How to shake yourself out of your reading rut

Everyone knows I read a lot. Somewhere north of 150 books a year – sometimes more than 250. I read a wide range, including a lot of romance novels, mysteries, Canadian fiction, and memoirs. But sometimes I get stuck. It often aligns with having high anxiety – the uncertainty of a new book or new author feels overwhelming and I find myself rereading books because they are safe or comfortable. I’ve been known to reread every book by Tamora Pierce or Courtney Milan over a weekend. It’s fun, in a way, but it’s like only eating grilled cheese even though you know you love trying new things.

So what do I do to get out of that rut?

1. Be patient and kind to yourself

What’s wrong with comfort food for a little while? It feeds a part of your soul that is obviously feeling needy! Understand where you are right now, and trust that you won’t be there forever. While you’re in this head space, embrace it! What’s your favourite teen read that you could pick up again? Which popcorn novel still makes you laugh? Reread all the Goosebumps books or return to your favourite Marion Keyes. Reading elitism is for dead white men with university buildings named after them.

2. Stretch your comfort zone

Start slow. It’s good to push yourself out of that rut, but you don’t need to go too fast. For me, if I’m feeling risk averse then there are specific genres I look at – usually romance and mystery – because these are predictable patterns to these that will let me read something new, but trust that it will all be okay at the end. I look for romance recommendations from my faves (Jasmine Guillory, Alyssa Cole, Alisha Rai, Helen Hoang, Ripped Bodice, WOC in Romance…) And there are tons of P.D. James, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dick Francis and other mystery authors that I haven’t read yet. This is about stretching those reading skills with something fun but unfamiliar.

3. Embrace the quick read

Okay, this is actually what inspired this post. One of the best tips I have for getting out of the rut is to read a bunch of books that are great and challenging but SHORT. This is such a good way to read a lot, without committing to a 700 page Very Important Novel. It’s like a buffet where you take a few bites of everything that looks good to remember what you like and miss.

I’m going to list some of my favourite short novels at the end so you have a list to start from next time you need it. Or today, if you just want a quick weekend read!

4. Get excited!

Now you’re reading again, start looking at the hundreds of lists of new books, best books, upcoming books and get excited about all those stories waiting for you. One of my favourite ways to find new books is through specific google searches like “books by African lesbians” or “Northern Canadian authors” or “Asian murder mysteries”. You may not find that exact list but you’ll find interesting books that aren’t represented in the New York Times Bestseller list.

12 great short novels:

Ru, Kim Thúy (Or really any of her books. They’re so good. If you haven’t read any of them then move it to the top of your list!)
The End We Start From, Megan Hunter
Spy of the First Person, Sam Shepard
I’m Afraid of Men, Vivek Shraya
The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
Cowrie, Cathie Dunsford
The Buddha in the Attic, Julie Otsuka
We Have Always Lived In The Castle, Shirley Jackson
Sula, Toni Morrison
Being There, Jerzy Kosinski
Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih
Widow Basquiat, Suzanne Malouk

What’s your favourite trick for this? Which great short novel did I miss?


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A newb’s guide to romance novels

Like anything created for women, by women, romance novels are unfairly maligned. Formulaic, poorly written, melodramatic… let every thriller, mystery, western, and plotless middle-aged crisis die in the same fire as the much-criticized romance.

The only requirement of a romance novel is that it end positively with one (or more) people together, or well on the path to that end. The path to that end can be long, or short, fraught or smooth (though you can guess which is more entertaining).

The best romance novels raise our expectations. They tell us that people can change their behaviour when they recognize the harm they are causing, and that none of us are held back by the obstacles we have overcome, and orgasms come with the standard model.

And while romance novels are marketed to women, I would strongly encourage every man to read at least one. Why? Well, they’re fun, and funny, and sexy… and they are the best existing example of how consent and communication fit in sex and relationships. They’re an antidote to toxic masculinity (and of course the disease resists the cure so the people least likely to read a romance novel are those most likely to need the lessons).

I read upwards of 150 books a year and I’d estimate a third of those are romance novels. Last year, when I struggled with some of the worst anxiety of my adult life, it was much more than that. I needed the certainty of knowing that no matter what these characters went through, they would eventually get a happy ending (both figurative and literal).

A few friends have expressed curiosity about romance novels, but haven’t known where to start, so here is a beginner’s guide – guaranteed rape free. If you have other recommendations, drop them in the comments. I’m always looking for more suggestions!

