In the words of our Festival Director, Arielle Spence, “Growing Room is a celebration, a protest, a reflection, a re-envisioning, a gathering, a question, and a dream. It is the culmination of forty years of hard work and creativity and the start of a new era.” If you're eager to attend but uncertain where to begin, we understand; when the festival was conceptualized two years ago, we did not foresee organizing a five-day festival with twenty-five panels, workshops, readings, and special events, involving over fifty emerging and established writers and artists.
After being shortlisted for Room's Annual CNF Contest in 2015, Sarah Kabamba won the Fiction Contest in the same year with “They Come Crying.” Subsequently, the writer was published again in Room—this time with her poetry, “Dust”, in the Women of Colour issue. Room's Kayi Wong talked to Sarah about her motivation and diligence when it comes to multiple genres of writing.
2016 may have sucked, but on the bright side, it inspired some incredible writing (see #3 on this list). Last year we shared our top 15 most-read posts of 2015, and I thought I'd continue the trend—and so, here are the ten most-read posts on roommagazine.com in 2016.
Nav Nagra, who has been an editorial board member and the advertising coordinator at Room since 2014, will be editing an upcoming issue of the magazine on migration. Nav has written poetry and reviews for Project Space, Sad Magazine, Lemon Hound, Room, and the New Vancouver Poets Folio. Kayi Wong spoke to Nav about why she chose migration as a theme, and how reading submissions have changed the way she reads and writes.
More often than not, when Roomies gather, we talk about books. Books we can't put down, books we couldn't put up with, and books that make us talk. For this reading list, eleven of us got together and discussed novels, short story collections, poetry, memoirs, and comics that we have read and loved which happen to be written by Canadian Women of Colour. A few of these are well-known classics, a few are upcoming releases. There are stories set locally and abroad, and also include one in dystopian Toronto. Writing from the Women of Colour perspective is not a genre, but instead a multitude of voices, stories, and experiences coming together. And even though we are honoured to feature a handful of these writers are in our upcoming anthology, we know that this is just a starting point, and by no means a comprehensive list of books written by Canadian WOCs. At Room, we recognize that there is work to do, and we are already working on a part two.
Our Annual Cover Art Contest has officially opened again! We took the opportunity and spoke to our first ever winner, Tiffany Mallery, whose winning piece was published recently on the cover our last issue—Room 39.2, Between Shadows. She told us about her life after art school and books that inspire her work. Aside from Room, she has also been published in American Illustration, and Uppercase magazine.
Getting a peek of an avid reader’s bookshelf is one of life’s simple pleasures. If you’ve ever shown up to a house party and gone straight to the host’s bookshelf, you know how satisfying it is to snoop through other readers’ libraries. The editors of Room love reading (obviously), and we’re giving you a glimpse of our shelves and sharing how we get the most out of our sacred reading time.
And the winners are ...
“The Japanese part has got to go,” Egg Murakami says to herself as she tries to brush off and survive another day of school bullying. It’s 1974 in a small prairie town, Buttercreek, Alberta, and the only Japanese-Canadian family—The Murakamis—are falling apart after the death of their only son. In the centre of it all is eight-year-old Egg, the youngest in the family, who is more sensitive than anyone around her is aware of. She lives on her family’s ostrich farm with her older sister and parents who are dealing with the grief of their son’s death with alcohol and detachment. Once the barn served as the family’s bread and butter, but has now become the father’s daily hideout and Egg’s after-school safe haven.
Between school bullying and the alienation from her family, Egg doesn’t feel like she’s enough for anyone: “Now they are all broken apart and Mama’s lost and drifting and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men will never be able to put them back together again.” In her search for the truth behind her brother’s unexpected death, she comes to realize that life doesn’t have as many answers as her books and homework. “She thinks, people die all the time. You make up a story to make sense of the world. But what if the world doesn’t make sense,” Kobayashi writes. A lesson learnt much too early.
Stories told from the perspectives of a young protagonist often risk sounding pretentiously precocious or condescendingly naive. Tamai Kobayashi, however, has created an intricate and grounded portrait of adversity in adolescence. Egg is grappling with her first crush, torments from a school bully, and daily microagressions related to her ethnicity and gender, while still maintaining a spark of wide-eyed optimism. Struggling with these complexities, the author eloquently develops a convincing full-story navigating personal and external conflict. This becomes apparent when Egg’s struggles converge and even she has to question if all her challenges are a consequence of her family and skin colour, or of her brother’s unexpected death.
Kobayashi’s heartbreaking, yet resilient story of Egg reiterates how issues of ethnicity, gender, class, history, family, and growing up are never experienced independent of other struggles and identities. And if good stories are meant to remind readers that none of us are truly isolated or remarkable with our thoughts and shortcomings, Prairie Ostrich kindly reminds its readers of the heavy insecurity we all experience as we navigate the world, and even in the relationships that are most important and intuitive to us.
We are getting so excited and inspired (and hungry) watching your submissions roll in for our upcoming Food issue! In the spirit of the food theme, we put together this collection of Roomies’ favourite cookbooks for writers.
Currently on Newsstands
Room 40.1, Food
Edited by Rose Morris, Kayi Wong
In this issue:
Sarah Beck, Ashwini Bhasi, Kat Cameron, Lucas Crawford, Dora Dueck, Marilyn Dumont, Rebecca Fishow, Veronica Fredericks, Rachel Jansen, Jane Kirby, Alexis von Konigslow, Lee Lai, Tess Liem, Alice Lowe, Tanis MacDonald , sab meynert, Silvia Pikal, Marika Prokosh, Keyu Song, Sylvia Symons, Ivy Tang, Carol Wainio, Kayi Wong, Catriona Wright, Nicole Xu.