Winter/Spring 2024 Fiction Preview: How You Were Born by Kate Cayley | Book*hug Press

Winter/Spring 2024 Fiction Preview: How You Were Born by Kate Cayley

Today we’re excited to share the third title in our Winter/Spring 2024 Fiction Preview: How You Were Born by Kate Cayley!

This tenth-anniversary edition of Kate Cayley’s award-winning collection includes three new stories, a Foreword by Alayna Munce, and Preface by the author.

A young mother intrudes into the life of an older woman, thinking she knows what’s best. An academic becomes convinced that he is haunted by his double. Two children spy on their supposedly criminal neighbours. A man enables his cousin’s predatory impulses out of loyalty, and a circus performer dreams of a perfect wedding. These characters fail despite their best intentions and continue on despite their failures.

The stories in How You Were Born, each more incisive and devastating than the last, examine the difficult business of love, loyalty, and memory. Sharing the bizarre and tragi-comic of life—whether in present-day Toronto or in small towns of the early 20th century—Cayley champions the importance of connections, even when missed or mislaid, and the possibility of redemption.

How You Were Born is a stunning collection. These stories are unsettling in the best possible way: tender and pitiless, they take the reader by the hand, by the chin, sometimes even by the throat. Look, they say, this is what it is to be human. This is how strange, how unspeakably beautiful, it can be.” —Alissa York, author of Far Cry

We’re thrilled to share an introductory video from Kate Cayley!

In addition, we’ve selected an excerpt from the collection to share with you today. How You Were Born will be released on March 12, 2024, and is available for pre-order from our online shop or from your local independent bookstore.

This is the story of how you were born. It’s not like other stories I’ve told you, since you’re in it. It’s like nineteenth-century spirit photography where you see one person sitting in a chair and behind them something white, without features, without defined edges. Stared at long enough, the figure in the foreground fades and that trickster globule behind it takes on life, intentions, destiny. 

When two women want to have a baby they immediately confront a set of obvious and insurmountable facts, and that’s before there is even anyone there, before the blank-eyed creature behind the figure in the frame begins to come into focus.

The friend who will do this for us lives across the country. We asked. He said yes. That is where we are now going. I’m superstitious—it seems too easy, leaving me feeling we have pushed our luck. As we board the plane, I worry that the catch is coming.

Beside me, Molly’s hand tightens on my arm. She wants this more than I can imagine wanting anything. The sunlight is weak, the pavement vast and orderly, and then the wide sky, leaving the city behind. I hate flying. For her, I have to believe we will not fall. It seems as fanciful and reckless as believing in those ghosts in old photographs.


Kate Cayley is the author of three poetry collections, including Lent, a young adult novel, and two short story collections. How You Were Bornwon the of the Trillium Book Award and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction. She has won the O. Henry Short Story Prize, the Mitchell Prize for Faith and Poetry, and the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction. She has been a finalist for the K. M. Hunter Award, the Carter V. Cooper Short Story Prize, and the Firecracker Award for Fiction, and longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize and the CBC Literary Prizes in both poetry and fiction. Cayley’s plays have been produced in Canada, the US and the UK, and she is a frequent collaborator with immersive company Zuppa Theatre. Cayley lives in Toronto with her wife and their three children.

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