Introduction

A student drawing of me in a kilt.

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August Reads 2020

Read

Cold Mountain Poems: Twenty-Four Poems by Han Shan translated by Gary Snyder. Library book. These poems were beautiful. There were only 24 of them so I feel like I zoomed through them too fast. I may have to reread this.

For Want of a Nail by Mary Robinette Kowal. Ebook short story. This has been nominated for a Hugo. To celebrate, the author has offered it online. It includes human/robot family relationships and how memory exists between these two very different beings.

Poetry Magazine, July/August ed. Physical magazine. An intriguing array of poems, as usual. (Note: there was one tone-deaf poem that has since been removed from future publications due to anti-black sentiment without reflection. After a letter from the community, the editor has apologized, and is actually leaving the magazine to make room for new big changes at the Poetry Foundation itself.)

The Power of Ritual: Turning Everyday Activities Into Soulful Practices by Casper ter Kuile. Physical book. A thoughtful look at what constitutes a sacred practice, focusing mainly on meals, sacred reading, and… wait for it… the gym!

Settler: Identity and Colonialism in 21st Century Canada by Adam Joseph Barker and Emma Battell Lowman. Ebook. I’m learned a lot but I gotta admit, reading this is a slog. I really had to push myself. Still, this gets into the nitty gritty of settler colonial thinking which is super useful to know. Definitely worth a reread, although I wish I had a physical copy I could scribble in.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty. Ebook. I ate this book up! You get to read about this mortician’s first six years of work in the funeral industry. It was funny, provocative, and just plain interesting. This is the second book of Doughty’s that I’ve read. I look forward to more.

The Fox and Mr. Shimamura by Christine Wunnicke. Translated from the German by Philip Boehm. Ebook. I read this for the August Japanese Book Club at the queer-owned Argo Bookshop. This was an interesting story about a doctor sent abroad after Japan opened itself up to the world. It was an odd tale about aging, folklore, and death. It’ll be worth a reread in the future to look for all the little nuggets left by the multiple unreliable narrators.

The Necessary Arthur by Garth Nix. Ebook short story. Recommended to me by L.H. It was short and fun game with Arthurian legends.

The Scripture of the Golden Eternity by Jack Kerouac. I’m still reading Kerouac when I can! Here he is writing his own Buddhist sutra or sacred text. It’s a wild read.

Currently reading

The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories by Ursula K LeGuin. Physical book (gift from S + R). This is fun! There are so many short stories! I have been giving myself breaks from reading this because it’s a long, long book. I’m especially thrilled by the sci-fi stories returning to the worlds of the culture-sharing league of planets, the Ekumen. I had tried reading such stories when I was younger but found them incomprehensible and boring. Now, they are fascinating!

Threads of Life: A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle by Claire Hunter. A library book on the sociopolitical history of fiber arts. I am more than halfway through. It’s an intriguing read but I admit I am starting to miss pouring myself into reading fiction.

White Noise by Adrien Lee. Webcomic. Recommendation from M.L. Unfinished LGBTQ+ webcomic about animal-aliens intermingling and fighting with humans. There are already ten chapters available. Content warnings: frequent mentions of slavery, hints of trauma, death.

TBR

Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetics edited by TC Tolbert and Trace Peterson. Physical book (gift). I was not expecting this book to be a literal TOME of poems but it IS. How magnificent. I look forward to reading this… eventually. I’ll probably read it a few weeks after I finish the tome of LeGuin’s short stories. (Too many big books)

After finishing Hunter’s book, I’d like to tackle the Heart Sutra, as examined by Thich Nhat Han. This is one of the main sacred texts within Buddhism and I’d like to try and understand it.

2 other books from the library are sitting on my TBR shelf as well. I’ll comment on them next month.

Misc Notes

Two aborted library books on history this month. I’m wondering if it would be easier to read shorter books, or historical fiction.

I’m also rewatching the Legend of Korra series for the second time. I’m on season 2 and am looking forward to all the extra backstory.

Two exciting books come out this coming September. I preordered them months ago:

The Four Profound Weaves by RB Lemberg. Transgender fantasy. I commented on Twitter that while I have read lots of YA novels and comics about trans youth, I’ve yet to read a book about trans elders and I am SO READY FOR THIS Y’ALL. These two trans elders are friends and have to weave Death?? Or something?? Who knows! The GoodReads bio relates it to LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, which is one of my fav books, so clearly this is gonna rock.

The Tea Dragon Tapestry by Katie O’Neill. Comic about tea and dragons. What more could you want?? Third in a trilogy of comics about little dragons that grow tea leaves on their horns and the people that foster these lil beings. It’s cute and heartwarming and GAY.

What are you hoping to read this fall?

July Reads part 2

I forgot to add some books!

Read

Unfinished Tales by JRR Tolkien. A book lent to me by a friend. More background info and legendarium nerdiness. Like the Silmarillion, I only read the parts that interested me and skipped over a bunch of sections.

Short Stories

Articulated Restraint by Mary Robinette Kowal. Ebook. An astronaut sprains her ankle and forces herself to go through some emergency training exercises despite the injury. This was a suspenseful read at bedtime, whoa!

