Staff Picks 2017: Alyssa

Every year I dread this task: choosing, somehow, amidst all the amazing literature that came out this year, a top ten. It's a challenge I never feel up to. How does one compare a graphic novel to a poetry collection? Essays to short stories? Cookbooks to comics? And so I've selected ten titles in no particular order, books that made me fall in love, cry bitterly, or cackle to myself in public. But as for some sort of objective ranking, that I'll leave to you.

The Idiot, Elif Batuman
In Batuman's much-loved new novel, college freshman Selin has just arrived at Harvard in the 90s. Humorous, curious, and introspective, Selin finds herself immersed in Russian literature, first love, and the rather existential question of how one becomes a writer. The prose is observant, yet meditative, funny but with all the gravitas of becoming an adult and slowly, endearingly, figuring it all out.

Sour Heart, Jenny Zhang
It was a real treat to watch Jenny Zhang converse with Zadie Smith earlier this year, and there's a good reason she was chosen for the role. Her debut stories are sharply perceptive but with a tender softness, blending coming-of-age stories with tales of immigration, dreams deferred, poverty, and love. Her protagonists, daughters of artists and scholars, are delightful in their foibles, their stories, weaknesses, and aspirations a testament to Zhang's honesty and emotional range.

Mois aussi je voulais l'emporter, Julie Delporte
In her meditations on travel, art, sex, and Tove Jansson, the narrative thread holding together Julie's beautiful new graphic novel is a constant examination of what it means to be a woman. The interconnected vignettes slowly, painfully, reconcile themselves to this identity, rife with expectations and often uncomfortably constrained. The art and text work perfectly together toward the kind of clear-hearted introspection that made me sit down on a park bench in -5 weather just to finish it.

Boundless, Jillian Tamaki
I read Jillian Tamaki's spectacular set of short stories multiple times in preparation for a graphic novel book club I hosted this summer, and enjoyed them just as much each and every time. Tamaki is a consummate artist and storyteller, and Boundless's characters--who, in turn, shrink down to nothingness or become obsessed with a mysterious mirror-world Facebook--seem alive as they find themselves distanced from, or transcending, their identities, culture, relationships, and selves.

Sticks Angelica Folk Hero, Michael DeForge
When I say that this is my favourite thing Michael DeForge has published since Ant Colony, it's a meaningful sentiment. I’m always a fan of his eerie, hyper-stylized illustration and deadpan dialogue, but there’s something extra special about the story of Sticks Angelica, former Canadian heiress and force of nature. Running away from a family scandal, Sticks goes to live in the wilderness among animals like a lonely electric eel and a moose named Lisa Hanawalt who dreams of becoming a big shot lawyer in the bustling metropolis of Ottawa. They’re only a few of the characters that fill the pages of this enchanting graphic novel, with a story that had me chuckling with every new page.

Baking with Kafka, Tom Gauld
Definitely one of the books that had me laughing at increasingly inappropriate times, Baking with Kafka is the perfect continuation of You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack, the first installment of Gauld's collected Guardian comic strips. Intelligent, absurd, and not a little irreverent, this new collection is funnier, more succinct, and just as enjoyable as its predecessor. 

Hunger, Roxane Gay
Back in 2015, we had the pleasure of welcoming Roxane Gay here in Montreal. During that event she mentioned her new project: a memoir of her body, her relationship to food, her history of trauma. Well worth that long anticipation, Hunger is a harrowing story: a chronicle of childhood rape, silent shame, eating, weight gain, and self-preservation, told unflinchingly, honestly, and with undeniable care. Gay is a master writer, adding to her years writing about feminism and women's bodies with this deeply personal work that is not to be missed.

Tropico, Marcela Huerta
It's always a little embarrassing when such a little book will make me cry, but I suppose that's what I get for reading books like Tropico. An intimate portrayal of the grief and love that arise from parental relationships and shared trauma, Tropico is all the best parts of the memoir, the poem, and the short story. The daughter of Chilean political refugees, Marcela has crafted a careful but uncompromising testament to how families can at once soothe and hurt each other, and how one can hope to cope with that lasting pain.

Delete, Daphné B.
I fell totally in love with Daphné's 2015 poetry collection Bluetiful, but this new work--ambitious, tightly woven, utterly relatable--is something else entirely. A reclamation of self in the face of love that threatens to swallow you whole, Delete works its way through email correspondence never sent, the disconnectedness of living abroad, the ennui of a changed home. Calm and considered, the deeply felt words give meaning to moments of loneliness, of inaction, of loss.

