Summer Reads 2016: Alyssa

The funny thing about the summer is that it's at once the time when things slow down and I feel more capable of devoting myself to more ambitious reading, and the season of light beach reads and carefree days at the park. In the spirit of that contradiction, here's what I have been (and will be!) reading:


So Much Synth (Brenda Shaughnessy)
Aching love and adolescent pain are the driving forces behind Shaughnessy's fourth collection of poems, where the strongest, most resonant angst is bound by mixtape selections and the ennui of growing up. It's both a celebration of, and critical, self-aware look at, the deep, consuming, mundane feelings of our teenaged selves, and it's a delight to read.

Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth (Warsan Shire)
British-Somali poet Warsan Shire was a superstar before BeyoncĂ© featured her words in Lemonade, but if Shire is now getting a little extra attention, it's certainly deserved. Family, place, pain, trust, and memory all fight for their place in words as fierce as they are delicate, strong as they are soft. 

Dark Sparkler (Amber Tamblyn)
A little obsessed with actresses who died before the age of forty, Amber Tamblyn put a lot of research, and six years, into her fourth poetry collection. Dark Sparkler devotes each poem to an individual actress, and, accompanied by art from the likes of David Lynch, Marilyn Manson, and Adrian Tomine, the rich words pick up, and pick apart, threads of beauty, aging, hollowness, violence, and celebrity.

Graphic Novels

My Dirty Dumb Eyes and Hot Dog Taste Test (Lisa Hanawalt)
It takes special skill to marry whimsy with crassness in the particular style of Lisa Hanawalt, and her books—her first, My Dirty Dumb Eyes, recently joined by a second collection, Hot Dog Taste Test—defy easy categorization. But whatever these books are (memoir, comic, humour, essay, non sequitur), they are funny, poignant, and endlessly relatable—whether she's talking about bikini bodies, horseback rides, or her own deep-seated anxieties.

Panther (Brecht Evens)
Best beware of Panther, the titular character in Brecht Evens’s dreamy psychedelic comic about a little girl named Christine and the larger than life feline who shows up in her room one day. A dark unsettling, even twisted, story, I accidentally let Evens’s watercolours lull me into a false sense of whimsy. But the dream quickly turns to nightmare, and Christine soon sees Panther for the shapeshifting, well-spoken threat he really is.


Birdie (Tracey Lindberg)
I've been wanting to read this book ever since it was selected as a 2016 Canada Reads contender, and I think the summer is the perfect opportunity for dive into the story of Bernice "Birdie" Meetoos, a Cree woman who travels from Alberta to BC for answers and, maybe, to escape a dark past.

The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K. Le Guin)
I normally wouldn't recommend reading about epic journeys on ice planets in the middle of the summer, but for Le Guin, none of the rules seem to matter. This is science fiction at it's finest: beautiful, tense, mind-bending, heartwarming, heartbreaking.


In the Country We Love (Diane Guerrero and Michelle Burford)
Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin actress Diane Guerrero has long been an outspoken supporter of migrants' rights and immigration reform, and in this book she chronicles her own family history: Her parents' deportation when she was fourteen, and the extraordinary odds she faced as a young girl without a support system.

This Changes Everything (Naomi Klein)
This book is a must read for anyone interested in the effects of globalization, capitalism, and corporate irresponsibility on climate change. Beautifully researched and beautifully written, Klein outlines everything from the systematic dismantling of local sustainability projects by trade protectionism to the renaissance of global environmental activism, and makes it all seem accessible and, most importantly, hopeful.

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