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On Our Radar: Books With Buzz

Two dazzling story collections, a feminist take on women's health, strolling the city, Metis family history, exploring Queer identity, a YA generational fiction/memoir hybrid, and a beloved dachshund is back for more!


Book Cover Peacocks of Instagram

Peacocks of Instagram, by Deepa Rajagopalan

About the book: Engrossing, witty yet devastating stories about diasporic Indians that deftly question what it means to be safe, to survive, and to call a place home.

An underappreciated coffee shop server haunted by her past attracts thousands of followers on social media with her peacock jewellery. A hotel housekeeper up against a world of gender and class inequity quietly gets revenge on her chauvinist boss. And a foster child, orphaned in an accident directly attributable to climate change, brings down her foster father, an oil lobbyist, in spectacular fashion.

With an intense awareness of privilege and the lack of it, the fourteen stunning stories in Peacocks of Instagram explore what it means to be safe, to survive, and to call a place home.

What's the buzz: Listen to Deepa Rajagopalan on CBC's The Next Chapter


Book Cover Threshold

Threshold, by Carol Bruneau

About the book: From the critically acclaimed, award-winning author of Brighten the Corner Where You Are, A Circle on the Surface, and Purple for Sky comes the first collection of short stories since the Thomas Raddall Award-nominated A Bird on Every Tree.

Moving from a worldly insouciance to a reckoning with privilege, the stories in Threshold explore the hypocrisies and contradictions of a world broken by racism, homelessness, and climate change. A woman's grief causes her to see the ghost of her mother in others and in herself; an extended honeymoon cruise has a couple contemplating their gene pools, and their future; and a son's disappearance prompts his parents to study the migratory patterns of herons.

From the piazzas of Naples and Palermo to Halifax's urban wilderness, waterways, and backyards, Bruneau writes with characteristic empathy, humour, and linguistic precision. These luminescent stories reach beyond first-world worries toward compassion and hope, human resilience and the resiliency of nature.

What's the buzz: Carol Bruneau shares her writing space at The New Quarterly.



book Cover All in Her Head

All In Her Head: How Gender Bias Harms Mental Health, by Misty Pratt

About the book: This provocative, deeply personal book explores how women experience mental health care differently than men—and lays out how the system must change for women to flourish.

Why are so many women feeling anxious, stressed out, and depressed, and why are they not getting the help they need? Over the past decade, mood disorders have skyrocketed among women, who are twice as likely to be diagnosed as men. Yet in a healthcare system steeped in gender bias, women’s complaints are often dismissed, their normal emotions are pathologized, and treatments routinely fail to address the root causes of their distress. Women living at the crossroads of racial, economic, and other identities face additional barriers. How can we pinpoint what’s wrong with women’s mental health, and what needs to change?

In All in Her Head, science writer Misty Pratt embarks on a crucial investigation, painting a picture of a system that is failing women on multiple levels. Pratt, who shares her own history of mental illness, explores the stereotypes that have shaped how we understand and treat women’s distress, from the Ancient Greek concept of “hysteria” to today’s self-help solutions.

What's the buzz: Read a profile of Pratt by Anne Thériault at Quill & Quire.  


Book Cover Stroll

Stroll, by Shawn Micallef

About the book: The updated edition of a Toronto favourite meanders around some of the city’s unique neighbourhoods and considers what makes a city walkable

What is the 'Toronto look'? Glass skyscrapers rise beside Victorian homes, and Brutalist apartment buildings often mark the edge of leafy ravines, creating a city of contrasts whose architectural look can only be defined by telling the story of how it came together and how it works, today, as an imperfect machine.

Shawn Micallef has been examining Toronto’s streetscapes for decades. His psychogeographic reportages situate Toronto's buildings and streets in living, breathing detail, and tell us about the people who use them; the ways, intended or otherwise, that they are being used; and how they are evolving.

Stroll celebrates Toronto's details—some subtle, others grand–at the speed of walking and, in so doing, helps us to better get to know its many neighbourhoods, taking us from well-known spots like the CN Tower and Pearson Airport to the overlooked corners of Scarborough and all the way to the end of the Leslie Street Spit in Lake Ontario.