Wild Beauty, Ntozake Shange
Having had the opportunity to see one of my favourite plays, Shange's seminal For Colored Girls, performed recently, it was only natural that I would turn to this new work: a splendid English/Spanish collection of the writer's best and newest poems. There's always a living immediacy to Shange's work, a richness and breath to it that invites an out-loud reading, a rhythm, a dance. At times painful, always beautiful, I'm very grateful for the timing of this book's release. It's allowed me to immerse myself fully in a writer I love. 

And make sure to check out all the other staff picks when they come out:
Kate \\ Luke \\ Kennedy \\ Saelan \\ Chantal \\ Arizona \\ Lauriane \\ Chantale \\ Ben \\ Kalliopé \\ Anna \\ Sophie \\ Eli

New & Notable: Jaime Hernandez Fantagraphics Studio Edition

The Jaime Hernandez: Fantagraphics Studio Edition is out this month!

Jaime Hernandez is co-creator of the beloved Love and Rockets series and one third of Los Bros Hernandez, innovators of alternative comics.

This beautiful collection features almost 200 pages of unretouched original art, an interview with the artist and a trove of unreleased material. 

Come see it for yourself at the shop! 

Daphné B. & Kathy L. launch "I Love Dick, a fanfic" with Julie Delporte & Marcela Huerta

As long fans of Kraus’ writing and the genre-blurring style which it emblemizes, Kate L. and Daphné B. began writing and sharing their own letters to Dick over the summer.

I Love Dick (a fanfic), is a post-internet iteration of the feminist cult classic written in the 90s. The letters analyze a variety of contemporary phenomenon and cultural objects such as celebrity, memes, Google Translate, pop songs, and Vegas, through the lens of female desire and feminism. The text is interwoven with images: screenshots of internet image browsing and Youtube playlists. At the intersection of artist book, zine, and fanfiction, it is a funny, subversive, and thoughtful reflection on love, desire, and art. 

The zine will be launched at La Petite Librairie Drawn & Quarterly (176 Bernard O.) on December 1st at 7:00 pm where authors Kate Lewis, Daphné B., Julie Delporte and Marcela Huerta will partake in a discussion on female writing and desire.

KATHY L. is a part-time bookseller and artist based in Montreal.

DAPHNÉ B. est née en 1990 à Montréal. Elle a étudié, voyagé, été libraire. Elle a publié Bluetiful (2015) et Delete (2017). Cofondatrice du collectif Filles Missiles, elle est aussi collaboratrice à l'émission Plus on est de fous, plus ont lit et apprentie traductrice.

JULIE DELPORTE est l'auteure de plusieurs bande dessinée pour adultes - dont Journal (2014), Je vois des antennes partout (2015), Moi aussi je voulais l'emporter (2017) - et d'un album jeunesse Je suis un raton laveur (2013). Elle écrit également des essais, réalise des illustrations pour divers magazines et fabrique des bols en céramique. (pic by Hélène Gruénais)

MARCELA HUERTA is the author of Tropico, a collection of poetry and creative nonfiction published by Metatron Press in 2017. She has worked at the Museum of Anthropology, Working Format, and Free Agency Creative as a Graphic Designer, and at Drawn & Quarterly as an Assistant Editor. She is the proud daughter of Chilean refugees, and her work centers around their stories, as well as the stories of other marginalized voices. You can find her online @marsmella

Get 25% Off All DQ Books Until November 27th!

There's a lot to celebrate here at Drawn & Quarterly, as we welcome our brand new kids' bookstore across the street at 176 Bernard West.

And our fall titles are something to behold: Between Tom Gauld's Baking With Kafta and Brigitte Findakly's Poppies of Iraq, from R. Sikoryak's The Unquotable Trump to a beautiful reissue of Lynda Barry's The Good Times Are Killing Me (not to mention works by Leanne Shapton, Jason Lutes, Tove Jansson, and Leslie Stein), there's something for everyone.

 We want to share our excitement with you!
 We're announcing a 25% OFF Drawn+Quarterly published titles, in-store sale at both locations! The sale will end next Monday, November 27th.

