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Bring Out My Balls and Dare to Be Different

The Crochet Crowd is up for grabs on our giveaways page right now.

Don't miss your chance to win!

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First Steps

When I was a teenager, walking into a yarn store for the first time made me feel out of place and awkward about asking for yarn for myself.

“Are you buying this yarn for your mom?” the cashier would inevitably ask. My heart would sink, and I’d say, “No, it’s for me.” Stereotypes have a way of choking off your internal joy.

As a teenager, I felt like I was buying stuff that I wasn’t supposed to be buying. Some kids were trying to sneak peeks at Playboy (or Playgirl – duh). But here I was, feeling furtive because I wanted to make something pretty.

Throughout my teenage years and up until The Crochet Crowd began, I wouldn’t reveal to many people that I knew how to crochet.

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“Are you buying this yarn for your mom?” the cashier would inevitably ask.

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I kept at it though. I just did what I had to and still enjoyed crochet, even though it was my own little secret. Crochet helped quiet my mind by making me concentrate on one stitch at a time.

Crisis of Confidence

I grew up in a home where creativity was encouraged and daydreams were gateways to ideas.

Living for a short time in a small town, Ontario, arts and crafts were a way to fill time in the e …

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On Our Radar: Style, Represention, and In Praise of Retreat

On Our Radar features books with buzz worth sharing. We bring you links to features and reviews about great new books in a multitude of genres from all around the Internet.

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Heaven No Hell, by Michael DeForge 

Reviewed in Comics Bookcase by Zack Quaintance

"I don’t keep a ranking or anything, but Heaven No Hell by Michael DeForge may be the comic or graphic novel that has made me laugh aloud the most this year. And that’s not an easy thing to do, especially not when also operating with Heaven No Hell’s high level of wit, poignancy, and depiction of how it feels to just live right now on this planet as a human today.

This isn’t a book trafficking in cheap fourth-wall breaks of instantly-dated pop culture references. No, this is a smart and moving work. It’s all in here—an excess of heart and thoughtfulness—between a rare sense of humor that made me laugh as much (if not more) than any work I’ve encountered of late in comics or any other medium."

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[Michael DeForge] is a comic creator who is lighting the way for a new generation.

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Ontario Pi …

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The Chat with Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo

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This week we’re in conversation with political trailblazer Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo, whose memoir, The Queer Evangelist, (Wilfrid Laurier University Press) was published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press this spring.

Quill & Quire says, “At a time when many people identify as spiritual but struggle to translate belief to the real world, DiNovo’s experiences and insights provide us with a divinely inspired practical purpose.”

Cheri DiNovo grew up in Toronto in a rooming house owned by her parents and spent time on the streets as a teenager, leading her to social activism. Formerly a member of the Ontario Legislative Assembly, she is host of The Radical Reverend Show, and Minister at Trinity St. Paul's Centre for Faith Justice and the Arts. Her book Qu(e)erying Evangelism: Growing a Community from the Outside In won the Lambda award in 2005. She has won numerous awards for her activism and is a Member of the Order of Canada.

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Trevor Corkum: The Queer Evangelist tells the story of your rise as a young activist to your storied career in politics, w …

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On Telling the Truth in Politics

The Queer Evangelist is Cheri DiNovo's story of her life as a queer minister, politician and staunch activist for LGBTQ rights. She shares how she went from living on the streets as a teenager to performing the first legalized same-sex marriage registered in Canada in 2001. From rights for queer parents to banning conversion therapy, her story will inspire people (queer or ally) to not only resist the system—but change it.

The following excerpt takes place during her time as an MPP for Parkdale-High Park in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, where she served from 2006 to 2017.

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There’s an old saying, “If you’re going to dine with the Devil, you’d better have a very long spoon.” The maneuvering included timing the introduction of bills, getting the press involved if an important human rights bill wasn’t going to be put forward, and as always bringing activist pressure to bear on the process. It all took a lot of work and my terrific team to carry it off. In that regard, politics, like most careers, involves, well, politics. Once you lose your idealism about partisanship, you can actually accomplish an amazing amount on behalf of the marginalized. As a socialist, I should have had no illusions about capitalist governments, and I only really harbo …

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The Keepers on My Bookshelf

LS Stone's debut novel is the middle grade novel What's in It for Me?, which is up for giveaway on our site this week.