Nora Roberts

40 years ago Nora Roberts changed the genre. Women could have demands, didn’t have to be virgins, they weren’t after marriage, they had careers and dreams of their own. She’s one of the best known and most prolific romance novelists, for good reason. Roberts has written some of everything, but my favourites are her mysteries. If you read enough you’ll notice she recycles plots, but so do Grisham and King, and her books are equally well written with better characterization and dialogue.

Catie’s favourites: Private Scandals, Honest Illusions, The Search

I like Nora Roberts. Who else should I try? Julie Garwood (contemporary), Suzanne Brockmann

Beverly Jenkins

By all rights, Beverly Jenkins should be as famous as Nora Roberts. She’s as good a writer, almost as prolific, and her books defy cliches. Unfortunately, racism is as prevalent in romance as any other genre, so read (buy!) Jenkins for historic romance that says fuck you to the white-centric view of early America.

Catie’s favourites: Indigo, Forbidden, Belle

I like Beverly Jenkins. Who else should I try? Alyssa Cole, Tessa Dare

Courtney Milan

Look, no words I write can do justice to Courtney Milan. Her books are complicated, her characters are believably flawed, and she’s working on a contemporary series that includes multiple transgender characters of colour, at least one bisexual man, a realistic exploration of the “billionaire man meets broke woman” trope, and relationships that build over multiple books. Oh and she has a number of historic romances featuring characters of colour.

Catie’s favourites: Unraveled, Hold Me, The Suffragette Scandal

I like Courtney Milan. Who else should I try? Sarah McLean, Sherry Thomas


Loretta Chase

Lord of Scoundrals might be the romance novel I reread the most. Something about it strikes at my heart. So if you read it and hate it don’t tell me. Pick up something from Loretta Chase if you think that historic romances are full of inappropriate age gaps, swooning women, and “It’s not rape if she orgasms”.

Catie’s favourites: Lord of Scoundrals, Dukes Prefer Blondes, Don’t Tempt Me

I like Loretta Chase. Who else should I try? Elizabeth Boyle, Julie Anne Long


The authors above are sexy. Their books might turn you on. But if you’re here because you heard that romance novels are Porn For Women (hint: porn is porn for women) then those might disappoint. If what you actually want is Erotica, I might suggest searching for that specifically. But if you want some extra raunch in your romance, try these authors:

Maya Banks

Lorelei Chase

Victoria Dahl

Alisha Rai

Santino Hassell

Who’s your favourite that I missed? Let me know in the comments – I’m always looking for new suggestions!

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13+ book recommendations from 2017

Every year I do a round up of the books I read that I think you might enjoy. I try to stick to books that I think don’t have as big an existing footprint, so some of the shortlisted books include Hunger, and Difficult Women, both by Roxane Gay, What We Lose, by Zinzi Clemmons, and The Liars Club, by Mary Karr. Those all have a pretty strong following so here are 13 books you might not already be familiar with.

The Conjoined, by Jen Sookfong Lee
A woman helping her father clean a few months after her mother’s death finds a body in the freeze. It’s been there for more than 30 years, and as the novel jumps between the past and present she tries to figure out some kind of truth or conclusion about her mother.

Romantic Outlaws, by Charlotte Gordon
A biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley with alternating chapters about their lives. Past writers have written about both separately because Wollstonecraft died when her daughter was a baby, so this is the first book to explore how Wollstonecraft influenced her daughter’s life. Well-written, with new research and insight into how both women influenced their husbands’ work, I can’t recommend this enough. Complementary read: Passionate Minds, by David Bodanis.

The Wangs vs The World, by Jade Chang
A wealthy and privileged family is suddenly broke. Their only option is to drive cross-country to where the eldest daughter owns a farmhouse. Complex, with multiple perspectives and some pretty pointed critiques of the world we live in, this is also a book about the people who are with you when you don’t have anything else. Complementary read: The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson.

Packing for Mars, by Mary Roach

What does it take for humans to survive in space? Lots of people have recommended Mary Roach to me and this was the first one I read. Funny, conversational, and packed full of the kind of facts that make me giddy, it’s like sitting down for a drink with an expert who’s full of crazy stories (appropriately referenced of course).

The Borrowed, by Chan ho-Kei
I read a lot of mystery novels this year and at some point figured there had to be mysteries that weren’t American, English, or Scandinavian out there. Set in Hong Kong over 50 years, it follows the career of a police detective through seven career-defining cases. Along the way you get insights into the politics of Hong Kong and the changes over the last decades. Plus just a bunch of really good mysteries.