*TONIGHT* Julie Soleil Archambault launches MOBILE SECRETS

Join Julie Soleil Archambault at La Petite D+Q (176 Bernard O.) on Thursday, November 23rd at 7:00 pm for the launch of Mobile Secrets: Youth, Intimacy, and the Politics of Pretence in Mozambique! Archambault will be in conversation with Andrew Ivaska, Associate Professor of History at Concordia University, and Blair Rutherford, Professor of Anthropology at Carleton University.

Now part and parcel of everyday life almost everywhere, mobile phones have radically transformed how we acquire and exchange information. Many anticipated that in Africa, where most have gone from no phone to mobile phone, improved access to telecommunication would enhance everything from entrepreneurialism to democratization to service delivery, ushering in socio-economic development.

With Mobile Secrets, Julie Soleil Archambault offers a complete rethinking of how we understand uncertainty, truth, and ignorance by revealing how better access to information may in fact be anything but desirable. By engaging with young adults in a Mozambique suburb, Archambault shows how, in their efforts to create fulfilling lives, young men and women rely on mobile communication not only to mitigate everyday uncertainty but also to juggle the demands of intimacy by courting, producing, and sustaining uncertainty. In their hands, the phone has become a necessary tool in a wider arsenal of pretense—a means of creating the open-endedness on which harmonious social relations depend in postwar postsocialist Mozambique. As Mobile Secrets shows, Mozambicans have harnessed the technology not only to acquire information but also to subvert regimes of truth and preserve public secrets, allowing everyone to feign ignorance about the workings of the postwar intimate economy.

JULIE SOLEIL ARCHAMBAULT is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Concordia University. She received her PhD (2010) from the School of Oriental and African Studies (U. of London) and has been conducting ethnographic field research in Mozambique for over a decade

TONIGHT! Reading Across Borders Book Club: The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz

The Reading Across Borders book club focuses on literature in English translation, with a particular interest in writers who are not (yet) well-known in the English-speaking world. Hosted by former store staffer Helen Chau Bradley, the book club meetings take place every two months, and are open to all. 

For our next meeting, on Wednesday, November 22, we will meet at La Petite Librairie Drawn & Quarterly (176 Bernard O.) at 7 pm to discuss Basma Abdel Aziz’s The Queue, translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette. In the interests of comparative literature, you are also encouraged to read Vladimir Sorokin’s The Queue as a secondary text; however, this isn’t mandatory. Join us for discussion and drinks!

**We offer a 15% discount on The Queue (both titles) from now until the meeting date.** 

We regret that the bookstore is not wheelchair accessible. There are two steps at the entrance, followed by one door that opens inward. Once inside, there are no additional steps to access the bathroom, although the bathroom space is narrow. Alcohol will be served.

A queue forms outside the Gate, which has mysteriously replaced the ruling government in the aftermath of a quelled popular revolution. No one in the city can get anything done or their basic needs met without approval from the Gate, but perversely, though rumours fly and people wait patiently, the monumental structure never opens. The ever-forming crowd brings people of all types together, and through their misfortunes, arguments and relationships, we discover the ways in which an authoritarian state manipulates and mobilizes its citizens in its favour. Basma Abdel Aziz is an Egyptian journalist and psychiatrist living in Cairo. Nicknamed “The Rebel,” she has long been a vocal critic of government repression. The Queue is the first of her books to be translated into English, and is reminiscent of Vladimir Sorokin’s late-Soviet era novel of the same name (translated from the Russian by Sally Laird), which also paints an absurdist portrait of an oppressive state via a long and seemingly purposeless line. 

A very real vision of life after the Arab Spring written with dark, subtle intelligence, The Queue describes the sinister nature of authoritarianism and illuminates the way that absolute authority manipulates information, mobilizes others in service to it, and fails to uphold the rights of even those faithful to it.

Granta Launch hosted by Catherine Leroux

Co-editor, novelist & short story writer Catherine Leroux is joined by contributors Fanny Britt and Benoit Jutras, as well as translator Rhonda Mullins, for the Montreal launch of this exquisite anthology on Thursday, November 30th at 7:00 pm at La Petite Librairie Drawn & Quarterly!

Catherine Leroux is a novelist, translator & journalist. Her novel "Le mur mitoyen The Party Wall" won the 2014 Prix litteraire France-Quebec and was nominated for the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize. 

Guest edited by Catherine Leroux and Madeleine Thien, GRANTA 141 focuses on Canada: from its global cities to the Arctic Circle, the writers in this issue upend the ways we imagine land, reconciliation, truth and belonging.

