Tuesday, September 21, 2021

My Indigenous Books TBR

One of the things my dear friend Shawn is doing to celebrate the fourth anniversary of his booktube channel is an invitation to submit a camera flip. In other words, he's posting videos other people have created. I made a 15-minute recording talking about some Indigenous literature that I plan to read soon. You can view the video here: Lindy on Shawn the Book Maniac's channel . And while you are over there, sample some of Shawn's offerings. My favourites are his Friday Reads episodes and also his playlist of Bite-Sized Book Chats. 

Shawn also is offering prizes to celebrate the happy occasion. Scroll through his recent episodes to find his Book Cover Fragment Contest and his Book Giveaways.

Keep on vlogging, Shawn!

-------------------------------

These are the TBR books I spoke about in the video:

Nishga by Jordan Abel

it was never going to be okay by jaye simpson

awacis: kinky and dishevelled by Louise B Halfe Sky Dancer

The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson

The Swan Book by Alexis Wright

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

2021 Giller Longlist Reaction


Wow! My first reaction upon seeing the Scotiabank Giller Prize judges' longlist is surprise. Lots of surprises on this list, actually. 

It is a challenge to keep up with new Canadian fiction, so I'm happy that there's a Craving Canlit page on the Scotiabank Giller website. My fellow shadow jurors and I have relied on this list of eligible titles to prepare our own longlist predictions. One of the longlisted titles (Swimming Back to Trout River) wasn't on this site, so it escaped my notice entirely. 

Three of the titles won't be published until the end of September (A Dream of a Woman; Em; and The Strangers) and one was just released yesterday (Glorious Frazzled Beings). Another was first published in 2019 and then reissued in May 2021 (Son of the House), so I wasn't aware that it fell within the eligibility requirements.

I've only read four out of the twelve on the longlist, and my prediction yesterday included only five out of the twelve. Not a very accurate forecast. 

I'm overjoyed to see Fight Night on the list, because I consider it to be a perfect novel. 

What Strange Paradise speaks to our shameful times, of refugees treated like unworthy human beings. With the focus on individuals, and particularly on one child refugee, this novel is capable of opening hearts.

Astra highlights our connections to other people, and how perspectives shift depending on time, relationship, and viewpoint. Maria Mutch's Molly Falls to Earth does a similar thing -- and does it even better! -- using prose that sings, so I'm sorry that it isn't on the list as well.

The Listeners speaks to our times also: the splitting of society into two distinct groups, conspiracy theories, our search for community and for something more meaningful than the daily grind. I hadn't predicted that this would make the longlist because I perceived a few flaws, but it's a spellbinding novel and I'm not displeased to see it on the list. 

I'm surprised and sad that Sheung-King's You Are Eating and Orange. You Are Naked. didn't make the list. This one has an innovative fragmentary format, beautiful flowing prose, and captures the in-betweenness of having multiple nationalities so well.

I look forward to reading the rest of the longlist and plan to come up with my own shortlist before the official announcement on October 5, 2021.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

2021 Giller Prize Prediction

Tomorrow, September 8, the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist will be announced. This is my second year as a shadow juror, a role I take seriously even though it is just for fun. It is a huge pleasure to read so many great novels, short stories and graphic novels by Canadian writers. So far, I've read 46 eligible titles and bailed on an additional four. Some books that I think might be strong contenders have not yet been published, and so I will have to guess about them. Before revealing my longlist prediction (plus wish list) for the 2021 Giller, I want to talk about my judging criteria. 


This is what I'm looking for:

Life-affirming stories that acknowledge the complexities of existence and that make me think. I want lots of white space, by which I mean room to wonder and imagine, rather than having everything neatly laid out.

Style. Whether it's using a conventional structure or an innovative format, the writing is crafted with rigorous care. I want to experience freshness and surprise, through word choice and perspective. I'm especially drawn to a unique narrator's voice.

Believable characters. I slip into characters as I read, so I need to trust that the author is treating their characters with respect, no matter what kind of character I inhabit. Also, I immediately resist if I feel like my emotions are being manipulated.

