Friday, December 31, 2021

December 2021 Reading Round-Up

This will be more brief than my usual monthly wrap-up because I'm healing from a concussion and can't spend much time reading or looking at screens. It's day 23 and I am improving steadily. Audiobooks have been a blessing, and also loved ones who have read aloud to me. Here's a list of my highlights from December (in no particular order):

Talking to Canadians by Rick Mercer

The Lion's Den by Anthony Marra

This Is Your Brain on Stereotypes by Tanya Lloyd Kyi and Drew Shannon

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny

Starbird by Sharon King-Chai

1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows: A Memoir by Ai Weiwei, translated by Allan H Barr

The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo

Dorie's Cookies by Dorie Greenspan
(Note: I read most of this cookbook in November, and I tried out about 9 or 10 recipes. Yummy!)

Friday, December 24, 2021

Reading Women Challenge

I broke my wrist and bonked my head hard enough to injure my brain, all of which means that I haven't been able to do much reading in December. I did make a video looking back on 2021, however. It's on my friend Shawn's booktube channel. I think i have figured out how to embed it here on my blog. The list of titles I spoke about is below.

The Reading Women Challenge (follow this link for more info about the challenge)

Longlisted for JCB Prize:

Latitudes of Longing by Shubhangi Swarup

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay

Author from Eastern Europe:

In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova (translation by Sasha Dugdale)

Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich (translation by Keith Gessen and Alma Lapinskiene):

About Incarceration:

The Strangers by Katherena Vermette

Cookbook by a Woman of Colour:

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki

Protagonist Older than 50:

Shadow Life by Hiromi Goto and Ann Xu

A Funny Kind of Paradise by Jo Owens

South American Author in Translation:

Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezon Camara (translation by Fiona Mackintosh and Iona Macintyre)

Reread a Favourite:

Noopiming by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo

The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya

Memoir by an Indigenous Woman:

How to Lose Everything by Christa Couture

In My Own Moccasins by Helen Knott

By a Neurodivergent Author:

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan

La Difference Invisible par Julie Dachez et Mademoiselle Caroline (English title: Invisible Differences: A Story of Asperger’s, Adulting, and Living a Life in Full Color)

Crime Novel or Thriller in Translation:

Snakes and Earrings by Hitomi Kanehara (translation by David James Karashima)

The Godmother by Hannelore Cayre (translation by Stephanie Smee)

About the Natural World:

Field Study: Meditations on a Year at the Herbarium by Helen Humphreys

Fathoms by Rebecca Giggs

Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard

Revery: A Year of Bees by Jenna Butler

English Pastoral: An Inheritance by James Rebanks (also titled: Pastoral Song: A Farmer’s Journey)

What Willow Says by Lynn Buckle

Young Adult Novel by a Latinx Author:

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Poetry Collection by a Black Woman:

Burning Sugar by Cicely Belle Blain

Book with a Biracial Protagonist:

The Actual Star by Monica Byrne

The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki

Em by Kim Thuy

A Muslim Middle Grade Novel:

The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf

A Queer Love Story:

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily Danforth

About a Woman in Politics:

Indian in the Cabinet by Jody Wilson-Raybould

Can You Hear Me Now? by Celina Ceasar-Chavannes

State of Terror by Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny

Book with a Rural Setting:

The Yield by Tara June Winch

Astra by Cedar Bowers

Book with a Cover Designed by a Woman:

Everything Affects Everyone by Shawna Leman (designer Ellie Hastings)

*Book by an Arab Author in Translation:

*want to read Woman at Point Zero by Nawal Saadawi

Book by a Trans Author:

Detransition Baby by Torrey Peters

A Dream of a Woman by Casey Plett

Fantasy Novel by an Asian Author:

Beneath the Rising by Premee Mohamed

Nonfiction Book About Social Justice:

My Conversations with Canadians by Lee Maracle

Short Story Collection by a Caribbean Author:

These Ghosts Are Family by Maisy Card

Bonus Authors:

Alexis Wright (Carpentaria; The Swan)

Tsitsi Dangarembga (This Mournable Body)

Leila Aboulela (*Minaret; *Elsewhere, Home)

Yoko Ogawa (Revenge; Memory Police; The Housekeeper and the Professor)

*on TBR

You can find Shawn the Book Maniac's channel here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Lesbian+ Book Club in 2022: So Many Possibilities!

Every December, members of the Edmonton Lesbian+ Book Club gather to decide upon our reading list for the coming year. In no particular order, here are the possibilities that I will put forward, with links to Goodreads for more information:

The Gospel of Breaking by Jillian Christmas
(poetry; author awarded Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ emerging writers in 2021)

How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang 

(blend of Chinese symbolism and reimagined history set in American gold rush era)

You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat 

(Palestinian American first-person voice; novel begins at age 12)

Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) by Hazel Jane Plante 

(experimental novel of a trans woman’s unrequited love; winner of Lambda award)

No Modernism Without Lesbians by Diana Souhami
(biography; history)

America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo
(Filipino family saga)

Radiant Fugitives by Nawaaz Ahmed
(novel narrated by a baby in a Muslim Indian American family)

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
(YA; identity crossroads set in 1953 San Francisco Chinatown)

Bestiary by K Ming Chang
(fabulist; three generations of Taiwanese American women)

Care Of: Letters, Connections and Cures by Ivan Coyote 


We will confer and vote on these and other possibilities this weekend, and then announce our 2022 line-up. 

