December 3 is International Day of Disabled Persons, and we're proud to be marking this day with a recommended reading list by one of CanLit's foremost disability activists, Dorothy Ellen Palmer, whose latest book is the memoir Falling For Myself. An underlying message of this powerful, fierce, and often funny book is the importance of solidarity, allyship, and community, which Palmer celebrates properly here in the collection of authors and books that she's assembled.
One of the things that continually feeds me as a reader is the work of other authors I respect, those who continue to share, collaborate, and produce fabulous, thought-provoking diverse books, often will little thanks. With this list I want to thank and boost the books I loved recently published by those authors who kindly took time from their working days to write a blurb for my memoir, Falling for Myself. They reflect the best of the craft and community of CanLit.
All Inclusive, by Farzana Doctor
About the book: A story about one all-inclusive resort, the ghost of an unknown father, and the tragedies we can’t forget.
What’s it like when everyone’s dream vacation is your job? Ameera works at a Mexican all-inclusive resort, where every day is paradise—if “paradise” means endless paperwork, quotas to meet, and entitled tourists. But it’s not all bad: Ameera’s pastime of choice is the swingers scene, and the resort is the perfect place to hook up with like-minded couples without all the hassle of having to see them again.
Despite Ameera’s best efforts to keep her sideline a secret, someone is spreading scandalous rumours about her around the resort, and her job might be at stake. Meanwhile, she’s being plagued by her other secret, the big unknown of her existence: the identity of her father and why he disappeared. Unbeknownst to Ameera, her father, Azeez, is looking for her, and they both must come to terms with the reason why he abandoned her.
A moving new work from award-winning author Farzana Doctor, All Inclusive blurs the lines between the real world and paradise, and life and death, and reminds us that love is neither easily lost nor found.
Weekend, by Jane Eaton Hamilton
About the book: Prize-winning writer Jane Eaton Hamilton's novel explores the complexities of contemporary queer love.
On her fiftieth birthday, crazy-in-love Ajax visits her mercurial lover Logan, who trails their tarnished reputation like a lapsed halo. Logan has secrets, but so does Ajax, and during their weekend getaway to Ontario's cottage country, some of these secrets will prove explosive.
In the next cottage, long-term couple Joe and Elliot are having their own challenges as the parents of a newborn baby girl. Joe isn't sure if Elliot loves her or even if Elliot wanted a baby at all. Can she make it through a weekend feeling as she does, let alone the rest of her life?
Jane Eaton Hamilton's ninth book is an intimate, sexy queer romance. Weekend is a bold and heartbreaking consideration of the true nature of love at the cusp of middle age—about trust, negotiation, and what's worth keeping in the end.
An Honest Woman, by Jonina Kirton
About the book: An Honest Woman by Jónína Kirton confronts us with beauty and ugliness in the wholesome riot that is sex, love, and marriage. From the perspective of a mixed-race woman, Kirton engages with Simone de Beauvoir and Donald Trump to unravel the norms of femininity and sexuality that continue to adhere today.
Kirton recalls her own upbringing, during which she was told to find a good husband who would “make an honest woman” out of her. Exploring the lives of many women, including her mother, her contemporaries, and well-known sex-crime stories such as the case of Elisabeth Fritzl, Kirton mines the personal to loosen the grip of patriarchal and colonial impositions.
An Honest Woman explores the many ways the female body is shaped by questions that have been too political to ask: What happens when a woman decides to take her sexuality into her own hands, dismissing cultural norms and the expectations of her parents? How is a young woman’s sexuality influenced when she is perceived as an “exotic” other? Can a woman reconnect with her Indigenous community by choosing Indigenous lovers?
Daring and tender in their honesty and wisdom, these poems challenge the perception of women’s bodies as glamorous and marketable commodities and imagine an embodied female experience that accommodates the role of creativity and a nurturing relationship with the land.
That Time I Loved You, by Carrianne Leung
About the book: Tensions that have lurked beneath the surface of a shiny new subdivision rise up, in new fiction from the author of the Toronto Book Award–shortlisted The Wondrous Woo.
