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‘Physical evidence of the pandemic’: New book reflects on COVID-19 experiences in Alberta

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EDMONTON –A new book shares poems, stories, and art depicting the struggles many Albertans faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Called COVID Collections, the work was unveiled as part of the Edmonton’s LitFest, a two-week-long celebration of writing that is Canada’s first and only non-fiction festival.

It features more than two dozen storytellers, writers, artists, and poets from Alberta and includes a diverse array of community voices, including BIPOC, disabled, and LGBTQ2S+ representation.

Annette Loiselle, one of the story collectors and artistic director of SkirtsAfire, told CTV News Edmonton how the book actually started out as a film produced for the SkirtsAfire Festival in March.

“The curator of the film Stephanie Florence,” Loiselle shared, “had the idea of making the film into a book.

“The whole idea was to create a document of this time in our lives and hear stories that aren’t necessarily our own.”

Autumn Sjølie, one of the editors and lead designers, described Florence as the pillar of the book, who was the curator, grant writer, and so much more.

For Sjølie, the book acts as a reflection of how different people experienced the pandemic, especially those from marginalized communities who were uniquely impacted.

“It’s physical evidence of the pandemic, of what’s happened,” Sjølie said. “It’s physical evidence of the stories that so often don’t get heard.

“(The book) acts as a voice for a wide range of people.”

“We often just hear the stories of our own families or in our own circles. In order to create true empathy as a larger community, we need to hear the stories of other people,” Loiselle said, “and knowing what people are going through.”

The book is available online or in-person from TIX on the Square, Audrey’s Books, and the Glass Bookshop.

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