Sunday, March 8, 2020

Tim Hortons again... popping up in the books I read...

I am tickled every time I come across a Tim Hortons reference in the books I read. So Canadian! Previous excerpts can be found here: Tim Hortons tag

And these are the latest:

"I scowled. We were almost at the main road, Lawrence Avenue, a busy street for traffic but a lonely one for walking -- all of civilization was at the strip mall with the Tim Hortons and the big-box Walmart, or else inside the grey apartment buildings that stood, washed-out and faded, beside the sidewalk."

- from Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta, p 182


I was standing in line at the Tim Hortons on campus when I saw Jonas. He was ordering, leaning forward over the counter and whispering his order to the cashier. She blushed, covered her mouth with her free hand. Her hat was red. If Patty were here, she would have said, "Women dressed in red are more sexually attractive to men."

- from Shut Up You're Pretty by Tea Mutonji, p 97

He holds up a paper bag.
"What's this?"
"Milestones," he says. "Want one?" He shakes the bag of doughnut holes.
"I don't know. Is your own little poison stone crouched in there somewhere?"
"Don't make fun of my mental illness," he says bluntly. "And I'm not telling you if it's in there. You'll never know unless you reach inside."
I take the bait, pull out a Milestone, take a bite. Dark chocolate with pomegranate jelly.
"Yum. So you work at West Edmonton Mall now?"
"Ugh I know, rub it in. I hate this place."
"If you promise to stick around and chat until my shift is done I'll make you The Great One for free."
"What's The Great One?"
"It's our legendary, off-the-menu Miles Hortons drink. It's like a double-double but it's nine creams-nine sugars. Get it? After Wayne Gretzky. Number 99."
"That sounds horrifying. I think I'll pass."
"Your loss. I drink one every day."

-from Melting Queen by Bruce Cinnamon, p 106-108


But the road also made her long even harder for Victor. Over the years, road trips were an excuse for them to be neither here nor there, free from their daily lives. Fucking in the back seat behind a Tim Hortons; tipping lamps off desks in motels that still had smoking rooms; enjoying the smell of themselves on each other's hands and faces while ordering breakfast at four o'clock in the afternoon at Denny's.

-from Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline, p 89


The Labrador Sea appeared in early 2015. It was at first only a modest success. There was an approving review in the New York Times Book Review, something more equivocal in the Telegraph. The Labrador Sea was overlooked by the London Review of Books. In Merrett Leys's home country, the National Post profiled the author as a "global literary phenomenon," emphasizing his "nearly-million-dollar advance." Merrett Leys told the interviewer, "I consider myself very fortunate that anyone would be interested in this story of longing and sea foam."

The Labrador Sea went on to receive Canada's lucrative Tim Hortons Prize. More surprisingly, it was named as a finalist for the US National Book Award and for the Man Booker. It won the latter, to widespread astonishment -- bookies put Merrett Leys's odds at 100-1. This recognition opened the floodgates.

-from The Wagers by Sean Michaels, p 210-211


Without being asked, Al-Karim takes orders for tea. "Tim Hortons! Shabash. Would have brought a thermos of chai from home if we'd known," a senior says, shaking her head. All the seniors request double doubles.

-from Night of Power by Anar Ali, Chapter 14


After Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, writing felt pointless, let alone writing arts criticism. Finally, at a Tim Hortons during a christmas visit to Canada, I managed to hammer out the section of this essay about Trump as a stand-up comic. The one section that I wish I could expand is the relationship between TV news and TV comedy.

-from 'How Jokes Won the Election' in I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution by Emily Nussbaum


...And this one is thanks to my Litsy friend Memory Scarlett:

It took us about fifteen minutes to get to the Tim Hortons on Bloor where Colin was hiding out. Parking was nonexistent -- no surprise there -- so Hudson pulled over and put on his four-ways.

