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New and Notable Memoirs

By kileyturner
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From the cutthroat world of haute cuisine to Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, from Paris to Ethiopia, and from a story of surviving abuse to one about facing life with a chronic disease, these are fascinating books everyone's talking about.
I Hear She's a Real Bitch

I Hear She's a Real Bitch

also available: Hardcover Paperback

A sharp and candid memoir from a star in the restaurant world, and an up-and-coming literary voice.

Toronto restaurateur Jen Agg, the woman behind the popular The Black Hoof, Cocktail Bar, Rhum Corner, and Agrikol restaurants, is known for her frank, crystal-sharp and often hilarious observations and ideas on the restaurant industry and the world around her.
I Hear She's a Real Bitch, her first book, is caustic yet intimate, and wryly observant; an unforgettable glimpse into the life of one of t …

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The first time I could’ve gotten drunk but didn’t, I was eleven. We were at Greg Harper’s* house playing a make-believe game of Star Wars. Greg was a lanky ginger into sci-fi and British comedy and he was mildly funny so he coasted on that. He played the comedian so well that you almost forgot his nerdish leanings. The premise of our game was flimsy: Greg and Alan were Han and Luke, and Kristy was Leia because she had sprouted boobs and was really pretty, which of course meant all the girls whispered about what a slut she was while maintaining phony friendships with her.
     There was nothing to suggest at that time that Kristy had ever even kissed a boy, though even if she had, it wouldn’t have made our slut-shaming any less awful. The way we interacted as eleven-year-old girls was a good introduction to female group dynamics, and I was definitely not just a casual observer. As an adult, I’ve noticed these childish patterns on a loop and can still shock myself with how callously dismissive I can be of women—men too, but I tend to be more generous with men’s shortcomings. I’m an admittedly bad feminist; I know that I have this horrendous, learned double standard. It’s just that I have a strong negative reaction to what I see as a wishy-washy need to please and I find that trait more often in women than in men. I wish I could be more patient, as a woman is expected to be. If I allowed myself to clearly and fully remem­ber the awful things I whispered and gleefully took in back then about “Titsy” Edmunds (not our best work—it didn’t even rhyme) I know I would be horrified. What I do remember well is the feeling of belonging and the power of gossip: alliances constantly shifting, hopping back and forth between the two most popular girls, the hypocrisy of these relation­ships a baseline for how women exist in group friendships, especially as children. Two “friends” are always finding com­fort in talking shit about their other “friend,” who may be prettier, or better dressed, or more popular with the boys, or none of those things. (But a judgment that a girl is “prettier” is often at the heart of it. The patriarchy’s culturally agreed-on baseline for prettiness in those days defaulted to skinny-yet-curvy white girls—thank christ that’s starting to change.) Kristy’s social status was confusing, both relying on and hin­dered by the power of new breasts, but it didn’t matter—she always got to play Leia, and I always got stuck with C-3PO.
     After our game ended (once the Death Star had been destroyed, presumably) Greg casually sauntered into the base­ment with a six-pack of beer, like it was something he did all the time, and my first reaction was, “No! Drinking is bad and we aren’t supposed to do it!” My rebellious nature was still a couple years from maturation, but my fight-y nature wasn’t, and I argued with and shamed the boys, going so far as to dump at least one lukewarm beer down the toilet. It was Miller High Life, and it was 1987, when Miller High Life was pre-ironic, yet even with its third-banana (behind Pabst and Labatt 50) iconic hipster status just a decade away, the toilet still seems like an appropriate place for it. It got me thinking, though. If Greg and Alan were refusing to speak to me for weeks over this small thing, dumping a beer down the toilet, they must’ve been pretty mad about it. And if they were so mad, drinking had to be awesome. It was a primitive logic.
     As girls of eleven or twelve-ish, we were at the age where our parents could leave us alone for an evening and didn’t have to worry about boys rapping on windows with cans of warm beer looking to “be boys”—that was still a couple of years off, despite Greg’s early adopting. In grade 7, I would shoot up a fast few inches, becoming very Skinny Legs and All, the book by Tom Robbins that I eventually read for its title and loved for its everything. When I see eleven-year-old girls today, sashaying around in crop tops and jean shorts cut so high that I’m discomfited, I wonder if I’m remembering “eleven” wrong. But I think it’s a pretty different “not-quite-a-girl-not-quite-a-woman” world now—something about the Internet.
     I mean, obviously the unattainable beauty standards for women are rooted in the patriarchy, but now that most west­ern kids can fall through Google’s looking glass and have total access to everything, girls are too quickly, within a pack mentality, making themselves into miniature versions of their sexy popstar heroes. I don’t want to be all old-man-shakes-fist-at-cloud, but though we still learned our roles—to be the prettiest, the sexiest, yet somehow demure—it just wasn’t as fast a slide into clothing as sexual display when I was a kid. We didn’t even grasp what was happening, even if, biologi­cally, the approving looks from boys were a jolt we knew we liked. We are raised to compete with other women, but within a societal expectation of “sisterhood”—a challenging para­dox that ends up supporting the patriarchal status quo.
