about Sarah


Sarah Henstra’s most recent novel, We Contain Multitudes, is nominated for the Ontario Library Association’s White Pine Award. Her previous novels include The Red Word, which won the 2018 Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction.

Sarah is a professor of English literature at Ryerson University, where she teaches courses in Gothic Horror, Fairy Tales & Fantasies, Psychoanalysis & Literature, and Creative Writing. She grew up on the wild, wet coast of British Columbia, but now she lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Sarah’s literary agents are Rachel Letofsky and Martha Webb at CookeMcDermid. For high-resolution headshots, promotional materials, and requests for review copies or author appearances, please contact Sarah’s publicists:

The Red Word (US)- Deb Seager at Grove Atlantic: dseager@groveatlantic.com

The Red Word (Canada)- Tania Blokhuis at ECW Press: tania@ecwpress.com

Mad Miss Mimic- Vikki VanSickle at Penguin Random House Canada: vvansickle@penguinrandomhouse.com.


The longer story:

I was born in North York, Ontario, but when I was a year old my parents packed me into their VW bug and headed to Abbotsford, BC.


Indoors my childhood was books, books, and more books.

But outdoors? Outdoors there were daily perils and quests in the wilderness. There was a path to school through the woods. A certain fern grew from moss-covered tree trunks, and its root tasted exactly like licorice. We (my three younger brothers and I) wore rain-capes. We sidestepped skunk cabbages and slugs as big as our feet. We hurtled our bikes down the hang-gliding hills and through pastures where cows drank out of old bathtubs. We ate raspberries as big as cherries and cherries as big as plums. Steam sometimes billowed from our local volcano (Mt. Baker, visible across the border in Washington).

Rocking my 1980s McDonald’s uniform.

We moved back to London, Ontario when I was twelve. High school was the usual series of humiliations and tortures, plus a cornucopia of part-time jobs: corn de-tasseling, tobacco hoeing, waitressing at Red Lobster, circuit-board soldering, taking inventory at a chainsaw company, catering.


The job titles grew even more eclectic as I paid my way through university: meal-card complaints officer, tutor, life-drawing model and–for the big bucks–treeplanter in northern Ontario and Manitoba.

I earned a PhD degree in twentieth-century British literature. My doctoral dissertation examined the idea of unresolved grief, or “unmournable loss,” in three novels: The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford, The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, and Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson. After I graduated I held a post-doctoral fellowship in Public Memory Studies at the University of California, Irvine. All this research eventually became a scholarly monograph: The Counter-Memorial Impulse in Twentieth Century English Fiction (Palgrave, 2009).

Nowadays I’m an English professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, one of the fastest-growing and most diverse campuses in North America. I teach courses in Fairy Tales & Fantasies, Gothic Horror, Creative Writing, and Psychoanalysis & Fiction. I love everything about my job: my curious, creative students, the chance to travel for research and conferences, and the quiet times wandering the library and writing, writing, writing. And more writing.


For kicks I sing with a fabulous women’s choir called Cantores Celestes, volunteer with the Brockton Writers Series, and meet regularly with other members of the Toronto Women Writers’ Salon. I’m a warm-weather runner, a cold-weather knitter, and an all-weather eater of Miss Vickie’s kettle-cooked potato chips (Canada’s proudest export, IMHO). What really floats my boat is learning new skills, beginning new things. Currently I am a beginner tarot card reader, a beginner shape-note singer, and a beginner pickler.

Want to know more? Check out the online interview 15 Minutes with Sarah Henstra over at She Does the City.com

Here’s a sample:  Q#7: What makes you happy?

A: “Lemons. Sunrise. My duvet. My fifteen-year-old son in his Metro grocery courtesy-clerk uniform. Cycling. Notebooks. Most cheeses. Fairy tales. Mail. Vintage dresses. Anything with coconut. Writing every day.”


Want to know even more? Ask me: