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Kim Echlin (born 1955) is a Canadian novelist, translator, editor and teacher. Her 2009 novel, The Disappeared, was a nominee for the 2009 Scotiabank Giller Prize and has been translated into 19 languages. She has a PhD in English literature and her thesis was on the translation of the Ojibway Nanabush myths.
Elephant Winter, the story of a young woman who returns to her rural Ontario home to tend to her dying mother and finds her life altered due to a romantic relationship with a wildlife caretaker at a neighboring safari park, was described as "enormously engaging" by Maureen Garvie in Quill & Quire. Frank Moher further observed in a Saturday Night review of the novel that Sophie's growing empathy is reflected by "prose that is as extravagant in feeling as it is in expression."
Echlin draws on the ancient myths of Demeter and Persephone, as well as on the story of Inanna, in her second novel, Dagmar's Daughter, in which a motherless teen is almost drowned before finding safety on a small island. The woman's story is interwoven with those of three generations of gifted Gaelic-speaking women into a novel that, although difficult, "rewards the effort", according to Canadian Woman Studies reviewer Clara Thomas. Noting that the novel's plot moves at a brisk pace, Elaine Jones added in Resource Links that Dagmar's Daughter relates "a powerful and intriguing story."
Echlin has adapted the ancient Sumerian myth of Inanna for an illustrated book, Inanna: From the Myth of Ancient Sumer. Associated with the planet Venus, Inanna is an ancient goddess that figured prominently in the civilization that existed in the location of modern-day Iraq over four thousand years ago. Although lost for centuries, her stories, carved on stone tablets, were recently recovered by archeologists. Sister to Gilgamesh, Inanna grows to maturity and through her determination, wisdom, and ambition she learns the extent of her own destructive and creative powers. In Inanna Echlin relates the warrior goddess's story in poetic form, from her birth as the daughter of the moon god to her growing desire for her handsome shepherd brother Dumuzi (an Adonis-like character), her death and descent into the underworld, and her fight to regain her place on Earth as well as her power within the pantheon of Sumerian gods. Noting that the book, which is illustrated by European artist Linda Wolfsgruber, would be most valuable to young-adult readers, Patricia D. Lothrop wrote in School Library Journal that Inanna "could be an enticing introduction to a little-known figure from ancient Near East myth." In crafting her book-length story, Echlin positions traditional stories about the goddess "in chronological order, following Inanna's development from an eager, ambitious goddess to the position of the all-powerful queen whose 'light shines through everything,'" according to Resource Links contributor Joan Marshall. Marshall dubbed the book a "fascinating tale of a young goddess who knows how to get the power she wants."
Her new novel Under the Visible Life was published in 2015. In 2015, she published a new translation of the Inanna myth with extensive linguistic and cultural notes, 'Inanna: A New English Version.'
Echlin is a writer, journalist and educator. She was a producer at the CBC's The Journal (arts documentary) from 1985 to 1990, fiction editor of the Ottawa Citizen from 1999 to 2003, a creative writing instructor at University of Toronto School for Continuing Studies from 1997 to present. Echlin has taught at Ryerson School of Journalism, University of Guelph, and York University, and she has worked and travelled in Europe, China, the Marshall Islands, Africa, Cambodia, Honduras, Pakistan. As editor and participant, Echlin has worked at The Banff Centre Literary Journalism Program and the Banff International Literary Translation Program. She is currently the Pugh-Taylor Writer in Residence at McMaster University and the Hamilton Public Library.
Echlin is a founding trustee of the Loran Scholars Foundation and co-chairs national selections. She is a founding board member of El Hogar Projects, Canada.
- Elephant Winter (1997) ISBN 978-0143170587
- Dagmar's Daughter (2001) ISBN 978-0143170594
- Inanna: From the Myth of Ancient Sumer (2003) ISBN 978-0888994967
- Elizabeth Smart: A Fugue Essay on Women and Creativity (2004) ISBN 978-0889614420
- The Disappeared (2009) ISBN 978-0143170457
- Under the Visible Life (2015)
- Inanna: A New English Version (2015)
- (Translator and editor with Nie Zhixiong) Yuan Ke, Dragons and Dynasties: An Introduction to Chinese Mythology, Penguin (London, England), 1991, ISBN 978-0140586534.
- (Editor) To Arrive Where You Are: Literary Journalism from the Banff Centre for the Arts, Banff Centre Press (Banff, Alberta, Canada), 1999, ISBN 978-0920159712.
- Contributor to books, including Best Canadian Essays 1989, Fifth House Publishers, 1989; Up and Doing: Canadian Women and Peace, Women's Press, 1989; Taking Risks, Banff Centre Press, 1998; and Living Sideways: Trickster in American Indian Oral Traditions, University of Oklahoma Press, 2004. Contributor to periodicals, including Canadian Fiction and Studies in American Indian Literatures. Scriptwriter for television, including Life and Times series.
Awards and honors
- 2011: 1st Prize: Barnes and Noble Discovery Writer for The Disappeared
- 2010: Nominated (long list): Impac Dublin Literary Award for The Disappeared
- 2009: Nominated: Giller for The Disappeared
- 2006: 1st Prize for Creative Non-Fiction, CBC/Air Canada Literary Awards: for I,Witness (on the Cambodian genocide).
- 1997: Torgi Award, for Elephant Winter
- 1997: Nominated, Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award for Elephant Winter
- 1986: Nominated, National Magazine Award for Travel Writing for "Island Sacrifices"
- "Echlin, Michaels among Giller picks". Quill & Quire, October 6, 2009.
- "The 50 most anticipated books of 2015 (the first half, anyway)". The Globe and Mail, January 2, 2015.
- Books in Canada, April, 1997, p. 37.
- Canadian Woman Studies, summer-fall, 2001, Clara Thomas, review of Dagmar's Daughter, p. 150.
- Quill & Quire, January, 1997, Maureen Garvie, review of Elephant Winter, p. 35; February, 2001, review of Dagmar's Daughter, p. 29.
- Resource Links, October, 2002, Elaine Jones, review of Dagmar's Daughter, p. 55; December, 2003, Joan Marshall, review of Inanna, p. 36.
- Saturday Night, March, 1997, Frank Moher, review of Elephant Winter, p. 14.
- School Library Journal, March, 2004, Patricia D. Lothrop, review of Inanna, p. 299.