Staff Picks 2020 - Alyssa

November 6, 2020

Staff Picks 2020 - Alyssa

This year has thrown everything out of centre. Not a particularly novel sentiment, I know, but my reading has certainly suffered from it. It was difficult to concentrate, and so many amazing books, books I was truly excited about, passed me by (more about those at the end of this list). But I did read some excellent titles, assembled below in no particular order: 

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Wendy, Master of Art + I Know You Rider
Wendy is always a delight, and this might be Walter Scott's best yet. How does the art world party girl even begin to grow up? Is it grad school? A difficult love? Even just the question makes for a compelling new chapter. Similarly, Leslie Stein has really come into her own, with a gorgeous exploration of abortion, change, and unexpected emotion. It made me unexpectedly emotional, at least. 
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Becoming Horses + The Sky is Blue with a Single Cloud
Two beautiful, often non-linear graphic novels! Becoming Horses is a gorgeous meditation on finding meaning in a world that often refuses to come into focus, a world crafted from petals, gems, and clay. The Sky is Blue with a Single Cloud, a short story collection from too-often overlooked manga pioneer Kuniko Tsurita, stretches and tumbles in every direction, touching politics, loneliness, death.
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Familiar Face + Fangs 
Any new DeForge is a recommended DeForge, but I've been waiting for something exploring technology, loneliness, and powerlessness ever since his TCAF zine Placeholders. A love story smuggled into a technodystopia, there's so much feeling in this surreal world. Speaking of love, Andersen's newest is the wonderful, shockingly relatable romance of a werewolf and vampire. Sometimes it takes the otherworldly to best convey the calm, small moments of the best loves.  
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knot body + Something That May Shock and Discredit You 
I've been reading Daniel Lavery for years, and his memoir-in-essays feels in many ways like a culmination of years of writing and experience. Discussions of gender, transition, and identity are ripe with Lavery's signature blend of biblical allegory, folk tale darkness, and winking comedy.
It was a bit of a trip to read knot body while recuperating from surgery, but it was in many ways the perfect time for a collection full of poems that bring such lyricism to chronic pain, and letters perfect in their unstudied intimacy. 
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Wow, No Thank You + Maquillée
Samantha Irby is like that friend who talks about the shitty parts of their life with such humour that it makes you feel better about the shitty parts of your life. Always so funny and just exactly what I needed. And on the topic of my shittiness, Maquillée blends my shameful obsessions with YouTube beauty gurus and Grimes gossip like the perfect smoky eye, turning the sum of its parts into a gorgeous meditation on vanity, capitalism, and womanhood. 
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Vegetable Kingdom + ZOM-FAM
I have never been this invested in a cookbook. Terry's recipes are consistently delicious, not simple but so rewarding. His approach to mixing and matching is novel for me, but I've got nothing but time to learn. It's not like I'm going anywhere these days. On that note, if there's one event that I really wish COVID hadn't scuttled, it's MAI's staging of Kama La Mackerel's ZOM-FAM. At least we got the written version of this beautiful story, a Mauritian coming of age set in all the singing fluidity of language, legacy, and gender. 
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The Death of Vivek Oji + The Subtweet 
I read The Subtweet in just one afternoon. It has all the tension of Ferrante's fraught friendships, but is so entirely its own thing, and so entirely of this moment, that comparisons do it a disservice. There is beautiful sweetness, but enough bitterness to make things interesting in this novel about music-making frenemies. Another book that grabbed hold and didn't let go, The Death of Vivek Oji is gorgeous even as it is gutting. The novel begins with a death, exploring the cost of queerness and the communities we build as a result while a family mourns a child they never really knew. 

Books that are up next on my reading list!
Nineteen (Ancco)
Just Us (Claudia Rankine)
Luster (Raven Leilani)
They Said This Would Be Fun (Eternity Martis)
Can't Even (Anne Helen Petersen)
Love After the End (Joshua Whitehead, ed.)
Girls Against God (Jenny Hval) 
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Wendy, Master of Art

Walter Scott

The existential dread of making (or not making) art takes center stage in this trenchant satire of MFA culture Wendy is an aspiring contemporary...

