I want to be up-front about this: this section of my website is written for myself.
I often forget what content I have consumed, and I forget how I feel towards the content that I have consumed.
This scares me, because I don't want to just be mindlessly consuming things for the rest of my life with nothing
to show for it. I tried keeping these logged in physical notebooks, but that didn't work. I tried making Google Docs full
of reviews, but that didn't work either. Google Docs can be buried. I do not support Amazon and I will never make a GoodReads account. I needed to host them somewhere where I would be forced to care about it.
Hence I have started to lay them out here. If you actually want a book recommendation for me, you should probably talk to me instead of reading this.
I've set a rule for myself to not write any reviews for texts that are on the syllabuses of my university courses, to hopefully encourage myself
to read outside the box.
Country of Origin by Don Lee
Don Lee is primarily known for his short stories, and it shows.
This novel is composed of a series of vignettes that all try to not be short stories, but they end up feeling like that anyway. It's a unique approach to write this part spy-novel, part murder-mystery, part-reunification story.
Lisa Countryman looks white, but she has not a speck of white in her. Her biological mother's yellow and her biological father's black have rendered Lisa a pale ghostly grey. She has returned to her birthplace of Japan as a young graduate student from Berkley researching Japanese hostess club culture. Lisa is revealed to have died in the first chapter, and the rest of the book follows Kenzo Ota, a sexless eccentric has-sensory-issues detective, and Tom, a half-asian half-white compulsively-lying military boy, as they trace Lisa's ghostly life and death through her old landlords, friends, clients, and enemies.
Although the book is set in Japan, it's really an exploration of what it means to be American when one's linguistic, racial, and passing status influence where one feels most at home. If you want to read to 'visit Japan,' this is not the book for you. Lee's portrayal of Japan often comes across as superficially as Lisa's preconceived notions of the place before she steps foot there. But this is the point. There is nothing familiar or homely in Don Lee's Japan. There is nothing welcoming there, because not one of the three narrating protagonists feel comfortable on Japanese (or American) soil.
I enjoyed collaging together Lisa's story through the various pieces that Lee throws out. I enjoyed this book precisely because all the characters are so unlikeable in such unique and charming ways. You can read this book while brain dead and you can read this book while completely activated.
Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz
I wish I had read the first half of the book and then just stopped there. In fact, I would encourage you to do this, because the first half is absolutely stunning.
Bena and Sadhana's bond as sisters is strong due to the instability they've endured together through childhood. They lose their father. Then their mother. They join forces against the strict uncle that adopts them. But now they're no longer rebellious teenagers and now Sadhana is dead. Bena's son, Quinn, is growing more independent. And Bena has been tasked with the insurmountable task of cleaning out Sadhana's apartment.
I chose to read this book before embarking on a trip to Montreal, because I wanted to get a feel for the kind of place it was before I went there. There is little in this book about the topography of Montreal, but it is rich in it's discussion of what it means to parent. Everyone is a parent in this text. Sadhana mothers Quinn. Quinn fathers Bena. Bena mothers Libby. (Libby is an idiot). Bena mothers her uncle, her sister, her son and her mother. There is so much bitter familial love in this text. I would highly recommend just stopping once Libby and Ravi start becoming more prominent in the narrative, but if you choose to continue, be forewarned that it is way less immersive than the earlier parts of the book, and leaves a bad feeling in one's mouth.
The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch
I will probably end up reviewing the entirety of Yuknavitch's oeuvre, since I've read most of it. With each new book that I read from her, I become more convinced that one has to read the totality of her works to get the full picture of things. I don't think you can read most of Yuknavitch's fiction without first reading this memoir. But I do think you can read this memoir alone.
Yuknavitch's life has been full of loss, of circular melancholia, of many kinds of water, of death, accompanied by a vast selection of colourful coping mechanisms. The subject range she manages to tackle is immense and she does it in such poetic language. She has so many stories, some painful, some sexy, some reckless, some that will make you despise her. They each come at you like waves crashing down on the shore. I read it all in one day.
I must admit that I read this memoir very consumptively. I felt like I was treating myself to a lovely pina coloda while lying on the beach while reading this. Lidia's misfortune stems from many unlucky circumstances, and many nameable persons. Her suffering, captured through flowing and evokative prose, is delightful to spectate. She doesn't implicate anyone outside of the text for the things that have happened to her, and she manages to perservere in the end. While there is heartache, there is also real joy. In this sense the narrative provides one with a sense of closure.