Insight. Feeling a resonance with the issues our society is grappling with, such as colonialism, xenophobia, feminism, social isolation, conspiracy theories, and aging with dignity.

Setting. A sense of grounding in time and place that enriches the story experience.

Plot. The story must have intrinsic coherence and hang together. I want to sense the narrative arc over the course of a novel or short story, whether the action is internal or external.

Enlargement. An inner expansion that comes as a result of reading a particular piece of literature.

Okay, so here are my nine longlist picks in alphabetical order by title:


Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch by Rivka Galchen

Fight Night by Miriam Toews

Molly Falls to Earth by Maria Mutch

Return of the Trickster by Eden Robinson

Shadow Life by Hiromi Goto and Ann Xu

Speak, Silence by Kim Echlin

We Want What We Want by Alix Ohlin

What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad

You Are Eating an Orange. You Are Naked. by Sheung-King

And, because there are so many fine possibilities, I also have a wish list composed of honourable mentions (which I've read) and books not yet published (which I haven't read, so they are marked with an asterisk):

Astra by Cedar Bowers

The Book of Form and Emptinessby Ruth Ozeki

Em* by Kim Thuy

A Funny Kind of Paradise by Jo Owens

Ghost Lake by Nathan Niigan Noodin Adler

Manikanetish* by Naomi Fontaine, translated by Luise von Flotow

The Strangersby Katherena Vermette

To Know You're Alive by Dakota McFadzean

What do you think? I look forward to seeing what the Giller judges have chosen this year.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

August 2021 Reading Roundup

I've highlighted ten favourites here, out of the 38 books that I read in August. If you are a fan of graphic novels, this post is for you, because five out of the ten are in comics format. Read on!


In. by Will McPhail


An introverted, self-centred cartoonist named Nick struggles to make authentic connections with the people around him. When he does, the graphite pencil art blooms into glorious watercolours; I rejoiced with every breakthrough. Nick's performance of life-as-he-believed-was-expected-of-him, plus full-page gags about pretentious coffee shops, kept me giggling, while family and relationship drama added a more serious undertone. This Scottish graphic novel is both funny and sad and I loved it.

I need a good bar to be sad in.

Cyclopedia Exotica by Aminder Dhaliwal

This book opens with pages laid out as if it‘s a reference encyclopedia, with pointed humour in the seemingly-dry entries. Example: “There were few job opportunities for Cyclopes beyond herding. Publishers turned away Cyclopean authors, while many popular Two-Eyed authors wrote stories featuring Cyclopean leads.” Afterwards, the content switches to slice-of-life comics panels following a diverse group of characters, some of them queer.

Cyclops have assimilated into Two-Eyes society, but their daily lives are a series of micro-aggressions and other challenges, in addition to quotidian joys. Representation versus exploitation in consumer marketing, is one example. This uplifting graphic novel presents a witty satire of external and internal prejudices faced by anyone who is different from the mainstream.

    Sometimes there‘s a story we tell ourselves and sometimes a story is told about us. Some parts of our story define us. But nuance and humanity is lost in the encyclopedias.


Menopause: A Comic Treatment edited by MK Czerwiec

This is excellent! Twenty-nine cartoonists with a wide variety of styles write about different aspects of menopause. I really appreciate the diversity because we don‘t all experience menopause the same way. Among the queer contingent of contributors are: Jennifer Camper, KC Councilor, Leslie Ewing, Ellen Forney, Keet Geniza, AK Summers and Kimiko Tobimatsu.

Delicates by Brenna Thummler

I didn‘t read the first graphic novel volume Sheets, about a middle school girl and her ghost friends, but I sure enjoyed this second volume. The topic of being bullied for being different versus being your own weird self is delicately handled, and a neurodiverse character is well portrayed. True friendship is precious. Expressive, colourful art. 

The Tea Dragon Tapestry by Kay O'Neill

Third in the gentle LGBTQ fantasy graphic novel Tea Dragon series from New Zealand, the characters are compassionate and the message of friendship and self worth is reassuring. “You are already whole.” Adorable comics for all ages.