-from Graveyard Shift by Jenn Burke 

To top it off, there was a bit of a twitter storm in October 2019 when a Hong Kong student shared his perspective on the place Tim Hortons holds in Canadian culture:

Sunday, March 1, 2020

February 2020 Reading Round-Up

Here are some of my favourites reads from February:

Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob
-graphic novel

This memoir hits all the right notes: heartbreaking and funny and absurd… it‘s contemporary life as seen through the eyes of Mira Jacob, daughter of Indian immigrants to the USA. Jacob married a white Jewish man. In the volatile time surrounding Donald Trump‘s election, their 6-year-old son has many questions about race and colour. Jacob answers him with care and honesty. The paper doll art and speech balloons collaged against photo backgrounds is unique and really effective.
"Is Daddy afraid of us?" "No!"

Conversation between the author and her son: 
Was Michael Jackson brown or was he white?
Well, he was black but his skin was brown and then it turned white.
Are you going to turn white?
Am I going to—
Daddy‘s already white?
But was he always?

Commute: An Illustrated Memoir of Female Shame by Erin Williams
-graphic novel

Personally not a fan of Instagram memes
being right: The only way out is through.
This memoir in comics format is a must read for anyone interested in gender dynamics and feminism. Erin Williams, an illustrator and cancer researcher, writes about recovery from alcoholism and how her addiction was tied to her sexual experiences. Simple line drawings with effective use of black and spot colour add grace and power to this honest, uncomfortable, and deeply moving work.

The shame of previous digressions will poison you if you let it.

Men are able to dismiss the deficiencies of other scholarly men as products of their time rather than recognizing them as bigots who helped to perpetuate centuries of oppression.

Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera 
-novella translated from Spanish by Lisa Dillman

A brilliant allegory encompassing contemporary latinx experience on both sides of the border between Mexico and the US—or life and the afterworld—told simply, yet with such inventiveness (“he angloed” rather than “said in English”) that I felt frequent thrills deep within my language-loving core. My heart was with the badass heroine and her archetypal quest, echoing with ancient mythology.

The stadium loomed before them. So, what do they use that for?
They play, said the old man. Every week the anglos play a game to celebrate who they are.

The city was an edgy arrangement of cement particles and yellow paint. Signs prohibiting things thronged the streets, leading citizens to see themselves as ever protected, safe, friendly, innocent, proud, and intermittently bewildered, blithe and buoyant; salt of the earth worth knowing.
First there was nothing. Then she made out two mountains colliding in the back of beyond: like they‘d come from who knows where and were headed to anyone‘s guess but had come together at that intense point in the nothingness and insisted on crashing noisily against each other, though the oblivious might think they simply stood there in silence.

Rebent Sinner by Ivan Coyote
-queer Canadian storytelling

An excellent collection of mostly short pieces from one of my favourite storytellers. Ivan writes with warmth, humour—and sometimes sadness—about life and being human. Since they happen to be trans, Ivan also writes about that.

Semi-drunk and definitely creepy dude in the lineup at the market says to uninterested young mother: “Is that a new baby?”
Young mom retorts coolly: “Is there such a thing as an old baby?”
Even the clerk laughed.

Sometimes there you are on the highway, and you drive right through a flock of memories, like ghosts. All you can do is keep your eyes on the road.
A friend told me today, “Don‘t catch a falling cactus.” I did this only once, but still, it needs remembering.

Malagash by Joey Comeau
-Canadian audiobook [2 h] narrated by Jenna Lamia

A teenage girl plans to use her mad programming skills to keep her dying father alive forever in the form of a benign computer virus. This warm and funny novella-length audiobook avoids sentimentality while portraying a Nova Scotia family coming to terms with their grief. 

When you smile, it reminds me of when you were a baby, and you would pee anywhere you wanted.
I‘ve been scared to touch them but I do so now. The cow does not rear or buck. It does not snort or gnash. It accepts my touch with the indifference of a giant, of a machine. I am trying not to think of it as stupid meat and bone and muscle. I am trying not to think of myself as stupid meat and bone and muscle.

Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor
-British novel

This quiet, compassionate, sharply-observed novel about loneliness and aging has completely stolen my heart.

