The Western Alienation Merit Badge
Nancy Jo Cullen
240 pages | 978-1-928088-78-3
Set in Calgary in 1982, during the recession that arrived on the heels of Canada’s National Energy Program, The Western Alienation Merit Badge follows the Murray family as they struggle with grief and find themselves on the brink of financial ruin. After the death of her stepmother, Frances “Frankie” Murray returns to Calgary to help her father, Jimmy, and her sister, Bernadette, pay the mortgage on the family home. When Robyn, a long-lost friend, becomes their house guest old tensions are reignited and Jimmy, Bernadette and Frances find themselves increasingly alienated from one another.
Part family drama, part queer coming-of-age story, The Western Alienation Merit Badge explores the complex dynamics of a small family falling apart.
"A queer prairie novel of my dreams – electric, funny, hot, heartbreaking, scathing, like a mix of Sarah Schulman and Chandra Mayor. The Western Alienation Merit Badge flashes effortlessly back and forth between four decades of sisterhood, poverty, estrangement, grief, queerness and, well, alienation. And the ache, the ache of queer people and family. I love this book just as much as I loved Canary, Cullen’s book of short stories, and I hope it’s not her last."
– Casey Plett, author of Little Fish and A Safe Girl to Love
"I loved many things about this book. The timeframe, the setting, the characters – all of which felt authentic and layered and painfully honest. But I loved Nancy's writing most of all. She has a gift of capturing the smallest moments of our lives and turning them into brilliant gems."
– Brian Francis, author of Natural Order
Q&A: Cullen’s Albertan novel is queer coming-of-age tale meets grieving family drama (Broken Pencil, 03/04/2019)
Spring 2019 Indie Book Picks (Broken Pencil, 01/04/2019)
Nancy Jo's book is one of Broken Pencil's Spring 2019 Indie Book Picks!
Most Anticipated: Our Spring 2019 Fiction Preview (Kerry Clare, 49th Shelf, 07/01/2019)
Nancy Jo's book is on 49th Shelf's Most Anticipated: Spring Preview.
Spring preview 2019: Novels and graphica (Steven W. Beattie, Quill & Quire, 07/01/2019)
Nancy's book is listed in the Quill's Spring Preview.
About the Author
Nancy Jo Cullen is the fourth recipient of the Writers’ Trust Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBT Emerging Writers. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph-Humber and her short story collection, Canary, was the winner of the 2012 Metcalf-Rooke Award. Her poetry has been shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Award, the Writers’ Guild of Alberta’s Stephan G. Stephansson Award and the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize. She lived in Calgary for over two decades and still returns regularly to connect with family and friends. She now lives in Kingston, Canada.