Nature Poem by Tommy Pico

Tommy Pico‘s book-length poem embraces multiple identities—Indigenous, urban, queer—with a voice that‘s urgent, angry, sorrowful and intimate. Gay club culture, online dating apps and colonialism are just some of the topics addressed with wit and quicksilver mood changes. A quick read—75 pages—and so very approachable.

    oh, but you don‘t look very Indian is a thing ppl feel comfortable saying to me on dates.
    What rhymes with, fuck off and die?

    Mirrors love attention.
    Like everyone.

    Who even wants to go into space?
    I fucking hate traveling

    I don‘t like thinking abt nature bc nature makes me suspect there is a god.
[…]
    God wants everything, n I‘m like God—you, I‘m sorry, but you are too much of a time commitment. I have a work thing. It‘s not you, it‘s me.

Razorblade Tears by SA Cosby
Audiobook [12 hr] read by Adam Lazarre-White

“Folks like to talk about revenge like it‘s a righteous thing, but it‘s just hate in a nicer suit.” I agree 100% with this sentiment, voiced by one of the main characters, in an audiobook I loved—even though it's a violent action thriller about vigilante justice. What makes it so good? The character nuances and growth, the complexities of the issues exploredlike racism, homophobia and transphobia, and the consequences that are suffered. Plus, it is wickedly funny.

    Ike spied a silver BMW in the rearview mirror, driven by a woman with the most severe I-want-to-speak-with-the-manager haircut he‘d ever seen. She zipped by them doing at least 30 mph, like she had some dalmatians in the trunk that she needed to make into a coat.

    His blond hair was slicked back with so much product, a fly would break its neck trying to land on it.

What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad
Audiobook [7 hr] read by Dion Graham

The gripping, devastating tale of a 9-year-old Syrian refugee, only survivor from a boatload of desperate people. His safety is not assured, even after washing up on a tourist beach on a Greek island. Alternating before and after chapters build empathy and suspense.

    Vänna could not help but think of ancestry as a kind of shackle one could never fully unclasp. An umbilical cord that, no matter how deeply cut, could never be severed.

    Every man you ever meet is nothing but the product of what was withheld from him, what he feels owed.

    “You‘ve got a storybook view of the world.”
    Maher shrugged. “Books are good for the soul,” he said. “Books will wean you off cruelty.”
    “And what will you be left with then?” Mohamed asked.

Farewell, My Orange by Kei Iwaki
Translated by Meredith McKinney

A slim, emotionally-affecting and hopeful novel told in the alternating viewpoints of two immigrants to Australia. Salimah is an African refugee with two young sons. Sayuri is the highly-educated wife of a Japanese academic. The two meet at an ESL class and become friends. This story held me spellbound and continued to disperse gloom even after I had finished reading it.

    Beneath a blue sky, learning to write under a great tree that sheltered her instead of a classroom roof. The first letters she had written with her finger in the sand. Letters that a man‘s feet had trampled. The land where she lived, her family, her friends—all taken from her. And after that, the simple prayer that she live another day to greet the sun again.

    While one lives in a foreign country, language‘s main function is as a means of self-protection and a weapon in one‘s fight with the world. You can‘t fight without a weapon. But perhaps it‘s human instinct that makes it even more imperative to somehow express oneself, convey meaning, connect with others.

The Promise by Damon Galgut

A dysfunctional white South African family gathers for four funerals over the course of three decades. I love the chatty authorial voice, which slips nimbly in close third-person from character to character within single paragraphs. Clever turns of phrase—ie describing a lady as “much in favour of perms and cardigans”—kept me smiling, while the deeper thread witnessing social and political change touched my heart. I would be very pleased to see this win the Booker prize, a couple of months from now (November 3, 2021).

    Will people feel sorry for her all day because her mother has become that word? She feels ugly when she cries, like a tomato breaking open, and thinks that she must get away, away from this horrible little room with its parquet floor and barking Maltese poodle and the eyes of her aunt and uncle sticking into her like nails.