     Perhaps it was because I intuitively rejected the social cues I was picking up as a girl, but for whatever reason I had more fun playing with boys. They wanted to build forts and climb trees and play Capture the Flag. They were my people—a friendship preference I haven’t been able to shake. I’ve been on a constant search for equality-based female friendship, but it’s eluded me, especially as I age and my requirements become ever more specific. Where are the forty-something stepmoms who are fundamentally it-getty and can afford occasional elaborate dinners? Are they at bars? Is there a Tinder for cool stepmoms? Not that I don’t have close female friends, but I’ve always felt more at ease with boy-besties. And yes, I realize how “not like other girls” garbage this sounds.
     Dwayne, my first boy-pal, lived at 10 Scarbelle Lane, the cul-de-sac that sprouted off the top of Scarboro Avenue (Scarboro, no “u-g-h”—how many times did I say that as a kid?). We bonded immediately. Not in a crush sort of way—I had no special feelings for him “down there.” (“Down there” was something I had discovered at nine or ten thanks to my love of shimmying up and then sliding down the poles that supported the swings in the school playground—a precursor to my mother’s as yet undiscovered “shoulder massager.”) Dwayne had a ramp for jumping his BMX bike. Either my parents wouldn’t buy me a BMX or I decided it veered too strongly into representing myself as not a girl (for all my tomboy leanings, I definitely wanted to be the kind of girl that boys liked). But that didn’t stop me from racing Dwayne’s bike up and down the street and sometimes finding the cour­age to go up the ramp, though never committing quite enough to really catch any air. One afternoon, I’d gotten up a lot of speed and was screeching toward him when, out of nowhere, he jammed a stick in the front wheel spokes. I flew over the handlebars and scraped myself up pretty badly. I was so upset and shocked, I grabbed my non-BMX bike, which I’d lazily dropped on Dwayne’s lawn, and limped home so he wouldn’t see me cry. I was so embarrassed and pissed off. Was this what boys did to each other? Stood there while you hobbled off muf­fling your tears? Laughed at skinned knees with little stones and pits of asphalt buried so deep it would take my mother hours to clean?
     This was a first peek into a lifelong struggle with my joy at the company of men and my occasional wish for just a little more compassion (a quality so often attributed to women) from them. This is partly why I’m so happy to see gender lines starting to blur: for starters, women not being afraid of their confidence or assertiveness, and men embracing, well, other men in a non-sexual way. Men are trained not to cry. Women are trained not to demand things. These are ridiculous standards. I hardly ever cry, and I am constantly demanding things, yet I still catch myself falling prey to a standard societal expectation of what it means to “be a man.” I am always trying to upend gender roles, even deeply ingrained ones, like the ludicrous idea that “having balls” means being tough. To paraphrase come­dian Sheng Wang (who apparently came up with this despite the Internet insisting it was Betty White, much to her chagrin): “It makes no sense. Balls are delicate little sacks that can’t take a hit. But vaginas? Vaginas can take a pounding.”
     Eventually Dwayne apologized, after, I suspect, his mother made him, but it was never the same between us. I didn’t trust him any more and I just stopped going around to his house and his BMX ramp. Two years later, by the time we were taking the bus to different high schools, it was like we’d never met.
     That awful bike spill was around the time I started crush­ing on Greg—Star Wars, beer-toting Greg—who somehow, between grades 7 and 8, became (to me) the most handsome thing ever, even more handsome than crowd favourites Rob and Julius. But Greg liked Christine (they all liked Christine), a cute-as-a-button fashionista (seriously, this kid knew what was up) who was the unofficial group leader at school, and was constantly rich with choice re: boys to like. Mine was an awful, all-consuming crush—a theme for crushes all my life. I’d find any excuse to be around him, and his likes were suddenly my likes. We did legitimately have one thing in common, though: Inspector Gadget. Despite the torture of not having my feelings for him reciprocated, I was grateful to have someone to discuss that morning’s episode with. There was no fake-liking the brilliance of Penny always cleaning up after the bungling Inspector. I thought it was gold, and I’d wake up extra early to eat breakfast before it was on, because there was no eating in front of the TV in my house—ever. For some reason my parents never counted this morning cartoon indulgence against my half hour of evening television (an hour on Sundays).
     Every morning my dad would make orange juice from fro­zen concentrate, and every morning I’d want to drink it right away, before all the ice crystals had melted. He’d butter toast, slice grapefruit, and my mom would stir up some instant oat­meal, while my much younger brother, Jonathan, would ride around the kitchen on a plastic cow on wheels with an air pump that made it moo—the only place in the house, aside from the bathroom, that wasn’t carpeted—getting underfoot. If I could manage to scarf all that breakfast down, only then could I watch Inspector Gadget.
     My parents’ parenting of me always felt like a combina­tion of the tight grip of paranoia and an irresistible urge to just let me do as I pleased, so they seemed incredibly grateful my brother was so much less defiant. Although, once I cut off the air pump on that awful cow in a fit of annoyance, with the intention of rendering it silent forever, he figured out he could just blow into the hole to make it moo, so that was pretty defiant.