The First Signs, by Genevieve von Petzinger
A lot of attention is paid to cave paintings of animals and people. We are understandably fascinated by this early art. However, the earliest human art is symbols – dots, squiggles, chevrons etc. – and this has received much less attention. Von Petzinger explores dozens of caves in Spain and France to put together a comprehensive “what we know so far” of this very early art, including a few theories of what it might mean.

The Break, by Katherena Vermette
Every year I read a book that I then hesitate to recommend because suggesting it is saying “Here – tear out your heart and rebuild it.” An Untamed Heart and Book of Dahlia both fit in this category and now The Break joins them. When a girl is attacked after a party, it affects everyone in her family, and the wider community. Beautifully written, and full of compassion, it will break your heart, but it’s worth it.

A bunch of books by Mohsin Hamid (Exit West, Discontent and Its Civilizations, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia)
Years ago I read The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which has stuck with me ever since, but I didn’t seek out more from Mohsin Hamid until his latest novel Exit West caught my eye. A timeless book about searching for safety and trying to find your place in the world (literally), this motivated me to read some more of his backlist. I’d recommend all of them. Having lived in Pakistan, the USA, and England, he brings that rich experience to his books, nimbly jumping between cities and cultures, with keen observation of the behaviour of others, and the internal life of his characters.

An Extraordinary Union, by Alyssa Cole
Romance novels are one of my go-to genres, especially when I’m stressed or anxious, but I rarely recommend them here because there is still a lot of snobbery and stigma around romance (#sexism). I’ve heard from a few people that would like recommendations of where to start. That might be a blog of it’s own soon, but to start you off this is one of the best I’ve read. About a free woman during the American Civil War who goes undercover as a slave to gather information for the North, holy shit this book was so good. Well-written, in an incredibly compelling setting, with characters who are complex and flawed and brave and inspiring.

Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars, by Kai Cheng Thom
There’s this category of Canadian book that I haven’t quite figured out but that I keep stumbling across by accident that might be categorized as something like “Dark Queer Fairytale”. There’s Lost Boi, by Sassafras Lowrey, Sub Rosa, by Amber Dawn, and now Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars. Let me know others if this rings a bell! About a young trans girl who runs away and finds a new family of trans women who help her blossom, but when one of them is murdered she turns to violence to try and protect their neighbourhood.

Blackass, by A. Igoni Barrett
Furo, a Nigerian man living in Lagos, wakes up one morning and is white (and a ginger, to make it even worse!) From existential questions – is he still the person he was? – to the logistical, like how to get ID that matches his new face, this is a very effective and moving satire.

The Long Tomorrow, by Leah Brackett
I kept looking at when this short novel was written because it felt like it could have come out yesterday, but it’s actually from the 1950s. In a post-apocalyptic world, the surviving population has returned to old ways of surviving and two young boys chafe under the restrictions from their Amish community. Over the next few years they travel to cities and eventually one finds a last bastion of education – but at what cost?

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My favourite Canadian books so far

This year is being celebrated as Canada’s 150th birthday… which is kind of weird across the board anyway because obviously the land that is now Canada has a much longer history and there’s a lot in those 150 years that are worth critiquing, not celebrating.

However, what is worth celebrating are all the great books that have come from this country. So here are 10 Canadian books that I think you should read.

Canadian History for Dummies, Will Ferguson
Starting with the basics! When I moved here I didn’t now anything about Canadian history and this book was an excellent starting point. Funny, well-written, starting from pre-colonial and covering all major events, it gave me a starting point for understanding Canadian culture. I’ve probably forgotten 90% of it, which puts me right on par with Canadians my age who have forgotten everything they learned in school. Now if only I’d grown up with the house hippo I’d fit right in…

Ragged Company, Richard Wagamese
This is one of the first Canadian books I read when I got here, recommended by my cousin, and it has stuck with me ever since. Five homeless people winning the lottery might sound like the start of a fairy tale, but money isn’t a cure-all. This is a really beautiful book about overcoming trauma, about friendship, and what can happen when we are willing to open ourselves up to others.

The Inconvenient Indian, Thomas King
Want an accessible and funny guide to indigenous issues in Canada and the USA? This book manages to be both irreverent and important. Subtitled “The curious history of native people in North America”, King’s book vividly connects the historical facts of genocide and land theft to the people it’s still effecting today.