Dear Santa by Ray Bradbury. Ebook. I was curious to read Bradbury beyond Fahrenheit 451 and the Illustrated Man so I picked this up. It was cute.

One More Body in the Pool by Ray Bradbury. Ebook. This story felt a bit like fan fiction. A fan/literary agent finds out where F Scott Fitzgerald is and tries to help his career.

Currently Reading

Original Plumbing: The Best Ten Years of Trans Male Culture by Amos Mac and Rocco Kayiatos. Physical book. This is a fun, sexy, humourous series of interviews, photos, and articles by trans guys for trans guys.

The Penguin Book of Prose Poems edited by Jeremy Noel-Tod. Physical book. Honestly this book is turning into such a Serious Literature slog. This book is not as fun as I thought it would be. Now I gotta think, do I wanna keep it or donate it? Maybe I’ll keep it for awhile and come back to it another time.

TBR

For these two books, I will likely wait until I’ve reinvigorated my love of books by reading some fiction for awhile. I’m on the library ebook waiting list for the second Murderbot book by Martha Wells…

Algorithmic Shapeshifting: Poems by Bogi Tagacs. Physical book. I obtained a signed copy of this through Patreon.

Poetry magazine, July/August edition.

July 2020 Reads

What I’ve Completed*

Finna by Nino Cipri. Ebook. A fun romp through portals. Includes a trans character.

Check Your Privilege: Live into the Work by Myisha T Hill and various. Ebook. This book wasn’t as DEEP as I thought it would be. I think it’s because I’ve been reading tougher stuff like Assata Shakur, Angela Y Davis, and Desmond Cole, so finding this to be an easier read was a contrast I was unprepared for. This book includes essays from various women and their journeys with anti-racism. I felt is was rather too easy to consume.

Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac. Ebook. I haven’t read this book for a few years! I enjoyed Kerouac’s ramblings about Buddhism, hiking mountains, meditation, and train-hopping. I forgot how he talks about women though–they are mostly present to have sex with, which is pretty awful. (He definitely fails the Bechdel test).

Kindred by Octavia Butler. Comic book from the library (!). I tore through this book in two days. Wow. This is a scifi novel about a black woman who goes back in time to the Antebellum South to the struggles of her ancestors. What a stunner.

Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis. Physical book. A short but excellent read on the history of prisons and how they operate. The title question gets answered in multiple ways and I am totally here for it.

Alphabet of Embers: an anthology of unclassifiables edited by RB Lemberg. Ebook. A mixed bag of short stories on love and grief. I’ll have to double-check the table of contents to jog my memory on my favourite stories.

Books of Haikus by Jack Kerouac. Ebook. An enjoyable read.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. Book lent to me by a friend. Yeah! This was so fun! A gay, trans male character who is also a brujo, or male witch, is trying to prove himself to his family and accidentally summons a hot ghost guy. This book was very cute. And there’s a happy ending.

Or What You Will by Jo Walton. Book lent to me by a friend. I love jumping into Walton’s worlds. They’re always so well done. This is a heavily meta book about an author talking to her inspiration. It’s set in Montreal and Shakespeare’s Florence. The only learning curve here is if you’re not familiar with the Shakespearean plays she continuously references, you’ll be a little lost like me (The Tempest and Twelfth Night.) It did take away from some of the joys of the book, even though Walton explains everything quite well. This book answers all the delightful questions it raises about authorship, creativity, and worldbuilding.

*I fear that I’ve deleted my Overdrive library loans once finished with them. My library does not seem to keep record of ebook loans (?!) so I worry I’ve forgotten some books.

Short Stories

I’m pretty happy that I am reading more short stories. They are brief, good fun.

Hello, Moto by Nnedi Okorafor. Ebook. A creepy scifi tale about hair.

Sleeper by Jo Walton. Ebook. A scifi tale about memory and its constructions. This was a reread for me.

Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction by Jo Walton. Ebook. Alternate history where the Axis powers won WWII.

The Devil in America by Kai Ashante Wilson. Ebook. A young black girl makes a deal with someone she shouldn’t have…

Super Bass by Kai Ashante Wilson. Ebook. A foray into a fantasy world with Voudou and gayness.

Circus Girl, the Hunter, and Mirror Boy by JY Neon Yang. Ebook. A sympathetic tale of spirit possession.

The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal. Ebook. This was a complicated story about an astronaut wanting to go back to space, but also wanting to be present for her aging, ill husband. The cover of the ebook had a black woman on the cover, but then skin colour wasn’t mentioned at all in the story, that I noticed. So I read the character as black, and looked up the author’s name and she’s white. (LeGuin wrote many BIPOC characters in her SFF works; Max Gladstone does it too; so it’s not to say that it can’t be done, but it would have to be done awfully carefully…)

Aborted Reading

Love and Rage by Lama Rod Owens. Pre-ordered book. I started reading this, and really enjoyed it, but found that I’m not quite ready to jump back into reading spiritual texts. Still, I’m happy to have supported Lama Rod by buying the book.