What's the buzz: Read Micallef on the process of updating his book (and exploring a changed city!) in The Toronto Star.



Book Cover What Fills your House Like Smoke

What Fills Your House Like Smoke, by E. McGregor

About the book: In these poems, E. McGregor combines the lore of family history with personal memory, vividly parsing patterns of inheritance, particularly through the maternal line.

What Fills Your House Like Smoke begins and ends at the deathbed of the writer's Metis grandmother. In between, McGregor composes an incomplete and wildly imaginative biography of the grandmother, interrogated by family photographs, stories, and the scant paper trail she left behind.

McGregor sifts through the complexities of motherhood, daughterhood, anxiety, intimate relationships and addiction, weaving family history with memory to make sense of what is carried on. Especially affecting are poems about childhood, and the people who disappear from a child's life, and the struggle to live as a societal outsider, finding strength in self-definition and the power of narrative.

As these poems unfold, they move us toward an understanding of maternal inheritance, shifting identities, forgiveness, and finally love.

What's the buzz: Read an interview with E. McGregor at All Lit Up.


Book Cover Terrarium

Terrarium, by Matthew Walsh

About the book: Raw, confessional, and often messy, Terrarium continues Matthew Walsh’s exploration of Queer identity and desire against the lonely highs and lows of depression and addiction.

In this new collection, Walsh begins where their debut collection, These are not the potatoes of my youth, left off. Writing in their trademark conversational style, Walsh wanders from Toronto parkettes “with remnants of magnolia leaves” to California, “a long/black cocktail dress the night lights/amethyst and citrine against the arm/muscle of the sea,” their voice intimate and exposed, a whisper between friends or lovers.

And then, when they ruminate on influences and themes as diverse as the poetry of Frank O’Hara and Gwendolyn MacEwen, the vagaries of Instagram, and the reimagination of Miss Havisham in a Toronto bathhouse, they offer readers the opportunity to think deeply or laugh loudly, reaching out to close the gap between us.

What's the buzz: Check out Terrarium on CBC's "37 Poetry Collections to Read This Spring"



Book Cover Age 16

Age 16, by Rosena Fung

About the book: Guangdong, 1954 Sixteen-year-old Mei Laan longs for a future of freedom, and her beauty may be the key to getting it. Can an arranged marriage in Hong Kong be the answer to all her problems?

Hong Kong, 1972 Sixteen-year-old Lydia wants nothing more than to dance and to gain approval from her mother, who is largely absent and sharply critical, especially about the way she looks. Maybe her way to happiness is starting over in Toronto?

Toronto, 2000 Sixteen-year-old Roz is grappling with who she wants to be in the world. The only thing she is certain of is that if she were thinner, things would be better. How can she start living her life, instead of just photographing it?

When Roz’s estranged por por abruptly arrives for a seemingly indefinite visit, three generations are now under one roof. Delicate relationships are suddenly upended, and long-suppressed family secrets begin to surface.

Award-winning creator of Living With Viola Rosena Fung pulls from her own family history in her YA debut to give us an emotional and poignant story about how every generation is affected by those that came before, and affect those that come after.

What's the buzz: Watch Fung introduce the book on Youtube.



Book Cover Coop for Keeps

Coop for Keeps, by Larry Verstraete

About the book: For Coop, adjusting to a new home after being adopted by Zach, Emma and their mother, Jess, is not easy. It's hard enough being a lowly dachshund, but it's even harder when your home is a financially unstable guesthouse with smelly strangers drifting in and out. Worse still, the unhappy teenager in charge of Coop is steaming mad much of the time. On top of that, Lucinda, the annoying cat, likes to tease and torment. It's no wonder Coop wishes he could have his old life back.

Enter a murder of crows, a stranger with a mysterious past, two bullies bent on making Zach's life miserable, and a vicious dog with a grudge against Coop. As the risks and challenges mount, Coop's wish only grows stronger. Will he ever find the forever home he so desperately wants?

What's the buzz: Read a rave review at CM: Canadian Review of Materials


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