In Yuknavitch's fiction, she deploys many of the tropes of her life into paranormal artifacts of dystopian worlds, and this is where Yuknavitch gets messy and speculative. The Chronology of Water is the gateway into all of that, and it makes for a cozy, indulging, (and heartwrenching) read on a rainy day.
What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad
This novel shines an unforgiving light at the refugee crisis.
In high school, my literature class was made to read a story about a crew getting stranded at sea, eventually drawing lots to eat each other. I've been somewhat afraid of boats ever since and this novel by El Akkad only strengthens my utter fear. El Akkad constructs the boat like a horror writer writes an abandoned school. I got so uncomfortable while reading this book, I became so unnerved by the cruelty of this world. The cunning survival of innocent childhood is dashed by the horrible games that the adults play. There are very few characters that love in this book.
I wish I could cry as I read What Strange Paradise, but I couldn't. The root of all of this is cold, stalwark and apathetic bureaucracy. One is left feeling helpless and treading for water in a pool of poetic images; Umm Ibrahim's surprise, Amir's stubborness, return to the womb.
Rehearsals for Living by Robyn Maynard and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
This is a really great primer on all the prominent issues of our day through the eyes of two scholar-activists who share
a genuine comraderie and interest in Living, with the capital L, as Black and Indigenous in their respective communities.
Robyn and Leanne are stuck in their respective houses because of the covid-19 pandemic, and decide to continue to write letters
to each other through isolation, waves of covid, the George Floyd summer and increasing panic around climate change. However, if you go into this book
thinking that it's going to be a huge Debbie downer, you'd be gravely mistaken. In this intimate space, Robyn and Leanne outline a manifesto
for Black and Indigenous resilience, imagining the absolute paradise that awaits their respective peoples who have already
been through 'the apocolypse' countless times. They are both radicals who believe wholeheartedly in the dismantling of the nation state
but they are also two very different people. Robyn is a black feminist and prison abolitionist, while Leanne is a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg who operates mostly within
the spheres of Indigenous activism. Together, they blend the line between Black issues and Indigenous issues and question the
narrative that seeks to separate these two stories from each other. They learn from each other. Robyn reconceptualizes blackness and the black diaspora as
indigenous "to the lands, of more lands than could ever be counted." Leanne reexamines her obligations to Black liberation as a Nishnaabeg
and the role she must play to highlight the legacy of slavery in Canada.
This book accurately identifies and acknowledges the very precarious position the project of Black liberation has within
Canadian liberal discourse. It calls out the idea that "Canadians were all good abolitionists, and slavery did not exist in Canada" as being
complete and utter bullshit. Extremely valuable as a book that talks about all the horrors of capitalism and colonialism with an eye towards a more optimistic future.
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
This is a YA selection that was recommended to me by a professor who touted it as a "damning critique of the Canadian state." She brought it up as a counterpoint
to what she was describing to me as settler post-apocolyptic fiction, a theorized genre that erases Indigenous people after apocolypse and operates to
recreate colonial values in the rebuilding of society after the destruction of it all. The Marrow Thieves is a celebration of Indigenous survival in
an apocolyptic scenario that wavers scarily close to our current timeline, in a world ravaged by the natural conclusion of the capitalistic settler-colonial prison complex.
Frenchie is a Metis youth just trying to survive in a world that want to eat him-literally. The government is hunting down Indigenous people and sending them to 'schools,' a euphemistic
term for harvesting factories. It's a holocaust scenario and one person cannot brave it alone. Frenchie meets a group of fellow survivors. Together they
become acquainted again with the old Indigenous ways of being as they forge a new life and a new family off the grid and on the run. The action is harrowing
and one is always expecting trouble around the corner. It's hard for the group to get settled, but they find new comfort in the uncomfortable.
I had a brief discussion with my professor where we centered on one premise that the text holds. The world of Marrow Thieves can empirically test for whether a person
is Indigenous or not. This is a fantasy. In reality, Indigenous identity is a strategic social construct and who counts as 'Indigenous' is constantly in flux.