The Power of Ritual by Casper ter Kuile. Pre-ordered book. Same thing. I’m not emotionally ready to read this yet. I did listen to the author read the hour-long introduction on his podcast though. I figure these two books will be nice gifts to myself when I feel ready to go back to reading spiritual texts.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. So I borrowed this from Sustainable Concordia. I read the first chapter and put it down for awhile. At the encouragement of a teacher friend, I tried to pick it up again but realized that I need to be able to write on the pages in order to make it through this academic text. So now a local bookstore is trying to help me order it but is having trouble finding a distributor. I’m gonna list this book as a work expense on my taxes because, wow, the price…

Currently Reading

The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem edited by Jeremy Noel-Tod. Physical book. I got maybe 70 pages in. This is serious literature, and I’m getting bored of it. So I’ve started skipping ahead to the parts I really wanna read. I forgot that formal literature can sometimes be boring.

One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each: A Treasury of Classical Japanese Verse edited by Teika and Peter MacMillian. Library book**. I think I got overambitious in reading a lot of Serious Poetry because this book isn’t drawing me as much as I thought it would. I might skip reading the biographies of the poets, unless I’m very intrigued, and just read all the poems.

Honestly, reading thick books of poetry is really hard.

To Be Read Pile

Poetry magazine, July/August edition. Again, I’m not feeling as enthusiastic as I usually am for this.

Original Plumbing: The Best Ten Years of Trans Male Culture edited by Amos Mac and Rocco Kayiatos. This is a book I am very excited to read! I bought this for myself as a gift for my ten-year trans-anniversary.

I have two history books that I am on a waiting list for at the library:

Threads of Life: A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle by Clare Hunter.

The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World—and Globalization Began by Valerie Hansen.

You may note that I drop books more easily, or skip through sections more often, than I used to. I’m not sure what to say about it. I’m less willing to entertain a book, I guess. Recently, a friend gave me a rule of thumb: if it’s not interesting in the first 100 pages, it’s okay to drop the book. While all three of those aborted books are books I intend to go back to eventually, I’m finding that fiction books are easiest for me to read right now.

(I’m crossing my fingers that those two history books I have on order at the library will be exciting and thought-provoking.)

**THE LIBRARY IS OPEN AGAIN! YES!

June Reads 2020

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers. Ebook novella. So stunning. I loved how joyous and enthusiastic this book was about science. There’s queer/trans and POC representation. Some folks don’t like the ending, but I actually really enjoyed how weighty it was.

The Tale of the Heike. Physical book. A Japanese military epic, akin to the Iliad. I am unsure if I enjoyed this. I enjoyed the book club around it, and talking to people about literature. But this book was long and kind of a slog.

The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole. Overdrive library book. This was a dark and heavy look at police violence against BIPOC in Canada in the span of a year (2017). It’s worth reading for the knowledge but do take breaks.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells. Overdrive library book. This was fun. I’ve never met an apathetic shy robot before!

Articles

What Does Justice Look Like Without Prisons? by Oonagh Ryder. This article answers some questions I had about prison abolition. I’m so excited to learn more. It might be worth rereading it, actually, to ensure I’ve absorbed what I want from it.

Short Stories

I’m actually in a short story club but I keep forgetting to post what we’ve been reading.

The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. My first encounter with Marquez. This was a odd but fun story. I would love to read more of him in the future. (If it wasn’t obvious, this story talks about death, but I did not find it at all grim or dark or anything.)

The Faery Handbag by Kelly Link. A dark story that I completely misread the first time, having taken it at face value. Anyway, we have a mysterious handbag and the young woman who has inherited it… but it’s gone missing! Maybe there’s magic involved!

The Outing by James Baldwin. Ebook. A story about a church congregation going on an outing together. It seemed like the adults were using Christianity to shame, cajole, and regulate their children, while also posturing amongst each other. It was interesting. This one was not part of the short story club.

The Ones Who Stay and Fight by NK Jemisin. This short story is a direct response to LeGuin’s The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas famous short story. This was a disturbing and delightful story to read, especially if you like butterflies.

Bloodchild by Octavia Butler. I’ve actually read this before but I don’t know where. Still, if you want to read about the psychological interactions between aliens and humans, this is for you. It’s creepy. A content warning (and spoiler): for non-con cis male pregnancy. As a trans guy, I found I appreciated this story for making pregnancy complicated, but I would say that for other trans guys, this story has a STRONG chance of being very triggering for dysphoria.

Fire Above, Fire Below by Garth Nix. Ebook short story (A Tor.com Original). This story was a really fun twist on dragons, but… it was very very heterosexual and that made me sad. This one was not part of the short story club. Actually, I’d say I was disappointed because Nix’s characters are usually a little more inventive than this. Everything just felt so… straight and cis. Ugh.

A Short History of Indians in Canada by Thomas King. Ebook short story. Clever, witty, and insightful story about indigenous history, as King usually does! This one was not part of the short story club. It’s quite short too, if you’re looking for a fast read.

