Interview with a Queer Reader: Shvaugn Craig Talks Memorizing the Dewey Decimal Number for Gender and Sexuality, Bisexual Books, KUSHIEL’S DART, and Researching Books Like a Serious Hobby

Shvaugn PhotoThis month’s queer reader is Shvaugn Craig, a voracious reader and big-time supporter of public libraries and diverse books, including SFF, Can Lit, poetry, and the occasional non-fiction title. She’s from a small city in unceded Secwepemc Territory in BC and is just newly using the words bisexual and demisexual to describe herself. She added that “I keep expecting the identity police to appear out of nowhere and accuse me of lying” to which I say, fuck the identity police! Shvaugn just graduated from university and has a lot of knowledge about communication, media analysis, publishing, book design, gender, and sexuality, which she will hopefully be able to use in whichever job she ends up doing. You can find out more about Shvaugn and all her bookish loves at her book blog, The Borrowed Bookshelf. But first, stick around and hear what Shvaugn has to say about finding queer books in the public library, some awesome bisexual book recommendations, and researching her next read like a serious hobby.

What was the first LGBTQ2IA+ book(s) you remember reading? How did you end up reading it (i.e., were you searching for queer books or did you just happen across it?)

I don’t actually remember the first LGBTQ2IA+ book I read. We moved a lot when I was younger and I was a really quiet, bookish kid who spend a lot of time at the school and public library. Reading and information was always encouraged by my parents and I spend a lot of time reading and researching gender and sexuality as a teen. Even though my family is really progressive and I had access to all these books and information online, my actions always felt like a secret, albeit a poorly kept one. I spent a lot of time hiding in the non-fiction stacks and had the dewy decimal number for gender and sexuality memorized for a while. I remember being afraid that somebody at the library would stop me from checking out queer books, saying that they weren’t appropriate for teenagers. My internalized fear of queerness led to me reading a lot of queer books, fiction and non-fiction, and not recognizing myself in them because I couldn’t gather the courage or understanding to apply those terms to myself.

Ash+by+Malinda+LoOne of the books I remember reading and having it make a big impact as a teenager was Ash by Malinda Lo. Although I wound up reading it as a bisexual love story and not a lesbian one, it was still one of the first books that really spoke to me. I’m pretty sure I just stumbled across it at the library but I remember being aware of the book before I read it and knew it was a queer fairytale retelling.

What is/are your favourite LGBTQ2IA+ books, and why?

Why must you make me chose?!

Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey. This book was so pivotal in my reading habits and understanding of my sexuality. It was one of the first adult fantasy books I read and depicted such interesting and real character relationships.

ninefox gambitNinefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. This probably isn’t thought of as a queer book that much, seeing as it’s a military space opera that’s primarily focused on taking down a rebellion. But I’m a huge supporter of world building that creates queerness and trans identities from the ground up so that they’re an ordinary part of the world and Yoon Ha Lee does an amazing job with that.

Missed Her by Ivan E. Coyote. This was the first collection of Ivan’s work I ever read. They were presenting at the local writing festival when I was in high school and I bought it even though I had no money to do so. It’s one of my favourite collections by them and I tend to reread it every few years.

Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones. This is a recent favourite. I didn’t know I needed a queer historical fantasy of manners with women becoming academics until I saw author Shira Glassman promoting it on twitter.

9781551525600_SheOfTheMountainsShe of the Mountains by Vivek Shraya. I loved Shraya’s poetry collection even this page is white as well but She of the Mountain was one of the first books I ever read that examined the complicated feelings around bisexuality and feeling forced to ‘choose a side’.

Which LGBTQ2IA+ book have you read that best reflects your experiences as an LGBTQ2IA+ person?

kushiels_dartI’m going to go with Kushiel’s Dart again. One of the major problems I had with identifying as bisexual is how queerness is primarily culturally presented as the opposite of straightness, erasing bisexuality and other fluid or non-binary identities. It’s the classic ‘I can’t be gay because I still like men’ while I spend time secretly checking out women, romancing women in D&D and video games, and compulsively reading Autostraddle. Bisexuality was so rarely represented in media that I couldn’t manage to apply the word to myself. Phedre’s relationships really helped open that understanding up, as her attraction and feelings for both men and women don’t cancel each other out. They’re an integral part of her character and the plot, and other characters understand that.