Cleft chin, widow‘s peak, Hapsburg lip and five o‘clock shadow. By simply rearranging these words he could later make a poem out of them, he decided. He knew nothing about poetry, apart from assistant-stage-managing The Cocktail Party when he was in the repertory company.
Mrs Post paused on her way out. She was wearing, in spite of the warm afternoon, her mock (and as far as Mrs Arbuthnot was concerned, her mocked at) fur coat of grey shaded stripes. If I were going to copy any kind of fur, Mrs Arbuthnot thought, consoling herself, it would not be squirrel.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
-audiobook [7 h] narrated by Lynne Thigpen

I‘m so glad I decided to revisit 9-year-old Cassie Logan before my library hold comes in for Mildred Taylor‘s 2020 conclusion to her multivolume saga about the Logan family (All the Days Past, All the Days to Come). The audiobook of the 1977 Newberry award-winner is expertly narrated by Lynne Thigpen, has a preface written and read by Jacqueline Woodson, plus an afterword in the author‘s voice. The whole thing is a powerfully moving experience, recommended for family listening. 

The cover of the 40th anniversary edition (pictured) is by Kadir Nelson, the illustrator who also did The Undefeated, the next book on this month's list.

You have to demand respect in this world, ain't nobody just gonna hand it to you. How you carry yourself, what you stand for--that's how you gain respect. But, little one, ain't nobody's respect worth more than your own.

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Nadir Nelson
-picture book poetry
This is for the undefeated. This is for you.
And you. And you. This is for us.

Kadir Nelson‘s striking paintings accompany a poem that Kwame Alexander wrote to remind everyone that Black Lives Matter, and also about aspects of American history that have been left out of textbooks. Brief biographies at the back help identify historical figures in the illustrations. Further research will reward readers who seek the sources for the snippets of poetry and literary references in the text. An award-winning all ages picture book.

The Phone Booth in Mr Hirota's Garden by Heather Smith and Rachel Wada
-Canadian picture book

A Japanese man built a “phone of the wind” in his garden as a way to deal with grief. After a tsunami struck his coastal town of Otsuchi, thousands of mourners flocked to the phone booth, longing to connect to their missing loved ones. Canadian author Heather Smith was inspired by this and created a fictional version for children, hoping readers “will see that sometimes in sadness there is beauty.” The resulting picture book works on several levels: pure storytelling; lovely art; the true story that inspired it; and as an illustration of the grief process. There‘s reassurance that grief lessens over time and that there are things you can do that can help you feel better. Rachel Wada‘s art evokes Japanese techniques, perfect for the setting. All ages.

More about the actual phone booth can be found online, including here:

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre by Anika Aldamuy Denise and Paola Escobar
-picture book biography

A picture book biography of the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City: Pura Belpré. At library storytimes and outreach visits, she shared the folktales she had learned through her family‘s oral tradition. These stories weren‘t in books, so she wrote them down and they were published. Art by Paola Escobar captures the feel of the early 20th century by using muted shades of deep colours. Flowers burst forth to symbolize magical elements of story. 

Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes by Dana Thomas
-audiobook [9 h] narrated by the author

Dana Thomas is a creditable and engaging guide as she reveals the extent of worker abuse, environmental degradation and waste of resources happening in the clothing industry, an industry that employs one out of every six people on the planet. Hope is presented in the form of many solutions currently underway. We all wear clothes and socially conscious consumers can make a difference; this audiobook is a great way to get informed.

At any given moment, anthropologists believe, half the world‘s population is sporting jeans. Six billion pairs are produced annually. The average American owns seven.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

January 2020 Reading Round-Up

Here are some memorable reads from the first month of 2020:

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
Audiobook narrated by Alex Jennings

What is the meaning of an individual life, specifically when viewed through the lens of war? Kate Atkinson creates vivid fictional characters, beguiles with her sentence wizardry and treats time like a plaything. I have loved pretty much all of Atkinson‘s other books and it appears that I have saved the best for last. An outstanding buddy read with my friend Shawn the Book Maniac.