Currently Reading

A Choir of Lies by Alexandra Rowland. Ebook. Here is a fantasy book about a storyteller who is starting to hate telling stories. The beginning was rather slow, but the narrative trick they use keeps this book interesting. I like it so far, but for the first third of the book, I had to push through. It’s starting to get more interesting now. If you decided to pick this up, I’m gonna go ahead and put a content warning for depression and some mentions of abuse.

Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks. Wow! So, this is a pretty tough illness to suffer from. I’m reading this book slowly, picking and choosing what chapters I want to read. It’s very well-written.

TBR Pile

So, I ended up preordering a few spiritual books and now I’m unsure if I am in the mood to actually read them, now that I own them. It’s an awkward spot to be, when both authors are queer men I admire and would love to connect with via their writing, but… I’m feeling supremely disconnected from my faith right now, and don’t want to force myself to read, and then make myself unhappy.

So… I’m not sure what I’ll read next. I’ve been thinking about reading some history, and investing in other literary non-SFF interests of mine. I also have Angela Davis’s book “Are Prisons Obsolete?” on backorder right now.

What are you reading?

A Trans Man’s Rant about Harry Potter

A friend inquired on my position about JKR’s latest transphobic ridiculousness. I am a trans guy who is very well known to be a fan of Harry Potter (and a recent convert to the Slytherin house), so here is my rant:


I do not believe stories are meant to be kept or hoarded like a dragon’s wealth, but are meant to be shared.

I’ve read the Harry Potter many more times than I’ve read the Bible or the Bhagavad Gita or the Prose Eddas or the Havamal (the last two are heathen sacred texts). Harry Potter–and indeed many SFF stories in my library–have more meaning to me than the sacred texts of the religions I’ve explored.*


My young teen self read the series many times. I grew up with the stories like food–back before I knew what queerness really looked like, I read slash fic (m/m and sometimes f/f romance) These stories kept me alive through the dread awfulness of being closeted in high school. These stories taught me what love looked like. Even if I didn’t understand why I enjoyed the male perspective more than the female perspective, I began to comprehend the shapes of my desires.

I’ve been listening the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast every week for years, and I believe there is value in reading and rereading a beloved text for inspiration, hope, and joy. And yes, within that, there is still room for criticism, debate, disagreement, and learning. We can learn from this experience with JKR.


Speaking as a nerd at heart, Harry Potter belongs to its fans. Enjoy the fan-created culture. Write fan fiction that creates a trans lady Hagrid, a trans guy/girl Harry Potter, a nonbinary Luna–whatever gender reflection you wanna see. (Also, include a black Hermione and a POC Blaise Zabini of whatever gender you wanna write about)


I’m not gonna tell you where to put your wallet when it comes to JKR. My HP books are now heirloom objects to pass onto my descendants, so I can’t judge anyone for wanting to own the series.

Stories are more than their creators. Just think of how much queer fanfic people have written! People have been gaying up fandom for decades, even before Harry. So, keep being awesome fans!

Confront transphobia where you see it, buy from trans artists and creators, and help trans people fight for quality health care! Also, if you’re a parent or family figure, I recommend availing yourself of all the glorious queer/trans children and young adult literature that exists right now, and buy some books with queer/trans protagonists. The kids in your life will thank you ❤


Don’t know what to read? I GOT U. The Argo Bookshop in Montreal is a local indie bookstore with shelves full of YA and kids lit that is queer and trans specific. (They also have lots of adult queer/trans SFF too!) Support indie bookstores!

*other meaningful SFF series include: Lord of the Rings, This is How You Lose the Time War, Earthsea, the Abhorsen series, etc.

May 2020 Reads

Various small news:

I bought an ereader! Yay! I’m having a lot of fun with this. It’s forcing me to narrow my GoodReads “to Read” list and my library “to read” list to things I Very Much wish to read. I’m glad to be selective as long lists stress me out anyway.

The Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast has a ton of HP live online events this summer, so if you’re a fan, go check that out. I’ll be attending their ‘Quidditch World Cup’ weekend event in July.

I’ve been taking a small course in online teaching. I’ve only just started, but it seems very… bebe lala so far. I’m hoping we really get into the meat of the topic as I continue on. Then again, I am accessing the free version, so that might be why it seems too simple.

I have recently started to put less water in my coffee maker in the morning, to force myself to drink less coffee. Then I bought some nice herbal teas to drink in the evening. The jasmine is very nice, but it turns out the dandelion tea I bought has licorice in it, so it’s gross.

I have a lot of time to read, since as most people, I am not working due to covid.

This Town Sleeps by Dennis E Staples: Indigenous fiction. This book was a gift (thanks S!) A gay romance, sort of, plus a murder mystery. It’s about a little haunted town/reserve where the main character comes to walk his dog. He walks through childhood memories, meets up with guys for hookups, and accidentally trips over an old town murder. This was a good read. The ending wasn’t the usual “detective suddenly understands everything in a flash!” type of story which I really appreciated. I also liked that it was eerie without being horrifying or too scary. If you’re like me and can’t do horror, but like a good mystery, this is decent one to read.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata. Japanese fiction. A woman works in a convenience store for more than a decade. She loves it. Her peers begin to doubt her: her gender role, her love life, her potential for a career. She navigates these expectations while looking for what she truly loves. I read this character as autistic and found it to be a really fulfilling read with a happy ending for an autistic character.

