters From the Land of Fear by Calvin White. White spent 11 months in western Uzbekistan working with Doctors Without Borders as a mental health specialist. This brave book shines a light on a little known battle against drug-resistant tuberculosis in a human and warm tone that connects Canadians to the rest of the world.

From a small office in the suburbs of Oakville, Ontario, Guerinca is working hard to live up to their new tagline of “No Borders, No Limits,” both in the books they publish and the connections they’re making in the community. From getting involved in multicultural activities to supporting start-ups (such as Lexical.ca) to donating books to various groups, Guernica in pushing new ground all the time.