A complete list of all of the previous books we've read in the Edmonton Lesbian+ Book Club can be found here. We've been going for many years, so there are hundreds of titles! Follow us on Instagram for up-to-date stuff.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Best LGBTQ Books in November

Here's part three of my picks from November's reads: all by queer authors. November's part one, audiobooks, can be found here. Part two, a lovely mixed bunch, can be found here.

Kimiko Does Cancer: A Graphic Memoir by Kimiko Tobimatsu and Keet Geniza

At 25, Kimiko Tobimatsu was diagnosed with mucinous breast cancer. This comic-format memoir documents her experience navigating the medical system in Canada as a queer woman of mixed ethnicity. Attitudes towards traditional markers of femininity, the emphasis on maintaining a positive outlook, flashy cancer fundraising campaigns, and work ethic while incapacitated by illness are just some of the issues thoughtfully explored. Appealing art by Keet Geniza is a perfect complement.

It probably doesn‘t help that I tie my masculinity—and, really, my value—to being able to provide for others. Whether it‘s running errands, baking or offering emotional support, I tend to focus on my output as the key way I affirm my butchness, dykeness, whatever you want to call it. This isn‘t sustainable post-cancer.

There‘s not a lot of writing out there on cancer and disability. Maybe because for those of us who are now cancer-free, the ongoing symptoms are after-effects (of surgery, radiation, meds), not the result of disease still being present. Or maybe it‘s because the mainstream cancer narrative is about overcoming adversity, not about experiencing ongoing disability.

Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan

A bracing romp through the 20th century in Edinburgh, starting with arrival of the devil‘s daughter in 1910 and tying up the loose ends of her fate in 1999. There‘s a fascinating cast of mostly queer characters who, over the years, happen to live in the same building, folded into the history of the city and the larger world. A touch of horror, more than a few ghosts, and a large dollop of redemption. 

They say we are helpless, they say we are weak, they say we are nothing … they are liars!

— I didn‘t know poets were so well informed, Mr Burroughs.
— Don‘t trust poets unless they are scientists.

…films of novels make me uneasy. They‘re trying to steal words and put them into boxes. It‘s not where the worlds of novels are meant to be. My words exist in here you see, in my mind. Then they exist in your mind. Nobody else gets to see how they pass between us — it is a form of alchemy! Of all the art forms writing is the most intimate and strange.

His niece‘s set-up at Blossom‘s My Little Pony stables is highly elaborate. First off, Cupcake and Rosedust will bitch about Princess Sparkle. They‘ll talk about how disappointing she is. That she can‘t just be cheerful like them. They will cut her pony tail off. Write all over her stable in coloured pencil. They will steal her favourite things. Then they will trot off, very smug and happy with themselves.

I can verify now, thinking is the deepest act of transgression.

The Actual Star by Monica Byrne

Wow! Alternating between three timelines—Mayan civilization in 1012; Belize in 2012; and post environmental disaster 3012—this hefty, audacious novel tackles big ideas of how best to live on our planet. Monica Byrne‘s vision of a worldwide nomadic sex-positive society that evolves from climate refugees gives me hope. You may need patience for Kriol dialogue, Spanish, and invented future vocabulary that includes many terms for personal identity.

“What does entropy have to do with desire?”
“Well, as the universe comes apart, everything we desire will get farther and farther away. So we‘ll have to work harder to get it.”

18 December 3012
The human race has outgrown this way of life. Just like we outgrew monarchy and capitalism.

Birds are not birds; they are messengers.
This world is a world of deceptions.
This world is merely a representation of representations.
The star we see is not the actual star.

Field Study: Meditations on a Year at the Herbarium by Helen Humphreys

A balm for my soul. Helen Humphreys draws connections between plants and people in astute, quiet, poetic ways—seeking out the stories of collectors who contributed to the Fowler Herbarium in Kingston, Ontario, where she spent a year looking through over 140,000 specimens. This fascinating and contemplative literary work is the result. The book itself is beautifully designed and heavily illustrated: it would make a lovely gift.

This world is a world of disappearing species, but it is also still a world of wonder and beauty. And while we must all do more, and petition our governments to do more about the climate crisis, and not ignore the fact that humans are responsible for the destruction of species and habitat, we must also celebrate what is still here with a ferocious reverence.

A visit to the herbarium is an exquisite kind of time travel. And by learning more about the intersection of people and nature in the past, I hope to gain some understanding of where we can go from here.

The air was churning with coloured birds and the wheel of their songs.