Poor mice, he had thought when he was a boy. Still thought the same now that he was a man. Nursery rhymes were brutal affairs. 
“I heard they take drugs and dance naked in the moonlight,” the farmer said. (True, although it wasn‘t as interesting as it sounded.)
She drew heavily on the cigarette and then, in a touching display of maternal responsibility, lifted her chin so that the smoke blew over her children‘s heads. When she got pregnant the first time, Viola had no idea what it would involve further down the line. She wasn‘t sure she‘d ever seen a baby, let alone held one, and imagined it would be like getting a cat, or, at worst, a puppy. (Turned out it was nothing like either.)
She had worked on herself. Years of therapy and fresh starts, although nothing that really required an effort on her part. She wanted someone else to effect change in her. It seemed a shame you couldn‘t just get an injection that would suddenly make everything all right. (“Try heroin,” Bertie [her daughter] said.)
His grandfather was a hero too, wasn‘t he? He‘d had a life. Sunny wondered how you went about getting one of those.
The Great War had made Sylvie into a pacifist, albeit a rather belligerent one.
He had seen the bull with the cows and Maurice had said that was what people did too, including their mother and father, he sniggered. Teddy was pretty sure he was lying. Hugh and Sylvie were far too dignified for such acrobatics.

I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl's Notes from the End of the World by Kai Cheng Thom

Fierce, compassionate and thoughtful essays and poems about interpersonal relationships within the social justice movement and queer communities. Canadian Kai Cheng Thom advocates for nuance where, too often, issues are seen as either right or wrong.

When it comes to trans folks, people are always talking about gender dysphoria—dislike or hatred of the body or self. I want to talk about gender euphoria—the state of joy or delight in your being, your gender presentation.
We must encourage love—love that is radical, love that digs deep. Love that asks the hard questions, that is ready to listen to the whole story and keep loving anyway. […] Love for the community that has failed us all. We live in poison. The planet is dying. We can choose to consume each other or we can choose love. Even in the midst of despair, there is always a choice. I hope we choose love.

Emily of New Moon by LM Montgomery

Dear, dear little Emily Starr, an orphan so full of wonder and life. Her spunk, integrity, loyalty, love of words and willingness to stand up for herself make her a charming heroine in this Canadian classic. It's been decades since I first read this. I am grateful to Christine, aka TheBookHippie on Litsy, for selecting it as a read-along for January in her year-long project of reading children's classics, open to anyone who wants to join in. Emily has 31 chapters, so it worked out perfectly to read one chapter per day.
(February's pick is much shorter: The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame.)

Elizabeth Murray had learned an important lesson—that there was not one law of fairness for children and another for grownups.
It is very exciting to be up on the roof of a house. We had a yelling contest there the other night to see which could yell the loudest. To my surprise I found I could. You never can tell what you can do till you try.

Tales from the Inner City by Shaun Tan

“One afternoon the members of the board all turned into frogs.” The premise behind each piece of short fiction or poetry in this collection is highly imaginative, but they evoke haunting emotions and reflections on the relationships between humans and other animals in urban environments. Shaun Tan‘s surreal illustrations add to the power.

The rhino was on the freeway again.
We blew our horns in outrage!
Men came, shot it dead, pushed it to one side.
We blew our horns in gratitude!

But that was yesterday.
Today we all feel terrible.
Nobody knew it was the last rhino.
How could we have known it was the last one?

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machada
Audiobook narrated by the author

A powerful collection of autobiographical essays about abuse within lesbian intimate relationships. Each one references pop culture—film, tv, literary tropes—in an engaging way. This book brought me back three decades to the shame and bewilderment when I was also abused by a woman I loved. I recognize the truth in her statement: “Fear makes liars of us all.”

This, maybe, was the worst part: the whole world was out to kill you both. Your bodies have always been abject. You were dropped from the boat of the world, climbed onto a piece of driftwood together, and after a perfunctory period of pleasure and safety, she tried to drown you. And so you aren‘t just mad, or heartbroken: you grieve from the betrayal.