Catherine Leroux, écrivaine et co-éditrice du numéro, ainsi que les auteurs Fanny Britt et Benoit Jutras et la traductrice Rhonda Mullins, vous attendent au lancement montréalais de cette merveilleuse anthologie le 30 novembre à 19h a la Petite Librairie Drawn & Quarterly!

Co-dirigé par Madeleine Thien et Catherine Leroux, GRANTA 141 se consacre au Canada. Des métropoles au cercle arctique, les auteurs de ce numéro renversent la manière dont sont imaginés le territoire, la réconcilition, la vérité et l'appartenance.

Fall D+Q Release: Present by Leslie Stein

From NYC cartoonist Leslie Stein:
we are pleased to share PRESENT with you, a Fall 2017 D+Q release 

Leslie Stein's new collection of stories slash diary comics is a generous compilation of her daily interactions, observations, memories, and thoughts. She has been a longtime comic contributor at, publishing weekly short comics that are as delightful as they are honest and vulnerable.

Stein's dreamy vibrant watercolour drawings deftly match the blissful energy of the artist as portrayed in her comics. Even when exploring feelings of loneliness, sadness, and rejection, Stein remains a bright presence with wit and cheer.  How does she do it! She is my unofficial spiritual comic guide, teaching me how to gracefully traverse the mess of everyday life.

Her borderless allusive drawing style is strange in the best way possible. By abstracting her figures' faces, she encourages interpretation based more-so on colours, hues, conversations, and environments than facial expressions. And when she does want to articulate the expressive reaction of a character, she does it by employing a wonderfully dramatic manga-like wide-eyed likeness.

To get a sense of Stein's refreshing outlook on the world, take a look below at this excerpt on the eclipse from one of her recent comics:

*TONIGHT* Jean-Philippe Baril Guerard launches Sports & Pastimes

BookThug invites you to the launch of Sports and Pastimes by Jean-Philippe Baril Guerard, translated from the French by Aimee Wall. Tonight! Thursday, November 16 2017, 7pm at 176 Bernard O., just east of the flagship Librairie. See the Facebook event here.

Inspired by Erik Satie’s work of the same name, Sports and Pastimes is the first novel by acclaimed Montreal playwright and author Jean-Philippe Baril Guérard to appear in English.

Translated by Aimee Wall, this fast-paced story follows the daily life, at once empty and overloaded, of a group of friends who spend all their energy trying to distract themselves with huge hits of endorphins, art and various substances, navigating pleasure and boredom, the extraordinary and the banal, as (more or less) worthy representatives of the best and worst of what their era has to offer. Consider a mashup of Girls and Less Than Zero and you are pretty close to the fun and games of Sports and Pastimes.

Praise for Sports and Pastimes (Sports et divertissements, originally published in Franch by Les éditions de ta mère):

“The novel of rich, apathetic youth has been done so often that it has almost become a genre of its own, but rarely has it been written in Quebec with such mastery of its codes as by Jean-Philippe Baril Guérard.” —Dominic Tardif, La Presse

*TONIGHT* Graphic Novel Book Club: My Lesbian Experience with Lonliness

**This Graphic Novel Book Club meeting will now be taking place at 
La Petite Librairie Drawn & Quarterly 176 Bernard O.**

Each month we host a Graphic Novel Book Club meeting, open to all, during which we hang out and informally discuss a featured graphic novel. Our pick for this November is My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi! We will meet at La Petite Librairie Drawn & Quarterly (176 Bernard Avenue West) today! Wednesday, November 15th at 7 p.m. The discussion will be hosted by Librairie Drawn & Quarterly staffer and children's coordinator Arizona O'Neill. Join us for refreshments and collective insights!

A heartening autobiographical manga, My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi is an honest look at one young woman's exploration of her sexuality, mental well-being, and growing up in our modern age. Told using expressive artwork that invokes both laughter and tears, this moving and highly entertaining single volume depicts not only the artist's burgeoning sexuality, but many other personal aspects of her life that will resonate with readers. 

***We are offering a 20% discount on My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness from now until the meeting date!***

*TONIGHT* Poetry Launch: Aaron Tucker & E. Martin Nolan

E. Martin Nolan and Aaron Tucker will be reading from their new poetry collections with Anahita Jamali Rad (for love and autonomy, Talon Books, 2016), and Montrealer Jake Byrne. Join us on Saturday, November 11th at 7:00 pm at La Petite D+Q (176 Bernard O.)!