    Her new faith, which she experiences as a kind of waterproof garment she's buttoned down over herself, doesn't stop her from acting on her fears and desires, but it provides a way of washing them off afterwards. She will receive her penance and the karmic clock will be reset again to zero and she will swear to the priest that she will follow his instructions, that this is the last, last time that she will ever stray, and she will deeply mean it.



Saturday, August 14, 2021

July 2021 Reading Roundup


My top reads in July 2021:

Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Volume One: Summary: Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission


I thought it would be a dry slog. I was wrong. The writing is engaging and the content is immensely enlightening. I'm so glad that my friend Kathy agreed to buddy read this with me, because I've intended to read it since it was released in 2015, but kept putting it off due to fear of feeling sad and angry while grappling with the content. And it did make me sad and angry, but I'm very glad to have read it. This summary volume gives a good grounding in the complex ways residential schools have continued to affect Canada‘s Indigenous peoples. I now have a better understanding of what reconciliation means and feel more equipped to speak up when I encounter racism in my daily life.

Kathy adds: "the Report also places the Canadian Government's decision to create the residential schools in context. The report does a very good job of outlining the political, legal and religious views that made the Canadian Government's decision possible."

Essential reading for all Canadians. It's available free in pdf format on the TRC website.

Molly Falls to Earth by Maria Mutch

Bystanders surround a dance choreographer having an epileptic seizure on a sidewalk. This brilliant, kaleidoscopic novel takes place over seven minutes: her vivid memories, special people and long-held secrets are interwoven with scenes from a documentary about missing people. We are all interconnected: even strangers touch our lives, though our perceptions may differ. The included cityscape photos emphasize the personality of place—and New York City is definitely a character.

The city doesn‘t always know what to do with itself, so it invents, it makes new. You can‘t step in the same city twice.

Look up ‘seven‘ and it will say, absurdly, ‘six plus one,‘ but you won‘t be able to argue. The tautology won‘t end. The only way forward is forward.

The body is in time, it is time. It shows the passage of it. Which is why dance can be hard to translate, why filming it so often feels inadequate. The body reveals space, making us aware of what we take for granted. Conversely, the camera flattens space. Movement is something you have to be in the presence of, in order to fully see how a space is rendered in three dimensions.

I was overwhelmed with a love whose internal organs were shot through with what seemed to be an everlasting hate, but it was really only the flawed structure of this place, these bodies. And the fact that I kept people from the furnace of my heart—the place where they could so easily burn.

Zom-Fam by Kama La Mackerel

Kama La Mackerel is a trans Mauritian Canadian activist, artist and writer. Their debut poetry collection consists of eight long autobiographical poems. Family life—including spirituality, gender roles and colonial scars—on the former plantation island of Mauritius is vividly evoked. Kreol language, curry spices, coconut sweets, and burning sun. A tender and exuberant coming-out memoir in verse.

when i tell my mother that i am trans
[…]
she tells me that we come from a history & a culture
where women-men
& men-women
have always existed

-------

because colonial powers destroyed
people
lands
resources
cultures
but colonial powers
also scythed
the languages
of love

Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch by Rivka Galchen

Vivid, humorous voice—that of an indomitable old woman—combined with the depressingly ignorant voices of townspeople who have accused her of witchcraft. I was riveted by this historical novel based on real people who lived in southern Germany in the early 17th century. Entertaining and sobering. I wish it didn't remind me so much of the fearful superstitions I see surrounding Covid vaccinations and other science.

“I apologize for having no horse,” he said cheerfully. He didn‘t look like he‘d ever had a horse. Or even had a close friend who had had a horse.

I suspect the only thing I‘d be interested in reading would be a history. But I‘m told histories are hated, which is not surprising. People prefer to make it up themselves.

I had loved babies as a child, more than most people do, even. I loved their small fingernails. I loved the way they seemed to arrive older than their parents. I loved the courage they had to sleep as if there were no wolves, no soldiers.

He asked me to sit, encouraged me to have a bite to eat. He had a slice of apple on a tiny spear of some sort.
“What is that toy you‘re holding?”
“It‘s a fork. And I know you know it‘s a fork.”
“It looks like the tail of a devil,” I said. “Not in a bad way.”

