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.
Get some inspiration before our CNF contest closes. Room collective members share some of our favourite creative non-fiction—from books on writing craft, California, new works on feminism, and coffee, here's some of what we're reading and suggest you pick up...
Our 2015 Fiction Contest Winner, Sarah Kabamba, talks about her writing process and motivation and her winning-story, “They Come Crying.”
Comics and graphic novels hit the sweet sweet spot between art and literature. Here, Room editors share a few of our favourites.
Currently on Newsstands
Room 41.2, Changing Language
Edited by Kayi Wong
In this issue:
Manahil Bandukwala, Fang Bu, Allison Graves, Kadijah Guillaume, Ava Homa, Ashley Hynd, Amy LeBlanc, Vanessa Lent, Tasslyn Magnusson, Chloe Yelena Miller, Amy Oldfield, Alycia Pirmohamed, Mia Poirier, Victoria Prevot, Michelle Purchase, Jade Riordan, Ellie Sawatzky, Bren Simmers, Dahae Song, Anne Stone, Susie Taylor, Katherena Vermette, Kayi Wong, Hiba Zafran, Shellie Zhang.