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The Chat with Ahmad Danny Ramadan

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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 …

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A Chat Roundtable With the Editors of Any Other Way: How Toronto Got Queer

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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

Rahim Thawer is a registered social worker, consultant, post-secondary instructor, and mental health cou …

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The Chat With Michael V. Smith

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It’s a pleasure to be back in conversation with Michael V. Smith, author of a brand spanking new collection of poems, Bad Ideas (Nightwood Editions).

According to The Province, Bad Ideas “deals heavily in themes of family, sexuality, spirituality, life and death. Smith’s poetry is moving, beautifully written and heartfelt.”

Michael V. Smith is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, performance artist, and occasional clown. He is the author of several books including What You Can’t Have (Signature Editions, 2006), which was short-listed for the ReLit Award, and My Body Is Yours (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2015), which was a Lambda Literary Award finalist. He is also the winner of the inaugural Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBT Emerging Writers and was nominated for the Journey Prize. Smith currently teaches creative writing at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna.

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THE CHAT WITH MICHAEL V. SMITH

Trevor Corkum: As someone who’s had more than a few bad ideas myself, I love and appreciate the title of the collection. How did it all co …

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The Chat With Catherine Hernandez

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We start off May in conversation with Catherine Hernandez, a multi-genre artist whose savvy debut novel Scarborough (Arsenal Pulp Press) has been generating lots of buzz.

In praising the book, writer Vivek Shraya says, “Scarborough showcases a necessary shift from the singular voice novel to create space for many voices to be heard—especially ones that are often forgotten. In her dexterous debut, Catherine Hernandez powerfully centres the margins by interlacing narratives that spotlight the beauty that thrives beyond the big city.”

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Catherine Hernandez's one-woman show, The Femme Playlist, premiered at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre as part of the afterRock Play Series. Her other plays include Singkil, Eating with Lola, Kilt Pins and Future Folk. She has served playwright residencies at Theatre Passe Muraille, Carlos Bulosan Theatre, Shaw Festival Theatre, Blyth Festival Theatre, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and Nightswimming Theatre. Her children’s book. M is for Mustache: A Pride ABC Book was published by Flamingo Rampant. Scarborough is Cathe …

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Pride: LGBTQ Books for Young Readers

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Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community is the latest book by the award-winning Robin Stevenson. She talks to us here about the importance of giving young people opportunities to see the LGBTQ community reflected in the books they read, and recommends a few favourites. 

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When I was a teenager, there were only a handful of young adult novels with queer characters, and those few that existed mostly had rather tragic endings. I read them all, and then I read lesbian pulp novels from the 1960s, such as Ann Bannon’s Beebo Brinker books. They bore no resemblance to my life in small town Ontario, but they did at least tell stories of women falling in love with women, and that was something. 

I came out as queer over 25 years ago, at a time when the LGBTQ community was nowhere near as visible as it is now.  In the last couple of decades, there’s been incredible progress for the queer community, both in terms of legal rights and protections, and in the hearts and minds of millions of people. And along with that, we’ve seen huge growth in the number and the diversity of LGBTQ books for teens.

For every young adult novel I’ve written that includes queer characters, I’ve received emails from teens that show just how important it is for them to see their lives r …

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The Chat: Trevor Corkum Interviews Vivek Shraya

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Vivek Shraya’s first collection of poems, even this page is white, is a bold, powerful work of art, addressing questions of racism, whiteness, and marginalization in social, creative, political, and intimate spaces.

Praising the collection, Shani Mootoo says, “this brave and very contemporary lyrical collection dares to ask the unspoken yet screaming questions, to finish the sentence that hurts, that reveals, that provokes, that celebrates. Like a Durga goddess, Shraya juggles with deft hands the multiple aspects of desire, race, gender, queerness, and contemporary pop culture.”

The Toronto Arts Council says, “Shraya’s voice is valuable to the future of poetry in Canada because of her undeniable strength, honesty, perception, and innovation."

Vivek Shraya is a Toronto-based artist whose body of work includes several albums, films, and books. She is also one half of the music duo Too Attached and the Associate Editor of Heartbeats, a website that features racialized artists and stories. Her first novel, She of the Mountains, was named one of …

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Top Shelf: Recent Favourites

There is so much good stuff on 49th Shelf that we sometimes compile our favourites to keep them close at hand via this series, Top Shelf. If there's not a book for you here—nay, ten!—well, we guess there isn't but it would be very, very strange. Enjoy!

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Sometimes cities pulse with energy and optimism. And sometimes they crush. Urban Grit is about the crush, with characters struggling to survive and even thrive in the face of it.

Check out Suzanne Allyssa Andrew's blog post along these lines, as well: Messes and Meltdowns in the City.

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Whether or not you believe that "short is the new long" when it comes to fiction, you'd be hard-pressed to turn down a book or two on this list of hot short story collections that came out in Spring 2015. Another hugely popular list among members in this same area is Canadian Short Stories, The New Generation, a crowdsourced list of writers who may be heirs-apparent to Munro and Gallant, and who are most definitely compelling Canadian voices in the twenty-first century.

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