Brown Girl in the Ring, Nalo Hopkinson
Teenage girls fighting the regime were all the rage a few years ago. The fad may have passed (has it? I’m out of touch with YA fiction) but this homegrown dystopic novel is worth reading for a great heroine, familiar Toronto sites (gang-run Eaton Centre, anyone?), and Hopkinson’s use of Caribbean mythology and culture to build her world.


Birdie, Tracey Lindberg
Funny, moving and truly engrossing, you get to really sink into the main character in a way that feels like a privilege. Birdie hasn’t gotten out of bed in days and her boss/landlady/friend has called in her family to help her. We follow as Birdie revisits her life, while her cousin and aunt try to bring her back to the present.

I am Woman, Lee Maracle
Are you only going to read one book on this list? Read this one. It’s not an easy read, but it’s important, especially for anyone living on colonized land. Lee Maracle writes wonderfully, she is thoughtful and pushes the reader to think for themselves, to question her findings, to disagree with her. The book is more than 20 years old so some of the ideas feel old-fashioned now, it’s nice to know that new voices are constantly moving us forward, but this makes an excellent primer for further reading.

On the Shores of Darkness There Is a Light, Cordelia Strube
This book destroyed my soul… So you should definitely read it. When done well I really like books with children as the protagonist and this is one of the best. The main character is an 11-year-old girl, whose brother has a life-threatening birth defect. She’s funny and honest and a little mean. She’s precocious in some ways, but hopelessly naive in others and throughout the book I just wanted to stop her and tell her “Just hang on a few more years and it will get easier, I promise.”

Ru, Kim Thúy
Somehow Kim Thúy manages to tell a rich, vivid, detailed family history purely in tiny powerful vignettes. This book reads almost more like poetry than prose, and it can be lingered over and savoured because the words are so rich. Equally powerful is the story of three generations moving from Vietnam to Montreal.

The Conjoined, Jen Sookfong Lee
What if shortly after your mother died, you were cleaning out her basement and found a dead body in the freezer? Honestly, if that doesn’t sell you on this book then I don’t know what will. I’ve read a couple books by Jen Sookfong Lee and they’ve all been excellent.

We’re All In This Together, Amy Jones
After their mother goes over a waterfall in a barrel, twins end up re-united after many years apart. Despite some crazy goings on (including but not limited to the barrel) this book still felt very true to life in a small town, both the good and the bad. What it means to leave and what it takes to return.


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Books I’m glad I read in 2016

The annual book recommendation blog! Here are 14 books I’m glad I read in 2016 – and that I think you might like, too! As with last year, I’ve mostly focused on books that I think aren’t as well known so while the Ancillary series was fantastic, and The Underground Railway just emotionally destroyed me, I’m not going to go into detail here because I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of those if they’re your kind of read. These are in my reading order because that’s how I wrote them down initially.

The Group (Mary McCarthy) and The Best of Everything (Rona Jaffe)
These were interesting to read within a month of each other because unfortunately there was a strong element of “The more things change…” Set in the 1930s and 1950s respectively, both follow a group of newly graduated women who experience everything good and bad that the world has to offer young, talented, privileged women. If you’re keen for some “oh, yeah, the past wasn’t all sepia toned ads for kitchenaid” then these are the books for you. Bonus: The Group famously inspired Sex and The City. Is that a pro or con? Don’t know.

Some of My Best Friends are Black (Tanner Colby)
I was a bit dubious about a book on segregation written by a white guy, but this is a truly thoughtful and well-researched book about how America got as segregated as it is. Colby realized one day that, um, actually, he didn’t have any black friends. How did that happen? He looks at the worlds of school, real estate, work, and church to figure it out.

Beauty Queens (Libba Bray)
This one’s not for everyone. It’s not exactly subtle (think early Ben Elton) but it sure was fun. A bunch of teen beauty queens get stranded on a (maybe not-so) deserted island and nothing goes as you might expect. A satire that includes a cast of smart, diverse young women, exploding beauty products, and a runaway boy band – it’s as silly as it sounds but smarter, too, and a damn good time.

Birdie (Tracey Lindberg)
This was one of the Canada Reads picks and I really liked it. It took me some time to get used to the writing style, but once I settled in I couldn’t put it down. The titular character is in something of a fugue state – she hasn’t gotten out of bed in days – as she revisits her childhood on a first nations’ reserve, teen years on the streets of Edmonton, a brief time in foster care and how she ended up working in a bakery in a small town in BC. Beautiful, thoughtful and funny.