Which LGBTQ2IA+ book do you wish you could read but can’t because it doesn’t exist yet?

the stars are legionA week ago I would have had an answer but after reading The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley, the queer, all-female, biopunk space opera of my dreams, I’ll have to find a new one.

I’m just always hoping for more books, more support for new authors, translated books, books by authors outside of Western Anglophone countries, intersectionality, and SFF world building that doesn’t have queer and trans characters as an outlier to humanize the particular group they represent, but rather builds the world from the ground up to include that group of people as an integral part of it. I’m all for undoing hetero-patriarchal discourses of power and relationships where ever they’re found in fiction and creating new stories and worlds that challenge and centre themselves in other ideologies, mythologies, histories and discourses.

How do you find LGBTQ2IA+ books? How easy or hard is it in your experience finding the ones that you want to read?

I find a lot of good recommendations from your blog actually as I like to read Can Lit and find that it’s not often promoted outside of Canadian literature spaces. The Lesbrary is also another place I trust, particularly their tumblr as I find it easier to navigate than their website. I joke that researching books is my second hobby though and I spend a lot of time collecting lists, following blogs, and reading reviews. I’m really thankful for all the work other bloggers and readers have put into finding queer and trans books. When I was starting blogging and looking for queer books I was so happy to not feel alone and to find really dedicated bloggers, readers and reviewers.

Do you know other LGBTQ2IA+ readers or participate in any LGBTQ2IA+ reading communities (in person or on the Internet)? What’s it like? Why or why not?

I primarily participate in LGBTQ2IA+ reading communities online as I’m largely an introvert. Although social media filter bubbles do get criticized, and for legitimate reasons, one of my favourite parts of the internet is being able to build communities. I grew up in a town of 16,000 people that’s largely white, conservative and christian. There were no in-person queer spaces available to me in high school or college. The closest thing available was an LGBT community centre in Kelowna that did party nights, a whole hour and a half one way, which I never did make it out to. Community through the internet was the only option available. There’s a number of LGBTQ2IA+ bloggers, readers, writers, and reviewers that I interact with on twitter, tumblr and elsewhere, and I’m really grateful to be able to have serious discussions about diversity in books with them but also squee over fan art and speculate about forthcoming releases.

Thanks so much for sharing with us Shvaugn! Y’all should definitely check out her book blog if you like mine, cause we have totally similar taste in books.


Posted in Bisexual, Canadian, Interview with a Queer Reader, Science Fiction

2017’s Very Exciting Shortlist for the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for Emerging LGBTQ Writers: Kai Cheng Thom, Eva Crocker, and Ali Blythe

If you’re at all interested in Canadian LGBTQ2IA+ books, you have probably at least heard of the Dayne Ogilvie Prize. It’s an annual $4000 prize given by the Writers’ Trust of Canada for emerging LGBTQ-identified writers. Every year amazing writers are nominated for it and sadly only one person wins the prize. Past winners include Leah Horlick, Amber Dawn, and Farzana Doctor! This year’s shortlist was announced last week, and I am very excited, both about the two writers whose work I already know and the third writer who is new to me! Let’s get to know them a bit.


Kai Cheng Thom, Eva Crocker, Ali Blythe / image via and photos by Jackson Ezra, Alex Noel, and Melanie Siebert

a-place-called-no-homeland-kai-cheng-thomIf you’ve been reading my blog the last few months, Toronto and Montreal-based writer Kai Cheng Thom’s name will be familiar to you. Her first novel, Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir, came out in November 2016. The blurb describes it as a “highly sensational, ultra-exciting, sort-of true coming-of-age story of a young Asian trans girl, pathological liar, and kung-fu expert who runs away from her parents’ abusive home”; she finds her true family of trans femmes, who band together to form “a vigilante gang to fight back against the transphobes, violent johns, and cops that stalk” their part of town. I LOVED her debut poetry collection a place called NO HOMELAND, which is full of poems with strong roots in oral traditions and spoken word: you can really hear them in your mind and heart. They’re also tough and tender meditations on family, race, being trans, femininity, trauma, relationships, community, sex, books, and love. (All of the important and intense and complex and mostly beautiful things in life). It was just released by Arsenal Pulp Press. This was one of my favourite poems:

