Sunday, August 31, 2014

War of Streets and Houses by Sophie Yanow

Two things prompted me to re-read War of Streets and Houses, Sophie Yanow's slim comics memoir about the Montreal student strike in 2012:

     1) The part in The Girl Who Was Saturday Night where Nouschka goes to a Quebec sovereignty demonstration before the 1995 referendum: "We were very into the collective experience in Montreal. There was nothing that we liked more than a pretty mob." (Heather O'Neill)

     2) Recently learning that a Quebec judge has given the green light to class action lawsuits against police kettling tactics during the student protests.

Muggy summer scene,
War of Streets and Houses
Actually, there was a third thing. It's that War of Streets and Houses is such an intriguing and intelligent book and I wanted to feel my mind stretched by it once again. Yanow's sketchy line drawings encompass large ideas about urban design, military power and crowd control. She also documents the personal risks and thrills that go along with participating in mass demonstrations.

Yanow is a lesbian cartoonist who moved to Montreal from the forests of California.

"I always felt I had no choice but to go to a city. Where else can a queer kid go to find people like them to experiment with the possibilities only made real by city life."

Urban life brings its own complications, but Yanow is also seduced by its rewards.

After the events in War of Streets and Houses, thousands of people of all ages walked in the streets with pots and pans, protesting the brutal treatment of student activists by police, as well as proposed new legislation curtailing civilian protest rights.

This little book is worthy of many re-reads.

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