With My Back to the World

With My Back to the World

Sally Cooper
  • $22.00

May 2019
376 pages | ISBN 978-1-928088-80-6

**Finalist for the 2021 Hamilton Literary Award for Fiction**
**Finalist for the 2021 Kerry Schooley Book Award**

In an ambitious, yet intimate novel set in Taos, New Mexico, and Hamilton, Ontario, Sally Cooper explores unexpected motherhood, creativity, race, love and faith. With My Back to the World tells the stories of three women: Rudie, who is editing a documentary in Hamilton in 2010; historical artist Agnes Martin, who decides in 1974 after seven years’ exile in New Mexico to begin painting again; and Ellen, a black woman burying her husband in 1870 on an Ontario homestead. Each of these women is waiting for the arrival of an unexpected child and their interconnected stories explore how society’s, and our own, ideas of what it means to be a woman, a mother and an artist change over time. Evocative and introspective, With My Back to the World tells the complicated stories of how different women find faith in themselves in extraordinary circumstances.

Reviews | Interviews | Articles | Excerpt | About the Author


Book Review: Sally Cooper’s With My Back to the World (Stephen Near, Beyond James, 03/02/2022)
"An epic piece of storytelling that paradoxically feels intimate. We are always sitting on the shoulders of these three women as they navigate and negotiate their way through a world that seems constantly out to test them. The uniformity of these tests – with their shared focus on issues of motherhood, race and family – is a credit to Cooper’s strength as a writer and the way in which the three distinct storylines are interconnected."

WITH MY BACK TO THE WORLD BY SALLY COOPER (Naomi, Consumed by Ink, 08/07/2019)
"Sally Cooper manages to create a full portrait of who [her characters] are; each story exploring ideas about women, art, motherhood, and faith."


384 Sally Cooper, Jan. 19, 2020 2020 01 19, 10.25 PM (Bernadette Rule, Art Waves, 19/01/2020)
Sally talks about her novel.

E140 with SALLY COOPER (Jamie Tennant, GET LIT, 25/07/2019)
Jamie Tennant interviews Sally about her book.

Intuitive Surrender (Kathryn Walsh Kuitenbrouwer, Hamilton Review of Books, 28/05/2019)
"It wasn't until I imposed restrictions and tasks for myself that I could start writing. In my own life, I had the structure of new motherhood. [...] Then there were structures I imposed on the narrative: Agnes's, Ellen's, and Rudie's stories each unfold during the course of one day, and their chapters have mirroring moments and objects. Working this way allowed me to strike that exquisite balance. With such constraints, life-imposed and self-imposed, I could surrender."

Storylines - May 18 2019 (Christine Crowley, Storylines, 18/05/2019)
"With My Back to the World, is a delicately layered, sustaining bit of soulfood—the perfect accompaniment to a spring tonic."


Read Hamilton (Open Book, 27/11/2023)
A wonderful gathering of Hamilton books in one place, including Sally's novel.

With My Back to the World - Sally Cooper | HPL Virtual Storyteller (Hamilton Public Library YouTube, 29/12/2020)
Sally takes part in the HPL's Virtual Storyteller program by reading from her novel With My Back to the World.

Memoirs of love: Six-Minute Memoir features nine speakers riffing on subject of love (Jeff Mahoney, Hamilton Spectator, 21/02/2020)
Sally participates in the six-minute memoir.

The Year in Books: 2019 (Tracey Fockler, In the Hills, 22/11/2019)
Sally's book is listed in In the Hills' list of new books by local authors.

Character Study: With My Back to the World (All Lit Up, 15/08/2019)
Sally acts as casting director for the dream film version of her novel.

11 Books that Write the World (Kerry Clare, 49th Shelf, 09/05/2019)
"Why we're taking notice: With My Back to the World is one title on a fantastic list of "Editors' Picks" for Spring 2019 published by the good people at the Hamilton Review of Books."

Buzz Cut (Hamilton Magazine, Spring 2019)
"A masterful storyteller, Cooper weaves together each woman's narrative through interconnected stories set against a universal theme of womanhood, and what it means to be a woman."

The Recommend: Squatters, Classics, Stories, and Violence (49th Shelf, 01/05/2019)
Sally recommends a book for 49th Shelf's The Recommend series.

WHAT WE'RE READING: EDITORS' PICKS, SPRING 2019 (Hamilton Review of Books, 26/04/2019)
Sally's book makes the list of HRB Editors' picks for Spring 2019.


Click here to read an excerpt of With My Back to the World.

About the Author

Sally Cooper is the author of two acclaimed novels and the linked story collection Smells Like Heaven, nominated for the 2018 ReLit Award.

Her writing has appeared in CNQ: Canadian Notes & Queries; Electric Literature; Event; The Feathertale Review; The Globe & Mail; Grain; The Millions and The New Quarterly. Her writing has been shortlisted for the Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest, the Short Works Prize and the Vancouver Women in Film and Television From Our Dark Side Contest. Sally was the 2021 Cotton Factory Writer-in-Residence. She lives in Hamilton, Ontario.

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