The Next Chapter

Candy Palmater recommends 3 LGBTQ books you should read now

The actor, comedian and former lawyer's reading tastes are as eclectic as her resume.
Candy Palmater recommends Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson, The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein and Under the Bridge by Anne Bishop. (CBC)

This interview originally aired on May 4, 2019.

Candy Palmater is a gay, feminist Mi'kmaw woman, an amazing speaker and broadcaster who loves books.

The actor, comedian and former lawyer's reading tastes are as eclectic as her resume, and she has three LGBTQ books that she recommends you read now. 

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a novel by Jeanette Winterson. (Penguin Books Australia)

"Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a piece of fiction, but it runs very close to Jeanette Winterson's life. She has a very interesting life story. She was adopted by Pentecostal missionaries and knows she's gay from a young age. Her parents think that is an abomination and she ends up leaving home and moving into a car when she's 16. Although it's a piece of fiction where the main character's name is Jeanette, it does touch on some of the things that actually happened in Jeanette's life. It also has this great feeling of letting you get to know what was happening inside Jeanette Winterson's mind as she was being raised. Even people that don't have any interest in an LGBTQ happenings would find this an entertaining book.

"The main character does have strong faith. She, in fact, preaches at at one point in her church and it's such a common experience of queer people to have their faith denied them. There's lots of queer people who have strong faith but because of the religion that they were raised in not being open to them, not only are you denied your identity, but you're denied your experience of faith." 

The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

The Trauma Cleaner is a biography by Sarah Krasnostein. (St. Martin's Press,

"The Trauma Cleaner is a biography about a woman named Sandra Pankhurst who is a transgender woman. What she does for a living is clean trauma. When someone dies and lays in their apartment for two weeks or all these horrific things that can happen in residential places, Sandra gets called to come in to clean that up. She does hoarders, all kinds of things. I think it's brilliant how Sarah Krasnostein does this great job of telling the story of this incredible transgender woman and also telling the story of what it is to be a trauma cleaner.

"It's the U.K. in the 1950s and Sandra Pankhurst is adopted by people who had a son die and they didn't think they could have more children. Then they did have another son. She got moved into this cabin in the backyard and there was incredible abuse — emotional, physical, horrible abuse. She grows up, gets married and then comes out — first as gay and then as transgender — and goes through that transition. Some kids got left behind, a wife got left behind and she is brutally honest about the fact that people got hurt, but that she just had to be who she was. That finds her way to this profession of being a trauma cleaner and has this incredible compassion and empathy. She has this gift to deal with people in these traumatic situations because in reality her entire life has been traumatic." 

Under the Bridge by Anne Bishop

Under the Bridge is a novel by Anne Bishop. (Fernwood Publishing)

Under the Bridge is a piece of fiction set in Halifax. The main character is an older anti-poverty activist whose life has taken some bad turns and has ended up on the streets of Halifax. She befriends some younger homeless people, one of whom is a lesbian woman, one of whom is a young man trying to find his way in activism. What I thought was so incredibly unique about this book — and this is one that I think I would read again — is the fact that I have never in my reading life read a book from the perspective of people living on the street, of the lawyers who chose not to get rich by being lawyers but to work in poverty, of the social workers, of all of those people who dedicate their lives to those in real extreme need.

"Anne is careful that even in the back of this book, she puts a disclaimer about the fact that she feels a little bit guilty — that maybe she shouldn't be telling a story about extreme poverty that she has never experienced. It's indicative of Anne Bishop that she would be concerned about that. It is just such an interesting look at what life on the streets is like."

Candy Palmater's comments have been edited for length and clarity.


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