I very clearly remember the first time I did get drunk, at thirteen, just as the school year was kicking off my final year before high school, as trees were turning from bright green to deep gold and red, a visual ode to Boy George and Jamaican flags. We’d planned the night for weeks, knowing that eventually my parents would be out some Friday night to attend the ballet or the symphony. That night finally came, and I huddled in the living room with my three closest friends, Kathleen, Christine, and Caroline. My parents didn’t even ask why we seemed giddier than usual, though I doubt they even noticed—the four of us together always ended up in fits of giggles and whispers.
     The moment we heard the garage door shut behind my parents, we raced to the liquor cabinet, which was, because of the lack of reverence my parents had for liquor, more like an ordinary cupboard beside the fridge than a cabinet. (Naturally, I’d prefer a more dedicated display if I were to keep liquor in the house. I don’t—with three spots all with great cocktails mere steps away, there’s simply no need.) My parents didn’t drink much while I was growing up, although I eventually learned my dad kept a bottle of sherry in his desk drawer, which sparked in me a lifelong love of the stuff. I imagine he’d sit there punching numbers into his adding machine—a pre-computer, large-scale calculator whose gears you could hear grinding away even from the kitchen, a floor away—and sip­ping sherry, just a little bit.
     I dragged a plush chair from the kitchen table to reach the cupboard. Everything inside looked weird and foreign, and as I gingerly pulled out bottles and passed them down, antic­ipation grew. I hopped off the chair and we struggled to open the stuck-on caps. Eventually, through sheer force of will, we twisted them off, immediately noticing that what was inside the bottles smelled even more foreign than they looked. Up until that point, while I’d had a thousand sips of my dad’s beer foam, I’d never smelled anything like gin. I put it to my nose, and was almost immediately knocked back by its aggressive astringency. It smelled like something I imagined would be better suited for polishing silverware than sipping in cocktails. At thirteen I couldn’t imagine why anyone would ever want to drink something that smelled like it would tear a hole in your gut. Now, of course, I can’t imagine a more mundane life than one without gin-and-tonics.
     After sniffing a few of the spirits and not really knowing the differences between them—they all smelled like they’d kill you—we narrowed it down to the options with “chocolate” or “fruit” on the labels, eventually settling on crème de menthe and some Swiss chocolate almond liqueur. Both smelled sweet and delicious, so I bravely sipped them. But the flavours were distracting to my mouth, the tweaks of alcohol off. Still, that didn’t stop me—or Kathleen, Christine, and Caroline—from gulping directly from the bottles. In that moment, we were convinced that if we used glasses my parents would know we’d been using them for liquor. It never occurred to us that we could wash and put them away before my mother and father got home.
     We passed the bottles around for a while, getting louder and more giggly as the night went on. On first pass we couldn’t have had much more than the equivalent of one proper adult drink. But man, either we were wasted, or we just believed we should be so hard that we became so. We spent the evening stair-diving—a not entirely smart thing to do sober, let alone drunk, but then we weren’t entirely smart. We scurried to the top of a carpeted stairwell (which, at that time, in the suburbs, meant any staircase) and I positioned myself, banana-style—an arched missile perched on the top step—legs flailing behind with my pals gamely holding on to them. I was face first, splayed out on a pathetic-looking towel I’d plucked from the linen closet, posi­tive that if I used a fluffy white one my mother, a woman with “display” tea towels, would surely know what we’d been up to. We counted down—“Three! Two! One! Geronimo!”—they released my legs, and I zoomed down the stairs at lightning speed, somehow not chipping a tooth. Screaming with laugh­ter, we took turns, and as experience and liqueur emboldened us, simply releasing legs was exaggerated to the point of actively shoving each other down the fourteen steps, rewarding our survival with sips of crème de menthe between rounds.
     We drank enough sickly sweet liqueur that, in conjunction with the stair-diving, it was all just too much for my stomach, and at some point during the night it rejected its contents. Somehow I managed to puke into my metal garbage can in the middle of the night and sneak it to the toilet in the morning without my mom noticing anything was amiss. And no one else was busted—everyone’s parents had picked up their daughters around 10:30 and either didn’t smell the booze or didn’t bring it up. The perfect crime.
     After that night I don’t think I touched alcohol much until high school. I went to a huge school with a great academic program, which is why my mother insisted I go there instead of the high school my elementary school streamed into, and where all of my friends, except for Greg, were going. Like me, he was going to Woburn Collegiate, a 2,000-student school a bus ride away from my house, and while I was excited that we’d be going to the same school, once we arrived there, I real­ized that something had happened—rather, something hadn’t happened to him—during that strange summer full of para­lyzing fears of the unknown between primary and high school. By the time I noticed what hadn’t happened to Greg, our lock­ers were in the same corridor and I towered over him, skinny legs and all. Surrounded by new boys, most of them tall and unknown, Miller High Life–drinking Greg Harper no longer had my attention.