someday they’ll cut this body open
and discover that my flesh is made of sky:
azure, sapphire, cerulean, turquoise, ultramarine
cirrus and cumulus clouds stirring behind my eyes
cumulonimbus, alight with lightning,
crackling through the capillaries of the heart.
i am oh so full of rain
you could fall through me forever.
dear scientist, mortuary explorer, search me thoroughly
tenderly catalogue all my wayward parts.
find somewhere in me
the forgotten moon, the faded stars.
re-member, reassemble, this tattered heaven, this
celestial thing

barrelling forwardEva Crocker is the nominee whose work I was not familiar with before the announcement of the shortlist, so I am now very excited to add her work to my special Canadian Lesbrarian TBR. She’s from Newfoundland and her debut short story collection Barrelling Forward was released this March. (How did I miss this??) The manuscript for Barrelling Forward was shortlisted for the 2015 Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Fresh Fish Award for Emerging Writers. The publisher describes the collection like this:

Financial uncertainty leads to interpersonal insecurity as an assortment of youthful protagonists navigate the everyday challenges of life — and making a living — on the island. What happens when the man interviewing you for a job takes you on a date to see a hypnotist? How do you get rid of a psychosomatic case of bedbugs? What’s the best way to get rid of a beaver dam? How do you tell someone you just started seeing that you didn’t know you had scabies when you hooked up? In the Cuffer Prize–winning story, “Skin and Mud,” two boys have an intimate encounter as they wander through the barrens one day after school. Barrelling Forward is packed with unforgettable characters, vibrant humour, and acute insight into the overwhelming anxieties of new adults living their lives in the midst of a crumbling old economy.

twoismAli Blythe is a Vancouver-based poet whose collection Twoism is amazing and beautiful and that kind of loveliness that seems at once very specific (i.e., queer) but also ancient and timeless. I was lucky enough to get to talk to Ali about Twoism for Quill & Quire when it came out. Twoism is all about themes of gender, sexuality, Greek mythology, love, art, and the vastness of the universe, although Ali admits to not knowing “how to manage the complexities” of today’s identity politics. Twoism also investigates how “the pain of being alive in a body is overwhelming,” with poetry and nature offering something of an escape. In addition to writing poetry, Ali Blythe is also editor-in-chief of the Claremont Review. Have a look at this excerpt from the poem “A Small Dress” from Twoism:

You push open the door
I smell coffee and wake
slowly telling you I dreamed
you were a small dress
of infinitely breakable sticks.

I am going to try you on
now, I said in the dream.
Even knowing what patience
and care it took to piece you
together last time.

A bare bulb made cagey
shadows of you as you
were lowered over me.
I tried not to move too much.
It wasn’t a dream, you say.

Posted in Asian, Canadian, Fiction, Montreal, News, Queer, Short Stories, Toronto, Trans, Trans Feminine, Trans Masculine, Vancouver | Tagged

Check Out These Two Vancouver Events with Karen Connelly about Her Sexy New Queer Book THE CHANGE ROOM

karen connelly

Karen Connelly

Are you on the lookout for a sexy (queer) beach read that is also super smart? I’ve been hearing a lot lately about the latest novel from the Calgary-born, Toronto and Greece-residing author Karen Connelly and I think it might be just that. It’s called The Change Room. I just got my review copy in the mail today! Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

