Looking for some great, free, short reads by two of Canada’s best (queer women) authors? Mariko Tamaki recently had a short story published in the journal Joyland: it’s called “The Convicted”–intriguing, eh? Written in a rambling, spoken-kind of style, the story brilliantly captures the voices of artsy, early-twenties queer kids running a university literary magazine, which they have rescued from “the clutches of this hetero turd from Regina who only published poetry by stupid sorority girls.” “The Convicted” centres around Robert, a guy from the friendship group that no one really likes, but he hasn’t done anything awful enough to warrant a formal booting from the group (yet, anyway). The group is slowly realizing, however, that Robert might really actually be kind of a douchebag, who’s picking up girls at the “bi potluck” and accidentally-on-purpose hugging them a bit too long for comfort. The description of these girls is priceless:
Robert’s accusers were oddly similar: the kind of girls you could imagine playing nice, outdoorsy types on TV sitcoms. The kind of girls who used crystals or baby deodorant, depending on their level of environmental commitment. The kind of girls who played at least one sport, though not terribly well, or jogged, though not religiously. They were all kind of skinny, all dark blonde as opposed to platinum or dirty blonde. They had a kind of apologetic air to them, like they wouldn’t interrupt you in a conversation. They approached us, our group, in the dimly lit alley, hesitatingly, delivering their news like a dinner they had made but not with any huge amount of effort. Kraft Dinner, re-heated Spaghetti.
Zoe Whittall, a friend of Mariko Tamaki (Mariko recently asked her on twitter “Remember when we were gonna get our ISBNs tattooed? Is it lame that I still want to do that?”) also recently had a new story published: “Oh, El” in Maisonneuve. It’s a beautifully written story about a mismatched couple and the unraveling of their relationship. The story opens with Jim, a seemingly typical nice straight guy, and El, an assertive but confused woman trying to reconcile her gender and sexuality, standing in the middle of a frozen lake. Jim feels “liberated from the city an hour south, and like a superhero for walking where he normally swam,” but El doesn’t “trust rural areas” and imagines “the hypothermia, certain death underneath fourteen visible stars.”
Although the story is about a straight couple, what it is really focusing on is the difficulties of being a sexually dominant woman and not fitting into that narrow box of
heteronormative femininity. Jim is not used to a woman taking sexual control
and is uncomfortable with El insisting on “public places, awkward timing,
the brash obvious sleaze of sex”; El isn’t sure how to be confident in her
sexuality, as it clashes with what a ‘woman’ is supposed to be like. In an interview with Maisonneuve, Whittall says she imagined El as “naturally very dominant” but lacking “the language or context for why that is.” El is a reminder of the complex difficulties of navigating gender and sexual identities in queer and hetero contexts—in a way, actually, things would be easier for El if she were queer, since our communities have a better understanding–those contexts and that language–that to be femme doesn’t mean you can’t also be a top.
Now that you’ve read these two stories, don’t you want to chat with someone about them? Maybe some other queers who like reading? The Toronto Women’s Bookstore is hosting a mind-blowingly awesome event next week where you can do just that: Queer Feminist Read Dating. That’s right, it’s speed dating for queer feminists—all genders welcome—who like reading. While I’m pretty happy to be by the west coast ocean breeze for the summer, I am wishing I could teleport myself to the sweltering humid heat of Toronto, just for the night of August 23rd, 7-9pm. Can you think of a better place to meet new partners, lovers, and friends? Registration is only five dollars, and you’ll be supporting Canada’s oldest feminist bookstore at the same time!