• STOOP CITY

    Kristyn DunnionBiblioasis, 2020299 pagesISBN 9781771963862$18.95 (ebook)Reviewed by Danielle Minnis Stoop City collects 13 wistful vignettes about the lives of some of the most unfortunate, vulnerable, and abused people in modern-day Toronto. There, people of every age, ethnicity, sexual identity, and socioeconomic status, struggle to cope. In the introductory story, “Now Is the Time to Light Fires” an unnamed narrator mourns the death of her girlfriend, Marzana, only to be informed of her infidelity when her ghost starts haunting their condo. “Fits Ritual” follows a homeless youth struggling with addiction, as he grows increasingly more concerned when his friend and partner, Roam, does not return from their latest scam. “Tracker &…

  • A HISTORY OF MY BRIEF BODY

    Billy-Ray BelcourtPenguin Random House Canada, 2020173 pagesISBN: 9780735237780$25.00 “I felt as though I was a part of an endangered species. I still do,” writes Billy-Ray Belcourt in his genre-fluid memoir, A History of My Brief Body. A member of the Driftpile Cree First Nation in rural northern Alberta, Belcourt transcends the confines of memoir to deliver his thoughts on grief, queerness, colonialism, joy, loneliness, and love in pieces that feel like poems and essays simultaneously. Belcourt prefaces the memoir with a letter to his kokum—his grandmother—”Here, and in my poetry, you’re always looking up at the sky, longing for the future. In order to remember you as a practitioner of…

  • VANISHING MONUMENTS

    John Elizabeth StintziArsenal Pulp Press, 2020320 pagesISBN: 9781551528014$19.95Reviewed by Miles Hayes In Vanishing Monuments, the debut novel by John Elizabeth Stintzi, time and memory intersect in poignant and devastating ways. Alani Baumb, a non-binary photographer living in Minneapolis, gets a call from a care home saying that their mother, who had been living with dementia in a nursing home in Winnipeg for years, has completely lost the ability to speak. Alani travels back to Canada to see their mother, staying in their unoccupied childhood home for the first time since running away as a teenager. Their mother’s declining health and aphasia adds urgency to their need for closure: “If it’s…

  • TREETALK

    Ariel GordonAt Bay Press, 202083 pagesISBN 978-1-988168-27-2$19.95Reviewed by Joe Enns TreeTalk by Manitoban writer Ariel Gordon is a collection of poem fragments gathered during a two-day event of the same name in July 2017. The TreeTalk event took place on the patio of a restaurant in downtown Winnipeg called The Tallest Poppy. Over the hot summer weekend, Gordon wrote poems on slips of paper and encouraged others to do the same, tying the poems with string to a struggling boulevard elm as a symbol of re-foliation. The 234 poems written by Gordon (111), people passing by (107), and other academic sources (16), emulate new leaves. “Poems are edited by writers…

  • SONGS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD

    Saleema NawazMclelland & Stewart, 2020428 pagesISBN: 978-0-7710-7257-4$24.95Reviewed by Giovani Ralaisa Saleema Nawaz’s bestseller Songs for the End of the World presents a world that mirrors our own, complete with a pandemic, self-isolation, reliance on the Web, and the power of human connection. Nawaz wrote this book from 2013 to 2019 after researching SARS and the Spanish Flu. She created ARAMIS, Acute Respiratory and Muscular Inflammatory Syndrome reminiscent of our own COVID-19, and let it flood her fictional world like “a maelstrom: intense, unseemly.” ARAMIS takes hold late July and spreads between August and December. Elliot is a first responder in New York who realizes he contracted it at a restaurant…

  • SMALL, BROKE, AND KIND OF DIRTY

    Hana ShafiBook*hug Press, 2020165 pagesISBN: 9781771666091$25.00Reviewed by Lauryn Mackenzie Hana Shafi makes it very clear in the introduction of Small, Broken, and Kind of Dirty: Affirmations for the Real World that this is NOT a self-help book. It has evolved from her very popular Instagram series where Shafi is known as Frizz Kid to over 42,000 followers. There she delves into sexism, racism, and body politics as she does in these short essays divided into five chapters: “On Kindness,” “On Bodies,” “On Politics,” “On Self-Love and Healing,” and “On Resilience and Mental Health.” She peppers the essays with humour and pop culture references while discussing growing up Muslim and immigrating…

  • REACHING MITHYMNA

    Steven HeightonBilbioasis, 2020224 pagesISBN: 177196376X$22.95Reviewed by Kaleigh Studer In the fall of 2015, Steven Heighton traveled to the Greek island of Lesvos to help the influx of refugees fleeing Syria for Europe, a humanitarian crisis in the wake of the Syrian civil war. Heighton dropped everything and landed ill-equipped and unprepared for what lay ahead in the month-long mission. The book is written as a first-person narrative that allows Heighton to reflect on what was rather an impulsive decision: “I’m still not sure why I’m here,” he writes, “beyond a wish to do something useful, involving flesh and blood people instead of invented characters and words.” There is a raw,…

  • I WILL BE CORRUPTED

    Joseph A. DandurandGuernica Editions, 2020127 pagesISBN: 978-1-77183-506-0$20.00Reviewed by Kashmir Lesnick-Petrovicz “Over time you begin to understand/who you are and why you are here” (111) I Will Be Corrupted is a fictional tale of a Kwantlen man living on Vancouver’s downtown east side who is both healer and heroin addict. Dandurand’s collection explores the painful battle of a life defined by addiction and mental health struggles, love and loss, trauma and Indigenous tradition, and forgiveness and eventual redemption. I Will Be Corrupted includes 57 relatable, raw, and heart-wrenchingly honest poems that play with fragments, unusual structure, and illusions so that each page is a new day unknown until we live it.…

  • I OVERCAME MY AUTISM

    Sarah KurchakDouglas & McIntyre, 2020228 pagesISBN 978-1-77162-246-2$24.95Reviewed by Darian Wagner Sarah Kurchak appeared normal to doctors and her parents when she was born on February 7, 1982 in North York, Ontario, but her experiences growing up—from birthday party embarrassments to banging her head against walls in a Las Vegas hotel room—told a different story. As an undiagnosed autistic child, Kurchak always knew two things: she was different and none of the boys liked her, so she made herself function like everyone else in the 80s and 90s, when autism wasn’t as accepted or understood as it is today. Kurchak wrote an essay in 2017 that eventually became this book after…

  • FONTAINEBLEAU

    Madeline SonikAnvil Press Publishers Inc, 2020194 pagesISBN: 978-1-77214-148-1$20.00 Reviewed by Isaac Maschek Madeline Sonik sets her misanthropic and heartbreaking short story collection in the fictional Ontario city of Fontainebleau, along the Detroit river. Each story follows a citizen of the city through traumas relived and repressed, from idealistic cops to heartbroken vandals. Sonik makes it easy to sympathize with even the most troubled individuals, and weep for the good-hearted souls trapped by Fontainebleau’s pull. Fontainebleau presents an immoral world where every human is a monster and every monster is humanized. The world Sonik describes is dark and grim,and plays with perspective, unreliable narrators, and characters that cross over between stories,…