Nowadays, there is a reckoning happening within the community as many so-called 'Indigenous' cultural icons, scholars and community members have been revealed to have
misrepresented their culture background-- they have fabricated Indigenous heritage. It's a very contentious issue within the community itself because colonialism has
mechanisms in place that actually erase people's Indigenous heritage. Colonialism does not want Indigenous people to exist. Due to this, when people are accused of 'Pretendianism' and
asked to provide some 'proof' they actually can't. Canada has destroyed that proof. On the other hand, the threat that these 'Pretendians' pose is quite real. By claiming
scholarly spots, publishing deals and limelight under the pretense of being Indigenous, they are robbing actually marginalized Indigenous community members of these opportunities
and further weakening policies that strive to redistribute wealth equally among these disenfranchised communities. White people steal Indigenous stories like they steal land.
If you're still reading this, I probably don't have to explain why this is bad.
Regardless this book is majorly important for how it shows Indigenous people using Indigenous methods to heal and survive against a colonial threat that
wants to murder all of them. And it's directed at young people. When I was younger, I retreated into dystopian worlds like Hunger Games and Divergent because
I felt, like Katniss or Tris, that the odds were completely stacked against me and I needed to be brave. I can't imagine how inspiring this book could be
to an Indigenous kid growing up in 2022 as Canada continues its project to try to "kill the Ind*an in the child."
A Mind Spread Out On The Ground by Alicia Elliott
This intimate collection of creative nonfiction essays composed of a series of vignettes delineates mental illness in a place that rejects strictly pathological approaches and binary oppositions, and instead embraces aspects of literary craft and the confessional genre as its own kind of diagnostic procedure.
Elliott has had a life. She is a white-passing Haudenosaunee woman. She grew up poor. Her mother is bipolar. Her father has his own demons. She is a rape survivor. She is a mother. She has many, many stories. Through these essays, she seeks out the best way to tell them.
The section that was most useful to me (am I reading too extractively?) was a section about Margaret Atwood's
comments on Canadian Literature, as well as the state of the canon more generally. Atwood renounces Pauline Johnson (who is
a EXTREMELY respected Metis artist) as 'not the real deal,' writes Indigenous identities out of the canon, it's just really problematic
things that she says. She then goes on to laud the work of Thomas King (who I have Some Opinions on that are potentially libelous) and
it just makes it so clear to me how tough Indigenous writers have it, even through this wave of funding towards Indigenous literature that
Canada is currently seeing. Elliott's comments also make me self-conscious about the review of The Marrow Thieves that can be found above.
I've been taught to interact with IndigeLit as Indigenous Literature, and not just literature. There seems to be two different
criteria that the academy teaches us to judge these two categories by, and the criterion is actually quite colonialist.
I wonder where I can learn to do better. It's hard out here.
Zaregoto Vol.4-5: Psycho Logical by NISIOISIN
I read Vol.4 and Vol.5 from Nisio Isin's Zaregoto series. I actually skipped over the third volume because I was cringing too much, but I have read
Vol.2 and I've watched the adaptation of Vol.1. If you know me primarily over Discord, you may be familiar with my profile picture.
That profile picture comes from this Zaregoto series, the blue haired girl is called Kunagisa Tomo and she is a neurodivergent computer genius.
I don't want to waste too much time writing a review on this. I like Nisioisin's stuff for how it refuses to conform to expected genre expectations.
I really find it difficult to appreciate the work when it is so flagrant and objectifying towards its female characters. The protagonist is a nihilist and
despite the plot screwing him over, the book always ends up affirming the protagonist's world view. This is a general trend for
books in the Zaregoto series, not just in these two volumes. This work in particular makes some real odd assertions about the nature of concepts
such as 'intelligence' 'genius' and 'talent' and how society should be structured around those who are 'naturally' blessed with these
characteristics. It seems to suggest that those with 'lower' intellect should just play along with the system, because
things will eventually work out in the end.
I've continued to read this series because despite how much I disagree with the messaging of the work, the execution is delightful. It's so entertaining.
Mixing together high-brow and low-brow writing styles, the resulting product is chaotic and hard to put down. The book will tell you right at the start that
the mystery is pointless and the intruige is all a sham, and you are loped into getting invested in it anyway. I love it as much as I despise it, and I've already
downloaded Vol.6 onto my phone.
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
Vivek Oji has left behind a cousin, a grieving mother, a distant father, and a circle of friends who have collectively decided to keep Vivek's secrets to themselves.
The story is an account of biological family, of chosen family, of identity and mental health and culminates by answering a question: Why did Vivek die?