The Magpie Lord by KJ Charles. A hot romance about a witch and a lord in Victorian (?) England. There’s supernatural stuff, the complexities of prejudice, and great sex scenes. I gobbled this up, and the second one, A Case of Possession, too.

Holy Wild by Gwen Benaway. Indigenous poetry. This book was also a gift, in exchange for a custom cross stitch design–thanks S!! I think I should’ve read the summary on this one a little closer. I didn’t realize this would be mostly about sex, which… didn’t grab me? The writing is great with lots of smart observations. The writer interrogates cis male expectations and desires around trans women’s bodies while also navigating her own desire and body image. I think this book is revolutionary for a lot of people, just not for me, right now. I’ve often noted lately when I read any literature by trans women, I find myself overwhelmed with frustration that I’m not reading work by trans men. So, I need to shelve this book for awhile, go read a bunch of trans guy literature, and then come back to this later. I think this book is slanted by my own perceptions. I could come back to this book in the future and have a whole other experience.

Art & Numen by Lo Ken. This book examines the necessity of art and creation within paganism. It’s a slim volume but packed with ideas around inspiration, technique, miasma, and more. I’ll admit to disagreeing with a lot of the text–the author has a lot of strong opinions around ritual and miasma that just don’t feel relevant to my own practice–but it’s still fruitful to read. I’ll likely read it more than once. The author very kindly sent me the prequel text that sparked the idea for this book, so that’s on my “to be read” pile now.

Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw. Ebook. A play about the life of Joan of Arc. I liked this quite a bit. It was funny. There was a good balance of Joan’s fervent belief and varying degrees of belief from other characters, offering skepticism, faith, and desperation. The ending was too religious for me, but then again, she is a saint. If you like Joan of Arc and want to know what famous authors have said about her, this is worth a read. I’d like to read Mark Twain’s book about her eventually.

The Daughter of Odren by Ursula K. LeGuin. Ebook. A short story set in the world of Earthsea, although you don’t need to know the world to follow the story. I have to be careful reading LeGuin’s work now, as she has passed on and there is a limit to how much work of hers there is left for me to read. Here, LeGuin returns to writing about women in Earthsea. Some of you may know that this was a struggle for her: to move away from male characters and figure out women’s roles in her own work. In this story, there is a stone that has a spirit in it. A woman visits it every day to feed it. She speaks of vengeance. Why? You read on to find out.

I really liked this story. And I’m glad the woman, self-named Weed, chooses her own happy ending.

Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa, trans. Alison Watts. Ebook. Japanese historical fiction. This was a reread for me. A man labours in a dorayaki shop, making pastries for customers he doesn’t really care about. Then he meets an old, disabled woman who asks to work in his shop. I don’t want to give too much away, but mass illness features in this book in a way that reminds me of covid19 now. So I liked to read it, since it reminds me of these times we’re going through now. This is a very sweet, sad story.

Geometries of Belonging by R.B. Lemberg. A fantasy short story. Wow, this story. Wow. Ok. There’s a mind-healer and there’s an autistic person. They meet. Stuff happens. It’s wild. Ahh!! Content warning for suicidal ideation though. I do want to say that the autistic character is portrayed accurately, in their complexity and talent. If I remember correctly, the character is also non-binary. There’s so much great worldbuilding here. The characters are strong and difficult. I’m not saying much about this story because I don’t want to give it away, but like. This story is really cool. Please read it!

I’m trying to drift more towards non-fantasy fiction and sci fi, so right now I am reading Ocean Vuong’s American-Vietnamese fiction On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. I started reading the excerpt before buying it and was so fascinated that I just went ahead and about the ebook. I am trying to be careful with ebook buying by checking the library first, but I find my local library doesn’t actually stock as many popular ebooks as I thought they would. A lot of what I would like to read is there physically but I can’t get to it since the library is still closed due to covid. Ugh.

I’m on the library waiting list for the first book in the Murderbot series by Martha Wells… the wait is 5 weeks! When I finish Vuong’s book, I am thinking of buying one of Becky Chambers’ ebooks, who is a sci fi author that’s been recommended to me by about 3 different people.

I have three books preordered for June, and funnily enough, they are all spiritual books: one on Loki, the Norse deity of tricks; one book on Buddhism; and one about ritual. But these books are all arriving at a time where I feel bitter and confused about my faith, so they might end up on my to-read pile for awhile. I also have a book about how to write haiku that is awaiting pickup at my local indie bookstore.

All the preordered books that I really want to read are only coming out in September: the last comic book in the Tea Dragon series by Katie O’Neill and R.B Lemberg’s first published fantasy novel The Four Profound Weaves.

The Tea Dragon series is a wholesome, queer, heart-warming story about dragons who grow horns with tea leaves on them and the people who take care of these dragons. If you love tea or dragons, this series is FOR YOU.

