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Coming Out

Book Cover The Sulphur Springs Cure

Jeffrey Round's The Sulphur Springs Cure is up for giveaway until the end of March.

Head to our giveaways page for your chance to win, and to see everything else up for grabs right now.


The concept of coming out is old, but has taken on many new forms over the course of the years since Gay Liberation became a catchphrase. In the ten books listed here you will find tales by a wide assortment of Queer Persons who felt their stories and adventures, big or small, were worth telling. And not only worth telling, but worth pursuing the dream till, in most (but not all) cases, they found a publisher who agreed with them, which is often harder than simply writing a book. If you are like me, you will be glad they persevered in whatever way it took to get their stories out there for us to read.


Book Cover The Toronto You Are Leaving

The Toronto You Are Leaving, by Gordon Stewart Anderson

In 1990, I founded The Church-Wellesley Review, Canada’s first journal for LGBTQ+ creative writing. Over the course of a decade, I published scores of writers, some well known, others unknown at the time but who went on to become well known, and still others who did not. One of the latter was Gordon Stewart Anderson. I never got a second submission from him, and wondered why, since his work was so good. In 2006 I discovered why: he had died of AIDS, along with so many others, in 1991. But, miraculously, a lost, full-length manuscript had surfaced after his death and was published by his mother, Marlene Anderson, an author in her own right. This exceptional story of laughter, loss, and above all love, with its title adapted from a C.P. Cavafy poem, lays bare everything about what it was like coming out in the AIDS decade. A beautiful book, with a cover painting by the late, great Steve Walker.


Book Cover Penitence

Pénitence, par Denis-Martin Chabot

I am not a native French reader, but every once in a while a book comes along that grabs my attention and tells me it will be worth the effort. This is one of them. The humour is forefront. You start laughing from the opening scene and seldom stop, despite the bleakness and dark moments, which only serve to counterpoint the humour. Chabot is perhaps best known as a journalist for Radio-Canada, but his fiction about gay Montréal is first-rate. A funny, affecting tale of gay men longing for a return to the freedom of a pre-AIDS era in a world where danger lurks in the darkest corridors of love and romance, this book offers a brilliant portrait of queer Montréal from 1985 through 1996. It is the second volume of Chabot’s Histoires du Village series.


Book Cover Three Way Renegade

Three-way Renegade, by Keith Garebian

Keith Garebian has won many awards over his long career. He is one of Canada’s best theatre critics and an exceptional poet. I will be surprised, however, if he wins the acclaim he deserves for this portrait of sexual outlaw, tattoo artist and academic renegade, Samuel Stewart, because here he is pushing boundaries that many still feel uncomfortable with. Too bad for them, because this collection offers a searing portrait of a man for whom nothing was taboo, and who not only experimented with sexuality at a time when it was unsafe to do, but also meticulously documented it. The highest praise I can give it is to say that it reads like a private memoir written by the subject himself.


Book Cover Dr. Sad

DR SAD, by David Bateman

Bateman is a writer, teacher, poet, artist, and actor, among other things. Many of us know him through his razor-sharp satires, such as People Are Horrible Wherever You Go (co-written and co-performed with actor/writer David Roche). So it was a welcome discovery to come across this work of fiction. It’s clear from the start that we are in the hands of a master wordsmith. Whether he is writing about sex or the intricacies of the heart, his sentences are as alive and adept as the movements of a trained dancer in this story of a professor of poetry who has just been diagnosed with AIDS. Wise and witty, this book is a heady delight.


Book Cover Urchin

Urchin, by Kate Story

This YA story about cross-dressing and Guglielmo Marconi’s experiments in wireless trans-Atlantic telecommunications seamlessly blends fantasy with history and fiction with fact. Written with a penchant for invented language that straddles beat poetry and old-time colloquialisms, the book is rife with invention, as 13-year-old Dorthea transforms herself into Marconi’s errand boy Jack. It’s as though time has swallowed its own tail, turning St. John’s into a sci-fi setting for a gender-bending tale of adventure that reads like a cross between Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf. It received a well-deserved nomination for a Governor General’s Award for Young People’s Literature.


