It’s hard to look within ourselves, with or without an endoscope or years of therapy. (Having both isn’t a guarantee.) Luckily, all of the following titles have done the hard work of interrogation. They question themselves, the world, and their place in it, infusing the introspective with the radical (and vice versa). Any or all of these books would make a perfect gift for the book lover on your holiday shopping list.
As a reminder, all Book*hug Press titles are 25% off until December 23rd, and as a bonus, we’re offering free shipping within Canada on orders over $50.00. If you feel especially spoiled for choice—and/or if you’re in a giving mood—we have more good news: we’re also offering a selection of holiday bundles. Whatever and however you celebrate, we recommend shopping early to ensure your books arrive on time (and so you have something to look forward to on Monday, that cruel arbiter of happiness). Happy holidays!
Her Paraphernalia: On Motherlines, Sex, Blood, Loss & Selfies by Margaret Christakos
Margaret Christakos’s Her Paraphernalia is a love song to her mother and daughter. The collection is formed of ten intimate études that move from considerations of mothering, sex and photography to settler bloodlines, erasure and divorce, and profoundly embodies the feelings of living as a woman and a mother in all its tumult and precocity and promise. How does a contemporary woman write a life’s umbilical attachments to the lives around her? How does she see what remains her own? These are some of the questions Christakos considers. At once daring, erotic and original, Her Paraphernalia explores the beauty of the selfie, menopause, daughters, lust, solo travel, depression, the death of a parent, the writing life and women’s transgenerational vitality.
rob mclennan calls Christakos “one of our most daring, consistently inventive and deeply engaged contemporary Canadian poets,” and writes that Her Paraphernalia “is not only composed as a portrait/selfie, but one explored at a very particular point in the author’s life, working to ground, and reaffirm, herself before any possibility of eroding.”
Dear Current Occupant by Chelene Knight
Dear Current Occupant is a creative nonfiction memoir about home and belonging set in the 80s and 90s of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Using a variety of forms including letters, essays and poems, Knight reflects on her childhood through a series of letters addressed to all of the current occupants now living in the twenty different houses she moved in and out of with her mother and brother. From blurry and fragmented non-chronological memories of trying to fit in with her own family as the only mixed East Indian/Black child, to crystal clear recollections of parental drug use, Knight draws a vivid portrait of memory that still longs for a place and a home. Dear Current Occupant won the 2018 City of Vancouver Book Award, and author Ayelet Tsabari calls it “an astonishing book: haunting, intimate, and deeply rendered… Chelene Knight emerges as a fierce new voice in Canadian literature, deserving of our full attention.”
My Conversations with Canadians by Lee Maracle
On her first book tour at the age of 26, Lee Maracle was asked a question from the audience, one she couldn’t possibly answer at that moment. As time has passed, she has been asked countless similar questions, all of them too big to answer, but not too large to contemplate. In My Conversations with Canadians, Maracle seeks not to provide any answers to these questions she has lived with for so long, but thinks through each one using a multitude of experiences she’s had as a First Nations leader, a woman, a mother, and a grandmother. In prose essays that are both conversational and direct, My Conversations presents a tour de force exploration into Maracle’s own history, and a reimagining of the future of our nation.
“In these pages, Maracle develops a relationship with her audience that feels intuitive and intimate, yet weaves together something far more comprehensive than any interview or conversation could provide,” writes Maisonneuve. The Globe and Mail writes that the book “offer[s] strength and solidarity to Indigenous readers, and a generous guide to allyship for non-Indigenous readers. For the latter, these books will unsettle, but to engage in allyship is to commit to being unsettled—all the time.” My Conversations with Canadians was shortlisted for both the 2018–19 First Nation Communities READ Award and the 2018 Toronto Book Award.
Where Things Touch: A Meditation on Beauty by Bahar Orang
Part lyric essay, part prose poetry, Bahar Orang’s Where Things Touch grapples with the manifold meanings and possibilities of beauty. Drawing on Orang’s experiences as a physician-in-training, the book is an exploration of an essential human pleasure, a necessary freedom by which to challenge what we know of ourselves and the world we inhabit. Throughout Where Things Touch, beauty is ultimately imagined as something inextricably tied to care: the care of lovers, of patients, of art and literature, and the various non-human worlds that surround us.
“Refracted through the lens of caregiving and caretaking, Bahar Orang’s lyric voice roams through poetry, Persian myth, and hospitals to enchant the everyday, returning us to an intimacy beyond the page—back to the body,” writes acclaimed author Shazia Hafiz Ramji. “Orang guides us with heart-centred intelligence in this beautiful and wise book.”
Small, Broke, and Kind of Dirty: Affirmations for the Real World by Hana Shafi
Small, Broke, and Kind of Dirty is not an advice book: it’s a call to action, one that asks us to remember that we are valid as we are—flaws and all—and to not let the bastards grind us down. Built around art from Hana Shafi’s popular online affirmation series, the book focuses on our common and never-ending journey of self-discovery. Drawing on her experience as a millennial woman of colour, and writing with humour and a healthy dose of irreverence, Shafi—a.k.a. Frizz Kid—delves into body politics and pop culture, racism and feminism, friendship, and allyship. Through it all, she remains positive without being saccharine, and hopeful without being naive.
Author Vivek Shraya calls Small, Broke, and Kind of Dirty “the book that Frizz Kid/Hana Shafi fans (and new fans) have been waiting for.” And singer-songwriter Bif Naked praises the book’s “important, intelligent, and honest essays that encourage understanding, essential thinking, create dialogue, and are a channel for tenderness.” The Miramichi Reader calls it a “balm for a tumultuous year.”