Happily married, great career, mother of two. What more could a woman possibly want? Enter The Change Room, by award-winning writer Karen Connelly, and find out.
Eliza Keenan is the mother of two young sons, the owner of a flower studio that caters to the city’s elite, and the loving wife of a deliciously rumpled math professor named Andrew. She’s on the move from dawn until her boys are in bed, and after they’re asleep she cleans her house. Her one complaint about her life is that the only time she has for herself is her twice-weekly swim in the local community centre pool, where sunlight shines in through a tall window and lights up the water in a way that reminds her of the year she spent as a footloose youth on an island in Greece. Then one morning into this life that is full of satisfactions of all kinds except sexual (because who has the time or the energy once the kids are asleep?) comes a tall, dark and lovely stranger, a young woman Eliza encounters at the pool and nicknames ‘the Amazon.’ The sight of this woman, naked in the change room, completely undoes Eliza, and soon the two of them are entangled in an affair that breaks all the rules, and threatens to capsize not only Eliza and her happy family, but her lover’s world, too. And yet the sex is so all-encompassing, so intimate, so true…how can it be bad? Be ready to be shaken up, woken up, scandalized and deeply stirred.


You can find out for yourself if this is the book you should bring to your next beach or lake trip if you’re in or around Vancouver this week, as Karen has two events coming up! The first is on May 25th at Paper Hound books (one of my favourite Vancouver bookstores) and the second is on May 26th at Banyen Books (a Kitsilano neighbourhood landmark). At Paper Hound, the event will be an intimate reading with Karen, starting at 6:30. At Banyen Books (also starting at 6:30), Victor Chan will be joining her to talk about “the crucial, often neglected role of the sensual and sexual in our busy modern lives.” Both events are free! I am definitely going to be at one or the other (or both!) of these events and will hopefully see you there?

Posted in Bisexual, Canadian, Fiction, News, Queer, Toronto, Vancouver

Five to Follow – LGBTQ Book Blogs You Should be Following

I’m in this lovely round-up of LGBTQ book blogs and so are some of my favourites! If you need more queer and trans book recommendations, you can’t go wrong with any of these blogs.

If you’re looking for great recommendations to share with your patrons, add to your collection, or simply enjoy yourself, book blogs are a fantastic resource to explore. Here are just a handful of the many amazing LGBTQ-themed book blogs that have taken the internet by storm. Be sure to check them out, and let us know which book blogs you love to follow!

I’m Here, I’m Queer, What the Hell Do I Read?

If you work with or support queer young people, or simply want to improve the diversity of your YA collection, this is definitely the blog for you. Positive, respectful, supportive and inclusive, “it’s for teens (queer or not), for librarians, for teachers, for booksellers, for people with teens in their lives and for anyone interested in YA books with GLBTQ characters and themes. What books are already out there? What’s new? Your answers are here.”


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Posted in Uncategorized

“in the ancestral arms / of every season / I am heir to”: A Review of Gwen Benaway’s Poetry Collection PASSAGE

passage gwen benawayI’ve been planning to review Passage, a poetry collection by two-spirited and trans poet Gwen Benaway (Anishinaabe/Tsagli/Métis) for a while since reading it in April, but this task is now impossible to do without referencing the #AppropriationPrize shit storm that has been blowing through the Can Lit community the last week or so. If you need to get caught up on what happened, Indigenous communities’ responses to it, and why it was such a strong reminder of the enduring colonialism and racism in the Canadian writing community, please go read this powerful essay in the Winnipeg Review, “Facing the Legacy of Erasure and Cultural Appropriation in Canadian Literature,” by the very same woman whose book of poetry I’m going to talk about in a second.

Many of Benaway’s words in that essay resonate deeply for the words of poetry in Passage. I’m particularly thinking of this passage from the essay:

To be an Indigenous writer is to know a profound love and a deep pain… This is the balance of love and pain which defines being an Indigenous writer in Canada. Knowing the stories of how Canada has systematically tried to destroy, mutilate, and starve our nations off our lands and knowing how we’ve fought back for generations to resist their destruction.

This balance is visible throughout Passage, whose complex, thoughtful title I’m just starting to unravel as I write this, thinking about passage in the meaning of travel, as a way of movement, particularly through water but also as a word with the meaning I used above: a piece or excerpt of writing. It’s a brilliant title that brings together the healing powers of both the act of writing and of the land and water. This part of the poem “If” particularly resonates:

if exploration isn’t conquest,

if discovery can be shaped of visions,

if instinct is another word for truth,

if passage is more than movement,

I’ve already made it back.

