Montreal

5 Books to check out from our Close Up on Gender series

As part of CBC Montreal's series Close Up on Gender, our arts contributor Nantali Indongo asked authors, publishers and bookshop owners in the city for their top picks of books that are related to the topic of gender, or written by queer, transgender, or non-binary authors.

"Our authors pushed a different narrative, one that's on their own terms," says Metonymy Press' Ashley Fortier

Hunter Skahan, a co-op member at L'Euguélionne Bookstore who specialises in English-language books. (Nantali Indongo/CBC)

As part of CBC Montreal's series Close Up on Gender, our arts contributor Nantali Indongo asked authors, publishers and bookshop owners in the city for their top picks of books that are related to the topic of gender, or are written by queer, transgender, non-binary, or Two-Spirit authors.

This short list includes picks from the staff at the feminist bookstore L'Euguélionne, from the publishers at Montreal-based Metonymy Press, and from author Lindsay Nixon.

Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl's Confabulous Memoir, by Kai Cheng Thom

'Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars,' published in 2016, was Kai Cheng Thom's first novel. (kaichengthom.wordpress.com)

Canadian author Kai Cheng Thom has been getting lots of attention lately for her book, Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl's Confabulous Memoir.

This year, Thom's novel was selected by actress Emma Watson, of Harry Potter fame, for her feminist book club, Our Shared Shelf. Thom's book, which is about a young girl's journey to a magical place known as the Street of Miracles, also comes highly recommended by its publisher, Metonymy Press' Ashley Fortier.

"There is this sort of expectation from a wider audience that trans writers are going to write all about gender, and that's going to be a specific story of what their transition looks like, or how life is hard because of being gender non conforming."

"Our authors have pushed a different narrative, and one that's on their own terms," says Fortier.

Small Beauty, by Jia Qing Wilson-Yang

'Small Beauty' is a book by Canadian author Jia Qing Wilson-Yang (Metonymy Press)

This list's second pick comes from L'Euguélionne Bookstore's Hunter Skahan, and is also published by Metonymy Press.

Jia Qing Wilson-Yang's book Small Beauty won the 2017 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Fiction. It's a book that Skahan says gets recommended a lot around the bookstore, and tells the story of a young Chinese-Canadian woman dealing with several deaths in her family:

"It's a journey to her past. She goes and lives in this house in the country, but she's from the city. And she talks to [her family members'] ghosts and she finds out that her aunt, who is her cousin's mom, was a lesbian."

"It's a really beautiful tale that deals with family and death, being lonely, and struggling to leave the house, which I think everyone can relate to," says Skahan.

Out Of Salem, by Hal Schrieve

'Out Of Salem' is by Brooklyn-based author Hal Schrieve.

Hunter Skahan's second pick is the young adult novel Out Of Salem by Brooklyn-based author Hal Schrieve.  

"It's set in the 1990's, but in this world where everyone is magical. The main character is a non-binary zombie, and their best friend is a werewolf who is Muslim, and a lesbian. The book talks about Islamophobia, police violence against black people, homophobia and transphobia," says Skahan.

The book also employs the pronoun 'them,' which resonates with readers like Skahan, who also uses that pronoun.

"I have lots of friends who use 'they' pronouns, but in fiction, you don't really see that often. To see something in writing like that, it's really validating," says Skahan.

Gender Failure, by Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon

'Gender Failure' is a book by Canadian writers, musicians, and performers Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon. (Arsenal Pulp Press)

Hunter Skahan's last pick is written by Canadian writers, musicians, and performers Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon.

Based off the duo's 2012 live show, which toured North America and Europe, Gender Failure is a memoir of sorts, written by two people who identify as non-binary. Skahan says:

"I gave [this book] to my parents when I came out as non-binary. And I recommend it to people who want to talk to family member about being non-binary."

"I like giving books like this to people who are trying to understand [the experiences of others]. It's funny, it's also sad, it's a good way to approach it because the reader is going to be able to laugh, and be able to see like 'Oh, this is what these people go through every day,'" says Skahan.

A wealth of suggestions for books by Indigenous authors

Author Lindsey Nixon, whose book 'Nîtisânak' is published by Montreal's Metonymy Press. (Stacey Lee)

CBC Arts contributor Nantali Indongo also spoke with author Lindsay Nixon, who is the author of the book Nîtisânak.

According to its publisher, Metonymy Press, Nîtisânak is a "groundbreaking memoir spanning nations, prairie punk scenes and queer love stories" which "explores despair and healing through community and family, and being torn apart by the same."

Nixon reflected on Indigenous authors and where they feel best-situated in Canadian and queer literary scenes, saying:

"It's often a complex question for Indigenous queer and trans peoples, because I think that Canadian literature is so divided into these different disciplines that we are often told that we have to fit our stories or narratives within.

"For me, I really found myself caught between the two disciplines, [one being] Indigenous literature, where there hasn't been a lot of queer and trans narratives until recently, and [the other being] this field of queer and trans literature, where the narratives has been hyper-focused on the experiences of white individuals," says Nixon.

For suggestions of other books by authors who are Indigenous, Nixon suggests checking out books by:

Here's Nantali Indongo's column from CBC Daybreak:

Our arts columnist Nantali Indongo takes a look at Montreal's literary scene, to discover the hottest new books by transgender, non-binary, agender and other artists in the queer community. Featuring: Metonymy Press' Oliver Fugler and Ashley Fortier; 'Nitisanak' author Lindsay Nixon; and L'Euguélionne bookstore's Hunter Skahan. 12:59