I'm amazed at how Emezi is able to firmly establish the novel in Nigeria without ever performing autoethnography. Foreign words are left untranslated.
Caste issues are never explained. Even food is never really described. We're simply in Nigeria, and there's no tour guide to here to tell me what all
this stuff means.
This is a book about lgbt+ issues. It's a celebration of trans bravery and of queer communities. It's tragic, yes, but it's tragic in a very hopeful way.
There's this trope where queer and trans characters never get any happy endings, and Emezi is aware of this and fights back. The one issue I have
with this book is it's predictability. The speaker keeps trying to dangle a carrot over the reader to tempt them into treating the book as a
mystery novel. The mystery elements of this story aren't its strength. I actually think it could have been a stronger book if some of the 'mystery'
elements had been revealed sooner.
The true success of this book is that it paints a hopeful picture for lgbt+ rights in Nigeria. I recently did a report on a book that features
two star-crossed gay lovers in Haiti, and the author admitted in an interview that it was difficult to write them as anything other than tragic due to the current state of
lgbt+ rights in that country. It just shows that I need to read more queer/trans Black lit that are written BY queer/trans Black authors before I let these
books by straight cis authors form my impression of the world.
Everything for Everyone: An Oral History of the New York Commune 2052-2072 by M. E. O'Brien and Eman Abdelhadi
This is a collaboratively written series of interviews written from a future in which, after ecological and political collapse, communism has emerged as the stabilizing force
that connects people and provides for them. It is a really beautiful collection of stories. It's not utopian fiction, as there is quite a lot of
work yet to be done in order for everyone to truly have everything. But it's a piece that gives me a lot of hope, regardless.
Everything for Everyone features the fictionalized future versions of the authors going about NYC and conducting a series of interviews in an effort to
reconstruct a people's history of the revolution as it happened, and to record the current ways of life and identify point of improvement. While dressed up
in a very academic-sounding title, the book isn't really academic in tone. One of the key contentions that the authors face is the idea that, in a communist world,
the institutions of knowledge production would be bottom-up instead of top-down. The academy is abolished, but the authors have to work past the academic
training they have in order to write an oral history that is accessible to everyone. But besides that meta-narrative, the subjects they interview are incredibly diverse. You also
don't have to read the whole book in order to gain something from it, as the chapters can each stand on their own. Some of my favourite chapters include the penultimate
chapter interviewing Kayla Puan, a trans youth. The chapter shows family abolition in action, which I love. Another favourite is the interview of Latif Timbers, who is a gestation worker.
The book really tears apart the position of women as givers of birth and homemakers. It's important to note that in this text, science can has lead to the point where everyone the ability to give birth,
regardless of whether you were born with a penis or vulva or otherwise. The chapter on gestation really explores how the act of giving birth, when democratized,
can be a really liberating (instead of oppresive) act.
I could nitpick about how I think some of the ways of living presented in this book may not be realistic, or how the book doesn't give disabled people
ample representation, or how its writing style is occasionally unconvincing, and how the imagined slang of the future is sometimes more distracting than immersive. But in truth, I just really love this book.
It's not a perfect book, but it really gives me a lot of hope. Stories and fiction engage with liberation theory in a different way than theory alone can. The premise is really great and lends itself
extremely well towards the collaborative writing process. After I finished this, I leaned back and craved more. I want to read other thinkers engage with a similar premise, so if
anyone has recommendations, let me know!
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
This was the first YA book I read in a while, and my second time reading Akwaeke Emezi. I was really impressed by the extensive range that Emezi has, and reading Pet made me want to read more of their work.
The protagonist, Jam, is a Black and nonverbal trans girl who grows up in the post-revolution city of Lucille, which has supposedly been
cleared of all wrongdoers and corruption. When she accidentally bleeds on her mother's painting, Jam summons a monstrosity called Pet into the world who has been tasked with finding an evildoer that still resides, hidden, in their community.
My primary complaint is regarding Jam's nonverbal status. Jam uses sign to communicate, but from reading the text, I get the feeling that Emezi themself
does not know a lot about the differences between signed and spoken language. There was an opportunity here to really explore signed language's richness
and depth, but Emezi simply has Jam speak in italics to indicate when she's signing vs the occasional moment when she voices, and assumes that most people in her
community are capable of understanding her. Jam's nonverbalness just seems like the publishers wanted a box for representation of nonverbal people ticked, and so Emezi ticked it.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing; we need more nonverbal representation. But it just feels superficial, and doesn't engage with the full richness of the subject matter, unlike Jam's transness which is fully
and beautifully explored.