Lemberg’s first novel is a continuation of their Birdverse universe. They have many short stories and poems published in Birdverse. It feels a little like Discworld in how big it is, but the tales are more serious with stories revolving around immigration, diaspora, gender identity, neurodiversity, and home. And the magic therein involves geometry which is cool. If I may say so, it’s a rather nerdy place in the best way.

What are you reading? Anything interesting on your TBR pile? Any books you’re excited for that are coming out this year?

April 2020 Reads

My goodness, what to say?

Life is very much on hold right now, as I am sure it is for many of you. I don’t have work right now, and won’t for another two months.

So, I am spending my time stitching and reading. I’ve mended many holes and patched up lots of clothing. I’ve joined a book club, a short story club, and a writing club. I’m taking an online class about mythology. I’ve kept up with exercising by walking often and doing workouts at home while listening to podcasts.

My insomnia is worse. I’ve taken to listening to sleep story podcasts.

Tomorrow, I’m going to start stitching some cute home decor for a friend of mine who is a retail worker. I’m excited to do that for him.

You can see here that I prefer to keep busy. I’m like my mom that way. It’s not better or worse than chilling and taking your time at home. All of the things I am doing are hobbies or activities I already had in place, so I’m not really like… ~acquiring new skills for capitalism!~. I’m just reading a lot hahahaa.

Don’t tell anyone, but I am also cheating in my writing club by submitting things I’ve already written. 😉

So what am I reading?

The Tale of Heike (book club)

Basho’s Narrow Road to the Interior

Martin Shaw’s Courting the Wild Twin

Felicia Day’s Embrace Your Weird

Whatever short stories my two writing club comrades have submitted each week

You may note that there are two Japanese items on that list. A friend suggested that since I didn’t get the Japan job, I might as well try and recreate some Japanese experiences here. So, I hope to make some ramen soup and wander around my neighbourhood writing haiku and tanka poems.

Day’s book about creativity continues to grate on my nerves but still has some excellent exercises in the book, so I am keeping at it. Shaw’s book is one I just picked up today. I am forcing myself to go slowly with this one, partly because the book itself is short, but also because I want to savour his voice, his style, and musings on storytelling.

Special thanks to the Argo Bookshop for ordering me books. They do pickups between 12pm-3pm every weekday, for those interested.

A small update: I did finish The Faceless Old Woman. It’s excellent. It’s a bizarre, grotesque adventure with thieves, pirates, and mysterious cult-like figures. If you want to read the life of a powerful, ancient, fictional old woman who secretly lives in your home, this is the book for you. Bonus–you don’t need to be a fan of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast to understand what’s going on.

For the short story club, I also reread the short story The Desert Glassmaker and the Jeweler of Berevyar by RB Lemberg, one of my favourite poets. I reread The Truth about Owls by Amal el-Mohtar too (if you want to hear the Levar Burton read this story, here you go). I suggested these stories and the group leader went with them. I am super psyched to talk about these stories next week because I get to geek out about writers I love. EEEE!

Books: Late Feb/March/Early April

Howl, and other poems by Allen Ginsberg. My friend G recommended this to me and I really enjoyed it! Reading “I’m with You in Rockland, Carl” or however that poem is called, got me to finally write some poetry about my own experience in hospitals. If reading poetry inspires me to go write, that is the mark of successful poetry.

Moon woke me up nine times : selected Haiku of Basho Fuck, man, Basho makes me want to go to Japan, wander around, and write poetry. But, thanks to the coronavirus, that may not be happening. However, I feel it is in the spirit of Basho to wander one’s own country and write [anii-colonial] poetry about the landscapes*. So, I’ll honour the ghost of Basho in a different way.

I went through a short sprint of writing haibun poems. That was entertaining. I’d like to go back to that form sometime.

From here to eternity : traveling the world to find the good death by Caitlin Doughty. Damn, this book was good. SO GOOD. So funny, articulate, and wonderful. I will definitely reread this one day. I would love to read her other books. I learned a lot and pondered some more about what I want in my will. This prompted me to take a look at ritual practice, and using ritual for transformation. It really sparked my thinking towards what the fuck do I do ritual for? in my own life.

(Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcaster Casper ter Kuile’s upcoming book, The Power of Ritual, is coming out in June and I am so tempted to preorder it so I can keep thinking about ritual!)(I think I’ve geeked out to all my friends about this podcast already so I will spare you here.)

If you are intrigued by other cultures, or think that death is cool and weird and sad, then you will like this book.

The warrior who carried life by Geoff Ryman. This was a great look at an older fantasy novel. If I remember correctly, Ursula LeGuin gave the forward for the first edition of this book which is what sold me on reading it. I was really doubtful, because experimenting with gender in fantasy or scifi can often go badly, but this one turned out alright! It was heavily influenced by Christian myth and what happens when myths repeat themselves, but… I think it was the first book I’d seen interacting with the myth and in a fantasy setting no less! Angels, the devil, everybody was there. Yeah, this was good.

Now that I think of it, this book probably helped me conceive of putting myself into myth to understand my religion better, which is what I’ve been doing lately in heathenry to great success.

