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 …
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.
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?
Today we’re chatting with poet Nolan Natasha, who is based in Halifax. His debut collection of poetry, I Can Hear You, Can You Hear Me? came out last fall with Invisible Publishing.
Poet Sue Goyette says, “Nolan Natasha’s collection maps the large cultural shift we’re all feeling about identity, about vulnerability, about body, about community with insight and acuity.” Zoe Whittall, meanwhile, calls Natasha’s writing “clear-eyed, funny, tender, and absorbing.”
Nolan Natasha is a queer and trans writer from Toronto who lives and writes in Nova Scotia. His poems have appeared in The Puritan, The Stinging Fly, Event, Grain, Prairie Fire, The Fiddlehead and Plenitude. He has been a finalist for the CBC Poetry Prize, the Ralph Gustafson Poetry Prize, the Geist postcard contest, Room Magazine’s poetry contest, and was the runner-up for the Thomas Morton fiction prize.
Trevor Corkum: I Can Hear You, Can You Hear Me? is such a great title for a collection. Where did the title come from and what does it mean for you?
Nolan Natasha: It’s actually a reference to a family joke from my childhood. When I was kid in the 80s and 90s, walkie-talkies felt like just about the most miraculous thing you could own. Despite all the potential they seemed to hold, m …
Next up in our special 2019 Governor General’s Award edition of The Chat is our conversation with Gwen Benaway. Her collection Holy Wild won this year’s Governor General’s Award for Poetry.
Ed note: This post has been updated in light of an investigation into Gwen Benaway's claims of Indigenous identity. Benaway has not, at the time of this writing, responded to evidence that she has misrepresented her status. We have removed all references to that claimed identity so that it does not continue to occupy space in Indigenous literature.
Gwen Benaway is the author of previous poetry collections Ceremonies for the Dead and Passage. Holy Wild was also named a finalist for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry, the Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry, and the Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature, and longlisted for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. Benaway is also the editor of an anthology of fantasy short stories titled Maiden Mother and Crone: Fantastical Trans Femmes. She has been a finalist for the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ writers from the Writers' Trust of Canada, and her personal essay, "A Body Like A Home," was the Gold Prize Winner for the National Magazine Awards in Personal Journalism. day/break, her fourth book of …
2019 Amazon Canada First Novel Award winner Casey Plett calls the book, "A queer prairie novel of my dreams—electric, funny, hot, heartbreaking, scathing, like a mix of Sarah Schulman and Chandra Mayor. The Western Alienation Merit Badge flashes effortlessly back and forth between four decades of sisterhood, poverty, estrangement, grief, queerness and, well, alienation. And the ache, the ache of queer people and family."
Nancy Jo Cullen is the fourth recipient of the Writers’ Trust Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBT Emerging Writers. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph-Humber and her short story collection, Canary, was the winner of the 2012 Metcalf-Rooke Award. Her poetry has been shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Award, the Writers’ Guild of Alberta’s Stephan G. Stephansson Award and the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize. She lived in Calgary for ove …
A selection of recent books by LGBTQ authors and/or featuring LGBTQ characters or themes—and also featuring hamsters, promposals, Walt Whitman, and whales.
Sapphire the Great and the Meaning of Life, by Beverley Brenna, illustrated by Tara Anderson (Middle Grade)
About the book: It’s not every day you encounter a hamster experiencing an existential crisis, but Sapphire has spent her short pet-store life convinced that she’s waiting for…something. At first she thinks it’s to be FREE, but it may be possible that life has a greater purpose in store—a purpose Sapphire will discover thanks to a nine-year-old girl whose family is changing in ways she doesn’t quite understand. Jeannie’s dad has moved out, her mom is always tired and snappish, and her older brother just wants to play video games in his room all day. Jeannie doesn’t understand what’s going on, but she knows one thing: she really, REALLY wants a hamster. Her mom promised she could buy one with her Christmas money, but it’s been WEEKS since the holidays and Jeannie’s beginning to worry she’ll never get her pet. But maybe if she does, her dad will come to visit. Maybe a hamster will make everything better. Narrated by Jeannie and Sapphire in alternating chapters, Sapphire the Gre …
Hasan Namir was born in Iraq in 1987. He is the award-winning author of God in Pink, which won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Fiction and was chosen as one of the Top 100 Books of 2015 by The Globe and Mail. His latest book is the poetry collection War / Torn, which is also the theme of this recommended reading list.
These books deal with war/torn identities in which the protagonist or the narrator of the poetic voice struggles to reconcile a sense of self. These books inspired me as their characters went through journeys of self-discovery and at times struggled to find their inner voices. This list is a mix of fiction, poetry and short stories all with hyphenated characters and voices that are deeply moving. And what I mean by hyphenated is that the characters all struggle with conflicting characteristics, identities and surroundings.