* Name changed

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My Life in Hockey
also available: eBook Paperback
tagged : hockey, sports

The #1 Bestselling Canadian Non-Fiction Book of the Year

They called him Killer.

Doug Gilmour didn’t look fearsome on a pair of skates—being an “undersized” forward would plague him during his early career—but few players matched his killer instincts in the faceoff circle or in front of the net. The Hockey Hall of Famer from Kingston, Ontario, played for seven teams over his twenty-year career, netting 450 goals and 964 assists during the regular season and another 188 points in the play …

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The Unceasing Storm

The Unceasing Storm

Memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution

Just over fifty years ago, China’s Cultural Revolution began. The movement was intended to bring about a return to revolutionary Maoist beliefs and resulted in attacks on intellectuals and those believed to be counter-revolutionaries, capitalists and rightists; a large-scale purge in government posts; the appearance of a personality cult around Mao Zedong; and an estimated death count of between one and three million.

When Katherine Luo moved from Hong Kong to mainland China in 1955 to study dr …

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Birds Art Life

Birds Art Life

also available: Hardcover

A seminal work, Birds Art Life recounts Maclear's year-long adventure of discovering inspiration in the intricacies of birds, bird-searching and bird-watching in a big city.

     The natural world has played muse to generations of poets, writers and artists alike, inspiring them to step away from their work, even for a short while, and observe its rhythmic phenomena. From the pastoral evocations of Wordsworth to Sylvia Plath's fascination with bees, to Monet's artistic renderings of his resident …

