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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 Picnics: A Century of Living Outdoors, by Lindy Mechefske

Recommended by Lynn Saxburg in the Ottawa Citizen

"In the black-and-white photographs of this pictorial history of picnicking, you’ll be struck by the formal attire of the folks eating outdoors ... Overall, it’s a great idea that’s been skillfully executed with an eye for inclusivity."

Reviewed by Susan Scott, a nonfiction editor at The New Quarterly

"If you think 'quaint' when you think picnics, think again. Lindy Mechefske's masterful sweep of dining en plein air in one of Canada's founding provinces links people, place and food in ways that astonish and inform. Prepare to be entertained, enlightened—and transported."

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The Power of Style, by Christian Allaire

Reviewed in Kirkus Reviews

"Allaire (Ojibwe), a Vogue fashion and style writer from the Nipissing First Nation Reserve in Ontario, celebrates the way diversity is changing the world of fashion. Beginning with an introduction about the importance of representation, the author transports his readers to a place of pride. His writing questions norms and encourages young people to resist the status quo and not allow others to limit their creative expression. With sections dedicated to natural Black hair, gender nonconformity, cosplayers, Indigenous designers, and more, he brings fashion colorfully to life with photographs and history lessons. The book is made stronger by personal touches, for example passages about the ribbon shirt made by his mother and aunts that honored his Ojibwe culture and ancestors. A vibrant read about the connections between fashion, culture, and social justice."

Reviewed by Allison Mills in Quill & Quire

"The book is full of bright photographs and gorgeous illustrations that serve Allaire’s thesis: representation in the beauty and fashion industries is vital. The interviews featured throughout also reinforce the link between representation and self-esteem, especially for young people.

The Power of Style is ultimately a book about empowerment. It champions diversity and self-acceptance through style and encourages readers to discover new ways of expressing themselves."

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Missed Connections: A Memoir in Letters Never Sent, by Brian Francis

Reviewed by Kamal Al-Solaylee, author of Intolerable and Brown

“Witty, warm, and smart, Brian Francis’s memoir packs an emotional punch through breathtakingly beautiful storytelling. The personal tales in Missed Connections give way to a time-travelling work in which the past informs the present and the present bears witness to the past. At once an intimate narrative and a record of a moment in gay history, this is a necessary, courageous, and deliciously acerbic book.

Reviewed by Terry Fallis, author of The Best Laid Plans and Operation Angus

“Brian Francis has written a powerful and moving memoir laced with humour and melancholy. It broke my heart, lifted me up, and left me enthralled. This is a book we all need to read.”

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In Praise of Retreat, by Kirsteen MacLeod

Reviewed in Publishers Weekly

“Short story writer MacLeod delivers a satisfying exploration of and testament to the healing benefits of 'removing yourself from society to a quiet place.' Seeking an escape from a harried professional life and feeling unfulfilled creativity, she and her partner decamped from Toronto to 'a retreat in the woods.' They found there a 'relief from life’s rushing and chafing' and an opportunity to 'stop, gain clarity and make space for change.' MacLeod’s satisfaction in solitude sparked her to wonder: 'What has inspired people, ancient and modern, to retreat?'"

Reviewed in Foreword Reviews
“Narrated with a touch of warmth that is balanced with the detachment that comes from self-awareness and solitude, the book’s pace is smooth, and its diction is beautiful … In Praise of Retreat issues a deep, thoughtful, and experienced invitation to one’s mind, body, and spirit.”

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Anyone looking for a respite from everyday busyness or struggling through quarantine will be inspired by MacLeod’s fresh perspective on the benefits of solitude.

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August 9, 2021
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