Bad Endings, by Carleigh Baker
Carleigh’s story collection isn’t necessarily plot-heavy, but more character-driven and portraying realistic experiences. The stories’ endings are sometimes intentiona …
This week, we’re in conversation with Lucas Crawford, author of The High Line Scavenger Hunt (University of Calgary Press), an innovative and playful collection exploring the history and cultural geography of a vibrant corner of Manhattan.
Poet Shannon Webb-Campbell says, “These poems re-visit, re-imagine and re-story a neighbourhood once home to drag kings and queens, AIDS activists, kink and leather clubs. The High Line Scavenger Hunt retraces urbanization and unwritten queer histories through modes of autobiography, metaphor and architecture. A must read for any urban misfit, intellectual outlier, and every queered heart.”
Lucas Crawford is a poet and an associate professor of English Literature at the University of New Brunswick. Crawford is the author of Sideshow Concessions, winner of the Robert Kroetsch Award for innovative poetry, and of Transgender Architectonics, which helped spark ongoing interest in the High Line park, its designers, and its histories. The High Line Scavenger Hunt is their most recent collection.
THE CHAT WITH LUCA …
June is Pride Month, which is the best excuse to put the spotlight on these books by LGBTQ writers and/or about LGBTQ issues, an eclectic list that includes fiction, poetry, memoir, nonfiction, and books for young readers—not to mention books by award-winning authors and some of the most buzzed-about titles of the season.
The Unfinished Dollhouse: A Memoir of Motherhood and Identity, by Michelle Alfano
About the book: No mother is prepared for the moment when a child comes out to her as a person whose physical gender is out-of-keeping with his emotional and psychological gender-identity. In Michelle Alfano's intimate memoir, she recounts her experience as the mother of a transgender child.
The central metaphor of The Unfinished Dollhouse tells the story: on Frankie's fourth birthday, her parents Michelle and Rob purchased a kit to create a beautiful dollhouse. Michelle imagined building the home, buying the tiny pieces of furniture and accessories to fill it and, more importantly, the times she and her daughter would spend constructing the perfect dollhouse—a fantasy of domestic and familial happiness. Frankie expressed no interest in such typically girlish pursuits because Frankie harboured a secret—a secret about gender.
In the years to follow, Fran …
This week on The Chat, we speak to Jordan Tannahill, interdisciplinary artist and author of the much-anticipated debut novel, Liminal (House of Anansi Press).
Ann-Marie MacDonald calls Liminal “generous, bold, unabashedly emotional, and really smart—an ultra-engaging portrait of the artist, and portal to the art.”
Teva Harrison, artist and author of In-Between Days, says “This book has everything: a road trip, coming of age, philosophy, mythology, meditation on the nature of self, and the tender love of a son for his mother—all infused with uncommon emotional intelligence.”
Jordan Tannahill is a playwright, director, and author. In 2016 he was described by the Toronto Star as being “widely celebrated as one of Canada’s most accomplished young playwrights, filmmakers, and all-round multidisciplinary artists.” His plays have been translated into multiple languages and honoured with a number of prizes including the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama and several Dora Mavor Moore Awards. Jordan’s films and multimedia performa …
We begin The Chat in 2018 with a conversation with Ahmad Danny Ramadan, author of the stirring debut novel The Clothesline Swing (Nightwood Editions). A journey through the aftermath of the Arab Spring, The Clothesline Swing is “an enthralling tale of courage that weaves through the mountains of Syria, the valleys of Lebanon, the encircling seas of Turkey, the heat of Egypt and finally, the hope of a new home in Canada.”
Writing in Quill & Quire, Kamal Al-Solaylee says, “This debut novel from the Vancouver-based Syrian writer reads as many things—a coming-out memoir, a history lesson, a critique of authoritarianism, a narrative about sharing narratives—but above all, it’s a requiem for a dying country and people.”
Ahmad Danny Ramadan is a Syrian-born author, storyteller, and LGBTQ-refugees activist who calls Canada home. His debut novel is The Clothesline Swing. He also translated Rafi Badawi's 1000 Lashes: Because I Say What I Think, and published two collections of short stories in Arabic. His work in activism has supported the arr …
As this summer’s Pride festivals and festivities are set to get underway, we’re in conversation this week with three of the editors of the seminal (and fabulous) volume on Toronto queer history—Any Other Way: How Toronto Got Queer. It’s a pleasure to be in conversation with John Lorinc, Rahim Thawer, and Jane Farrow.*
Published by Coach House, the anthology draws on a range of voices to explore how the residents of queer Toronto have shaped and reshaped one of the world’s most diverse cities. Any Other Way includes chapters on Oscar Wilde’s trip to Toronto; early cruising areas and gay/lesbian bars; queer shared houses; a pioneering collective counter-archive project; bath house raids; LBGT-police conflicts; the Queen Street art/music/activist scene; and a profile of Jackie Shane, the trans R&B singer who performed in drag in both Toronto and Los Angeles, and gained international fame with her 1962 chart-topping single, "Any Other Way."
Rahim Thawer is a registered social worker, consultant, post-secondary instructor, and mental health cou …