Illustrado (Miguel Syjuco)
I’m struggling to describe this book, but I really liked it. It’s a weird episodic adventure following a man whose teacher – a famous Filipino author – is found dead in the Hudson River. The student flies to the Philippines in search of his last manuscript. Switching between excerpts of the author’s books, the story of his life, and the “present” of the hunt for the manuscript, it’s a darkly funny story about the history of the Philippines, family secrets and fame. If you like Mario Vargos Llosa then you’ll like this, too.

The Lights of Pointe Noire (Alan Mabanckou)
Alan left Pointe Noire, in the Republic of Congo, for Paris when he was 22 and returned 15 years later. This book is vignettes of his first trip home. Visiting his family, his childhood home, refamiliarizing with the customs he grew up with – it’s a fascinating and beautiful read that is simultaneously outsider and insider.

Waters of Versaille (Kelly Robson)
This novella is delightful. Smuggling a water spirit into Versailles to provide indoor plumbing might do wonders for your social status in the 17th century, but controlling her is going to prove more difficult than predicted!

Celia’s Song (Lee Maracle)
After I read Birdie I realized I’d read very few books by First Nations Canadian women. Unfortunately some of that turns out to be a supply issue, but this one was truly superb. It should come with a huge trigger warning because about half way through they rescue a child from horrendous abuse (this is not on the back or any description I found). That said, I’d still highly recommend it, just know what you’re in for. A fantastic story about change and identity, weaving traditional beliefs into modern challenges.

One Amazing Thing (Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni)
If someone asked you to tell them one amazing true story, what would yours be? A group of strangers trapped by an earthquake keep calm and bond through storytelling. I read Palace of Illusions last year and I really like Divakaruni’s writing and characters. She creates interesting, complex characters who are well-developed and whose decisions you may not agree with, but you understand – even when you know it won’t end well for them.

I Contain Multitudes (Ed Yong)
Go read this book! I’ve recommended this book to so many people. It’s about the relationship between microbes and animals – what we know, what we don’t, what we’re trying to work out. If you’ve read headlines like “Is your gut bacteria making you fat?”  and rolled your eyes then this is the book for you! For real, though. If you like science and books that make you go “huh!” then pick this up. When it comes out in paperback I’m buying 10 copies to give away.

Dreams in a Time of War (Ngugi wa Thiong’o)
A memoir from Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o from his childhood in the 1940s and 50s. A very visual and vivid read about growing up in rural Kenya in the midst of a colonial crackdown under the British. Ngugi’s mother hopes that if he excels at school then he’ll make it out of the village. A wonderful memoir, and also a glimpse into a time and place in history that I didn’t know a lot about. If you want to be better informed about the impact of colonization on individuals, communities and countries then this is an important read.

The Book of Dahlia (Elisa Alberta)
This was a loan from a friend and it was an excellent recommendation. Dahlia is something of an antihero (refreshing to read a female version!) – stoner, unmotivated, directionless, kind of an asshole. Then she gets diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour. This book literally made me cry and laugh. I want to consume it and have it always be part of me. (I didn’t, I’m going to return it, I promise!) Go. Read it. I’ll talk to you later.

If you want more recommendations message me – otherwise I’ll be back with more next year! (And maybe other blogs before then… one can only hope.)

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15 books I’m glad I read in 2015

I was going to do a “The 10 best books I read in 2015” but then I had 21 books and I cut that down but didn’t want to cull further.

Defining “best” is really hard, so one thing I’ve stuck to here is that I don’t think these are best sellers or widely recommended. The Martian was fantastic, so was Station Eleven and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, but they’ve had quite a few headlines already so I’m throwing my support behind these lesser-known titles. Some you might not even have heard of, others are maybe floating around on a “some day” list and this will help solidify their place on your nightstand. Most aren’t from 2015, but this is when I read them.

In order of reading:

Ammonite, Nicola Griffiths

Fairly hard sci fi. An anthropologist visits a planet that was colonized 300 years ago, abandoned due to a virus, and where the few survivors have established a complex society.

Horrorstor, Grady Hendrix

This is the book that inspired the rule “If you put a pillow on top of it then it can’t get you” and also that made me scared of Ikea. I love horror books and this was top notch funny and scary.

The Inconvenient Indian, Thomas King

“A Curious History of Native People in North America” is the sub-title, and that about sums it up. Personal, funny and honest, King links the violence, land theft, government policies, and attempts at reparation between the US and Canada to give a comprehensive, if informal, history of North America post-colonization from the Native American/First Nation perspective.

