Fawn Parker—whose most recent publication is the novel Set-Point, which “takes us to the very edge of identity, virtual and lived,” according to poet Kateri Lanthier—recommends eight books dealing with issues of identity, sexuality, and mental health.
Heroine, by Gail Scott
A Montreal woman masturbates in her bathtub, musing on her involvement with the '70s leftist movement, a polyamorous romance with a man always just out of reach, and her own personal identity cast against other women, other artists. Gail Scott blends poetic prose, stream of consciousness and “new narrative” (term coined by Soup magazine) to bring the reader right into the room with her protagonist. The line blurs between tense, story, character, and body.
Sodom Road Exit, by Amber Dawn
Starla Mia Martin moves back home to what feels like a ghost town (Crystal Beach, Ontario) to live with her mother in an attempt to pay back debt from school. Sodom Road Exit is a queer thriller, using the supernatural in new ways and featuring a protagonist who rather than shying away from the surreal, digs deeper.
Sludge Utopia, by Catherine Fatima
Catherine Fatima is an incredibly intelligent writer with an ability to blend the academic and theoretical with the highly emotional. Sludge Utopia is an auto-fictional novel exploring sexual and romantic desire, life under capitalism, and female identity.
Life is About Losing Everything, by Lynn Crosbie
While introducing an excerpt from Life is About Losing Everything at Toronto’s Sneaky Dees, Lynn Crosbie said, “It is not a sexy book; it is a book about being sexually rejected by cruel fat men.” The novel poignantly details a woman’s experience with self dread, romantic rejection, and loneliness. There is a beauty in the small, everyday moments and the detail in which Crosbie describes objects of value, important relationships, her experience of friendship. Surely there is loss, but also there is letting go.
Whore, by Nelly Arcan
Whore is a memoir/novel about sex work, religion, childhood, and womanhood. Nelly Arcan blends stream of consciousness, flashbacks, and monologues to create a narrative that at times feels like a fever dream.
Shut Up You're Pretty, by Téa Mutonji
The stories in Téa Mutonji’s debut collection are bold and disarming, exploring themes of race, class, sexuality, sex work, class, and identity. There is humour and playfulness in the prose, and the restraint shown by Mutonji is evidence of a very talented storyteller.
Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars, by Kai Cheng Thom
A coming of age story of a young Asian trans girl, leaving her abusive childhood home in a city called “Gloom” to find a new family and new identity in a place called the “Street of Miracles.” Kai Cheng Thom is an incredibly engaging writer, injecting moments of lightheartedness into a very important story.
Just Pervs, by Jess Taylor
Jess Taylor’s stories are a lot of fun, but more importantly they push up against misconceptions about what it means to be a sexual woman. The characters in Just Pervs explore the gross, uncomfortable, and complicated corners of sex and relationships.
Set-Point is a novel about personal, sexual, and physical identity. In a voice that is at once brutally honest and humorous, the story follows Lucy Frank, a mid-20s aspiring screenwriter living in Montreal who begins work as a digital sex worker, selling data recorded on interactive erotic consoles. She keeps her work separate from her artistic and personal life, until a user threatens to release her identity. Lucy struggles with body image, her mother's illness, and her feelings about her new line of work, while trying to sell a series of scripts parodying Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle series. Segments of the novel take place inside of U:3D, a massive multiplayer online world-building game in which Lucy's project is produced. Unfolding in Montreal's youth culture, this debut explores intellectual parody, mental and physical illness, and the relationship between technology and sex.
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