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Launchpad: CROSSHAIRS, by Catherine Hernandez

"Crosshairs asks us what we will do to resist and build a better future when faced with such momentous and dangerous times." —Carrianne Leung

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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, Carrianne Leung is championing Catherine Hernandez's much anticipated second novel, Crosshairs.

Leung writes, "Crosshairs is a blistering page-turner. One can describe it as dystopic fiction, but Catherine Hernadez is presenting us with something much more prescient to consider. Through the richly drawn characters of Kay, Liz, Bahadur and others, the novel acts as a provocation and a challenge for readers to locate ourselves. Crosshairs offers a glance into a world that is possible if we continue on a trajectory that is frightfully present. Most importantly, Crosshairs asks us what we will do to resist and build a better future when faced with such momentous and dangerous times."


Book Cover Crosshairs

49thShelf: What particular something have you managed to achieve with this book that you’re especially proud of?

Catherine Hernandez: Part of the research involved training with my brother in law, Tyrone Tom, who is a US war veteran. He taught me how to shoot various weapons including an AR-15. My first shot hit the paper target right in the head. I mean, sure, I am an author and can write a book. But who else, out of all the CanLit authors, could be hired as an assassin? 

49thShelf: Tell us about your ideal reader, and where you imagine them reading your book.

CH: My ideal reader is the one who will read this and not particularly enjoy it. While Crosshairs does explore the QTBIPOC world, the book is aimed at people who possess privilege to challenge their beliefs around race, gender, identity and ability. The book challenges them to consider ways to create sincere, embodied allyship. This takes time and difficult conversations. I imagine these readers being offended by the book, putting it away for a while, thinking about it, then undergoing the difficult transformations necessary in the journey of allyship.

49thShelf: What authors and works inspired you on your journey in creating this book?

CH: I was most inspired by Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower. The way that Butler captured societal collapse in the very near future was what I wanted to achieve in Crosshairs. I wanted it to feel like the book's events could occur tomorrow morning. When I wrote the book, I had no idea how much the terrifying present would resemble its pages.

49thShelf: What’s something you know now that you didn’t know when you set out to write your book?

CH: A common reaction to witnessing oppression is doing everything possible to absolve oneself from responsibility. We clutch our pearls. We point fingers. We perform allyship. The most challenging part of writing this book was acknowledging my own complicity in the oppression of others. Of course, I had a general sense of it, but in order to do the story justice I truly had to dig deep. Between the computer I was using to write the book to the food I ate each day, I was benefitting from the labour of underpaid workers who risked their lives for my comfort. After writing Crosshairs I feel that undercurrent of knowledge affecting every step I take in this world, especially after the pandemic hit. I discovered that I wasn't imagining this fantastical future. I was writing what already is our appalling present.

49thShelf: What is your favourite writing tool?

CH: A combo of my bluetooth keyboard and my laptop adjustable desk, which allows me to sit, lie down and stand with the screen at eye height. Neck and wrist alignment is the key to healthy writing!

49thShelf: What bookstore are you most excited to walk into and see your book displayed on the shelf?

CH: I can't narrow this down to one. I can narrow it down to three, though. Another Story Bookshop's staff work tirelessly to host author events and sell our books. I am always thrilled to see their team in store. A Different Booklist is another favourite. I love how Itah has made the bookstore a cultural exchange space. I hope people can read my book and discuss it there. I am also excited for Glad Day Bookshop to have the book on its shelf since, in Crosshairs, there is a part where the bookshop is described in detail.

49thShelf: Who are you most grateful to for support in bringing your book into the world?

CH: There were a total of 12 people, including my loving partner Nazbah Tom, who were part of my accountability team. These folks read through numerous drafts to ensure the manuscript did not further oppress the QTBIPOC, disabled and elderly communities by depicting fascist acts against them. These folks always believed I could do better and were very generous with their time.



Crosshairs offers a glance into a world that is possible if we continue on a trajectory that is frightfully present. Most importantly, Crosshairs asks us what we will do to resist and build a better future when faced with such momentous and dangerous times.




Book Cover Crosshairs

About Crosshairs:

The author of the acclaimed novel Scarborough weaves an unforgettable and timely dystopian account of a near-future when a queer Black performer and his allies join forces against an oppressive regime that is rounding up those deemed “Other” in concentration camps.

In a terrifyingly familiar near-future, with massive floods that lead to rampant homelessness and devastation, a government-sanctioned regime called the Boots seizes the opportunity to force communities of colour, the disabled and the LGBTQ2S into labour camps in the city of Toronto.

In the shadows, a new hero emerges. After his livelihood and the love of his life are taken away, Kay joins the resistance alongside Bahadur, a transmasculine refugee, and Firuzeh, a headstrong social worker. Guiding them in the use of weapons and close-quarters combat is Beck, a rogue army officer who helps them plan an uprising at a major internationally televised event.

With her signature prose, described by Booklist as “raw yet beautiful, disturbing yet hopeful,” Catherine Hernandez creates a vision of the future that is all the more terrifying because it is very possible. A cautionary tale filled with fierce and vibrant characters, Crosshairs explores the universal desire to thrive, to love and to be loved as your true self.