A hummingbird once rested near my shoulder. It was a very ill omen. For one who isn‘t a flower.

I had Greta‘s voice in my head, telling me that all people are the image of God. Why not all voles, then? All fleas? They were God‘s creations, too.

The Archive of Alternate Endings by Lindsey Drager

The multiple strands of the millennium spanned in this novel-told-in-fragments are set 70 years apart, timed with each pass of Halley's comet. The stories feature pairs of brothers and sisters, often showing one excluded from their families, usually for the reason of one being queer, and the other remains with them in solidarity—so the Hansel and Gretel theme works very well. History is recorded by those who are dominant in society; it's refreshing to see things from a different perspective.

What is story if not the safe harbour for our most disturbing imaginings? I learned early that the notion of what will come to pass haunts better. But, too, it is about the storyteller—who you choose to trust and why.

A Map to the Sun by Sloane Leong

Cartoonist Sloane Leong has mixed ancestry—Hawaiian, Chinese, Mexican, Native American and European—and she draws on that variety in creating the five main teen characters in this wonderful graphic novel. The girls each have drama at home, plus the usual body issues and school drama, but when they form a basketball team, they find friendships, rivalries and self-respect. Larger gender and social justice issues add extra depth. Glorious artwork in vivid fauvist colours.


Thirsty Mermaids by Kat Leyh

I love this charming and very queer graphic novel! The humour is never mean: it's the "fish-out-of-water" type. There's no sex. Instead, it's friendship to the max, reminding me of the Lumberjanes series which is coauthored by Kat Leyh, although this standalone is definitely for age 18 and up. I say that because the central plot is about drinking as much alcohol as possible, which is the premise for a couple of merfolk and a sea witch deciding to venture onto dry land. Poor decision-making while inebriated and the hangover price do counteract the alcohol message, by the way. Leyh's colourful, cartoony artwork has a fresh buoyancy.



Wednesday, June 30, 2021

June 2021 Reading Roundup


I hope you enjoy these highlights from a few of the books I read in June.

The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel

I wouldn‘t have thought it possible but Alison Bechdel‘s art just keeps getting better. In this volume of graphic memoir she brilliantly observes the consumerism surrounding physical fitness, tying in theories of Buddhism, the Romantics and Transcendentalists, and writings of Jack Kerouac, Adrienne Rich etc. In a panel quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, she describes him as giving a 19th-century TED talk. Each chapter covers a decade in her life, with concurrent fitness trends. The whole thing is funny and smart and I kept recognizing stuff from my own life, which isn‘t surprising since we‘re both lesbians and we're the same age. Full colour artwork too! It's a sign that Bechdel is loosening up: the colouring is done in collaboration with her longtime companion, Holly Rae Taylor. 
Note: This was one of the books I recommended to my friend Shawn when I was on his BookTube channel to talk about queer books recently. You can find our conversation here: Lindy Recommends Queer Books



My Life in Transition: A Super Late Bloomer Collection by Julia Kaye


Out trans woman Julia Kaye documents six months of her daily life in comic strips. Her emotional support comes from friends and chosen family. She‘s honest about the ups and downs, yet always manages to see the humour in being human. Sweet and uplifting.

Seeing soft butch women in the media and online makes my heart swell. I see a reflection of part of myself in them I didn‘t realize needed validation. A reminder that there are countless ways to present myself as a woman.

Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard
Audiobook [12 hr] read by the author

Forestry was nearly my chosen career when I left high school in 1978, but I decided on libraries instead because I realized I would more likely be involved in clear-cutting than in studying tree ecology. Which is the situation bisexual forestry scientist Suzanne Simard found herself in. Her engaging memoir documents her efforts to have her research results respected by policy makers and thereby save British Columbia forests. I love this library audiobook so much that I've ordered a paper copy from Audreys.

Fiebre Tropical by Juliana Delgado Lopera

If distinctive voice is your thing, check out this potent blend of Colombian Spanish and English por el amor de Dios! Francisca at 15 has immigrated to Miami with the women in her family. Her loneliness and feverish irreverence is sometimes jaded, sometimes raw with self-discovery, her story both tragic and funny, as she negotiates fanatical Christianity and her own queer coming of age. 