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I have several  favourite Canadian middle-grade/YA novels that have inspired my own writing—these four are superbly written novels with interesting/likeable characters and believable dialogue, and contain a common thread of humour:

We Are All Made of Molecules, and No Fixed Address, by Susin Nielsen

Getting the Girl, by Susan Juby

Saying Goodbye to London, by Julie Burtinshaw

No one writes humour for kids/teens quite like Susan Juby and Susin Nielsen, while at the same time tackling tough topics like bullying in high school (Getting the Girl), homelessness (No Fixed Address), a parent coming out and the relatable tribulations of blended families (We Are All Made of Molecules).

Book Cover Saying Good-bye to London

Along with Juby and Nielsen, Julie Burtins …

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The Chat with Christopher DiRaddo

DIRADDO, CHRISTOPHER 1, credit Vincent Fortier

Christopher DiRaddo’s sophomore novel, The Family Way (Esplanade), is a dynamic and rich exploration of queer family, parenthood, and the deep bonds of love that sustain us. He’s our guest this week on The Chat.

Writer Ann-Marie MacDonald calls The Family Way "a love letter to families, chosen and otherwise, and an engagingly bittersweet tale of the city of Montreal."

Christopher DiRaddo is the author of two novels: The Family Way and The Geography of Pluto. He lives in Montreal where he is the founder and host of the Violet Hour LGBTQ+ reading series.

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Trevor Corkum: The Family Way explores many ideas of family: families of birth, chosen families, and new family configurations. Why was it important for you to tackle this subject in your new novel?

Christopher DiRaddo: I wanted to write a book that would have been helpful for me to read as a young gay man. In my early twenties, I had no idea what the rest of my life would look like. I only knew that it would be different from those in my family and my friends from high school. But I still couldn’t picture it.

What would life be like without a traditional family? Would I be lonely? Forgotten? Bored?

In the end, the opposite happened. It may have taken me a while to find them, but my chosen family has made my life …

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The Chat with Eva Crocker

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This week we’re in conversation with author Eva Crocker. Her debut novel, All I Ask, (House of Anansi Press) was published to rave reviews last year and was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. The Star calls the novel “wickedly funny, sexy joyous ... with heart.”

Eva Crocker (she/her) is a writer and a PhD student at Concordia University where she is researching visual art in Newfoundland and Labrador. Her short story collection, Barrelling Forward, won the Alistair MacLeod Award for Short Fiction and the CAA Emerging Author’s Award.

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Trevor Corkum: From what I understand, All I Ask was partly inspired by an event that happened to you personally. Can you talk more about that, and how the novel progressed from there?

Eva Crocker: I began working on this story in 2017 after a group of about ten police officers, all heavily armed men, forced entry into my home in St. John’s early one morning. They told me I was under arrest for transmission of child pornography and began searching the house.
 
I was home alone and terrified, I asked several times to use a phone and was told I wasn’t allowed. I wasn’t given a chance to get dressed and had to go alone to my bedroom with a young man wearing a gun. They wanted to collect all my electronics to comb …

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Small Courage: Parenting Memoirs

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Jane Byers' book is Small Courage: A Queer Memoir of Finding Love and Conceiving Family, a thoughtful and heart-warming examination of love, queerness and what it means to be a family.

Here, she shares other parenting memoirs that have inspired her.

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Home Ice, by Angie Abdou

This memoir by Fernie, BC–based novelist struck a chord with me. Both Angie Abdou and I are parents of sporty kids. Her romp through a year of her 10-year-old son playing minor hockey resonated with me, having played recreational hockey, but I hadn’t navigated the pitfalls of that mythical Canadian hockey-parent culture. I found myself bristling at the same things Abdou bristled at, and, as a former athlete, also being conflicted acknowledging the great things about sports and specifically team sports, but recognizing also the detrimental effects on our youth of a sport’s particular culture.

This memoir follows one hockey season, the divide-and-conquer parenting that often accompanies having a child in hockey, and the toll it takes on a relationship.

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The Chat with Kimiko Tobimatsu

Kimiko Tobimatsu - Jenny Vasquez - 6

Author Kimiko Tobimatsu and illustrator Keet Geniza have teamed up to create Kimiko Does Cancer, a timely graphic memoir exploring the unexpected cancer journey of a young, queer, mixed-race woman. This week, Kimiko joins us on The Chat to talk more about the book.