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I Know You Rider

Leslie Stein

A candid and philisophical memoir tackling abortion and the complex decision to reprouce I Know You Rider is Leslie Stein?s rumination on the many...

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Becoming Horses

Disa Wallander

Sometimes I dream about myself and in my dream I'm someone else But also, I am me becoming the horse that I want to...

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The Sky is Blue with a Single Cloud

Kuniko Tsurita

A visionary and iconoclastic feminist Garo magazine cartoonist available in English for the first time. The Sky is Blue with a Single Cloud collects...

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Familiar Face

Michael DeForge

The bodies of citizens and the infrastructure surrounding them is constantly updating. People can?t recognize themselves in old pictures, and they wake up in...

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Sarah Andersen

A love story between a vampire and a werewolf by the creator of the enormously popular Sarah's Scribbles comics.Elsie the vampire is three hundred...

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knot body

Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch

Bringing together poetry, essay, and letters to "lovers, friends and in-betweens," Eli Tareq Bechelany-Lynch confronts the ways capitalism, fatphobia, ableism, transness, and racializations affect...

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Something That May Shock and Discredit You

Daniel M. Lavery

Named one of the most anticipated books of the year by Entertainment Weekly, O, The Oprah Magazine, BuzzFeed, Electric Literature, Yahoo Lifestyle, and Bitch...

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Wow, No Thank You.

Samantha Irby

A Vintage Paperback Original.A new rip-roaring essay collection from the smart, edgy, hilarious, unabashedly raunchy, and bestselling Samantha Irby.Irby is forty, and increasingly uncomfortable...

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Daphne B

Maquillée est le fruit étonnant d’un nombre incalculable d’heures perdues, passées à enchaîner les tutoriels maquillage sur YouTube, ou encore à naviguer sur le site...

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Kama La Mackerel

In their debut poetry collection, Kama La Mackerel mythologizes a queer/trans narrative of and for their home island, Mauritius. Composed of expansive lyric poems,...

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Vegetable Kingdom

Bryant Terry

“Phenomenal . . . transforms the kitchen into a site for creating global culinary encounters, this time inviting us to savor Afro-Asian vegan creations.”—Angela...

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The Subtweet

Vivek Shraya

“Biting and beautiful.” — Jonny Sun, author of everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too Everyone talks about falling in love, but...

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The Death of Vivek Oji

Akwaeke Emezi

"Electrifying." — O Magazine Named one of the year’s most anticipated books by The New York Times, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, BuzzFeed, Refinery29, and moreWhat does it mean for a family...

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Can't Even

Anne Helen Petersen

A BEST BOOK OF THE FALL AS SEEN IN:Apartment Therapy •Book Riot •Business Insider •BuzzFeed •Daily Nebraskan •Entertainment Weekly •Esquire •Fortune •Harper’s Bazaar •HelloGiggles...

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Raven Leilani

One of the Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2020Vogue, Elle, Time, The New York Times, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Vulture, Parade, USA Today, Literary Hub, Buzzfeed, Electric Literature, Refinery29, The Rumpus, Book Riot, Thrilllist, Domino, PopSugar, The Kit, Elle Canada“Exacting, hilarious,...

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Girls Against God

Jenny Hval

A genre-warping, time-travelling horror novel-slash-feminist manifesto for fans of Clarice Lispector and Jeanette Winterson.Welcome to 1990s Norway. White picket fences run in neat rows and Christian...

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They Said This Would Be Fun

Eternity Martis

A powerful, moving memoir about what it's like to be a student of colour on a predominantly white campus.A booksmart kid from Toronto, Eternity...

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Love after the End

A bold and breathtaking anthology of queer Indigenous speculative fiction, edited by the author of Jonny Appleseed. This exciting and groundbreaking fiction collection showcases...

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Just Us

Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine’sCitizen changed the conversation—Just Us urges all of us into itAs everyday white supremacy becomes increasingly vocalized with no clear answers at hand,...

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?[Ancco?s] stories liberate us to be what we are: friends, artists, monsters, mothers, human beings.??Globe & Mail At nineteen, the idea that you have...

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