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War/Torn Identities

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 intentionally abrupt and imperfect, which mirrors the characters’ experiences as they struggle to come to terms with themselves and the men they surround themselves with. Without being over-sentimental, Carleigh’s characters are drawn out through brilliant dialogue. The stories are like mini fictional documentaries. 

*

Don’t Tell Me What to Do, by Dina Del Bucchia

Dina’s characters are like people we encounter in daily life. Her writing style is sincere and brings out humor and warmth at the same time. This book is brilliantly written with characters we can all relate to who all want more than what they have. 

*

Everything is Awful and You’re a Terrible Person, by Daniel Zomparelli

With Everything is Awful and You’re a Terrible Person, Daniel reinvents the short story genre so it feels like poetry written in short story format. The characters here are relatable, dealing with anxiety, depression and they spoke volumes to me, plus Daniel has this particular way of bringing warmth to dark comedic characters who are fragmented and searching for fulfillment. 

*

Jonny Appleseed, by Joshua Whitehead 

This was an excellent book that was very interesting because it is non-linear and moves back and forth between past and present. The book is hyphenated stylistically to highlight the title character’s two-spirit cultural and sexual identity. Jonny Appleseed is a real page-turner that is also beautifully written.  

*

Little Fish, by Casey Plett 

When I began reading the book, I was immediately drawn to the characters and their complexity. The writing is raw and hit my guts—in an amazing way, of course. The writing is poetic and Wendy is one of the most fascinating and incredible characters. Casey’s dialogue is crisp, real and powerful. 

*

Port of Being, by Shazia Hafiz Ramji 

Shazia is an incredible poet and her debut book is sublime. The reader’s role is like a voyeur, and to read is to question things, including personal and political identities which are explored here through form and word choices. At times, the poetic voice seems to be lost, searching for answers. Relatable, this is poetry at its finest and is so timely. 

*

Scarborough, by Catherine Hernandez 

With Scarborough, Catherine brilliantly intertwines multiple characters of different backgrounds and races, representing the multi-colored communities of the title city. I had all the feels while reading it as the characters struggle with their identities in ways that seemed so real. Bing, Hina, Winsum, Sylvie, Victor and Laura are all developed beautifully and I am happy to learn this book is being made into a movie. 

*

Sodom Road Exit, by Amber Dawn

Amber Dawn’s novel has a very complex protagonist. Starla Mia Martin has a lot to deal with as she confronts her future and her past, and from the beginning I knew she was a unique character, dealing with her own personal traumas and also with her mother, who is quite the character herself. I enjoyed the mix of the supernatural and the complex queer story very much. It was quite the roller-coaster ride! 

*

Book Cover Stubble Burn

Stubble Burn, by David Ly

David Ly’s chapbook is Stubble Burn, which I just finished reading yesterday. The poetry is crisp, honest and complex. I read it in one sitting and was reflecting on each poem. I related to it because when I was in the dating game, I was on Grindr too and I used to get rejections because I wasn’t their type, etc. These poems illustrate identity struggles and remind us that words are more powerful than the sword: they can hurt but can also change the way we see things in ourselves. 

*

The Clothesline Swing, by Ahmad Danny Ramadan 

Ahmad Danny Ramadan’s poetic and eloquent novel highlights the Hakawati’s (storyteller's) war/torn stories of family and conflicted identities. The characters are wonderfully touching, written with so much heart, combining imagery to create new interpretations of experiences and struggles. The book takes the reader on a journey through the past, the present and also to various places in the world. 

*

About War / Torn

Hasan Namir's debut collection of poetry, War / Torn, is a brazen and lyrical interrogation of religion and masculinity—the performance and sense of belonging they delineate and draw together. Namir summons prayer, violence, and the sensuality of love, revisiting tenets of Islam and dictates of war to break the barriers between the profane and the sacred.