In 1968, avant-garde artist Marcel Duchamp and composer John Cage exhibited Reunion, a chess performance that took place in Toronto. Whenever Duchamp or Cage moved a piece, it generated a musical note until the game was transformed into a symphony.

Inspired by this performance, "Irresponsible Mediums"—poet and academic Aaron Tucker’s second full-length collection of poems—translates Duchamp’s chess games into poems using the ChessBard (an app co-created by Tucker and Jody Miller) and in the process, recreates Duchamp’s joyous approach to making art, while also generating startling computer-made poems that blend the analog and digital in strange and surprising combinations.

The poems in "Still Point" contrast the calm and tumult of Hurricane Katrina, the deconstruction of Detroit, the financial crisis of 2008, and the BP Gulf oil spill, weaving lyrical sequences and individual pieces into a coherent whole focused on humanity’s relationship to itself and to nature. "Still Point" tells a story of beauty and horror, and how normalcy stubbornly persists amid history’s arc.

New D+Q : Toys Talking by Leanne Shapton

From acclaimed illustrator, author and artist Leanne Shapton: 
Toys Talking is officially out today!

In Toys Talking, Leanne Shapton explores the inner lives of toys to reveal that their thoughts and feelings are just as complicated as our own.

The concerns of these bunnies, bears, and ducks range from the mundane to the existential.

The book is beautifully bound in hardcover and brings Shapton’s gorgeously minimal brushstrokes to a younger audience. It is the kind of book that is an imaginative and stimulating read for children and reveals layers and deeper meaning when read as an adult. As described by British novelist Adam Thirwell, the book is "...unbearably poignant. A children's book for adults, or an adult book for children!" 

Top 5: October's bestselling magazines!

After unseasonable heat, it's officially sweater weather! And there's nothing better than flipping through a good magazine with a blanket and a good cup of tea. Here were your favourites from October. Enjoy!

1. Monocle magazine
2. The Gentlewoman
3. Poetry magazine
4. Apartamento
5. Editorial mag

This Shelf Belongs to... Marcela Huerta

Each month, Librairie Drawn & Quarterly invites a local author or artist to curate a shelf in the store. This September, we bring you recommendations from Marcela Huerta!

Marcela Huerta is the author of Tropico, a collection of poetry and creative nonfiction published by Metatron Press in 2017. She has worked at the Museum of Anthropology, Working Format, and Free Agency Creative as a Graphic Designer, and at Drawn & Quarterly as an Assistant Editor. She is the proud daughter of Chilean refugees, and her work centres around their stories, as well as the stories of other marginalized voices. You can find her online @marsmella.

All of Marcela’s picks will be 15% off for the month of September. Here’s a sneak peek of what you’ll find on her shelf:

1. Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano
An absolute must-read for anyone learning about the effects of imperialism and colonialism in South America. This incredible and historic book was written in the early '70s, when political coups and repressive right-wing military dictatorships ran rampant in Central and South America. Galeano argues that early European colonization of gold, sugar (and indigenous bodies...) led to a "structure of plunder" still present today.

2. Slow Lightning by Eduardo C. Corral 
A feverish and electric book of poems about the experiences of a Chicano, gay man. I read this book on a train back from New York during a sobering year that has served to remind folks of how little white supremacist structures and systems are set up to help about immigrants and marginalized communities. The stark imagery Eduardo creates, the intrinsic spirituality, the heat, all so so amazing.

3.Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littin by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The incredible true story of a filmmaker exiled from Chile during the coup who returns to his country in 1985 disguised as an Uruguayan businessman, hellbent on making a film to expose Pinochet's repressive rule to the global community. Littín tells his story to none other than Gabriel García Márquez, who captures the terror, the drama, and that classic deadpan Chilean sense of humour.

4. Belleza y Felicidad: Selected Writings of Fernanda Laguna and Cecilia Pavon
I'm obsessed with Fernanda Laguna and Cecilia Pavon. I love the intimacy and freshness of their work, their humour and wisdom. We should all be so lucky as to write collaboratively with our best friends.

5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
If you need to be told why you should read Maya Angelou, I'm not the one. Just do it. I will say that I felt like the ending of this incredible book punched me in the gut and made me reassess elements of my writing that dealt with my mother. Angelou's unparalleled observational skills, her tenderness, and the poetry she brings to memoir are life-changing. I too am tenderhearted, and Angelou's words helped heal a part of me I didn't know needed healing.

