Open Minds Quarterly asked me to record a reading of my poem and to provide insight into mental health and what living with mental illness means to me. This short talk and poem are incredibly personal to me. In this recording, I read my poem “Swell” which was the winner of the 2018 BrainStorm Poetry Contest.
I have heard all the stories about girls like me, and I am unafraid to make more of them…
If I had to summarize Carmen Maria Machado’s debut collection in one word, it would be haunting. I’ve never read anything like most of these stories, which is really exciting as a big reader (my fellow big readers can attest to this feeling). Her stories are imaginative and diverse across subjects, but she always connects back to the female body. The female body is presented as the site of erasure, manipulation, motherhood, sexuality, and abuse to name a few examples.
The collection opens with one of her most popular pieces, The Husband Stitch, which was widely read and shared over social media earlier this year. Her story brought awareness of a medical practice to the mainstream when it had otherwise been erased. The ‘husband stitch’ refers to a practice where husbands/doctors either request or suggest a tightening of the women’s anatomy after the birth of a child (if you want to read more click here). This story sets the tone for the rest of the collection as a fairy tale, horror, Gothic-esque assemblage. There are plagues, dead rabbits, and overall strange happenings. My favourite piece in the collection is called “Inventory”. The narrator provides a list of her sexual partners and context to those sexual encounters during the slow spread of a plague.
Machado has also been nominated for a Shirley Jackson award in three categories (Novelette, Short Fiction, and Single-author collection). I would recommend this collection to anyone who feels like they need some more surrealist female/queer fiction in their lives (which should really be all of us).
This was probably my best reading year ever. I finished my English Lit degree and suddenly had full control of my reading time. Since it got so cold this year over the holidays, I ended up reading more than usual and managed to beat my reading goal for the year by finishing 60 books. I discovered some new favourite authors like Ali Smith and Kazuo Ishiguro. I read more books from some old favourite authors like Helen Oyeyemi, Susan Hill and Jeanette Winterson. Some of these books made me cry my eyes out, others gave me major creeps, but all of them were amazing. Here’s what I read this year and here’s to another year of amazing books.
I’m a BIG fan of books and I’m an even bigger fan of used books on sale. A lot of my books come from scouring the Good Will, Fair’s Fair books, or Better World Books (I have a blurb about them at the end of this post). There are a couple in this pile that I’d almost bought for full price over the last few months, but I managed to snag all of these for under eighteen dollars! Here’s what I got:
Hundreds and Thousands: the journals of an artist – Emily Carr
The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd
Amsterdam – Ian McEwan
Moloka’i – Adam Brennert
Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
Jazz – Toni Morrison
Skin Divers – Anne Michaels
Himself – Jess Kidd
Of Bees and Mist – Erick Setiawan
One my favourite book retailers is betterworldbooks.com, a not-for-profit started by a few friends from college. The concept is that for every book you buy, one book is donated to someone in need through hundreds of different charities and organizations (talk about validating my book obsession with charity). They support of ton of local libraries around the world and they even tell you which library your purchase will be supporting. Not to mention they’ve have worldwide free shipping and almost every book on the planet. Definitely check them out!
Pictured is my cat (AKA Peanut) who loves to read almost much as I do, and usually over my shoulder.
Right now, I’m between degrees and only working in the archives part time, which means that I have more time for myself than I’ve had in years. The biggest trademark of my English degree was the way it structured my reading and not always in great ways (hello, Chaucer) but now I have full freedom to choose what I want to read and when. This is the perfect opportunity to work through my unruly TBR pile that has been steadily growing for years. Since at any given moment I’m either reading a book, looking for books or talking about books (sorry), I want to document them all in one place and keep myself accountable to keep going. I’ll be posting reviews and musings about the books I read, and I’ll also be using the public library as much as possible to save both my bank account and my poor overworked bookshelves. Please send me all of your book recommendations too! I’d love to know what you’re reading.
What I’ve read so far this summer (fun fact: 9 start with the prefix the)
- The Taxidermist’s Daughter – Kate Mosse
- Little Sister – Barbara Gowdy
- Restlessness – Aritha van Herk
- I’m the King of the Castle – Susan Hill
- Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
- The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
- The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson
- The Romantic – Barbara Gowdy
- The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
- The World According to Garp – John Irving
- The Bear – Clare Cameron
- The Girls – Emma Cline
- Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? – Jeanette Winterson
- The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
- Even this page is white – Vivek Shraya
Fiction I need to read (fun fact: only 11 begin with the but 3 are about birds!)
- The woman who gave birth to rabbits – Emma Donoghue
- The Afterlife of Birds – Elizabeth Philips
- The Genius of Birds – Elizabeth Philips.
- The End of the Story -Lydia Davis
- In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
- Villette – Charlotte Brontë
- Beloved – Toni Morrison
- Ulysses – James Joyce
- Astray – Emma Donoghue
- The Back of the Turtle -Thomas King
- The Waves – Virginia Woolf
- The Studhorse man – Robert Kroetsch
- White Teeth – Zadie Smith
- Swing Time – Zadie Smith
- Ophelia’s Muse – Rita Cameron
- Agnes Gray – Anne Brontë
- The obituary Writer – Ann Hood
- Moonglow – Michael Chabon
- Angela’s ashes – Frank McCourt
- The Break – Katherena Vermette
- The way the crow flies – Ann-Marie McDonald
- Son of a Trickster – Eden Robinson
- Moshi Moshi – Banana Yoshimoto
- Yesterday, at the Hotel Clarendon – Nicole Brossard
- Ana, Historic – Daphne Marlatt
- Wise Blood – Flannery O’Connor
- The Falls – Joyce Carol Oates
Poetry I need to read:
- Nets – Jen Bervin
- Recyclopedia – Haryette Mullen
- Joy Kagawa – A Garden of Anchors
Non-fiction/biography I need to read:
- Shirley Jackson, A Rather Haunted Life – Ruth Franklin
- Virginia Woolf, A Biography – Hermione Lee
- Charlotte Brontë – Clare Harman
- Anais Nin, A Biography – Deirdre Bair
- Bad Feminist – Roxanne Gay
- How to Build a Woman – Caitlin Moran
This list is probably about one hundredth of the books I want to read, but it’s a good start! Please send me book recommendations (especially for new poetry). I’m always up for something new!