Little Weirds by Jenny Slate
Audiobook narrated by the author

Fresh, brief and whimsical personal essays about how to live with gusto and feel safe and discover doors in your heart and appreciate beauty and connect with nature. Jenny Slate writes memos to herself, believes “wildness belongs in people,” her spirit has “an exquisite lacy patterned strength,” and cringes when she sees the tv “loitering like a dumbass.” Loved this audiobook so much I listened to it twice.

I‘d rather live with a tender heart because that is the key to feeling the beat of all the other hearts. 
I am a geranium that is holy and wild, but I want to sleep in a neat little pot. 
Before we all got here, there was a garden and the garden was good. I know that this is also the beginning of the bible. The bible is not the only book that is authorized to talk about good gardens. There are magazines about good gardens, there are tv shows; this is just another garden story.
Everything is always remaking itself and so are you. Everything is art and nature, and so are you.

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

California comics artist Maia Kobabe‘s memoir documents eir journey of feeling nongirly from childhood to realization that e is nonbinary and asexual. E also writes about switching to e/em/eir pronouns; hearing them for the first time gave em the “biggest tingle” down eir spine. (The Spivak pronouns are unusual and I‘m pleased to meet someone who uses them.) Sweet and honest with full colour art.

Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos and Me by Lorina Mapa

A poignant memoir in graphic novel format by comics artist Lorina Mapa, who was a teenager in 1986 during the People Power Revolution in the Philippines. I was moved to tears by her portrayal of the events, the millions who gathered, kneeling and praying in front of tanks, to put an end to the Marcos dictatorship. Moving back and forth between her childhood and her adult married life with four kids in Canada, this story is also about rediscovering oneself.

“Tiger, Tiger” is a little-known instrumental by Duran Duran. […] 
I once played that song 27 times in a row at full volume, lying on my bed, my head in that timeless space … no beginning, no end, no Rina. Just the music and the feeling that I was everything and I was also nothing. Really … who needs drugs?

The English Teacher by Lily King
Audiobook narrated by Christina Moore

My print reading was curtailed in the month of January as I healed from a concussion. I listened to all kinds of audiobooks instead: nonfiction, historical, cozy mysteries, a thriller, and quite a bit of fantasy. I didn‘t realize how much I had been missing character-based literary fiction until I felt myself sink into Lily King‘s prose. I loved this quiet, tender novel about an emotionally shuttered teacher and her complicated relationship with a text she taught every year: Tess of the D‘Ubervilles.

To live even a day on this earth required courage. All these things they read in school—The Odyssey, Beowulf, Huckleberry Finn—all about courage, but the teacher never said, ‘You may not have to kill a Cyclops or a dragon, but you will need just as much courage to get through each day.‘

Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively

There are good reasons why this haunting novel won the Booker and then was selected Best of the Decade as part of the 50th anniversary of the Man Booker Prize. Those reasons include memorable characters and stylish prose about memory and loss. I am so glad I finally read it!

History is disorder, I wanted to scream at them—death and muddle and waste. And here you sit cashing in on it and making patterns in the sand.
Is nausea always a manifestation of grief? Who am I to know? I have never been thus before. Grief-stricken. Stricken is right; it is as though you had been felled. Knocked to the ground; pitched out of life and into something else.
Laszlo has always allowed his soul to hang out like his shirt-tails and Gordon found this uncongenial. He did not object to people having souls but preferred them tucked away out of sight where they ought to be.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

December Reading Round-Up

Here are some of my favourites from December 2019. These include some older titles, children's picture books, audiobooks, poetry, short stories, novels and nonfiction. Surprisingly (because I don't seek out books about war), five of them have to do with world wars. Four have queer content, two are created by Indigenous women, and two are in translation from other languages. It's my typical eclectic mix.

the small way: poems by onjana yawnghwe

In this graceful, heartfelt collection, Onjana Yawnghwe, a Shan Canadian, writes about recovering from the breakup of a relationship, during the period of time that her husband transitioned to a woman. Striking imagery connects the timeless mysteries of the cosmos to the depths of our inner lives. The book (Caitlin Press) has a beautiful cover with a rubberized treatment that accentuates its rich blue colour.

