Sister Language, nonfiction by Christina Baillie & Martha Baillie (Pedlar Press, 2019)
Sister Language is a collaboration, composed mainly of letters and other writings, between two sisters, one of whom, Christina, diagnosed schizophrenic, took her own life in August during the printing of the work. As this unusual book unfolds, a “bridge” of prose nonpareil is slowly, lovingly, built, a bridge that connected the sisters to each other, drawing one of them out of her deep isolation, beautifully, for a short time.
A playful duet, a radiant howl, a swirling portrait of schizophrenia and sisterhood—this beautiful, wildly-groomed book magnifies two brilliant minds in motion. It is a story of what happens when ‘everyday’ language mutinies and shatters, leaving a fragile chimera of coherence. But mostly it’s a tale of unshakable, vulnerable, writerly love that brought me to tears. — Kyo Maclear, author of Birds Art Life
As a result of the courage and clarity of this startling work, we are privileged to be granted insight, understanding, and appreciation. — Steven W. Beattie
Martha and her sister’s book is so remarkable and, that rarest of things, original. It seems to be what Virginia Woolf called “a conversation into posterity.” — Howard Norman
There is something in this book that can’t be contained . . .There’s something unbound, something wild, and an unexpected tenderness in the midst of that wildness. To be invited to witness, to be allowed to share the experience of these two sisters in the playground of this book, it feels so rare. — Mike Hoolboom, artist, video maker
Sister Language is a triumph, both as a piece of art, and as a document on how our society fails those who struggle with mental illness. This book thoroughly articulates psychosis with incisive wit and empathy. Sister Language is this year’s most illuminating book on mental illness. As a person suffering from psychosis, I found the work to be a mirror where I can see so much of myself. . .For the first time in my life, I can honestly declare that a book has improved the quality of my being. — Khashayar Mohammadi
In Sister Language, Christina Baillie writes, LANGUAGE BELIEVES IN THE PATIENT’S REAL EXISTENCE, but this book makes clear that she and her sister Martha believe that language can also be a place of play, trust, exploration, great tenderness and the profound expression of the strangeness, pain and beauty of having a life. // This intimate and attentive correspondence between these two sisters who are both writers is an ode to relationship, understanding, communication, love, and trust as well as the possibilities and negotiations of disability, sisterhood and a life lived through language. This is a remarkable and moving epistolary novel that thinks deeply about what writing is and what it means to share both writing and one’s self. — Gary Barwin
Pedlar Press was begun, and continues, with a house vision: to acquire works of exceptional literary quality which also break silences regarding widespread failures of social and political systems: to make books with serious intellectual and emotional content, in other words, books that are also works of art. So much injustice cries out for attention, so much suffering, so many affronts to human dignity need to be met with strong literary force. Pedlar combines high aesthetic standards with a praxis of action; it means to foster humane social and political ends. It has been possible, over the twenty-three years of Pedlar’s existence, to combine an editorial vision that seeks out works that are strong in literary quality and also distinctive, often avant-garde, and socially engaged.
The intended readership is multiple: writers, lovers of literature, freedom fighters, spiritual questers, those who need literary sustenance, those who live in the margins. With the help of its authors and those who fight injustices in other ways, Pedlar Press has made its (consistently award-winning) name by producing ground-breaking fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction by writers of consequence.
The editorial vision embraces rebellion, working at the margins with and for those who resist white patriarchal capitalist hegemony, who work in resistance to all that. Pedlar always has been a rebel publishing house, on whose list exceptional works of a challenging nature will be found. To be deeply aware of the paradoxes and conflicts operating at this time in history, editors are expected to make deep commitments to the intellectual life, have had to read deeply as well as widely while also pursuing the general publishing objectives.
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