Annnnyway, if you want to read a story about a woman disguised as a man to go fight her enemies, you might enjoy this.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. This book. Oh my gosh. There is so much wisdom in this book that I can’t finish it. I have to come back to this later. I can’t absorb it all at once! Kimmerer teaches and talks about how to use Indigenous knowledge, especially the practice of the Honorable Harvest, to interact with plants and animals around us. Everyone is raving about this book. Me too.

(I also really want to read her book about moss, because moss is cool af, called Gathering Moss.)

If you enjoy ecology, gardening, and the environment, read this book.

A Conspiracy of Truths by Alexandra Rowland. This was SO FUN. I’m glad I finally read this. I can’t wait to pick up the next one. If you like snarky storytellers and unravelling governments, you should read this.

The Banished Immortal: A Life of Li Bai by Ha Jin. This book was the biography of a Chinese poet unknown to me, Li Bai. He’s so well known that if I had asked my Chinese students about him, they would know who he is. It was a fun read, although his parenting and husband skills were awful which was rather frustrating.

Other than that though, I enjoyed reading a poet’s biography. I went looking to see if any had yet been released about Mary Oliver or Ursula Leguin, my perennial favourites, but not yet. It’s too soon.

Currently Reading

Embrace Your Weird by Felicia Day. I am of two minds about this. One the one hand, I’m enjoying exploring creativity in a very low-stress, low-stakes way. On the other hand, Day’s tone in this book is… hmm… too nonchalant? Too conversational? Too… hmm… I feel like she’s trying REALLY hard to befriend the reader and talk to me as she would any of her friends, but… that’s not what I want from a book on creativity, really. I do like the book though and find the exercises quite useful.

I’m familiar with Day’s work on The Guild even if I didn’t watch every episode. If you like her work and are creative in some way yourself, you’ll like this book!

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett. This is another book of women disguising themselves as men to go fight their enemies BUT this one is hilarious because it’s Pratchett. It’s hard to put down. It’s also a great critique of the military complex. Spot on, as usual. If you’re familiar with Discworld, Vimes is in this one, and dear old Death makes an appearance.

The Poetry Foundation’s April 2020 issue of their magazine. Ocean Vuong and Nelly Sachs really blew me away. Two very different poets, of course… I bought a subscription to this because I wanted to learn more about different poets out there in the world and, so far, I am victorious. This is a delight to read through slowly. I am so glad I have ten more issues to go. And I get to wait for them in the mail, and the magazines will just arrive randomly. I won’t know when they arrive, and no matter what, they’re gonna cheer me up! Yeah!

If you’re into poetry, I definitely recommend subscribing to a poetry magazine, but it doesn’t have to be this one. Any one will do!

A Blessing of Fire and Ice by Connla Freyjason. This is a book of poetry for the heathen liturgical year. I like his poems well enough, but… there’s a lot of “I” statements in these poems. Actually, in every poem. I’m not 100% sure he had an editor with a background in poetry for this. He might’ve had a pagan editor, or a heathen editor, but probably not a poetry editor.

Maybe I am being judgey. I dunno. This work could be a lot stronger with better editing. Still, it’s nice to read heathen poetry and think about the deities I worship, rather than read Christian poetry and try to distantly sorta kinda relate it to the deities I worship.

If you are a heathen who likes poetry, you might enjoy this!

The Red Book by Carl Jung. So I am rereading this. I couldn’t finish it the first time. Now, on second reading, I am much more wholeheartedly scribbling in the margins. It’s a great spiritual read, but absolutely must be read slowly. I find I start to feel really ungrounded, as if I am about to drift off, so I took a long break from reading this. I’d like to try and continue at some point… but… it might take awhile.

I’m actually very hesitant to pick this book up again. I’m out of work right now, and so am at home in lockdown. And if I read this again and get ungrounded, I am concerned that I won’t have as much distractions, friends, or work to bring me back to the present moment. I dunno. I’ll have to be strategic about this book.

To Be Read

The Faceless Old Woman Who Lives in Your Home by Jeffery Cranor and Joseph Fink. I’ve listened to the audio excerpts of this book on the WTNV podcast and it’s spooky! I’m a little scared to read it. I’m alone all day now so if I scare myself reading this, there’s no one around to give me a reality check!

Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. This book looks so text-heavy and academic. I don’t think I have the energy to read this, despite its revolutionary possibilities. I find it very very difficult and stressful to try to read, listen, or consume any media to improve my teaching skills. It’s draining to do on my own personal time. It’s hard to think that I have this obligation as a social justice-loving person to change the world through my teaching. I think that’s actually the biggest obstacle or “teacher’s block” I have.

Maybe I should talk to some fellow teachers about this. I have tweeted about it. Maybe I will ask Facebook too.

The Tale of Heike translated by–? I have to go to my local indie bookstore and pick this up tomorrow. I’m in a Japanese literature book club and this is what we are reading. I am not sure if will interest me though. The book club hasn’t been all that thrilling so far, but that’s also because I don’t have a copy of the book yet. I love the Icelandic Sagas but I am unsure if Japanese sagas will grab me in the same way…

I also have about five or six books on pre order right now. They’re mostly arriving in summer and autumn though. @ me if you wanna know what I have on preorder and what my Opinions are.