Scientists know little about dark matter, and much less about dark energy, which makes up ninety-six percent of the world beyond earth. We know these things exist because light bends towards and becomes curved.
What exists between two people I know little of. But by the bending my heart I know a kind of truth.
Dead Name
For a period of a few months I don't know what to call you. You have chosen a name, Hazel, from a shortlist we brainstorm together. Vivian, Irene, Ava. Hazel is botanical and somehow suits you. I rehearse the name on my tongue; it comes out hesitantly, with a fade in the beginning and a question mark at the end. The feeling of a borrowed coat. It tastes of sweetened coffee but is lukewarm and strange in my mouth.
You had a psychologist and your trans 
support group, and the handful of 
work friends and family you'd told.
I was tethered to a particular silence 
of the lonely, of the inexplicable.
Dimensions shifted: instead of time 
and space, uncertainty and doubt.
Secrets were imposed on me, 
it was not my place to tell.
Tears stay close to the skin.
Drop by drop, the sea accumulates.

Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis

A handful of lesbians create community and relative safety with each other while living under the brutal oppression of military dictatorship in Uruguay. This immersive novel shines with warmth and humanity, and spans decades—1977 to 2013—documenting changes in society along the way.

“I think silence killed her.”
“Yes,” Diana said. “That is the way of silence.” 
“What do you mean?” La Venus said gently, knowing there was more beneath the surface.
“That the silence of the dictatorship, the silence of the closet, as we call it now—all of that is layered like blankets that muffle you until you cannot breathe.”

Two in the Bush and Other Stories by Audrey Thomas

I loved everything about this feminist collection of short stories by award-winning Canadian author Audrey Thomas. The richly-evoked settings vary from Ghana to Galiano Island to Mexico and Scotland. The prose style also varies, including stream of consciousness, multiple viewpoints and epistolary. The stories are sometimes enigmatic, yet always offer the pleasure of carefully crafted sentences. Best is that they are about women‘s lives and seem to live on almost like novels in my head.
A big thank you to Shawn Mooney (of Shawn the Book Maniac) who gifted this to me and then buddy-read it with me through the month of December.

He and his first wife had been so shy, so horribly reticent about their bodies. It had nearly killed him. It would, in the end, have killed him. She had written him long, hysterical letters, proclaiming her love, her unhappiness, her desire to try again. Or presenting him with past hurts like unpaid bills.
The continual muttering in the long ward grew louder, rumbled like a vast stomach as the orderly ladled porridge into plastic cups, stacked up in small towers the toast that had been made three hours before and margarined hastily before dawn.

Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter
Audiobook [22 h] narrated by Grace Conlin

A powerful and immersive novel set in 1931 aboard a German ship travelling for a month between Mexico and Germany, with sharp insights into the frailties of a large cast of characters who are together at close quarters. Katherine Anne Porter wrote: “I believe that human beings are capable of total evil, but no one has ever been totally good; and this gives the edge to evil.”

The past is never where you think you left it: you are not the same person you were yesterday.
People can't hear anything except when it's nonsense. Then they hear every word. If you try to talk sense, they think you don't mean it, or don't know anything anyway, or it's not true, or it's against religion, or it's not what they are used to reading in the newspapers...

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott and Harmony Becker

Star Trek actor and gay rights activist George Takei was a child in 1942. That's when the US government ordered all Japanese Americans be sent to prison camps in the interior of the country. This gripping memoir in comics format shows that experience from his small boy‘s perspective as well as looking back with the understanding of an adult. Takei learned about loyalty and integrity from his parents during these hard years and those that followed the war. Excellent art and pacing by cartoonist Harmony Becker. Outstanding delivery of history and memoir.

The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy

“While he listened to my heart murmur and mope, I understood his ears were the listening device hidden inside and outside his head.” This looping, layered novel explores the many ways of seeing and being watched. The bisexual character of the title does not see much. He is beautiful and extremely self-absorbed. Levy‘s lithe, warm prose playfully reveals his gradual realization of how his behaviour affects others and how he fits in the world.