The mystery elements of this book are engaging and an eerie atmosphere seeps through all third-person narration. It's a good book, and I would recommend it, but I wouldn't read it again myself.
Maybe its just because I have a thing against YA and prefer more literary fiction. The themes didn't resonate with me very much, the performativity of Jam's nonverbal status was a bit disparaging, but it did make me want to read the prequel, which is apparently more
in line with the narrative style that the author uses in their other book, the Death of Vivek Oji, which I enjoyed very much.
Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison
In this monograph, Morrison proposes a reanalysis of the American literary tradition, characterizing it as wielding a particular kind of freedom:
the freedom to excercise total control over the bodies and lives of Black enslaved peoples. Her argument walks through a handful of classic
white American texts in which she studies how these writers construct an Africanist prescence, whose docility, lack of agency and
powerlessness is always a reflection of white anxieties over the founding of a new precarious nation. She very convincingly suggests that
the lack of attention paid to these Africanist characters have resulted in misreadings by white literary critics who attempt to treat these
'canonical texts' as post-racial.
This is my first time delving into Toni Morrison's critical texts. I am more accustomed to recognizing her as a famous creative writer.
Recently I've been exploring alternative ways to approach literary criticism, and Morrison does a bit of that here. She explicitly
attributes the formation of the ideas in her book to her acquired ability to read texts through the perspective of a writer. By
imagining what it would be like to write the texts that she studies, she is able to gain new understanding from them.
I really like this framework. I can sometimes see my Critical Race studies professor engage with texts in this way
and it is a radically different approach from how the academy trains us traditionally. I feel ashamed that I haven't read
any literary texts from Morrison herself, and I really want to now that I know some of her theory.
An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us by Ed Yong
Everybody likes to be let in on a good secret. In this book, Yong interviews a series of animal experts and brings the reader along
a journey that walks through the sensory experiences of our non-human kin- chemical senses such as smell and taste, mechanical senses such as hearing and sight,
and a vast arrangement of other senses such as pain, temperature, magnetism sensing. To assume that the way that other animals experience
the world in the same way that humans do would be very incorrect. The first step to empathizing with animals, Yong argues, is understanding how
their way of interacting with the world or their Umwelten differ from a human's.
Maybe I shouldn't list this under 'monograph' because it's geared towards a popular audience. There are some instances where
it has the same vibes as a self help book. Yong is a strong writer
and has mastered the art of transitioning from one topic to another. The citation practices of this book are particularly innovative.
I really enjoyed it. There's not much here that I can directly apply into my specialization really, but that made this read relaxing and leisurely.
Health Communism by Beatrice Adler-Bolten and Artie Vierkant
'pona sijelo' li seme? nasin mani la lawa li wile e ni: sijelo jan li ken pali e ijo li ken kama e mani. nasin mani la 'pona sijelo' en 'ken pali' li sama.
nasin mani la jan tu wan li lon. jan nanpa wan li jan pi sijelo pona li jan pali. jan nanpa tu la sijelo ona li ike lon tenpo ni, taso sijelo li ken kama pona lon tenpo kama. jan nanpa tu li jan pi ken pali. jan nanpa tu wan li jan pi sijelo ike. sijelo pi jan ni li ken ala kama pona. ni la kulupu mani li wile ala pona e sijelo pi jan nanpa tu wan. lawa li wile weka e jan nanpa tu wan li wile e ni: jan ni li moli ANU jan ni li pana e mani mute mute mute tawa lawa.
nasin seme la mi ken pakala e nasin mani? o kama sona e ni: jan nanpa wan en jan nanpa tu en jan nanpa tu wan li sama. ona ale li anpa tawa nasin mani. jan ni li kama kulupu li kama utala e nasin mani lon poka la pona li ken. taso tenpo mute la, jan li wile pakala e nasin mani la ona li toki e ni: jan pali o wan o kulupu! nasin ni li pona suli ala tan ni: nasin ni li awen wile e weka e moli pi jan nanpa tu wan.
kin la o sona e ni: tenpo pini la, ma Tosi la kulupu pi pona suli li lon. kulupu li wan e pakala pi nasin mani e pona sijelo. kulupu ni li wawa mute. lawa li pilin monsuta. lawa li kama pakala e kulupu li toki e ni: kulupu ni li ike. o kute ala e ona! taso mi o kama sona e nasin pi kulupu ni e sona pi kulupu ni.