Jan/Feb 2020 Reads + A Failure of Rules

The Writer’s Book of Doubt by Aidan Doyle (Feb purchase)— great. Heartwarming, practical, and smart.

Sword and Sonnet short story anthology (Jan purchase)— inspiring fantasy stories about battle poets. Loved it. I’m going to return to this anthology again and again. I have too many favourites to narrow down but a special shoutout to my friend A.E. Prevost who has a short story in here called “Labyrinth, Sanctuary” about mental illness and magic.

Sigil Magic: for Writers, Artists, and Other Creatives by Thorn T. Coyle (Jan purchase) More focus on having feels about an artistic practice than on creating sigils. I didn’t find this book to be all that useful. I’ll try reading it again another time and maybe I’ll have a different take on it.

Taking Up the Runes by Diana Paxson (Jan purchase) Great so far! I’m reading this slowly. It’s making me think about new things. I heard a complaint from someone that this book was too similar to Thorsson. I haven’t found that to be true so far, but maybe I need to reread Thorsson too. This book is one of the most recommended books on the runes right now. For someone with an intermediate level practice in runes, she’s helping me expand my thinking, so to me, that’s good.

My Conversations with Canadians by Lee Maracle Fantastic. This is a thought-provoking book for all non-indigenous North Americans. Read this.

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan I just had to reread this hilarious book. It’s un-put-down-able.

The Red Threads of Fortune by JY Yang Content warning: suicidal ideation. This was a queer and wonderful look at Chinese medieval fantasy and the point where magic and tech collide.

Broken Places and Outer Spaces by Nnedi Okorafor If you enjoy this author, you’ll enjoy this small, short biography she wrote.

Hope Matters by Lee Maracle, Columpa Bobb, and Tania Carter Oh my gosh I have so much to say. These poems are painful, hot, strong, and important. There is grief, love, and care here. There’s history. There’s longing for love. A mother and her two daughters write poems about Indigenous life. (As a side-note, I want to say how impressed I am that a mother and her daughters could write, together, poems about lust and love. They must’ve had to be so open, and probably laugh, about it. I could never do that with my family, so kudos.)

Black Panther: Long Live the King by Nnedi Okorafor I like Black Panther but am not a dedicated fan. It was a fun read, for sure. It’s nice to read about black concerns in comics. There’s more attentiveness to social issues than a usual comic might have.

Poemes du The par Bertrand Petit and Keiko Yokoyama (‘Tea Poems’) I’m not quite finished this one yet, but so far it’s a sweet meditation on how awesome tea is.

As you can see, I am trying to read more authors of colour, as well as indigenous authors.

The Unfinished

I’ve already borrowed 5 books this year and returned them unfinished. Some books were history books that just couldn’t sustain my fleeting interest. One was Tolkien’s Beowulf. I realized I would rather read the poetic form of Beowulf than the prose version so I’d like to go back and look for a different translation.

I borrowed a book on nature “Zen on the Trial: Hiking as Pilgrimage but found it dull. Unfortunately, reading books on nature is often dull for me. Mary Oliver poems, sure, anytime, but prose about nature is really hard for me to keep focus. I wish it wasn’t! I would love to become more knowledgeable.

I also borrowed a book on medieval women who were mystics. It was cool. I read parts of it but found it so Christian that I just couldn’t ignore it so I had to put it down.

The Rules

So I am trying to only buy two books a month and I am failing.

In January, I had a gift card for a local indie bookstore, so I bought two books. Given that I didn’t have to pay for these, I decided that I would buy a third later on in the month (Sword and Sonnet). In February, I bought Doyle’s book, then in a moment of insomnia, I ordered 10 damaged books for $20 from Microcosm Publishing. I didn’t list the titles here because I haven’t picked up the package yet, so next book blog post I write, you’ll likely see the list of them. I have no idea what I ordered and I am really excited to find out.

Oh, and I realize at some point these past two months, I also bought an ebook devotional for Norse deities Bragi and Idunna called “Skalded Apples”. I have only read parts of it so far, but I like what I’ve seen!

So you can see, I am often and easily going over my limit.

Additionally, what with having preordered three or four books this year, that would then limit my monthly purchase to 1 book for that month. For example, in March, I have preordered the Welcome to Night Vale novel, “The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home”. It’s a horror/comedy fiction (podcast) set in the weird town of Night Vale. So then I would only be “allowed” to buy 1 book that month after picking up “Old Woman”.

But then, last night I ordered a liturgical book of Norse poetry and instructed the bookstore not to let me pick it up and purchase it until March. So that means I have already hit my March limit and it’s not even March yet. Clearly, this rule doesn’t work. I’ve considered allowing myself one “+1” per month for work or spiritual purposes. That would make the Norse poetry book my “+1”, then freeing up space for one more purchase.

I’ll try it. I don’t think it’s going to work, but we’ll see.

I need to go to the library soon. I want to look for Basho, Issan, and Busan who are haiku poets. I also want to look for book on calligraphy and Celtic knotwork so I can practice borders, fonts, and historical initials.

I’m seventh on a waiting list for “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Maybe I should just buy the book?