Proof I Was Here
240 pages | 978-1-928088-77-6
What’s the point of trying to leave a mark when everything disappears? This question is at the heart of Proof I Was Here, a novel that tells the picaresque coming-of-age story of a young thief and aspiring artist who attempts to reboot her life on the streets of Barcelona after an unexpected breakup. Hailing from Toronto, where she has an assault charge waiting, Niki is outside of Canada for the first time. The pickpockets, squatters and graffiti artists she meets challenge her to reassess her ideas about luck and art. With the help of a passionate Catalan separatist who dreams of building a new country from the ground up, Niki realizes that starting her life over from scratch could be an opportunity – if she can just find a way to clear her name.
"In Proof I Was Here, Becky Blake takes us on an extraordinary journey through Barcelona's underbelly, exploring with empathy and insight the human need for belonging and security, and what it means to lose everything. Finely crafted and richly imagined, Proof I Was Here is an enthralling, intelligent and fast-paced novel you won't be able to put down."
– Ayelet Tsabari, author of The Art of Leaving and The Best Place on Earth
"Proof I Was Here is laced with grit, art and angst. This evocative novel explores the intersection of privilege and survival, 'good' and 'bad' behaviour, permanence and the ephemeral . . . it reminds us of the power of our choices, but also shows how serendipity can, in a moment, change what we think about ourselves and the world."
– Leesa Dean, author of Waiting for the Cyclone
Three Recommended Reads: PROOF I WAS HERE by Becky Blake, Wolsak and Wynn (Lisa de Nikolits, The Minerva Reader, 20/06/2019)
"Broken hearts, complicated friendships, freeganism (fascinating idea), and dysfunctional familial relationships. This book was my perfect kind of escape read."
Proof I Was Here (Kerry Clare, Quill & Quire, June 2019)
"Proof I Was Here offers an interesting twist on the conventional expat narrative. This vibrancy imbues the novel with freshness and an energy that helps propel it toward a satisfying conclusion."
Why Becky Blake wrote a story about understanding the world and our place in it (Dionne Codrington, CBC Books, 07/08/2019)
"The feeling of travelling to an unknown place opens people up. The memories that we make in those moments stick with us a little more than your everyday memories." Read on as Becky explains how she wrote Proof I Was Here.
Each Novel Is It's Own Universe - Becky Blake and Nancy Jo Cullen Discuss Their Latest (Librarie Drawn & Quarterly, 27/08/2019)
"I was living in Barcelona...There was this bench. It almost seemed magical that everyday there was a person at this bench that was crying. What is it like to get robbed? It sucks, but it’s not the worst thing that could happen. It's a small loss, like practice for bigger losses..."
The Ultimate Writing Tips Post: We Asked Talented Canadian Writers for Their Best Piece of Literary Advice (Open Book, 31/07/2019)
Becky offers some writing advice.
The summer’s best books: Stuff your beach bag with these compulsive reads (Becky Toyne, the Globe and Mail, 21/06/2019)
"A Torontonian thief reboots her life on the streets of Barcelona with the help of a Catalan separatist in this debut novel: a story about luck, art and rebuilding a country – or yourself – from the ground up."
First Fiction Friday: Proof I Was Here (All Lit Up, 07/06/2019)
"Written in a sparse and shell-shocked tone, Proof I Was Here is deceptively simple. It reads fast, but underneath the bare-bones prose pulse some intriguing questions: Why are some people born lucky and others aren't? What's the point of trying to leave a mark if everything disappears?"
10 Canadian books coming out in June we can't wait to read (CBC Books, 03/06/2019)
Becky's book is listed as one of 10 coming out in June that CBC Books can't wait to read.
Blake’s debut is a research-rich coming of age tale (Sue Carter, the Toronto Star, 30/05/2019)
"I think we have all been in certain situations where we think going somewhere else or a new person or city is going to change our lives and get rid of our problems. And we soon discover that’s not the case."
Editors' Picks: Week of May 20–26 (49th Shelf, 21/05/2019)
Becky's book is chosen as one of 49th Shelf editors' recommendations for the week of May 20–26.
11 Books that Write the World (Kerry Clare, 49th Shelf, 09/05/2019)
"Why we're taking notice: This is Barcelona like you've never seen it in a tourist guidebook. In her debut novel, Blake paints a rich and colourful view of the city."
The Recommend: Squatters, Classics, Stories, and Violence (49th Shelf, 01/05/2019)
Becky recommends a book for 49th Shelf's The Recommend series.
28 Works of Canadian Fiction to Watch for in Spring 2019 (CBC Books, 23/01/2019)
"After being charged with assault, Niki flees Toronto for Barcelona where she begins to reinvent her life. Niki, a thief who dreams of becoming an artist, is inspired by the passion of Catalan separatist and decides to try to clear her name."
Most Anticipated: Our Spring 2019 Fiction Preview (Kerry Clare, 49th Shelf, 07/01/2019)
Becky's book is on 49th Shelf's Most Anticipated: Spring Preview.
Becky Blake is a two-time winner of the CBC Literary Prize (for non-fiction in 2017 and short fiction in 2013). Her fiction and essays have appeared in publications across Canada. She holds an MFA from the University of Guelph, and teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Education. Becky currently lives in Toronto where she’s working on a second novel and a memoir-in-essays.