Summer Reads: Eli

It's a busy and rocky year with many ups and downs but something that's persisted is a plethora of amazing books to read. I've been trying to read books exclusively by BIPOC and queer writers which has been easy this year since so many have been published!

 Ask a Virgo to make a list and they'll go wild so here we go!
Here's a few titles you might find me enjoying in a park or somewhere
in front of D&Q on my breaks:

Freshwater - Akwaeke Emezi

Freshwater is one of the most beautiful and innovative books I've read in 2018. Freshwater tells the story of Ada, a Nigerian Igbo woman born ''with one foot on the other side''. We see her life through chapters told by her alters, Gods in her body that pull her this way and that way, but also help her through tough moments where Ada cannot be in her body. Emezi's style is unlike many other writers, and I'm super looking forward to reading whatever next book they put out. I read it during one Toronto to Montreal bus ride, and I really recommend reading it in one sitting to really get immersed in Ada's world. Also it's  extra great to read work written by a non-binary writer! How many non-binary writers do you know who are published? Probably not many.

Bad Endings - Carleigh Baker
If you don't know, well now you know, Indigenous literature has been on a roll this year (probably has something to do with Indigenous folks actually being published and Canlit suddenly recognizing Indigenous talent...), and Bad Endings is part of this roll. I follow Carleigh Baker on Twitter and her engagement with and critiques of Canlit are always very on point and led me to want to read her work. A collection of short stories that ''pushes readers to reconsider their desire for resolution'', it sounds like a perfect read for a semi-aimless summer.

Sick: A Memoir - Porochista Khakpour

Sick was great and hard and a lot. It’s one of those stories your POC mom might tell you about when you’re complaining about your life to show you someone who’s had it harder. Because for sure Porochista Khakpour has it “harder”. But that’s not what this book is about. Retelling her life and her long and arduous journey towards a Lyme disease diagnosis, Khakpour describes the ways many women, especially women of colour, are not believed by doctors. I was particularly interested in reading about physical illness and race, the ways in which stressors like 9/11 and the Muslim ban and Tr***’s election can aggravate physical illnesses and disabilities, the ways in which illnesses of the body and mind are more connected than we believe, and the ways in which women of colour are not meant to be sick. Read this on a sunny day to counter balance the intensity. Do not read in one sitting.
The Map of Salt and Stars - Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar

The Map of Salt and Stars merges the stories of Nour, a young woman fleeing Syria with her family across many countries, and the story of Rawiya, a twelfth century girl who, in order to apprentice herself to a famous mapmaker,  disguised herself as a boy. While fleeing, Nour and her family take the same route Rawiya took and the stories of the two main characters start to overlap. As an Arab writer and avid reader, I'm so excited to see so many great novels coming out by other Arab writers and I've been pacing myself trying to read them all! I'm especially excited by the gender bending aspects of Rawiya's journey and the stories being told of Syria that are a) told by Syrians and b) reflect the lives and humanity of Syrian people and not just the violence and deaths of the war.

Edinburgh - Alexander Chee

I'm really excited to read this book after reading How To Write An Autobiographical Novel given how much I loved it. Chee writes a lot about Edinburgh in the aforementioned work so it's exciting to read the novel knowing how it came to be. I only found out about Chee's work this year which seems like a shame because I've been missing out! His launch at D&Q around two months ago was fantastic and got me even more excited to read the rest of his work. Telling the story of the main character Fee, who deals with the aftermath of childhood abuse by his choir director, this book will not be easy to read, but knowing the care Chee takes in writing difficult situations, I'm excited to delve into the book and return to Chee's beautiful writing and voice. 

Ma Très Grande Mélancholie Arabe -Lamia Ziadé

Je viens tout récemment de lire Bye Bye Babylon de Lamia Ziadé. Même si je l'ai beaucoup aimé il y avait quelque chose de perdu étant une traduction. Par contre, j'étais surpris par la capacité des images de pouvoir transmettre l'émotion qui manquait dans les mots. Son livre le plus récent, Ma Très Grande Mélancholie Arabe, est illustré dans son style à crayon habituel, pleins de colours et de dynamise, un style unique et charmant. Le livre déconstruit l'orientalisme,  laissant les lecteurs ainsi découvrir le monde Arabe d'une nouvelle perspective ainsi que réinterpreter les conflits avec plus de nuances. Si vous aimez l'histoire enrobé de récit personnel, je pense que vous aimerez bien les oeuvres de Lamia Ziadé. 


Dear Current Occupant: A Memoir - Chelene Knight

I've been meaning to read this since it came out in March but there's just so many books to read! Dear Current Occupant is a mix of letters, essays, poems, messing with genre, a memoir about home and belonging set in the 80s and 90s of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. As someone who has moved a lot during my childhood, I'm really interested in Knight's experience looking at the twenty different houses she lived in and at  who currently occupies these spaces. Set against current Vancouver gentrification, new condos, and sky rocketing rent prices, this book is so important. Exploring familial love in the face of systematic racism and classism, I've heard it is beautifully crafted and I really can't wait to dive in.

Trap Door - Ed. by Reina Gossett, Erica A. Stanley & Johanna Burton

I hadn't heard about this book until someone I know special ordered into the store. I immediately ordered it for the store when I saw it come in. This beautiful and extensive essay collection on trans cultural production and the politics of visibility is so timely. I'm so excited to read essays and conversations with stars like Che Gossett, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Sara Ahmen, Fred Moten, Morgan M. Page and many more. It looks like a beautiful coffee table book but I will definitely be reading this much more attentively than I'd read any coffee table book. I'm a huge fan of Reina Gossett (excited to hopefully get to see her short film, Happy Birthday, Marsha!) so this anthology is extra exciting.

A few books that are not yet out: 

Holy Wild by Gwen Benaway. Cover Imagejpg     
Holy Wild - Gwen Benaway

This cover is so wonderful, I can't stop looking!
I love lyric poems! I love Gwen Benaway's poetry! I love trans poems!
Maybe you can tell I'm really excited for this book to come out? Benaway writes into the beauty, the complexity, and the legacies of violence and resistance of been an indigenous trans woman. Benaway's essays are always stunning and captivating, her work honest and so important. An author who gives so much of herself to her writing, I'm so excited for this expansive long poem that I know will be so generous in its sharing. I've heard Gwen say countless times that her work about love and sex with partners is a step towards normalizing trans women's sexuality and intimacies, work that is so important to the lives of trans women everywhere. I'm so grateful and excited for Holy Wild.

You Have The Right To Remain Fat - Virgie Tovar

Books about body positivity and fatness!! We need these books!! In a culture steeped in fatphobia and fat shaming, I suggest that every person read at least one book that talks about fatphobia and body positivity to help  you rewire your brain and recognize the beauty and possibility of different bodies. Others that are also on my list include My Body Is Not an Apology and Landwhale. I was lured in by the title of this book ! Tovar writes about the intersections of race and gender and fatness in interesting ways and I'm awaiting the pub date impatiently.

If They Come For Us - Fatimah Asghar

I've been waiting for this collection of poems ever since reading the titular poem and watching Brown Girls (a must-watch web series that's been picked up by HBO!). Asghar's poetry addresses race, queerness, what is means to be living in America as a brown Muslim, what it means to grow up without parents. Her verse is rich and filled with images, accessible (I heard her say on a podcast that she wanted to write poems that her aunties and family members might read). She tells a story of kin, and really revels in her love for her community, beautiful, tender. Also what the heck!!
This is  another beautiful cover and I'm so excited to have it on my bookshelf.

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