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One winter, not so long ago, I met a musician who loved birds. This musician, who was then in his mid-thirties, had found he could not always cope with the pressures and disappoint­ments of being an artist in a big city. He liked banging away on his piano like Fats Waller but performing and promoting himself made him feel anxious and de­pressed. Very occasionally his depression served him well and allowed him to write lonesome songs of love but most of the time it just ate at him. When he fell in love with birds and began to photograph them, his anxieties dissipated. The sound of birdsong reminded him to look outwards at the world.
That was the winter that started early. It snowed end­lessly. I remember a radio host saying: “Global warming? Ha!” It was also the winter I found myself with a broken part. I didn’t know what it was that was broken, only that whatever widget had previously kept me on plan, running fluidly along, no longer worked as it should. I watched those around me who were still successfully carrying on, organizing meals and careers and children. I wanted to be reminded. I had lost the beat.
My father had recently suffered two strokes. Twice—when the leaves were still on the trees—he had fallen and been unable to get up. The second fall had been particularly frightening, accompanied by a dangerously high fever brought on by sepsis, and I wasn’t sure he would live. The MRI showed microbleeds, stemming from tiny ruptured blood vessels in my father’s brain.
The same MRI also revealed an unruptured cerebral aneurysm. An “incidental finding,” according to the neurologist, who explained, to our concerned faces, his decision to withhold surgery because of my father’s age.
During those autumn months, when my father’s situation was most uncertain, I felt at a loss for words. I did not speak about the beeping of monitors in generic hospital rooms and the rhythmic rattle of orderlies pushing soiled linen basins through the corridors. I did not deliver my thoughts on the cruelty of bed shortages (two days on a gurney in a corridor, a thin blanket to cover his hairless calves and pale feet), the smell of hospital food courts and the strange appeal of waiting room couches—slick vinyl, celery green, and deceptively soft. I did not speak of the relief of coming home late at night to a silent house and filling a tub with water, slipping under the bubbles and closing my eyes, the quiet soapy comfort of being cleaned instead of cleaning, of being a woman condi­tioned to soothe others, now soothed. I did not speak about the sense of incipient loss. I did not know how to think about illness that moved slowly and erratically but that could fell a person in an instant.

I experienced this wordlessness in my life but also on the page. In the moments I found to write, I often fell asleep. The act of wrangling words into sentences into paragraphs into stories made me weary. It seemed an overly complicated, dubious effort. My work now came with a recognition that my father, the person who had instilled in me a love of language, who had led me to the writing life, was losing words rapidly.
Even though the worst of the crisis passed quickly, I was afraid to go off duty. I feared that if I looked away, I would not be prepared for the loss to come and it would flatten me. I had inherited from my father (a former war reporter/professional pessimist) the belief that an expectancy of the worst could provide in its own way a ring of protection. We followed the creed of preventive anxiety.
It is possible too that I was experiencing something known as anticipatory grief, the mourning that occurs before a certain loss. Anticipatory. Expectatory. Trepi­datory. This grief had a dampness. It did not drench or drown me but it hung in the air like a pallid cloud, thinning but never entirely vanishing. It followed me wherever I went and gradually I grew used to looking at the world through it.
I had always assumed grief was experienced purely as a sadness. My received images of grief came from art school and included portraits of keening women, mourners with heads bowed, hands to faces, weeping by candlelight. But anticipatory grief, I was surprised to learn, demanded a different image, a more alert posture. My job was to remain standing or sitting, monitoring all directions continually. Like the women who, according to legend, once paced the railed rooftop platforms of nineteenth-century North American coastal houses, watching the sea for incom­ing ships, hence earning those lookouts the name widow’s walk. I was on the lookout, scouring the horizon from every angle, for doom.

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The Measure of My Powers

The Measure of My Powers

A Memoir of Food, Misery, and Paris

INSTANT NATIONAL BESTSELLER. For fans of Eat Pray Love, Wild, and H is for Hawk, The Measure of My Powers is the story of one woman's search for self-love, experienced through food and travel.
"With searing vulnerability and unflinching honesty, Jackie Kai Ellis takes us on an intense and immersive journey from her darkest moments to the redemption she finds through her love of food, Paris, and ultimately, herself."
--Jen Waite, bestselling author of A Beautiful, Terrible Thing

On the surface, Ja …

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The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
These were the two moments in my day I dreaded—no, I think “feared” is a better word—most: the moment just before sleep and the precise moment I woke up. The unnerving silence of those times. There were no busy sounds to distract me, and nothing to occupy my mind. They were the moments I would be forced to face my own tangled and disfigured mind, even though I wanted desperately to look away.