One of my first thoughts as I was still in the initial stages of reading this book was that I never thought I wanted to read any Canadian poetry about nature ever again. This feeling was pretty strongly founded, especially after being forced in various Can Lit classes in university to read both boring ass and/or hella colonial stuff (cough Duncan Campbell Scott cough). As I was reading Passage, I was thinking: Thanks Gwen Benaway, for proving me wrong! This collection made me realize it wasn’t Canadian nature poetry I loathed, it was Canadian nature poetry from the perspective of settler colonialism that deserved my undying hatred.

Of course, this gorgeous, lyrical collection of poems, which are structured in sections associated with each of the Great Lakes, are about many more things than the natural world. (Although I think it may be impossible to separate land and nature from the other concerns of the collection, which makes absolute sense in relation to the key role of land rights and theft in the processes of de/colonization).

Gwen Benaway_2017Some of the other topics in Passage are tough to read about, like abuse and suicide. Benaway does not sugar coat or make it easy or simplify. I felt while reading a strong sense of bearing witness to these atrocities and the act of writing about them, as if privileged to get to watch Benaway burn away the erasure by writing and publishing these poems. In direct relation to its difficult parts, Passage is also full of beautiful moments describing land, water, and their healing powers. Benaway additionally writes about the complexities, joys, and pain of relationships, trans/gender, and sex. The joy at the end of the poem “Trans” is particularly thrilling to witness:

radiant in the exhilaration

of reaching for myself,

in showing the truth

of my mascara heart,

nothing is more beautiful


than a woman who knows

exactly what she wants

and what I want

is myself

Throughout, Benaway often uses everyday language, lulling you into thinking the poems are less complex than they actually are. I like how Jane Eaton Hamilton’s Goodreads review calls Benaway’s writing “uncluttered,” which feels like a particularly apt word for describing her style. You’re probably itching at this point to see one of the poems in Passage in its entirety. Well I would LOVE to oblige. “What I Want” was one of my personal favourites and exemplary of the unique combination of the traditionally lyrical and commonplace language in her poems:

what I want

is to be held


like the sky holds

lakewater, diffuse


and interspersed

with celestial bodies


what I want

is the slow movement


of roots along the shoreline

the drawing close of life


to what feeds it,

moisture in my lungs.


what I want

is love like winter


a cold mountain, absolute

and still in the dark


of 5 am, a certain weight

to cover all my dreaming


what I want

is a discovery of trees


in April’s sudden warmth,

to bud at a glance


my soft green lashes

threading in temporary wonder


what I want

is a boy


who knows the Northern praises

the memory of stones


in his hands, rough callus

of grief behind his eyes


who sees me coming

across the floodplain


and spreads his bones

to guide me home


along the North Shore

of my body,


what I want

is the promise


of a new land

in the ancestral arms


of every season

I am heir to.

One of the most moving parts of Benaway’s essay on cultural appropriation and erasure in Canadian literature is one of the final sentences: “Good art is not an act of violence but an extension of love.” This is without a doubt what she has accomplished in Passage, an infinitely generous, vulnerable, and beautiful book that shows just what wonderful work readers have access to when Indigenous writers are given a platform to tell their own stories. I was thrilled to see in her bio for the Winnipeg Review that she has a third collection of poetry, What I Want is Not What I Hope For, coming out from Bookthug in 2018!

