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The 2021 Toronto Book Award Longlist
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The 2021 Toronto Book Award Longlist

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An awards list across genres celebrating Toronto settings and authors.
Missing from the Village

Missing from the Village

The Story of Serial Killer Bruce McArthur, the Search for Justice, and the System That Failed Toronto's Queer Community
edition:Hardcover

The tragic and resonant story of the disappearance of eight men--the victims of serial killer Bruce McArthur--from Toronto's queer community.

In 2013, the Toronto Police Service announced that the disappearances of three men--Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, and Majeed Kayhan--from Toronto's gay village were, perhaps, linked. When the leads ran dry, the investigation was shut down, on paper classified as "open but suspended." By 2015, investigative journalist Justin Ling had begun to retr …

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Excerpt

 
Ottawa is quiet in the summer. Though it is normally a vibrat­ing hive of journalists, politicians, and staffers, the city settles in the doldrums of summer. Legislators empty the nation’s capital around June, migrating back to their home ridings, to see and be seen with constituents at barbecues and block parties. Staffers take long-awaited vacations or hole up in air-conditioned offices to prepare war plans. Reporters, who usually scramble about to chase down government ministers through the ornate stone hall­ways of Parliament, relish the tranquillity and spend the summer trying to catch up on forgotten work and passion projects.

But this year—2015—there’s an election underway, which many expect would set Ottawa alight. Not so. Unlike American races, Canadian elections don’t generally last for more than a month and a half. Election day, now, is still five months away, meaning the pacing is absolutely glacial. There’s also some conventional wisdom: the best place in the country to be if you want to avoid poli­tics during an election is Ottawa. My title says I’m Parliamentary Reporter for VICE News, but there’s not much politics to be reporting on.

So on a languid, humid Thursday in July, I swivel in my chair. I stare out at the grey cubicles that line my office space, on the third floor of the capital’s Parliament buildings. My desk is the one closest to the window, on the aisle second from the left. The sur­rounding desks look more or less as mine does—piled high with papers, books, newspapers. The room is tucked off a long marble hallway. A few doors down, to the left, is the well-adorned Senate chamber. To the right, farther down the hall, is the House of Commons. The well-placed office space is set aside for reporters in the Parliamentary Press Gallery. It’s commonly referred to as the Hot Room, a name inherited from a time when the building was so replete with journalists that you’d have to loosen your tie and dab the sweat off your brow. It was so packed that tables had to be set up in the hallway to accommodate the reporters.

On this summer day, it is anything but packed. Hot, though, it is. I’m practically hugging the air conditioner next to my desk. I zone out, my gaze focusing somewhere beyond the yellowing framed photos of political journalists who worked here decades before, out through the tall windows, overlooking the waterfall that feeds into the Ottawa River.

With the political world hibernating, I’m racking my brain for a new project.

And then, a thought jumps into my head. It’s a sudden shock, like being jolted awake at night with the sudden realization you’ve left the oven on. I can picture the headline, one I saw years prior. A story about men who had been disappeared from the Gay Village in Toronto.

On this quiet afternoon, I grope around in the dark, trying to recall details. All three were brown-skinned, right? They were in the closet—or, maybe not all of them. Were they last seen at the Black Eagle?

I can see the outlines of three portraits of the men. Brown-skinned. Bearded. Middle-aged. But the portraits are a little too far away, and it’s a little too dark, to really make out their faces. But I can tell just how similar all three looked. I remember a gut feeling, from when I read that story: serial killer.

I snap back to reality and open up the best memory aid for our collective psyche: Google. I try some vague search terms—missing men Toronto. Too broad. Missing gay men. Still too broad. Missing men Toronto Gay Village.

The second hit is the story I’m thinking of. “Piecing together the story of three missing men from Toronto’s gay village,” the head­line reads. June 8, 2013. It’s on Xtra, Canada’s main gay news outlet. Underneath the main photo is the smiling face of Andrea Houston. Her bright pink hair matches the brilliant rose hue of the website’s banner. I wrote for Xtra for years and got to know Andrea very well.

More details are emerging about three missing men who vanished from the Church-Wellesley Village.

Toronto Police Service investigators say the three missing-persons cases are connected through “similar ethnicities.” Detective Deb Harris, who is leading the investigation, says the three men were not all openly gay. “They frequented the Church and Wellesley area and lived similar lifestyles.”

That word, lifestyle, always makes me cringe when it’s applied to queer folk. As though it were describing a love for crochet or Caribbean cruises. It strikes me that collapsing such a core part of some­one’s identity into a signifier as fleeting as a lifestyle also robs police and the public of a vital piece of the picture. A detail that could help tie cases together and expose trends.

But here were the personal details of all three men. Skandaraj “Skanda” Navaratnam: Last seen, September 6, 2010. Abdulbasir  “Basir” Faizi: Last seen, December 29, 2010. Majeed “Hamid” Kayhan: Last seen, October 14, 2012.