At night I would lie awake sometimes until the dark sky lightened into paler shades of dawn. My insides crawled and vibrated, panic hijacking hours that, for others, were filled with easy rest. Even when I did find sleep, usually on the couch with the artificial noises of late-night TV lulling me, it was never for very long.

In the morning my chest would clench and yearn for uncon­sciousness. I kept my eyes closed and my body still, like a corpse, in hopes that my fragile sleep wouldn’t leave me completely. I tried to remember the last lingering image, any residue of a dream, wanting it to pull me back for another moment or two, but I was always out of luck and would quickly realize the effort was in vain. I hadn’t dreamt in months. In the past, my dreams had been wild and vivid: full of colors, conversations, places, the feel of fabric between my fingertips, or even the faces of people I had long forgotten. I would dream of a friend’s hazel eyes speckled with rust, or of the fine hairs at the back of their neck that formed a V. But these dreams had stopped, and so had sleep, with rest­lessness replacing both almost entirely. I was abandoned and forced to be alive for another day, so I would relent and slowly open my eyes to my dark, damp bedroom.

Inhale. Exhale.

“I can do this. Just get through today . . . and then after today . . .” I paused to imagine what came next. There was only a repeating image of a lifeless routine that made me feel nauseated.

“Tomorrow it starts all over again.” Dread filled me. I closed my eyes again, sinking into myself, wishing I could cry, but mostly, that ability had abandoned me too. “I have to do this over and over again, and again, and again,” I thought to myself, G sprawled to my left, the sheets, humid from his sweat, covering me like thick, cold skin.

“When does this end?” Inhale. Exhale.

Light was so unbearable to G that he had dark blinds installed on every window in our two-bedroom apartment. Greater than his dislike for light, though, was his loathing of materialism and superfluous “things.” So there was no artwork on the walls of our room, there weren’t any family photos or night tables for them to sit on, only a bed and a generic Swedish floor lamp in the corner. And every single morning, I awoke in this beige room, with bare beige walls and carpets that were an ever-so-slightly lighter shade of beige. I opened my eyes to nothing but emptiness in an empty room, numb with only the feeling of moist blankets cradling me.

I pleaded silently to God, to anything that might help me. “All I need is one thing, one thing to focus on, one thing that will help me get through today. Anything. Please.”

I scanned through my day for something that might give me relief. Waking up. Showering. Getting dressed. Driving to work. Saying good morning to coworkers. Starting a new design account. Meetings. Lunch . . . maybe.

I decided on one of the few things that still made me smile: “I’ll eat a chocolate chip cookie.”

I sat up and headed to the shower. I dressed myself in opaque black tights and a baggy tweed skirt suit I bought from a store I frequented that catered to affluent seniors. I tied my black hair in a tight bun at the nape of my neck and put on my wire-framed glasses and a pair of pearl earrings I had received as a wedding gift from an uncle. I was careful to look polished so no one would suspect that I was actually breaking apart, but I was also purpose­fully unobtrusive so as not to draw too much attention. I drove to work in my reliable silver sedan, and after lunch, I sat at a café table while I savored each sweet bite of my chocolate chip cookie, taking time to sip black coffee between each morsel. For those minutes, there was nothing else, no one to please, nothing to prove, just a cookie and me.
In the months that followed, I felt myself become more numb. There were muffled sounds of laughter and life bus­tling all around me, and yet it felt like I was submerged deep underwater, separated and hearing only the sound of my own breath and my heart slowly beating. I lived in this isolated world, sometimes comforted by the imaginary cocoon that solitude cre­ated, but mostly feeling anxious and restless for anything but the stillness. I was desperate to escape the feeling, and the longer it continued, the more I fantasized about a world where not only did I not exist, but where I had never existed at all.

The first time this thought had crossed my mind was about seven years earlier. I was lying in bed on a sunny afternoon, having come home during summer break from art college across the country with an overwhelming sense of pressure closing in on me. I didn’t understand it completely—I didn’t know why I felt it at all. Perhaps I could sense that I had disappointed my parents with the career I had chosen, but I also knew that I hadn’t been something that I was told I was supposed to be. I simply didn’t know how. Feeling like a helpless failure, I toyed with the idea of death. But I didn’t want to disappoint my family even more than I felt I had already, and I imagined that suicide would be shame­ful and burdensome for them. I wanted to be eliminated from their memories entirely.