The above is a summary of the contents of the book. I like this book. It is good.
Prepare a Table Before Me, Anoint My Head with Oil by Madeline Vosch
How are women's labouring bodies constructed under service economy late stage capitalism? How are these bodies regulated,
policed and consumed? Vosch offer a tasteful (sorry not sorry) and provocative critique of girlhood...
read it here.
Candace is a well-reputed server at a very fancy, high-end restaurant. The restaurant's "scandalous" main dish, who's price remains
formally unlisted on the menu, is cappricio. It's an italian appetizer dish made up of raw cuts of very thinly sliced meat,
and the restaurant serves only the finest cuts from the thighs of Candace and her fellow waitresses.
This work is mainly a feminist critique, and though it does hint at class-based ideas, it steers clear from deconstructions of gender and of
race-based issues. It's a short story, it can't really be helped, and it's offers a solid starting point to bounce ideas off of,
but alone the text is more of a impotus for thought rather than a conclusive one. It identifies problems and doesn't offer solutions, which
isn't necessarily a bad thing. The writing style maximizes the shock value of the premise, and the story is best read going in completely blind.
I can't help but think that the story doesn't go far enough considering how intent it is on making you feel uncomfortable, and considering the web journal
that published it which tends towards the radical and the experimental.
Buffalo Bird by Chelsea Vowel
Imagine that Germany won WWII. Imagine that the USSR won the space race. Imagine that Canada's
expansionist efforts were thwarted by the Iron Confederacy, and that they never breached the praries.
This piece of speculative fiction, highly annotated with research notes and the writer's own analysis,
recreates the tedious genre of speculative fiction using a otpeyimisow-itapisiniwin, a Metis worldview.
"Buffalo Bird" is the first short story in a collection (Buffalo is the New Buffalo 2022) that explores this new speculative genre.
Chelsea Vowel is a Metis scholar and writer and I have read selections of her theoretical work. I saw her name on a CBC reading list for
best reads of 2022 and nearly jumped out of my bed with excitement. I haven't even finished the whole collection but I wanted to write a review
based on what I've learned from her approach to short-story writing.
But before I talk about the stories, a quick note on the introductory chapter. Vowel's introduction is directed, primarily, to her kin. It reminds
me of Leanne Betasamosake Simpson's reframing of BIPOC writers as those who do not write 'for' their kin, but those who write 'to' their kin. Vowel's
introduction has a lot of scholarly ideas but I always find her writing style to be so accessible to even those that have little familiarity with
what she's talking about. But onto the story.
Vowel's stories each consist of the story, and then a whole bunch of paratext. Each story is preceeded by a small description in the introductory chapter and
each story is very rigorously annotated with endnotes. Vowel follows each story with a short analysis of the story, trying to clarify what she was
advocating for. The notes demonstrate an extremely large amount of effort put into the research behind every word she puts down. For example,
one note in 'Buffalo Bird' confirms that yes, the moon's position as described in the narrative would indeed be accurate to the date portrayed.
It's a full demonstration of what Morrison calls 'literary archaeology' and the extensive notes makes it very self-aware of this fact.
Buffalo Bird tells the story of Gabriella, a Metis two-spirited person living at the height of Canada's western expansion project. She is a rougarou,
capable of transforming into a horse. One might expect that Gabriella herself thwarts the western expansion under this premise, but you'd be mistaken.
Vowel's story does not treat Gabriella's powers like the typical superhero narrative might have.
She does play a small part as a translator at the negotiation table, but Vowel's story emphasizes community above all.
The story shifts between Gabriella's childhood and present
and tells the story of her community as they attempt to keep both Gabriella and the local Catholic priest who believes she is a devil
in the village at the same time.
I like this approach to storytelling. Should Vowel have made the notes footnotes instead of endnotes, I wonder how that would change how I experienced the story.
I'm also interested reading subsequent stories to better understand otpeyimisow-itapisiniwin. I'm doing research right now regarding
the 'short story cycle' as a postcolonial form and am very interested in how many small pieces contribute to a larger argument, so this can feed into that.