6. Revulsion: Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador by Horacio Castellanos Moya
I found this book stressful in a way I have never experienced before, for your information!! An expat returns, post-exile, to El Salvador for his mother's funeral. The book takes place from 5–7pm that evening, in a single paragraph, as he sits with Castellanos Moya ranting to his heart's content. Vega (the expat in question) is a prickly, sour, bitter old man, but he holds you rapt with his delicious gossip. He reminded me of my dad in an almost paralyzingly painful way.

7. The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector
Imagine being as good at writing short stories as Clarice Lispector was. The first time I read Clarice Lispector was in a book club (where I got to know fellow Metatron writers Alex Manley and Jay Ritchie), and now I pick this book up whenever I need to be reminded of what the structure of an innovative short story looks like. My favourites are "A Chicken" and "The Foreign Legion" but I'm always open for more favourites, tell me yours!

8. Islands of Decolonial Love by Leanne Simpson
Restorative and beautiful, these stories revolving around the lives of indigenous women are deeply moving. They are surviving but they are trying to thrive, despite a world actively trying to unravel them. Don't forget to listen to the audio component, for the full experience.

9. Chelsea Girls by Eileen Myles
I read Chelsea Girls before I read any of Eileen Myles's poetry, strangely! This intro to their style was jaw-dropping, an exercise in form and narrative I've not often seen in memoir. It tracks Myles from a Roman Catholic upbringing in the 1950s and ’60s through the discovery of drugs, sex, and poetry. It has one of the most iconic revelations of alcoholism in the family I've ever read.

10. Don't Go Where I Can't Follow by Anders Nilsen
All my friends are probably tired of hearing my story of crying so hard while reading this on a plane on the way back from a school trip that I nearly burst a blood vessel in my eye. At the time, I had never experienced grief. Now I have. I don't know that any book will ever pain my soul in the same way this book does; it captures the power of loss in an unforgettable way.

BONUS! Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Because my school system was not particularly adept at teaching any histories that related to immigrants, and because we literally did not have a single book by a person of colour on our syllabus for my entire high-school education (THIS IS A FACT) reading this book as an adult completely changed my life. I had no idea military coups had happened in other countries (I was that sheltered). I no longer felt alone. I no longer felt crazy. This book made me want to write.

Event Recap: Zadie Smith in conversation with Jenny Zhang — Launch of SWING TIME

Photos by David Smith/Careful Media.
This past Thursday, the 26th of October, we had the utmost pleasure of welcoming Zadie Smith to Montréal, where the superlative novelist appeared in conversation with Jenny Zhang. This event was part of our 10 Year Anniversary Reading Series, which has included Paul Auster, Heather O'Neill, and most recently Eileen Myles.

Despite the miserable weather, over seven-hundred Montrealers packed the house! Our intrepid store manager Rebecca Lloyd got the ball rolling, welcoming everyone to the beautiful Théâtre Rialto. She was proceeded onstage by Eliza Robertson, Montreal-based author of Demi-Gods (Penguin Random House, 2017), who introduced and invited to the stage the star-of-the-hour.

Zadie read from her latest novel, Swing Time, a striking story of female friendship which was published late last year. Smith’s is a multilayered narrative, as both the plot and her characters’ lives are ruled by competing forces: to hold a poor, single mother in the same light as a glamorous celebrity, to linger in memory while lumbering forward in time, to celebrate one’s heritage but not be defined by it. As she read to the rapt crowd: "Although entrapment, in this case, was another word for love."

Jenny Zhang, Brooklyn-based author of Sour Heart (Penguin Random House, 2017) and the evening's interlocutor, then joined Zadie onstage. Their conversation dove into family (Zadie: "My mother was a good-time girl!"), gentrification, humourlessness, and critical reception to their respective crafts (Zadie: "It isn't about the 'Search For Identity'! I am committed to being nobody in particular."). When asked about her purpose as a writer, Zadie had an interesting take: "[Writing] is meant to broaden your sensibility, complexity, pleasure... The fetishization of empathy is obscene and very suspicious... It's so easy to be a stranger to yourself, I write to avoid a life of self-deception."

After conversing, both authors happily stuck around to sign books for a long line of fans. Thank you to everyone for coming out and contributing to this magical evening. A big thank you to Penguin Random House Canada and the Théâtre Rialto for helping organize, and of course to the wonderful authors!

Photos by David Smith/Careful Media.

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