I pulled and straightened the blanket over my head, hiding and imagining myself disappearing.
“How perfect would it be if I never existed? I could escape all of this,” I whispered, the sheets resting lightly on my face. They smelled musty and comforting, like my parents’ home.

Years later, these seemingly innocent daydreams were replaced with invasive, surprising, flickering images. Every time I crossed the street, changed lanes, or drove through an intersection, I would see Mack trucks demolishing me. As I soaked in the tub, the image of my dead body in a bath of blood would appear in my mind, along with scenes of G discovering it and then having to making agonizing calls to my family.

When I was a young adult, my younger cousin C killed her­self. I overheard that when her parents had found her, in a base­ment room, there was blood everywhere. I caught a glimpse of the room later. The white linoleum floor was spotless, and I won­dered who had cleaned it. Over the years following, I continued to see the devastating impact on the entire family. I saw the light die in my uncle’s eyes, never to return. I understood that C didn’t foresee the pain she would cause in her family’s life by ending her own, but the memory of that time and the knowledge that I would hurt those I loved if I chose to leave it were the only things holding me to life, like a leash.

But still, when the sadness was too paralyzing and all I could see and feel was my own incessant pain, I just wanted relief. “I think the best way is to take pills, painless and peaceful,” I jour­naled one evening. “But there is always the fear of waking up and things being worse, like brain damage, paralysis. Slitting my wrists is also an option, only because I hate the idea of suffocation. But that is messy (the blood, G would have to clean it up). Hanging: not pretty; they will have too much to regret when pulling me down. I heard C took painkillers. I heard there was blood, but she did it. She was decisive, resolute and spent time saying goodbye. I could too. I could write letters.”

I resolved to make a better plan, one where my family wouldn’t have to find my dead body or clean up some morbid mess. My plan also needed to be foolproof; they couldn’t be burdened by the consequences of the plan backfiring. And, though I figured it wouldn’t be more than the pain I already felt, I didn’t want it to hurt a lot.

I began my research there and Googled “painless ways to kill yourself.” Diagrams, including medieval, gothic imagery flooded my screen. I clicked on a link for a forum topic: “Carbon monox­ide is often not as effective as commonly believed.” I educated myself on how catalytic converters decreased the levels of poison in exhaust and the increasingly popular “death by hibachi.” But then I read a comment that made my body go cold.

“Don’t do it, it’s not worth it.”

It wasn’t the truth of the statement that caught me off-guard; it was the unexpectedly banal stereotype that snapped me into a different consciousness. It reminded me of all those movies where someone is trying to talk an unstable person off a building’s ledge. Then it dawned on me that, in this scenario, I was the one on the edge of the cliché, and it all seemed laughable and then incredibly frightening when contrasted to the reality of how close I was to killing myself. I had to tell G.

“I looked up ways to kill myself today. I don’t think that’s normal.”

“No. Maybe you should go talk to someone. I’m not sure I can help you.”

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I Am Nobody

I Am Nobody

Confronting the Sexually Abusive Coach Who Stole My Life

”I Am Nobody is an honest, tragic account of child sexual abuse and a powerful resource for individuals struggling with recovery. Gilhooly clearly highlights the shortcomings of the Canadian justice system’s approach; hopefully, one day, the punishment will fit the crime." —Sheldon Kennedy, former NHL player and author of Why I Didn't Say Anything

In this raw, unflinching look at how his dream of playing hockey was stolen from him by charismatic hockey coach and sexual predator Graham James …

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Dear Current Occupant

Dear Current Occupant

also available: eBook

Winner of the 2018 City of Vancouver Book Award

From Vancouver-based writer Chelene Knight, Dear Current Occupant is a creative non-fiction memoir about home and belonging set in the 80s and 90s of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Using a variety of forms, 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 non-chronological memories of trying …

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The Wife's Tale

The Wife's Tale

A Personal History

A FINALIST FOR THE GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD: The true story of one indomitable woman caught in the tumult of an extraordinary century in Ethiopia, The Wife's Tale has the sweep and lyrical power that captivated readers of Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone.

A hundred years ago, a girl was born in the northern Ethiopian city of Gondar. Before she was ten years old, Yetemegnu was married to a man two decades her senior, an ambitious poet-priest. Over her lifetime her world changed beyond …

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