Posted in Canadian, Indigenous, Poetry, Queer, Trans, Trans Feminine | 2 Comments

5 Incredible Two-Spirit and Queer Indigenous Writers to Read Right Now

In response to the recent horrifically racist and colonialist editorial advocating a “cultural appropriation prize” in The Writers’ Union of Canada’s magazine Write—made even worse by the fact that that issue was focused on Indigenous writers—as well as an equally horrific positive response to that editorial by some prominent white CanLit editors, I want to highlight some amazing Indigenous writers. In particular for my blog I want to talk about a few two spirit / queer Indigenous writers. This is just a sampling of some of the authors I’m familiar with and am a fan of. Gwen Benaway and Daniel Heath Justice in particular have also been active on social media calling out the editorial and the response. You should definitely read “Facing the Legacy of Erasure and Cultural Appropriation in Canadian Literature” that Benaway published at the Winnipeg Review on the 15th. If you have more suggestions, please add them in the comments. Please read, buy, review, and promote the work by these great writers to support Indigenous writers telling their own stories!

Gwen Benaway_2017Gwen Benaway

Gwen Benaway (Anishinaabe/Tsagli/Métis) is a two-spirited and trans woman poet with two books of poetry to her name, both published by the Kegedonce Press (a great publisher run by and focused on publishing Indigenous writers). Her first collection is Ceremonies for the Dead and her latest is Passage. She writes about survival, violence, colonization, inter-generational trauma, and trans femme gender and desire. Both collections are rooted in Benaway’s ancestral homeland around the Great Lakes and Northern Ontario. I just finished reading Passage, which I thought was gorgeous and lyrical. There are some tough topics like abuse and suicide but also beautiful moments describing land, water, and their healing powers. I loved how Benaway explores the complexities, joys, and pain of relationships, trans/gender, and sex. Check out my full review here. You should also read Kai Cheng Thom’s thoughtful review of Passage and this excerpt from “Lake Water”:

I remember a poet saying

that water carries sound,

as if it knows how to amplify

the movement of all living things,

as if it knows how to speak

the mottled tongues of the dead.

daniel heath justiceDaniel Heath Justice

Daniel Heath Justice is a Cherokee scholar and writer, most notably of the fantasy trilogy The Way of Thorn and Thunder (also published by Kegedonce Press). He’s also written numerous articles and books on the subject of Indigenous literatures—the most recent book being 2016’s Why Indigenous Literatures Matter. He also co-edited, among other anthologies, Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature and The Oxford Handbook of Indigenous American Literature. I LOVE The Way of Thorn and Thunder trilogy and have reviewed the first book Kynship, the second book Wyrwood, and the final one Dreyd. I’ve been known to call it LOTR if it was queer, feminist, and decolonizing. The plot of the trilogy is definitely an allegory to colonization in the Americas, but it is also an action-packed tale full of interesting flawed, funny characters that stands very well on its own. (In particular, one of the plot points is a clear reference to the Trail of Tears). While you’re waiting for him to put out more fantasy, you should also read Badger, an entertaining and informative book that moves from an examination of how badger characters turn up in European kid’s lit to the viral YouTube wildlife video about the honey badger to fascinating facts about badgers’ burrowing and predation habits.


Chrystos is a legendary two-spirit Menominee poet whose collections include their first (and now sadly out of print) book Not Vanishing (1988), Dream On (1991), Fire Power (1995), and Some Poems By People I Like (2007, with four other poets including Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha). They are a fiercely feminist lesbian writer who also has an extensive background as a Native land and treaty rights activist. They won the Audre Lorde International Poetry Competition in 1994. They write ferociously political poems about colonization—which they take on in the very ways they refute Euro-American grammar and punctuation in their poetry—but you should also not miss their erotic poems, which are sensual, joyful, and triumphant. Check out this 2010 interview with Chrystos at Black Coffee Poet for more from Chrystos! Here’s an excerpt from “Vision: Bundle”:

They have our bundles split open in museums

our dresses & shirts at auctions

our languages on tape

our stories in locked rare book libraries

our dances on film

The only part of us they can’t steal

is what we know

ma nee chacabyMa-Nee Chacaby

Ma-Nee Chacaby is an Ojibwa-Cree lesbian whose autobiography A Two-Spirit Journey was published last year and is now a finalist for the most recent Lambda Literary Awards in the memoir category. It’s supposed to be both a harrowing and hopeful account of her extraordinary life. She recounts her childhood growing up in a remote Ojibwa community, where, on the one hand, she learned Cree cultural and spiritual traditions from her grandmother and trapping and hunting skills from her Ojibwa stepfather, but on the other she suffered physical and sexual abuse from various adults, becoming an alcoholic by her teen years. Her life in Thunder Bay after leaving with her children to escape an abusive marriage is a journey towards sobriety, becoming an alcoholism counsellor, raising her biological and foster children, acclimatizing to living with visual impairment, and coming out as a lesbian. Fingers crossed for Chacaby’s win in the Lambda Awards later this year!