Death and the Penguin, Andrey Kurkov

Russian surrealism about a man who has adopted a penguin from the zoo because the city can’t afford to feed the zoo animals. He’s a writer who gets an off-the-books job to write profiles of local power players… who then start turning up dead.

Fledgling, Octavia Butler

Look, I love a good vampire myth retelling so maybe I’m biased, but Butler is a great writer and if the whole Twilight overload thing tainted the idea of vampires then this could be the palate cleanser you need. Modern, complex, engrossing… it’s the vampire world you kind of hope might be true. (Also if you like this try Daylight, by Elizabeth Knox.)

This Blinding Absence of Light, Tehar Ben Jelloun

Based on the testimony of a man who spent 18 years in an underground prison in Morocco. Literally underground – no light, little space to move. I honestly don’t have word to describe this book. It’s beautiful and haunting and occasionally funny. Never a comfortable read, but a book that I do think everyone should read.

White is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi

I love Helen Oyeyemi. She does such interesting and compelling things with narrative and language. I think this might be my favourite of hers, but I’m finding it hard to describe. Miranda is a twin whose mother is gone (but what kind of gone?). She has a compulsion to eat chalk and is haunted by the house she lives in. Or is the house haunted by generations of women who lived there before her? Stop reading my description and go read the book.

We Are All Completely Fine, Daryl Gregory

This was really fun and funny. What if every survivor of every horror movie/book met once a week for a support group? But what are the true motivations of the person who has brought them together… da da duuuuum.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N. K. Jemisin

One of the richest, most compelling fantasy books I’ve read in ages. This is the first in a series, I bought the compendium and read them all straight through. A girl from an outer province is brought to the ruling city as a pawn in a game of who will be king, but she’s got former gods on her side (or trying to get her on their side) and more family politics than Game of Thrones (that’s probably not true, I just wanted to make a relevant high-fantasy reference). Go. Read it. Then read the next two books.

Being There, Jerzy Kosinski

A hilarious, but frighteningly believable, novella about a man who might end up ruling the world… accidentally.

To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis

I can’t believe I didn’t read anything by Connie Willis until this year! A great book about time travel where everyone knows the rules of time travel… and then one of them gets broken and they have to figure out what that means for the past and the future.

Widow Basquiat, Jennifer Clements

This is kind of a memoir and kind of a biography and kind of a poem. Jennifer Clements was close friends with Suzanne  Mallouk – Jean-Michel Basquiat’s long-time partner and muse – and recounts in vignettes their time together. It was Year of Basquiat for me and I loved it.

Lost Boi, Sassafras Lowry

You didn’t know you wanted to read a queer, punk, bdsm retelling of Peter Pan, did you? Well now you know and now it’s on your list!

Nevada, Imogen Binnie

Sardonic, self-distructive and disconnected from the world, Maria is a trans woman living in New York whose carefully balanced life tips over, leaving her reeling and trying to figure out what to do next… and whether $400 worth of heroin will help. Trans narratives by trans authors should be compulsory reading (see also: Redefining Realness by Janet Mock, and Gender Failure by Ivan Coyote).

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Remembering and reflecting

My grandfather William Verdun McIlveen fought in World War Two. He was part of a tank team and was mentioned in dispatches, was award a medal and delivered a baby in a ditch beside the road. He was also never the same.

I found this news article that mentions him and his commendation, which made me feel truly proud of him, but also sad about the “some half-dozen shot down” and curious about the 50+ people who surrendered at that site. We have simplified World War Two into such an easy narrative – there were good guys and bad guys. We were the good guys. The good guys won. But those half-dozen men who died in that piece of bush in France were not The Bad Guys. They were men, some may have been just boys, who were fighting for their country because that’s what was expected and demanded of them. They probably didn’t hate Jewish people, they probably weren’t all ardent Nazis, they were Germans who fought because their country was at war.

Remembrance Day we celebrate the freedom that was fought for on our behalf, but every battle comes down to individuals making decisions. To advance or retreat. To fight or run. To shoot or hide. The vast global factors that have caused the war meant little to them before they had to leave their lives and loved ones behind. And in the grand scheme it is hard to quantify any one individual’s affect on those global trends.

I’m glad my grandfather was brave and loyal. He saved the lives of other Canadians that day. Three of his four children were born after the war ended. But he and others suffered greatly because of that war and every war before and since.

Read the original article here: Hamilton Spectator WW2 article

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