Why Were They Throwing Bricks? by Jenny Zhang
This piece strikes a particular chord in me. It sort of encapsulates that feeling of knowing you're different
but being totally unaware of why, the sacrifices that our predecessors made and the things they don't talk about anymore.
Stacey's grandmother makes four extended trips from China to visit her daughter's family in America. While initially adoring her wild antics
and unconventional style, Stacey slowly develops this seething ambivalence towards her grandmother as she grows up and stops being
at that age where one easily embraces 'playing pretend.' What explanation is there for her grandmother's behaviour?
Read it here.
I mentioned this somewhere up there but I'm slowly grappling my head over the notion of BIPOC writers as being
those who write not for their kin but to their kin. I remember attending a play for my first year
theatre class. It was a play about the Chinese/Canadian diaspora and it was a multimedia production, very experimental.
I really did feel like the play was written to me. During the class discussion, I learned that the rest of my class didn't really
appreciate it. They thought it was boring. To me, it was revolutionary. I left the theatre reeling.
My mind felt like it was falling apart in the best way possible. But I didn't speak up in the class discussion of the play.
I didn't want to 'perform' my Otherness like that, in a class where I was the only Chinese person.
At the time, I didn't know why I fell silent, but now I do. And that's why, now, I'm not going to tell
you exactly what this short story made me feel.
It struck a chord. It brought up memories. It made me grieve. That's all you get to know.
Lizard Luck by K-Ming Chang
Lizards in the house means money would soon enter the home. Mandy lives in a shed with her mother and two brothers.
The land is barren and drought-stricken so she has become a lizard, a pest that must be tolerated, a being who is designed
to live in waterless conditions. But she is also a ten year old girl and has a friend of the same age who lives next door, a friend
who wants to catch a glimpse of her form as she bathes in the middle of the night using the only water available-- the landlord's hose.
Read it here.
I read this story as a commentary on the model minority myth. For every succesful rich Asian that you see, there are a dozen others
who are barely scraping by. The whole idea of a 'poor Asian' is seen in society as a contradiction, yet it is reality
for the vast majority. Lizard Luck manages to articulate one possible experience of growing up as this contradiction, while the state
looms over everyone and is the only grace by which the moon is allowed to shine each night.
I love K-Ming Chang's blending of various word classes. I personally read this story as allegory but it could equally by taken
in as magic realism. It's a short read but the metaphors are all really visceral. I read it just a moment ago, so I think I will have
to let it marinate in my head for a little bit.
No Good by Hala Alyan
That night, the town had seemed lit up just for her. But now she's hospitalized and will not speak and the reader
is left with fragments to piece together the full story; what led an up-and-coming interior design
Wunderkind to abandon yellow bikinis and make an attempt on her life?
Read it here.
This story is subtle, gentle and treads carefully around its main focus: white fragility. Ironically, it's white voices
that have generally dominated conversations about White Fragility (see Robin DiAngelo) so I was pleasantly surprised to
just happen to stumble upon a piece written by a POC that depicted it so playfully. One can read this piece as a satire, though I'm not sure
if the average white person would be able to easily detect that reading. And perhaps that is the point, it's thinly disguised
by all the markers that white literature usually employs when portraiting a sympathetic young lady in mental anguish, but these
devices leak irony as more background is slowly revealed over the course of the narrative. It's a clever piece and I liked it a lot.
And Those Ashen Heaps That Cantilevered Vase Of Moonlight by Lynn Xu
The unanimous / Mother / when / does she arrive?
I feel like this book-length poem is to be read aloud by a menstruating person during a solar eclipse. Or maybe this is to be read at a child's birth. It is a poem about birth, about creation.
But it's not just the amniotic, contrapuntal birth of human life. It's about the birth of ideas, about the birth of time. It takes place outside, while looking up as the stars
are erased by approaching orange daylight.
And Those Ashen Heaps That Cantilevered Vase Of Moonlight is not a book. It is an experience. It is something you have to hold in your hands and be able to smell as you read it aloud, your
mouth ripening with of filthy words and sharp fricatives and calls for mercy. My only complaint is that no library in Canada holds it, so I had to ordeal in order to obtain it.
Again, it's an experience, not a book. So your experience will differ from mine. I hope one day I can meet another person that experiences comraderie with this book. I hope we can hold hands during a misty twilight and talk about our ancestors together.