Drawing is mostly looking, or an excuse to look long and hard at something. Francis HallĂ©, a botanist who also draws, says, “The extended time required for drawing amounts to a dialogue with the plant… Drawing represents the work of human thought.”

Just as I am drawn more to the character of some people, I also prefer the character of particular flowers, and in Queen Anne‘s lace, I prefer there to be space between the blooms and the umbrels, for the head of the flower to have an open appearance, the “lace” loose enough to see through to the field grasses below.

The observations that I have made of the natural world last in my mind because they were hard won. They were gained by hours and hours of watching or walking, hours and hours of looking but not entirely seeing, until the moment when some new piece of knowledge swam into consciousness. These moments of clarity are perhaps one of the greatest pleasures of being a sentient animal.

Raccoon by Daniel Heath Justice

Cherokee scholar Daniel Heath Justice‘s wonderful cultural history of raccoons joins 99 others in the growing Reaktion series, all of which focus on a single species. It‘s well-researched and lavishly illustrated. Rest assured that in the extensive chapter on etymology, the author has avoided including violent and degrading imagery that exemplifies the racist “coon” stereotype. Fun fact: gaze, nursery and mask are collective nouns for raccoons. My big takeaway, among the many things I learned, is the reason that raccoons are thriving: neophilia. They love new things, and so their curiosity makes them highly adaptable to our changing environment.

Even their physical characteristics seem designed to polarize: one observer sees adorable impishness in the black facial pelage, banded tail and hunched back, whereas a less generous viewer sees a masked cartoon criminal sneaking around in a striped prison uniform.

While Fes Parker‘s onscreen portrayals of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone both featured coonskin caps, there is little evidence that the historical personalities themselves wore the now-iconic headwear.

Given that the English word raccoon comes to us directly from the Powhatan arakun, the inclusion of Meeko the raccoon as a sidekick is one of the few legitimate nods to historical accuracy in Disney‘s Pocahontas. […](Pocahontas was a child when she briefly met Smith, she was later kidnapped by the English and subjected to sexual abuse, the English killed her Powhatan husband and her ‘marriage‘ to Rolfe was anything but consensual.)

We so often expect an animal to behave like a docile little human in a fur coat, and such expectations are rife with dangers for both species, although raccoons obviously get the worst of it.

The heaviest raccoon on record was a domesticated northern raccoon named Bandit, who weighed an astonishing 34 kg (75 lb) when he died in Pennsylvania in 2004.

it‘s really, really important to me that Rocket Raccoon … is not a cartoon character, it‘s not Bugs Bunny in the middle of The Avengers, it‘s a real, little, somewhat mangled beast that‘s alone. There‘s no one else in the universe quite like him, he‘s been created by these guys to be a mean-ass fighting machine.
—Director James Gunn

Injun by Jordan Abel

Listening to Jordan Abel read his work is an ideal way to grasp what he is doing with language in this award-winning poetry book. I had been impressed when I heard him perform his work previously, but on the printed page I was initially baffled. Abel's brilliance was gradually revealed to me as I read the included supplementary material, the sentences with the word injun pulled from 91 public domain novels, and then through rereading the poems several times. Words in these collage poems become increasingly fractured as the book progresses. It took me awhile to realize that Jordan Abel‘s deconstruction is a way to decolonize literature. You can view Abel reading from his work on YouTube.

lets play      injun
and clean ourselves
off the       land

Fairest: A Memoir by Meredith Talusan

A thought-provoking memoir of a non-white trans woman with albinism who moved from the Philippines to the USA when she was in her teens. A member of my feminist book club chose this because she is half Filipino and had never read anything by someone from the Philippines. It sparked one of our best discussions ever, because of its nuanced portrayal of appearance, passing and identity. Also, it really shows the way queer culture has changed over a few short decades.

I felt a pang then, my conscience, but the collective voices of my photo professors drowned it out, with stories of how Diane Arbus woke subjects up at sunrise to get them at their most vulnerable, how Nan Goldin took out the door to her bathroom so she could take pictures of people having sex or doing drugs, and how the French artist Sophie Calle even worked as a maid at a hotel just to take pictures of guests‘ private belongings.

Gender transition provided me with much greater freedom of expression, the ability to determine the forms of femininity I wanted to embody, instead of feeling like I had to negotiate every feminine accessory or mannerism with a strict gay church that constantly threatened to reject me. I would have probably been bakla had I stayed in the Philippines, remained in that more indeterminate space in a culture where that was possible.

Cosmoknights (Book 1) by Hannah Templer

Lesbian gladiators (and a lesbian mechanic) rescue princesses … in space. The first volume of this speculative fiction graphic novel is so much fun that I immediately went to queer cartoonist Hannah Templer‘s website to read Book 2 in webcomic format. Print release of Book 2 is scheduled for Fall 2022. Templer's site is here.

--Rough day, huh?
--They put me in a dress.

Note Kate's 'Trans Teen Beauty Queen' tattoo.