Skanda “left a new puppy,” a police spokesperson said. Basir had called his wife to say “I’m coming home late tonight,” his sister reported. Hamid “just disappeared off the face of the Earth,” recalled a drinking buddy.

I hit Back and scroll through the search results again, reading through a dozen other news stories.

Navaratnam was last seen leaving a bar on Church Street. . . .

Faizi’s car was found in the Leaside neighbourhood. . . .

Kayhan was last seen at a family wedding. . . .

Those stories are all from 2013.

I start poring over the stories: had police made an arrest?

In the two years since, there has been almost nothing. No tri­umphant police press conference, announcing they had caught a serial killer. Alternatively, no quiet announcement that any of the three men had been found.

A local newspaper in Mississauga, near where Basir lived, fol­lowed up on his story in 2015 reiterating his family’s plea to see Basir come home. The South Bayview Bulldog, a community paper serving the Leaside neighbourhood, published a story some months later, wondering why Basir’s car had wound up where it did. No other media—not one of Canada’s major newspapers or television stations—had revisited the incredibly troubling story of the missing men. Nor would they, until years later.

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Saga Boy

Saga Boy

My Life of Blackness and Becoming
edition:Paperback

SHORTLISTED for the 2021 Speaker's Book Award
 
The triumph of Saga Boy is the triumph of Blackness everywhere--the irrepressible instinct for survival in a world where Blacks are prey."
--Ian Williams, Giller Prize-winning author of Reproduction
An enthralling, deeply personal account of a young immigrant's search for belonging and Black identity amid the long-lasting effects of cultural dislocation.

Antonio Michael Downing's memoir of creativity and transformation is a startling mash-up of memo …

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Crosshairs

Crosshairs

A Novel
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback Paperback

A NOW Magazine Best Book of the Year
A CBC Books Best Canadian Fiction of the Year
A Maclean's 20 Books You Need to Read This Winter

The author of the acclaimed novel Scarborough weaves an unforgettable and timely dystopian account of a near-future when a queer Black performer and his allies join forces against an oppressive regime that is rounding up those deemed “Other” in concentration camps.

In a terrifyingly familiar near-future, with massive floods that lead to rampant homelessness and d …

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Aether

Aether

An Out-of-Body Lyric
edition:Paperback

In Aether Catherine Graham has created a luminous homage to family, to cancer and to the strange windings of truth. Swimming through time and space, Graham introduces her mother, her father and herself and the cancers that pull them apart and bring them together. Memories mesh with visitations and multiple stories unfold of pain and loss, hidden tragedy, forgiveness and growth. With an otherworldly delicacy Graham stitches it all together to create a book-length lyric essay of lingering and prof …

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Swimmers in Winter

Swimmers in Winter

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Shortlisted for the 2021 ReLit Award

Certain Women meets The Mars Room in this debut collection featuring three pairs of stories.

Sharp and stylistic, the trifecta of diptychs that is Swimmers in Winter swirls between real and imagined pasts and futures to delve into our present cultural moment: conflicts between queer people and the police; the impact of homophobia, bullying, and PTSD; the dynamics of women’s friendships; life for queer women in Toronto during WWII and after; the intersections …

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On Property

On Property

Policing, Prisons, and the Call for Abolition
edition:Paperback

From plantation rebellion to prison labour's super-exploitation, Walcott examines the relationship between policing and property.

That a man can lose his life for passing a fake $20 bill when we know our economies are flush with fake money says something damning about the way we’ve organized society. Yet the intensity of the calls to abolish the police after George Floyd’s death surprised almost everyone. What, exactly, does abolition mean? How did we get here? And what does property have to …

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Speak, Silence

Speak, Silence

edition:Hardcover

LONGLISTED for the 2021 Toronto Book Award
 
From the internationally bestselling and Giller-shortlisted author of The Disappeared, an astounding, poetic novel about war and loss, suffering and courage, and the strength of women through it all.
 

It’s been eleven years since Gota has seen Kosmos, yet she still finds herself fantasizing about their intimate year together in Paris. Now it’s 1999 and, working as a journalist, she hears about a film festival in Sarajevo, where she knows Kosmos w …

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Hana Khan Carries On

Hana Khan Carries On

A Novel
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback Paperback
tagged : humorous

From the author of Ayesha at Last comes a sparkling new rom-com for fans of “You’ve Got Mail,” set in two competing halal restaurants

Sales are slow at Three Sisters Biryani Poutine, the only halal restaurant in the close-knit Golden Crescent neighbourhood. Hana waitresses there part time, but what she really wants is to tell stories on the radio. If she can just outshine her fellow intern at the city radio station, she may have a chance at landing a job. In the meantime, Hana pours her tho …

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