Vivek Shraya is an artist. Fluent in many mediums including music and the written word, Shraya is also the author of even this page is white, She of the Mountains and her upcoming book I’m Afraid of Men. Shraya released her album Part-Time Woman in 2017 and is one half of the music duo Too Attached, who blew the roof off Room Magazine’s Growing Room 2018 Festival Launch Party earlier this year. I had the pleasure of meeting the powerhouse that is Vivek Shraya at that launch party and jumped at the chance to speak with her again.
To celebrate the launch of Room 41.2 Changing Language, we would like to share the portion of the BackRoom and RoomMate interviews that didn't make it to print. First up, it's Nav Nagra's interview with Dainty Smith, whose work we discovered on Instagram last year.
Whether you’re building a New Year’s resolution reading list or hoping to renew your faith in #CanLit, we at Room are here to help. This list of some of our most beloved fiction, poetry, and non-fiction books by queer Canadian writers, compiled by fourteen members of the Room collective, is a great place to start.
Echoing the cinematic flare of films like Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, Handsome Devil shows the complicated nature of being a teenager without overplaying its hand.
Signature Move boldly uses comedy to dive deep into what it takes to be our true selves.
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.
Jen Sookfong Lee, this year’s short forms judge, was born in Vancouver, where she now lives with her son. Her books include The Conjoined (ECW, 2016), The Better Mother (Knopf, 2011), and The End of East (Knopf, 2007). She is a columnist for The Next Chapter on CBC Radio and teaches writing in the Continuing Studies department at SFU. Room’s Nav Nagra spoke with Jen to learn more about her work and the writing process.
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.
Moving seamlessly through a myriad of cities and countries, Megan Fernandes’s The Kingdom and After is a dreamlike trip charting the temporal human experience in a world that seems to be shrinking. A mix of prose-like paragraphs and short quick lines, The Kingdom and After explores the construction of society and our global understanding of the self and the other. Paying special attention to language and form, Fernandes pulls the reader in closer with tightly woven words while simultaneously broadening her poetic prose into lush paragraphs. In doing so, Fernandes uses the page to present our increasingly globalized world.
At times haunting, Fernandes’s poetry takes the reader to the intimate corners of memory as in the poem “Ella” where the narrator is entranced by dreams of a woman in Russia. Using long stanzas and enjambment, “Ella” illustrates the complexities of the mind by painting memories as “sick in green fog.” These memories are questions cloaked in mystery: “What was the melody we / could never assemble? / What was the melody we / could never live without? / A Venetian Boat Song— / wrung out / of our trembling hands.” The poem is a fascinating labyrinth, depicting a girl intimately known only through blurred recollections.
In another poem, “The Flight to Sacramento,” Fernandes laces prose with poetic beauty when illustrating a macabre encounter on a flight. A simple plane conversation unveils the complex nature of war, and the impact it places on both soldiers and civilians. “I could not look away and the soldier did not want me to,” the speaker says. In this encounter, Fernandes shows the ways we can feel displaced yet remain so connected.
The Kingdom and After is surreal, intense, and intimate. Fernandes understands the power of the written word and uses it to not only illustrate the everyday—like, walking down the streets of Boston— but also brings to focus the perverse goings on in the quietest corners of the world. Wondrous and heartbreaking, The Kingdom and After is woven with subtlety and intricately placed lines of poetry that pull apart the layers of society to show what lingers behind the seemingly mundane.
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.