Proof I Was Here

A novel published by Buckrider Books (Wolsak & Wynn) in Spring 2019. Available on Chapters (in Canada) or on Amazon (in Canada), or Amazon (in the the US), or on Amazon websites in Europe and elsewhere too! 


PRESS

Debut is a Research-Rich Coming of Age Tale (Sue Carter, Toronto Star, 30/05/2019)

Why Becky Blake wrote a story about understanding the world and our place in it (Dionne Codrington, CBC Books, 07/08/19)

The Summer’s Best Books (Becky Toyne, Globe and Mail, 21/06/2019)

10 Canadian Books Coming Out in June We Can’t Wait to Read (CBC Books, 03/06/19)

First Fiction Friday: Featured Novel (All Lit Up, 07/06/2019)

28 Works of Canadian Fiction to Watch for in Spring 2019 (CBC Books, 23/01/2019)

Most Anticipated: Our Spring 2019 Fiction Preview (Kerry Clare, 49th Shelf, 07/01/2019)


On Writing the Novel…

The Spaniards have a derogatory word for tourist, guiri, which is used mainly to describe the crowds who come surging off the cruise ships in their socks and sandals.

The first time a Spaniard called me a guiri, I was crushed. I’d been in Spain for over a month and was trying my best to fit in. 

“How long do you think I’m going to look like a guiri?” I asked. 

“Forever,” he said. “You will always be a guiri here.”

This was a depressing thought, and one that I internalized in my writing for quite some time. I was living in Barcelona, my favourite city in the world - a city I found incredibly inspiring - but for some reason, I was still writing about Canada. Outside my window, I could see palm trees and wild parrots, but on the page, I was still stuck on a Toronto streetcar staring out at the dirty snow. 

A year passed, which included a moment when I threw my tattered map of the city into the garbage, a day when I knew where to buy a hammer, a month when I could suddenly speak Spanish, and a season when I stopped complaining about the heat.

One night, a local stopped to ask me for directions. When I told him I didn’t know the place he was looking for, he apologized, explaining that he’d thought I was from the neighbourhood. “You have a cara del barrio,” he told me. A neighbourhood face. I started writing a story about Barcelona the very next day and Proof I Was Here (formerly titled Scratch and formerly-formerly titled Yours to Keep) is the novel that resulted. 

Proof I Was Here takes place on the streets of Barcelona and includes many of the things that intrigued me most about the city as I got to know it: the pick-pockets, the graffiti artists, the squatters, the Catalan separatists. Told through the eyes of a Canadian woman who is recovering from a loss by apprenticing as a thief, Proof I Was Here is about two Barcelonas: the beautiful tourist destination, and the less photogenic reality underneath.

An excerpt of the first two chapters is available here.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This work has been generously supported by the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario, Diaspora Dialogues (via the Long Form Mentorship program), and the Access Copyright Foundation.

 
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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
Becky Blake has woven an adventure of identity so engrossing that you’ll feel like you lived it yourself.
— Michelle Winters, author of I Am a Truck
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 Best Place on Earth