qwo li driskillQwo-Li Driskill

Qwo-Li Driskill is a Cherokee poet, scholar, activist, and educator whose work I was first introduced to in the anthology Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature, which ze also co-edited. Driskill is also a co-editor of Queer Indigenous Studies: Critical Interventions in Theory, Politics, and Literature. I love hir intellectual yet emotional poems, which were a highlight for me in Sovereign Erotics (and that means a lot because there was a ton of great writing in that book). Ze even writes sonnets! Could more contemporary LGBTQ2IA+ writers please explore classic poetry forms? You should pick up hir poetry collections Walking With Ghosts: Poems (2005), Burning Upward Flight (2002), Book of Memory: Honor Poems (2002). I especially love “Love Poem, After Arizona,” a poem which manages to be sweet and sexy as well as communicate a message of decolonization at the same time:


let me press my palm

against your chest

staunch the flow

of despair that beats from

your sacred heart

like an oil spill

We are two mixed-blood boys

and know empires are never gentle

Take off your Mexica mask

so I can see your beloved

Nahua face

Remove your wooden shield

so I can kiss your

Apache sternum

taste in your sweat

the iron of Spain

that never conquered us

Posted in Canadian, Fantasy, Fiction, Indigenous, memoir, Non-Canadian, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Queer, Trans, Trans Feminine | Tagged

5 New and Upcoming Queer and Trans Canadian Books

Aside from Kai Cheng Thom’s poetry collection, which I FUCKING LOVED, I haven’t read any of the upcoming and new queer Canadian books on this list yet. But I am looking forward to reading all of them. Check out these rad sounding books, from poetry to urban fantasy to contemporary YA to science fiction and if you read them before me, let me know how they are!

huntsmenHuntsmen by Michelle Osgood

Huntsmen is technically Vancouver author Michelle Osgood’s sequel to The Better to Kiss You with, but it’s definitely readable without having read the first one, since it focuses on different characters. Get excited about this urban fantasy series featuring queer girl werewolves. Here’s the blurb:

Months after saving Jamie and Deanna from crywolf, Kiara and her brother Cole have moved into the city. While clubbing one night, Kiara is stunned to see her ex, Taryn, on stage. But before she can react, Jamie notices a distinctive tattoo in the crowd: an axe rumored to be the mark of the Huntsmen, a group of werewolf-tracking humans. The girls need to leave immediately—and since Taryn is also a werewolf, they need to take her with them.

The Huntsmen are more than a myth, and they’re scouring the city for lone wolves just like Taryn. Until the General North American Assembly of Werewolves lends a plan of action, Kiara’s small pack is on lockdown in Nathan’s apartment building, where she and Taryn must face the differences that drove them apart. Furthermore, the longer the group waits, the more it seems the Huntsmen haven’t been acting entirely on their own.

scarboroughScarborough by Catherine Hernandez

This debut novel published by Arsenal Pulp Press is by queer theatre practitioner and writer Catherine Hernandez, who’s lived in Scarborough on and off for most of her life.  In 2015 the novel, then still a manuscript, was co-winner of the Asian-Canadian Writers’ Workshop for Emerging Writers Award for Fiction. Check out the description:

Scarborough is a low-income, culturally diverse neighborhood east of Toronto, the fourth largest city in North America; like many inner city communities, it suffers under the weight of poverty, drugs, crime, and urban blight. Scarborough the novel employs a multitude of voices to tell the story of a tight-knit neighborhood under fire: among them, Victor, a black artist harassed by the police; Winsum, a West Indian restaurant owner struggling to keep it together; and Hina, a Muslim school worker who witnesses first-hand the impact of poverty on education.

