A novella or a short book by a member of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community
By Alex Platt
If you’ve been looking for a slim read you can finish in an afternoon or evening, are stuck in the middle of too many books, or have fallen out of the habit of reading daily, this month’s FOLD challenge has you covered. We’ve selected four novellas and short books by authors from the LGBTQ2SIA+ community in the hopes that we can introduce you to writers without the lengthy commitment needed for longer reads. Don’t be fooled, though: while brief, these works leave lasting impressions in the mind.
The Good Arabs, by Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch
Swinging from post-explosion Beirut to a Parc-Extension balcony in summer, the verse and prose poems in The Good Arabs ground the reader in place, language, and the body. Peeling and rinsing radishes. Dancing as a pre-teen to Nancy Ajram. Being drenched in stares on the city bus. The collection is an interlocking and rich offering of the speaker’s communities, geographical surroundings both expansive and precise, and family both biological and chosen.
The Good Arabs gifts the reader with insight into cycles and repetition in ourselves and our broken nations. This genre-defying collection maps Arab and trans identity through the immensity of experience felt in one body, the sorrow of citizens let down by their countries, and the garbage crisis in Lebanon. Ultimately, it shows how we might love amid dismay, adore the pungent and the ugly, and exist in our multiplicity across spaces.
Our Story: Coming Out in the Age of HIV and AIDS, by Robert Hamilton
This is a story of friendship, love, loss, and drag told with humor and compassion. In 1977, the author, then a naïve young man, escapes his pulp and paper mill town in northern New Brunswick and goes in search of his gay self. After two years studying in Toronto, he moves to Edmonton, begins his career as a prison guard and timidly comes out into the gay scene. A lasting and sometimes tumultuous friendship develops with Joe, a drag queen and in the summer of 1982 they move to Vancouver in anticipation of fun times and promising futures. Their world changes when they’re swept into the eye of the AIDS storm, a time when testing positive for HIV was considered a death sentence. Written in diary form this is an unflinching account of Joe from before testing positive for HIV until his death. This is an intimate look at the impact AIDS had on the author’s family of gay friends and those around them.
Suture, by Nic Brewer
To make her films, Eva must take out her eyes and use them as batteries. To make her art, Finn must cut open her chest and remove her lungs and heart. To write her novels, Grace must use her blood to power the word processor.
Suture shares three interweaving stories of artists tearing themselves open to make art. Each artist baffles their family, or harms their loved ones, with their necessary sacrifices. Eva’s wife worries about her mental health; Finn’s teenager follows in her footsteps, using forearms bones for drumsticks; Grace’s network constantly worries about the prolific writer’s penchant for self-harm, and the over-use of her vitals for art.
The result is a hyper-real exploration of the cruelties we commit and forgive in ourselves and others. Brewer brings a unique perspective to mental illness while exploring how support systems in relationships—spousal, parental, familial—can be both helpful and damaging.
This exciting debut novel is a highly original meditation on the fractures within us, and the importance of empathy as medicine and glue.
On Property: Policing, Prisons, and the Call for Abolition, by Rinaldo Walcott (Available on Audible Canada)
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 do with it? In On Property, Rinaldo Walcott explores the long shadow cast by slavery’s afterlife and shows how present-day abolitionists continue the work of their forebears in service of an imaginative, creative philosophy that ensures freedom and equality for all. Thoughtful, wide-ranging, compassionate, and profound, On Property makes an urgent plea for a new ethics of care.