The suburbs of the 1970s promised to be heaven on earth—new houses, new status, happiness guaranteed. But in a Scarborough subdivision populated by newcomers from all over the world, a series of sudden catastrophic events reveals that not everyone’s dreams come true. Moving from house to house, Carrianne Leung explores the inner lives behind the tidy front gardens and picture-perfect windows, always returning to June, an irrepressible adolescent Chinese-Canadian coming of age in this shifting world. Through June and her neighbours, Leung depicts the fine line where childhood meets the realities of adult life, and examines, with insight and sharp prose, how difficult it is to be true to ourselves at any age.
Voice: On Writing with Deafness, by Adam Pottle
About the book: In Voice, Adam Pottle explores the crucial role deafness has played in the growth of his imagination, and in doing so presents a unique perspective on a writer’s development. Born deaf in both ears, Pottle recounts what it was like growing up in a world of muted sound, and how his deafness has influenced virtually everything about his writing, from his use of language to character and plot choices. Salty, bold, and relentlessly honest, Voice makes us think about writing in entirely new ways and expands our understanding of deafness and the gifts that it can offer.
The Miracles of Ordinary Men, by Amanda Leduc
About the book: This is the story of two unlikely dreamers: Sam, a man who wakes up one day to find himself growing wings, and Lilah, a woman who has lost her brother to the streets of Vancouver. Sam finds himself falling away from the world as he grows feathers from his back, while Lilah makes her own subtle and terrifying transformation as she seeks sexual penance under the harsh hand of her boss. Sam and Lilah fall deeper into their separate spiritual paths, and the two hurtle closer and closer to a dark, unknown destiny, one that changes all that they know about life and pain, love and God, and how to find light in the most unforeseen places. Re-examining the traditional roles of priest and prophet, damned and divine, and creating something monstrous and exquisite, this well-crafted novel investigates the so-called truths behind religion and explores the intersection of pleasure and pain.
Heroes in my Head, by Judy Rebick
About the book: In this riveting memoir, renowned feminist Judy Rebick tells the story of the eleven personalities she developed in order to help her cope with, and survive, childhood sexual abuse. In Heroes in My Head, Rebick chronicles her struggle with depression in the 1980s, when she became a high-profile spokesperson for the pro-choice movement during the fight to legalize abortion. It was in the 1990s, when she took on her biggest challenge as a public figure by becoming president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, that her memories began to surface and became too persistent to ignore.
Rebick reveals her moment of discovery: meeting the eleven personalities; uncovering her repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse; and then communicating with each personality in therapy and on the page in a journal—all of this while she is leading high-profile national struggles against a Conservative government.
Heroes in My Head is a fascinating, heartbreaking, but ultimately empowering story. With courage and honesty, Rebick lays bare the public and private battles that have shaped her life.
Refuse: CanLit in Ruins, edited by Erin Wunker, Hannah McGregor and Julie Rak
About the book: CanLit—the commonly used short form for English Canadian Literature as a cultural formation and industry—has been at the heart of several recent public controversies. Why? Because CanLit is breaking open to reveal the accepted injustices at its heart. It is imperative that these public controversies and the issues that sparked them be subject to careful and thorough discussion and critique.
This book provides a critical and historical context to help readers understand conversations happening about CanLit presently. One of its goals is to foreground the perspectives of those who have been changing the conversation about what CanLit is and what it could be. Topics such as literary celebrity, white power, appropriation, class, rape culture, and the ongoing impact of settler colonialism are addressed by a diverse gathering of writers from across Canada. This volume works to avoid a single metanarrative response to these issues, but rather brings together a cacophonous and ruinous multitude of voices.
In this searing and seriously funny memoir Dorothy Ellen Palmer falls down, a lot, and spends a lifetime learning to appreciate it. Born with congenital anomalies in both feet, then called birth defects, she was adopted as a toddler by a wounded 1950s family who had no idea how to handle the tangled complexities of adoption and disability. From repeated childhood surgeries to an activist awakening at university to decades as a feminist teacher, mom, improv coach and unionist, she tried to hide being different. But now, in this book, she's standing proud with her walker and sharing her journey. With savvy comic timing that spares no one, not even herself, Palmer takes on Tiny Tim, shoe shopping, adult diapers, childhood sexual abuse, finding her birth parents, ableism and ageism. In Falling for Myself, she reckons with her past and with everyone's future, and allows herself to fall and get up and fall again, knees bloody, but determined to seek Disability Justice, to insist we all be seen, heard, included and valued for who we are.
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