Buenos días, mi reina. Immigrant criolla here reporting desde los Mayamis from our ant-infested townhouse. The broken air conditioner above the TV, the flowery couch, La Tata half-drunk directing me in this holy radionovela brought to you by Female Sadness Incorporated.
(Opening lines of Chapter Uno)

Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile
Audiobook [10 hr] read by the author, and includes her music too

The audiobook edition is a great way to experience Brandi Carlile‘s memoir. She not only reads her words, she even performs two or three songs between chapters. The acoustic music is also compiled like an album at the end of the book. Carlile‘s ability to see grace even in her most difficult times is impressive and inspiring. She was a guest at Calgary's online Wordfest in June and our tickets to her event included a hardcover copy of her book, delivered to our door. Lots of great photos in it!

Singing and vocalizing in general create X-ray levels of emotional exposure.

When you're told your whole life that it's wrong for two women or men to marry, when your homeland agrees, and when you realize that you believe it too, deep within your primitive senses, a reckoning is imperative. It's a process, but it's mandatory, whether you're LGBTQ or not. A person's self-worth is dictated by what inalienable rights are allowed to them. The right to not live your life alone is a big one.

Where Things Touch: A Meditation on Beauty by Bahar Orang

A lovely collection of thoughts about beauty, told in fragments that blur the line between essay and poetry, written by queer Canadian Bahar Orang when she was a medical student.

Beauty is not indulgence, beauty is our right.

Even lovers have tried to impress upon me the importance of reading Hegel or Heidegger, lovers who have declared my sheepish disinterest a symptom of a modern, shallow throng. In one case, I was advised to be permanently suspicious of beauty. How unnerving, then, all the times this same lover remarked that I was beautiful.

There‘s a hypothesis in medicine: reading, a word unconsidered and unqualified, will make you a more empathetic and humane doctor. Except I have known students and scholars who, despite all their literary cunning and writerly prowess, seem to know little about things like compassion. I have known voracious readers who, in reading, simply reinforce their own small-minded beliefs—readers who find, by reading, new logics and arguments for those beliefs.

My head was full of phrases and sayings. What was that lovely one again? A path is made by walking on it.

I am taken instead by the strangeness of flowers, a strangeness familiar and unfamiliar. Flowers can be called queer, their style, their manner of swaying in the half-light, dressing and undressing, spread-eagle, leaning against each other, exhaling, falling apart, coming back together, dying then living.

Beauty governs me. No, it‘s not an obsession. No, it‘s not just a project. Well, maybe it is. A project that is my life.

The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Space Time and Dreams Deferred by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
Audiobook [11 hr] read by Joniece Abbott-Pratt

Being a black, Jewish and agender femme particle cosmologist, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein has grappled with all the threads of her history, including misogynoir and colonialism‘s relationship with Indigenous knowledge. Her passion for ethical science makes my heart sing, while her journey to professional status has been harrowing. One of many cool things in this book: the physics of skin—understanding melanin might help us build better, greener technologies. The audiobook performance is good, despite the fact that the narrator mispronounces the author's first name, starting it with a soft 'sh' sound. 

Black lives are the stuff of stars and black lives matter. All of them.

Even for all its facts, Western science has struggled with acknowledging a core reality: humans are not the masters of our ecosystem, but rather are dependent on it.

In my view, to be an American president is to helm a sprawling system that does not understand freedom, even as it drones on and on about it.

True Colors: World Masters of Natural Dyes and Pigments by Keith Recker

Artists around the world are exploring environmentally-friendly colours in their textiles, paper and pottery. This collection of conversations about culture, history, and colour is fascinating and the photographs are stunning. Many of the people featured in these pages have also been guests on Botanical Colors Feedback Friday videos, which I also recommend: 

https://botanicalcolors.com/tag/feedback-friday/

Just last year, it was revealed that the ever-popular “millennial pink” is actually a shade of the oldest color on earth! More ancient than dinosaurs, this natural pigment was unearthed after a billion years by Australian scientists analyzing shale rock from the Sahara Desert, suddenly giving pink an architectural & cultural dimension. The mines carved out by the very first humans were exploited in order to extract minerals for making color […]

“Natural dyeing is a gateway drug,” Sasha Duerr asserts with humour, meaning that the thrill of seeing textiles soak up fresh plant colour is a memorable sensory experience and, as such, a step along the road to her overall goal of fostering ecoawareness in students, clients, colleagues, friends and family.

