Staff Picks 2019: Alyssa

December 13, 2019

Staff Picks 2019: Alyssa

No preamble needed, here are some books I liked!

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Motherhood // Emancipation

A lot of graphic novels made it into my favourites this year, including The Hard Tomorrow (Eleanor Davis) and Creation (Sylvia Nickerson). The former: the story of a near-future couple fighting for community, hope, and the family they hope to build together. The latter: a memoir of isolation and single parenthood in a rapidly gentrifying Hamilton. Both concern themselves with small moments of connection, using them to ground and justify survival through difficult times.  

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The Hard Tomorrow

Eleanor Davis

The gorgeous and empathetic story of one couple's search for hope and a peaceful future amid environmental destruction and technocratic rule. Hannah is a...

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Sylvia Nickerson

New life and opportunities arise from the wreckage of a North American city urban renewal at what cost? A new mother takes us on...

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FutureHorror for a New Decade

For my summer reads I wrote that "BTTM FDRS (Ezra Claytan Daniels, Ben Passmore) and Alienation (Inés Estrada) pack a one-two punch of near-future body horror, allowing the all-too-real terrors of gentrification, displacement, and climate collapse to bob and weave around symbiotic life forms and posthuman parasites." The sentiment still rings true; these are necessary graphic novels.

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Ines Estrada

Drawn in hazy gray pencil and printed in blue pantone ink, this book is about Elizabeth, an exotic dancer in cyberspace, and Carlos, who...

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Ezra Clayton Daniels, Ben Passmore

Once a thriving working class neighborhood on Chicago’s south side, the “Bottomyards” is now the definition of urban blight. When an aspiring fashion designer...

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Growing Up // Heading Out

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me (Mariko Tamaki, Rosemary Valero-O’Connell) and Leaving Richard's Valley (Michael DeForge) offer complementary coming of age stories. Tamaki's lifeless relationship that refuses to die carries all the pathos of teenage love, while DeForge's comic-a-day experiment follows ex-cult member animals exiled to the rough streets of Toronto. We all need to grow up sometime. 

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Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me

Mariko Tamaki

All Freddy Riley wants is for Laura Dean to stop breaking up with her. The day they got back together was the best one...

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Leaving Richard's Valley

Michael Deforge

When a group of outcasts have to leave the valley, how will they survive the toxicity of the big city? Richard is a benevolent...

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The Novel as Tapestry 

Form and time become unmoored in I Become a Delight to My Enemies (Sara Peters), where the voices of an unnamed town rise together to tell the story of the brutality they have survived. Flights (Nobel winner Olga Tokarczuk) weaves together memoir, short story, and natural history in its exploration of travel, permanence, bodies, and souls. Both stretch and pull, reshaping the novel into something new and beautiful.  

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I Become a Delight to My Enemies

Sara Peters

Dark, cutting, and coursed through with bright flashes of humour, crystalline imagery, and razor-sharp detail, I Become a Delight to My Enemies is a...

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Olga Tokarczuk

WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER INTERNATIONAL PRIZEAS FEATURED IN THE NEW YORK TIMESA visionary work of fiction by "A writer on the level of...

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Tricks // Truths

The essay might be my favourite form, to sit with, sink into, fill my mouth with. Trick Mirror (Jia Tolentino) compulsively delves into the petty, the small, the ungracious depths inside us with admirable kindness. Again from the summer: "Alicia Elliott’s A Mind Spread Out on the Ground approaches suffering, legacy, and racism with fearlessness and grace. The collection of essays is as necessary as it is visceral, offering a deft touch that nevertheless refuses to turn away from the treatment of Indigenous people in North America."

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A Mind Spread Out on the Ground

Alicia Elliott

A bold and profound work by Haudenosaunee writer Alicia Elliott, A Mind Spread Out on the Ground is a personal and critical meditation on...

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Trick Mirror

Jia Tolentino

A breakout writer at The New Yorker examines the fractures at the center of contemporary culture with verve, deftness, and intellectual ferocity—for readers who’ve...

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Small Books, Big Thoughts

The Xenofeminist Manifesto (the Laboria Cuboniks collective) presents a feminism for the 21st century, one that doesn't fail to anticipate the potential and danger of technology, globalization, identity. In Females (Andrea Long Chu), "female" is defined as an underclass forbidden a full expression of self. With such a premise, we cannot help but all be female, and all hate it. Neither book wastes words or pages in making their compelling, convincing, arguments. 

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The Xenofeminist Manifesto

Laboria Cuboniks

A pocket color manifesto for a new futuristic feminismInjustice should not simply be accepted as “the way things are.” This is the starting point...

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Andrea Long Chu

An exploration of gender and desire from our most exciting new public intellectual “Everyone is female, and everyone hates it.” So begins Andrea Long...

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Poems to Plug Wounds

The tender cyborg of Franny Choi’s Soft Science grieves without shame, returning to the loss and pain of each new poem with an openness that should satisfy the most relentless Turing Test. A Fortune for Your Disaster (Hanif Abdurraqib) is similarly filled with grief; The intimacy of the pain ripples outward, showing Abdurraqib for the incisive cultural critic he is. 

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Soft Science

Franny Choi

Soft Science explores queer, Asian American femininity. A series of Turing Test-inspired poems grounds its exploration of questions not just of identity, but of...

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A Fortune for Your Disaster

Hanif Abdurraqib

Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist. and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His first poetry collection, The Crown Ain't Worth Much, was named a...

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Alyssa Favreau


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