And then there are the three kids who work to rise above a system that consistently fails them: Bing, a gay Filipino boy who lives under the shadow of his father’s mental illness; Sylvie, Bing’s best friend, a Native girl whose family struggles to find a permanent home to live in; and Laura, whose history of neglect by her mother is destined to repeat itself with her father.

Scarborough offers a raw yet empathetic glimpse into a troubled community that locates its dignity in unexpected places: a neighborhood that refuses to be undone.

10 things i can see from here10 Things I Can See From Here by Carrie Mac

The latest offering from veteran Canadian YA author Carrie Mac, 10 Things I Can See From Here is about a teen girl dealing with anxiety and falling in love with a girl who isn’t afraid of anything. Here’s what the publisher has to say:

Maeve has heard it all before. She’s been struggling with severe anxiety for a long time, and as much as she wishes it was something she could just talk herself out of, it’s not. She constantly imagines the worst, composes obituaries in her head, and is always ready for things to fall apart. To add to her troubles, her mom—the only one who really gets what Maeve goes through—is leaving for six months, so Maeve will be sent to live with her dad in Vancouver.

Vancouver brings a slew of new worries, but Maeve finds brief moments of calm (as well as even more worries) with Salix, a local girl who doesn’t seem to worry about anything. Between her dad’s wavering sobriety, her very pregnant stepmom insisting on a home birth, and her bumbling courtship with Salix, this summer brings more catastrophes than even Maeve could have foreseen. Will she be able to navigate through all the chaos to be there for the people she loves?

casey with meanwhile elsewhere

Casey Plett, with Meanwhile, Elsewhere / image via Twitter

Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Trans Writers edited by Cat Fitzpatrick and Casey Plett

Edited by talented trans writers Cat Fitzpatrick and Casey Plett and published by Topside Press, this anthology set to come out in September is very exciting! In total 25 trans writers’ science fiction and fantasy work will be included. You probably have read other amazing, groundbreaking books by Topside Press, including the short fiction anthology The Collection, Casey Plett’s short story collection A Safe Girl to Love, Sybil Lamb’s mind-bending novel I’ve Got a Time Bomb, and more! In addition to being edited by a Canadian (Casey Plett), it’s also going to feature a diverse group of Canadian trans writers / trans writers living in Canada including Morgan M Page, Sybil Lamb, Bridget Liang, Trish Salah, RJ Edwards, Sadie Avery, and Paige Bryony. (Possibly even more that I don’t know about at this point!)

a-place-called-no-homeland-kai-cheng-thomA Place Called No HOMELAND by Kai Cheng Thom

In case you missed my glowing review, I thought this debut collection of poetry was phenomenal. Kai Cheng Thom is a writer, performer, spoken word artist and “drag-dance sensation.” Her first novel, Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir came out late last year and is published by Metonymy Press. Here’s the official blurb on A Place Called No HOMELAND from Arsenal Pulp Press:

This extraordinary poetry collection is a vivid, beautifully wrought journey to the place where forgotten ancestors live and monstrous women roam―and where the distinctions between body, land, and language are lost. In these fierce yet tender narrative poems, Kai Cheng Thom draws equally from memory and mythology to create new maps of gender, race, sexuality, and violence. In the world of a place called No Homeland, the bodies of the marginalized―queer and transgender communities, survivors of abuse and assault, and children of diaspora―are celebrated, survival songs are sung, and the ancestors offer you forgiveness for not remembering their names.

Descended from the traditions of oral storytelling, spoken word, and queer punk poetry, Kai Cheng Thom’s debut collection is evocative and unforgettable.

I dream warm, wet
Earth-colored wombs,
That rise and tremble and swell with the moon
To give birth to babies connected
By blue-river veins of memory


Posted in Anthology, Asian, Canadian, Fantasy, Fiction, Lesbian, Poetry, Queer, Romance, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Toronto, Trans, Trans Feminine, Trans Masculine, Vancouver, Young Adult | 1 Comment