What Willow Says by Lynn Buckle

What Willow Says has many similarities to a classic I adore—Tove Jansson‘s The Summer Book, so of course I love this new one too. The similarities include: a warm, intense relationship between artist grandmother and exuberant granddaughter; told in vignettes; the mood is sometimes melancholic with grief over the death of the child‘s parent(s), sometimes serene, and often buoyant with discovery connected to the natural world. What Willow Says is set in Ireland, the orphaned child is deaf and the prose sings with poetic conventions. (I'm grateful to the publisher Epoque Press for access to a review copy.)

She already knows the slow, steadfast way an oak grows or how eucalyptus rushes to the sky in the fight for light, how aspen quivers, and ivy gropes.

And I swear to god she makes up some sign which both intonates, and says, that the pines are brushing their sorrows against one another. No spoken words detonate feelings quite as deeply as these movements of hers. I have tried convincing fellow writers to watch the beauty of sign language poets. She surpasses them in signing her loss. She signs the trees singing.

Shirley and Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goertz


A fun contemporary
 graphic novel about two 10-year-old girls who, upon first meeting, form a pact to their mutual benefit in order to avoid spending their summer at camps they‘re not interested in. Instead, they become friends and solve mysteries. Colourful art with expressive faces and a diverse cast that reflects their home city of Toronto. This is the first volume of a projected series.

Fungipedia: A Brief Compendium of Mushroom Lore by Lawrence Millman

Have you been longing to become more conversant in mycological facts and lore? No? It doesn‘t matter! This is the funny and informative compendium you didn‘t know you were missing! You‘ll learn that a mushroom stem is called a stipe and that a sloth‘s hairs have grooves that serve as hydroponic gardens for fungi! And so much more! Amaze and amuse your friends with trivia about mushroom sex, deification of fungi and poisonings!

Fairy rings can be quite venerable. Purple-spored puffballs (Calvatia cyathiformis) can form fairy rings that survive for 400 years or more. One particularly large fairy ring near Stonehenge in southern England is estimated to be at least 1,000 years old.

Also, lysergic acid diethylamide, otherwise known as LSD, is an ergot derivative accidentally discovered in 1943 by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann when he was investigating the pharmaceutical properties of ergot.

Upon seeing a specimen of Phallus impudicus, Thoreau wrote in his journal: “Pray what was Nature thinking of when she made this? She almost puts herself on a level with those who draw in privies.”

A bright orange, extremely spongy member of the bolete family first discovered as recently as 2011 in Sarawak, Malaysia, by mycologist Tom Bruns, is named after the well known Nickelodeon cartoon character Spongebob SquarePants. [Spongiforma squarepantsii]

Recently, the wood of several ordinary violins was inoculated with Xylaria polymorpha mycelia, and the sound ended up very close to that of Strativarius violins.

A typical mushroom in the prime of its life might produce upward of 30,000 spores per second. Certain spores can remain viable for 100+ years, so when they walk into a bar, they can simply sit down on a stool and wait, then wait some more, until a compatible mating type also walks in.

The mating types of spores are sometimes called genders. To ensure their survival, most fungi have many genders, but the split gill (Schizophyllum commune) takes the proverbial cake by having 28,000 genders.

At Le Pré-Saint-Gervais outside Paris, German composer Johann Schobert picked a batch of mushrooms and brought them to a restaurant so the chef could cook them. “Poisonous,” the chef said. Schobert left in a huff and brought them to another restaurant, whose chef said the same thing. Whereupon Schobert went home and cooked the mushrooms himself … with the result that he, his wife, and all but one of his children departed this world.