Canada Reads

Tasnim Geedi is known on TikTok for her smart and savvy take on books — now she's bringing it to Canada Reads

The TikTok star is going from talking books on social media to talking books on Canada Reads from March 27-30.

The TikTok star is going from talking books on social media to talking books on Canada Reads from March 27-30

A book cover of a woman in a maroon dress sitting in front of green wallpaper and a close-up photo of a young woman with glasses.
TikTok star Tasnim Geedi is championing the novel Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. (CBC)
In this introduction to the novel Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, discover what the book is about and why TikTok creator Tasnim Geedi chose it for Canada Reads 2023.

TikTok creator and nursing student Tasnim Geedi is championing the novel Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia on Canada Reads 2023!

The great Canadian book debate will take place on March 27-30. This year, we are looking for one book to shift your perspective. 

The debates will be hosted by Ali Hassan and will be broadcast on CBC Radio OneCBC TVCBC GemCBC Listen and on CBC Books

The debates will take place live at 10:05 a.m. ET (that's an hour earlier than recent years!). You can tune in live or catch a replay on the platform of your choice. You can see all the broadcast details here.

An original, inventive novel

Book cover, green background with woman with brown skin sitting in a red dress.

Mexican Gothic is a gothic horror novel set in 1950s Mexico. It tells the story of a young woman named Noemí who is called by her cousin to save her from doom in her countryside home, the mysterious and alluring High Place. Noemí doesn't know much about the house, the region or her cousin's mysterious new husband, but she's determined to solve this mystery and save her cousin — whatever it takes.

Mexican Gothic is in development to become a TV series for Hulu.

Moreno-Garcia is a Canadian author, who was born and raised in Mexico. She is also the author of the novels Signal to NoiseGods of Jade and ShadowThe Beautiful OnesVelvet Was the NightUntamed Shore and The Daughter of Doctor Moreau.

Moreno-Garcia was drawn to setting Mexican Gothic in the 1950s because it was a moment of a major cultural shift in Mexico.

"The year 1950 seemed just about right, in a Goldilocks kind of way, because women were going to get to vote in 1953 Mexico. So this is just before women get the vote, but it's after the Mexican Revolution. It's this interim period where some things have changed in terms of how women are perceived, and the rights and freedoms that they have," Moreno-Garcia told Shelagh Rogers on The Next Chapter in 2020.

"But there are still many constraints — the view at the time was that the woman, while she may 'waste' her time engaging academic pursuits, ultimately, the final goal is to get married and to have children."

There were other ways to tell stories that don't necessarily conform to the narrow expectations that people have of Mexicans.- Silvia Moreno-Garcia on writing gothic fiction set in Mexico

The book furthers Moreno-Garcia's commitment to writing stories that are explicitly Latin American — but, as the author points out, without the stereotypes often projected onto Latin American storytelling.

"I wanted to write a gothic story because it's not generally associated with Latin American writers. There is an almost cliché association with magic realism but we are capable of writing more than that, so there is sometimes a narrow conception of what we can and what we can't do in a literary sense," Moreno-Garcia said in a recent interview with Jodie Martinson on CBC Radio's On The Coast

It's part of why, Moreno-Garcia says, she gave her book its title. "Mexican Gothic" is as much a statement about what's possible as it is an indication of the story's premise. 

A lover of horror from a young age, Moreno-Garcia was inspired to subvert genre expectations partly because of the work of Mexican filmmaker Carlos Enrique Taboada. Taboada showed her that it was possible to make something Mexican and gothic without reverting to stereotypes of either genre.

"He made movies that are very much gothic: they have Mexican actors who are speaking in Spanish and yet they don't conform to any of the genre stereotypes that we expect. That was one of the things that I loved," she said.

"It was the possibility that you could do gothic in Mexico and that you didn't have to do it in a pastiche way, where you had to cram it with Day of the Dead imagery. There were other ways to tell stories that don't necessarily conform to the narrow expectations that people have of Mexicans."

LISTEN | Silvia Moreno-Garcia talks to Shelagh Rogers about Mexican Gothic:

Silvia Moreno-Garcia's novel Mexican Gothic follows an heiress's investigation into her cousin's hasty marriage and mysterious illness.

From BookTok to battle of the books

Tasnim Geedi is a Somali Canadian nursing student who is best known as @groovytas on TikTok, where she posts about her favourite books. She's one of the biggest "BookTok" creators in Canada, with over 100,000 followers, and her content has been liked more than five million times.

BookTok is an online community and hashtag on the popular social media platform TikTok, where readers post videos of book recommendations, talk about writing novels and make reading-related jokes. The hashtag #BookTok currently has more than 18 billion views on TikTok.

Geedi downloaded the app at the beginning of the pandemic, when she was looking for a way to connect with other book lovers. "This is a book club and they are all in on a joke and I want to be in on that joke," she told Commotion host Elamin Abdelmamoud. "Over time, just commenting and making friends wasn't enough for me."

And her account just grew from there. "I'm so glad that I found it."

She has talked about several Canadian titles on her popular account, including the Jade City series by Fonda Lee, Every Summer After by Carley Fortune and Louise Penny's Armand Gamache mystery series.

Geedi lives in Toronto and plans to pursue a career in women's health once she completes her nursing degree.

WATCH | Tasnim Geedi shares her top 10 books of 2022: 

Bringing gothic horror to Canada Reads

Mexican Gothic reimagines the gothic horror novel, in this story about an isolated mansion in 1950s Mexico and the brave socialite drawn to its treacherous secrets. As Noemí begins to unearth stories of violence and madness, she is slowly drawn into a terrifying yet seductive world — a world that may be impossible to escape.

"Set in 1950s Mexico, this gothic story follows Noemí, who leaves her glamorous debutante life to save her cousin from her new European husband in this isolated mansion in the countryside. I believe all Canadians need to read this, because what better way to escape the craziness that is our life than to join Noemí in hers?" said Geedi on during the Canada Reads launch.

Geedi was excited to champion Mexican Gothic, a novel in which she empathized with many of the protagonist's experiences of young womanhood. And she feels it's "very poetic" to bring the novel that she discovered on #BookTok to Canada Reads. "This is a love letter to BookTok," she told Commotion.

"It immediately reminded me of Scooby Doo from when I was a kid and immediately bought it. Then as I was reading it, it's one of those books where it's 1 a.m. and you have school or work in the morning, but something crazy happens and you have to postpone sleep and read it all in one night. So I definitely want to share that experience with everybody," Geedi said in a conversation with Moreno-Garcia.

WATCH | Tasnim Geedi and Silivai Moreno-Garcia in conversation:

But it's more than an immersive read for Geedi. She sees Mexican Gothic as "a vehicle to explore the themes of colonial violence and its effects."

This is not just a story about dark family secrets, but the lingering effects of colonialism.- Tasnim Geedi on why Mexican Gothic should win Canada Reads

"This is not just a story about dark family secrets but the lingering effects of colonialism. And Silvia does not waste a single sentence to immerse you in this chilling story, which will have you questioning everybody, including yourself."

"You'll go in expecting one thing and walk out leaving with one thousand."

LISTEN | Tasnim discusses Canada Reads on Commotion:
With only five weeks to go until Canada Reads, champion and #BookTok star Tasnim Geedi stops by to tell us why Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is her pick for the great Canadian book debate.

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