The Toronto Star has high praise for Kimiko Does Cancer: “The best graphic novel autobiographies provide insight into the lives of remarkable people and Kimiko Tobimatsu’s story, complemented by the highly skilled art of Keet Geniza, is a particularly special privilege for us.”

Kimiko Tobimatsu is an employment and human rights lawyer by day. Kimiko Does Cancer, based on her own experience, is her first book.

Keet Geniza is a Filipinx-Canadian illustrator and comic artist. Born and raised in Manila, she moved to Toronto in 2006 and has since immersed herself in zines and comics as a way to document her struggles as a queer immigrant woman of colour. Kimiko Does Cancer is her first book.

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Trevor Corkum: Kimiko Does Cancer explores the aftermath of your diagnosis with breast cancer at a …

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Launchpad: AFTER ELIAS, by Eddy Boudel Tan

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Last spring—as launches, festivals and other events were cancelled across the country—49th Shelf helped Canadian authors launch more than 50 new books with LAUNCHPAD. And now we're back this fall, but with a twist.

LAUNCHPAD 2.0 features new releases selected by great Canadian writers who've chosen books that absolutely deserve to find their way into the hands of readers.

Today, bestseller Natalie Jenner, author of The Jane Austen Society, is championing After Elias, by Eddy Boudel Tan.

She writes, "After Elias, by Canadian debut author Eddy Boudel Tan, promises from the start to be a puzzle: an airline pilot about to be married is killed in a crash and immediately pegged as the main suspect in the disaster. But this is no simple mystery, and the layered psychological struggles and revelations of Elias's grief-stricken fiance kept me furiously turning pages until the very end. With chapters that shift through time along with the narrator's emotions, a cast of very real but relatable secondary characters, and a haunting sense of the past, After Elias gifts the reader with gorgeous, economic prose and the pace of a thriller. I couldn't put it down."

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The Chat with Cicely Belle Blain

This week on the Chat, we’re in conversation with Cicely Belle Blain, author of the forthcoming poetry collection Burning Sugar (VS. Books/Arsenal Pulp Press).

Author Jillian Christmas says,“Cicely Belle Blain's Burning Sugar beautifully narrates a journey over more than lands and waters. It is an exploration of the near perfect bliss of brazen blackness, interrupted by in all its forms. But even that intrusion is outmatched by the beauty of Blain's wildest dreams that offer a sharp and unflinching analysis, with a tender belly and a steady voice. Each poem pulls its teeth from the book's title, and offers the soft and deliberate sweetness of what could have been—before the burning.” 

Cicely Belle Blain is a Black/mixed, queer femme from London, now living on the lands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. At the heart of their work, Cicely Belle harnesses their passion for justice, liberation, and meaningful change via transformative education, always with laughter, and fearlessly, in the face of resistance. They are noted for founding Black Lives Matter Vancouver and subsequently being listed as one of Vancouver magazine’s 50 most powerful people, BCBusiness’s 30 under 30, and the CBC’s 150 Black women and non-binary people making change across Canada. They are now the CEO of Cicely Blain Consulting, a social justice–informed diversity and inclusion consulting company with over 100 clients across North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Cicel …

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The Chat with Faye Guenther

Swimmers in Winter (Invisible Publishing) is Faye Guenther’s debut collection of short fiction. These six stories explore the lives of queer women across through time. Among other issues, the works consider conflicts between queer people and the police; the impact of homophobia, bullying, and PTSD; the dynamics of women’s friendships; and life for queer women in Toronto during WWII.

Thea Lim, author of An Ocean of Minutes, says “Faye Guenther lovingly tells the stories of ordinary women, whose lives have yet been mostly ignored by literature. Each character in this collection is a planet unto herself: the stories part the mists and show the miles to the surface. Dizzying, precise, and beautiful.”

Faye Guenther lives in Toronto. Her writing has appeared in literary magazines including Joyland and she has published a chapbook, Flood Lands, with Junction Books. Swimmers in Winter is her first collection of short fiction.

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Trevor Corkum: The title story “Swimmers in Winter” takes place partly in the back room of a lesbian bar in 1950s Toronto. It’s a powerful exploration of time and place. What did you learn about this period in Toronto’s queer history during your research?

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