April 11, 2019

Books mentioned in this post

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War / Torn

by Hasan Namir
edition: Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged: lgbt, love, middle eastern

2020 Stonewall Book Award – Barbara Gittings Literature Award Honor Book

Lambda Literary Award-winner Hasan Namir';s debut collection of poetry, War / Torn, is a brazen and lyrical interrogation of religion and masculinity—the performance and sense of belonging they delineate and draw together. Namir summons prayer, violence, and the sensuality …

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Bad Endings

by Carleigh Baker
edition: eBook
also available: Paperback Audiobook (CD)
tagged: short stories (single author)

Finalist for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. Winner of the City of Vancouver Book Award. Top 100 of 2017, Globe and Mail.

“… Baker pushes readers to reconsider their desire for resolution. Eschewing the easy, the neat, the smoothed over, allows us to consider the things about ourselves we might not like. There’s a political dimension …

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Don't Tell Me What to Do

by Dina Del Bucchia
edition: Paperback
tagged: absurdist, literary, short stories (single author)

An offbeat story collection about strange, imperfect people doing strange, imperfect things.

In poet Dina Del Bucchia's debut story collection, an older woman becomes obsessed with the state of her lawn, a pet architect jeopardizes her relationship with her wife over a wild bird, a cement mixer helps a woman fulfill her dreams, a former model become …

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Everything Is Awful and You're a Terrible Person

by Daniel Zomparelli
edition: Paperback
tagged: gay, short stories (single author)

, Winner, ReLit Award; Finalist, Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize (BC Book Prizes)

A YouTube star becomes famous after he documents his breakup online. An anxious, lactose-intolerant office worker obsesses over a stranger who says "Nice shorts, bro" to him in passing. A couple wants to open up their relationship to a ghost. A monster just wants to find lo …

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Jonny Appleseed

by Joshua Whitehead
edition: Paperback
also available: Audiobook
tagged: gay, native american & aboriginal, lgbt, literary

2021 CANADA READS WINNER

WINNER, Lambda Literary Award; Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction

Finalist, Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction; Amazon Canada First Novel Award; Indigenous Voices Award; Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award; Firecracker Award for Fiction

Longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize

A Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year

A to …

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Little Fish

by Casey Plett
edition: Paperback
also available: Audiobook
tagged: family life, literary

WINNER, Amazon Canada First Novel Award; Lambda Literary Award; Firecracker Award for Fiction

Finalist, Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award

A Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year

It's the dead of winter in Winnipeg and Wendy Reimer, a thirty-year-old trans woman, feels like her life is frozen in place. When her Oma passes away Wendy receives an unexpect …

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Port of Being

by Shazia Hafiz Ramji
edition: Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged: canadian, women authors

Shortlisted for the City of Vancouver Book Award
Shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award
Finalist for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize
Longlisted for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award
Winner of the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry

Voyeurism and fact go head to head in Port of Being, a debut book of poetry that mines speech from the …

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Scarborough

by Catherine Hernandez
edition: Paperback
also available: Audiobook (CD)
tagged: urban life, asian american, lesbian

SHORTLISTED FOR CANADA READS 2022

NOW A MOTION PICTURE directed by Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson; screenplay by Catherine Hernandez

Trillium Book Award and City of Toronto Book Award finalist; Edmund White Debut Fiction Award finalist; A Globe 100, National Post and Quill and Quire Best Book of the Year

Scarborough is a low-income, culturally dive …

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Sodom Road Exit

by Amber Dawn
edition: Paperback
also available: Audiobook (CD)
tagged: lesbian, contemporary women, occult & supernatural

Lambda Literary Award and Sunburst Award finalist; a Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year

It's the summer of 1990, and Crystal Beach in Ontario has lost its beloved, long-running amusement park, leaving the lakeside village a virtual ghost town. It is back to this fallen community Starla Mia Martin must return to live with her overbearing mother aft …

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The Clothesline Swing

by Ahmad Danny Ramadan
edition: Paperback
tagged: literary, magical realism, gay

The Clothesline Swing is a journey through the troublesome aftermath of the Arab Spring. A former Syrian refugee himself, Ramadan unveils 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.

 

Inspired by One …

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