Writer, and Instructor at MacEwan University
Photography by Curtis Comeau
WHY SHE'S TOP 40: Through her writing, she gives a voice to those whose stories would normally go unnoticed. And she encourages and inspires other writers through her classes, workshops and side projects.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT EDMONTON?: “Even before there was a bridge across the North Saskatchewan, the people of the city were making something — now someone has come out and said it with Make Something Edmonton, and I’m glad they did. I love that about this city; it’s always been that DIY place.”
Before Jessica Kluthe began writing a book about her great, great grandmother, the details she knew weren’t sufficient to form a paragraph, never mind more than 200 pages of intricate prose. She knew her name had been Rosina, that she was a midwife and that she had stayed in Italy while the rest of her family travelled to Canada to start new lives during the 1950s.
While we’re all familiar with migration stories of those coming to our province, it’s rare to read a tale about those left behind. And that’s exactly what made Kluthe want to write Rosina, The Midwife, which was published by Brindle and Glass in 2013 and was part of LitFest’s summer reading list this year. Her research brought her to two tiny Italian villages and, with the help of her grandfather, who acted as a translator, Kluthe pieced together the details of her great, great grandmother’s life from beginning to end.
“I did learn a big secret about Rosina. Without giving too much away, it was a devastating thing to discover as her family member. But, as a writer, I realized at that moment I had a full story. It strengthened my resolve that we need to be telling stories that aren’t part of the traditional narrative because amazing stories are everywhere,” says Kluthe.
As an instructor at MacEwan, Kluthe is passionate about encouraging students to share their own stories. Along with teaching students about business writing, publishing prose and creative non-fiction, Kluthe conducts workshops where she encourages writers to explore their own family histories.
Her position as one of the youngest instructors on staff affords her far more than just the intimidation she’d initially felt. “I’m able to learn from people who’ve been there for a long time; and there’s a community there, and it’s very supportive,” says Kluthe.
She’s been supporting Canadian writing herself by featuring local author spotlights on her blog. She also encourages readers and writers of local novels to stage scenes from books, and then post the photos on Instagram through her project, Snap Scene. “I feel like you have to uplift the whole — and I’m part of that community. I don’t want to take that for granted and I think there’s so much good writing in Canada, we need to be reading these books.”