He and I had both been very lonely in our teenage years in East Berlin and East London. I had suffered in the care of my authoritarian father and he had suffered in the care of his authoritarian fatherland.
His white shirt was ironed and starched, the collar pinned with a single blue topaz in the shape of a rose. Perhaps it was blue because I was looking at it. I was black and blue all over. My hair was black and I was blue inside.
He did not speak spontaneously, certainly not the first thoughts that came to mind. Perhaps he said the third thought that came to mind. 

An Untouched House by Willem Frederik Hermans
Translated by David Colmer

Told in the singular voice of a Dutch partisan who‘s fed up with the chaos of war and having no control over his life, this novella with its clear, unsentimental prose is one of the best depictions I‘ve read concerning the senselessness of war and how it can deform human minds. 

“Culture gives no quarter! Extraordinary circumstances are only an excuse! Someone who gives in to extraordinary circumstances, nah! He is simply no longer a person of culture!”
I said nothing.
“In the last war the British barrage began one morning at 6:15. At 6:30 I began shaving. It was too dark in the trench, so I moved to higher ground. That cost me half my little finger. But at 7:30 I was sitting down to eat breakfast!”

Captain Rosalie by Timothee de Fombelle
Translated by Sam Gordon, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

A five-year-old in France lives a rich imaginary life while her father is away fighting in the First World War. The poignancy of her story and her limited point of view are perfectly matched with Isabelle Arsenault‘s moody illustrations. Spots of fiery orange brighten the bleak grey and brown washes of ink. A heartbreaking coming-of-age story for ages six to adult.

To Speak for the Trees: My Life's Journey from Ancient Celtic Wisdom to a Healing Vision of the Forest by Diana Beresford-Kroeger
Audiobook [9 h] narrated by the author

After Diana Beresford-Kroger was orphaned at a young age in Ireland, she was taught Celtic wisdom by her maternal ancestors. She eventually became a respected botanist and moved to Canada with her husband, where she encountered universities who wouldn't hire women -- some of this memoir reminded me of Hope Jahren's Lab Girl. Undaunted, Diana has carried out her own research and is an expert on global forest ecology. Gentle, impassioned and poetic, she shares her vision of the future for our planet in this audiobook.

I want to remind you that the forest is far more than a source of timber. It is our collective medicine cabinet. It is our lungs. It is the regulatory system for our climate and our oceans. It is the mantle of our planet. It is the health and well-being of our children and grandchildren. It is our sacred home. It is our salvation. 

Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Audiobook [8 h] narrated by the author

Potawatomi author Robin Wall Kimmerer‘s enthusiasm for moss is infectious and I learned fascinating things about a subject I hadn‘t much thought about previously. This collection of essays combines memoir, Indigenous teachings and scientific knowledge for general readers. She writes about humankind‘s relationship to the natural world and the important gifts that even such humble things as moss have to contribute to the ecological system.

There is an ancient conversation going on between mosses and rocks, poetry to be sure. About light and shadow and the drift of continents. This is what has been called the “dialect of moss on stone - an interface of immensity and minuteness, of past and present, softness and hardness, stillness and vibrancy, yin and yan.“
I think you cannot own a thing and love it at the same time. Owning diminishes the innate sovereignty of a thing, enriching the possessor and reducing the possessed.
Moss leaves are only one cell thick.

The Girl and the Wolf by Katherena Vermette and Julie Flett

This children‘s picture book is a collaboration between two talented Canadian Métis women and it is absolutely wonderful. The Red Riding Hood tale is turned upside down with a wolf who is a helping spirit, quietly encouraging a lost girl to rescue herself. The gorgeous art, contemporary setting and the extrinsic significance of the red dress (MMIW: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) add power to the underlying message. All ages.

That night she tied tobacco in red cloth and left it at the bush‘s edge.
Because she didn‘t know a better way to say thank you.