Book Cover Far Voyages

Far Voyages, by Douglas LePan

Coming out in your seventies can’t be easy, especially for a celebrated writer and poet, but that is exactly what two-time Governor-General’s Award-winner Douglas LePan did with this late volume of gay love poems. Not only is it a collection of exceptional beauty and searing emotion that tells of LePan’s affair with a younger man, but it is especially meaningful to me because it was the book that sparked our friendship when he sent it for review to Xtra! Magazine after it had been shunned by most of his peers, including Robertson Davies, who advised him not to publish lest it tarnish his reputation. We are fortunate he did not heed the warning.


Book Cover Monsterpiece

Monsterpiece, by Paul Bellini

Most of us know Bellini as the guy in the towel who gets some of the best lines in the latest reboot of Kids in the Hall. Fewer of us, however, know that, along with being a strip-tease artiste, he is also an exceptional fiction writer. This off-beat, quirky book is one of the products of that talent. The characters and places in Toronto’s queer neighbourhood, Church-Wellesley, take prominence in this story of three misfits: Patricka, an overweight woman in search of true love, Perry, a gay man with a taste for the good life but a budget that keeps him in the Dollarama section, and Alvin, a conniving street kid who burns whatever he touches. Funny, sad, raunchy, and highly memorable.


Book Cover One Sigh Fits ALl

One Sigh Fits All, by Steve Keill

Steve Keill is a prolific self-published poet. Would he rather have his work published by an established press? I can’t answer that, but I can tell you I consider him one of the best street poets this country has produced. The Baudelaire of modern-day Canada, he has a no-holds-barred approach when it comes to subject matter, parsing through the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life, and offering himself up for critical examination through his words. In truth, he would probably lose his identity if he let himself be packaged like most other poets. In this volume, Keill is a renegade and lone wolf, scouring the streets of the city for the sad, the lost and the overlooked. And I say three loud cheers for that!


Book Cover BReth

breth, by bill bissett

A book of poetry and drawings quite like no other, except for maybe bill’s other books, this volume is a culmination of fifty-plus years of the magical creations of bill bisset, poet, author and artist. The tapestry of words and images included here intertwine till they seem indivisible. Topics range from everyday experiences through the downright extraordinary. Poems about friendship follow thoughts of carefree love while mingling with drawings, both abstract and figurative, and a poem in praise of the poet’s mouth. It’s a breathtaking wonderland of creation that draws on bissett’s shamanistic vision of life. As he tells us, “in th palace uv th dreemr/sum wun stirs/it cud b yu.” This is a journey of invention like no other.


Book Cover Confessions of an Empty Purse

Confessions of an Empty Purse, by S. McDonald

This is an often startling, frequently moving tale, a journey of self-creation and trans-substantiation. Hilarious, shocking, and sometimes both at the same time, S. McDonald has the power to reach out from these lines and grab you by the throat: “I want to be as thin as the scars on my wrists.” It’s an illuminating story of going from a lonely, awkward boy living in Toronto’s Regent Park, hungry for glimpses of self-recognition, to the sophisticated, mink coat-wearing Marsha Reed of his/her fantasies. Along the way, the portrait grows as McDonald hints at wanting to be Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette, while being fearful of ending up like Sharon Tate in Valley of the Dolls, but all the time really just hoping to be a woman ... and preferably one with a full purse.


Book Cover The Sulphur Springs Cure

Learn more The Sulphur Springs Cure:

Just before World War II, Violet and her parents visit the legendary Sulphur Springs Hotel. Famed for its curative waters, the spa attracts a diverse crowd. Some desperate for a cure, others for more intangible things.

During her time at the hotel, curious young Violet begins to suspect something devious is going on behind the luxury façade. It’s not until she unwittingly becomes party to a murder that she realizes how desperate people really are.

But it is never too late to make peace with your ghosts. At eighty-four years old, Violet travels back to the hotel, now in ruins, to recover clues to the forgotten murder. Her return brings back memories of her family, a much-missed girlhood friend, and of her own sexual awakening. But what happens when the past brings hurtful truths with it?

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