A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘popular literature

[WRITING] “Decolonizing the future”

leave a comment »

Journalist Kate Heartfield‘s essay for Article Magazine, “Decolonizing the future”, provides an exciting take on how indigenous writers of science fiction are rewriting the genre, on imagining futures for their peoples and their cultures.

Wshe was in eighth grade, Darcie Little Badger read in a book at school that the Lipan Apache people — her own people — were “extinct.”

“Like dinosaurs!” she would joke on Twitter years later.

Now she’s an oceanographer who specializes in phytoplankton genetics and a writer of speculative fiction. In one of her recent short stories, “Né łe”, a Lipan Apache veterinarian travels to Mars.

“It really is for me all about the survival aspect,” she explains. “As I was growing up and reading a lot of science fiction and fantasy, I wasn’t really seeing Native characters. That made me wonder why not. Are they all gone, or are they forgotten? This hit me really hard because my tribe really struggled for a long time to survive and is really still struggling… That act of existing, in a science fiction story, in a futuristic setting, is a triumph of endurance to me and it does go against the narrative of colonialism that we really don’t exist.”

The concept of “the future” only exists in the present. It can be shaped by the same colonial structures and narratives that shape the North American present, or it can affirm Indigenous land and sovereignty.

This global, multidirectional work of decolonization has always been a part of the science fiction (SF) canon it critiques — Afrofuturism, for example, has a long literary tradition. It’s long been part of the work of First Nations, Métis and Inuit writers. But Daniel Heath Justice, a speculative fiction writer himself and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Literature and Expressive Culture, says the Indigenous science fiction of North America is now coming into a “golden age.”

“One of the battles that Indigenous writers had for a long time was to have their work seen as real literature and I don’t think we have that same struggle now in the same way. It’s ongoing but I don’t think it’s as acute as it was. So I think now a lot of writers may feel a little bit more comfort in going into genres that may or may not have been seen as having a lot of literary merit for a while.”

Written by Randy McDonald

December 5, 2016 at 10:30 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “An immigrant security guard’s triumphant homecoming”

leave a comment »

The Toronto Star‘s Nicholas Keung tells the story of an Indian immigrant whose experiences as a security guard at a downtown condo inspired his first novel, one he ended up promoting at that very same condo.

The last time Mayank Bhatt was in this Forest Hill condo building he wore a navy blue uniform and worked as a security guard.

It was one of the new immigrant’s first jobs in Canada, a position the Mumbai native landed just weeks after arriving at Pearson International Airport with his wife, Mahrukh, and son, Che.

Seven years after he left that job, Bhatt, 54, recently returned to the warm embrace of the tenants he used to serve at 260 Heath St. W., but this time as a published author invited for a reading of his debut novel, Belief — the story of a new immigrant family’s struggles in Canada. The book will be officially launched at the Gladstone Hotel on Tuesday evening.

“I wanted to read at this condo building. I came to Canada not knowing anyone. I was a complete stranger and they welcomed me. My new life started here. The residents in this building were the first set of people who made life possible for me and my family,” said Bhatt, his voice choked with emotion.

“My idea was not to come to Canada to become a security guard. I wanted to come back to show what I have become today, that I’ve lived up to that expectation. This is a bit of a homecoming for me.”

The Heath St. condo was also an apt venue for the occasion because this is where Bhatt first conceived of the idea for his book and started crafting the story while working the graveyard shift guarding the building and protecting its residents.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 30, 2016 at 4:00 pm

[BLOG] Some Monday links

leave a comment »

  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly writes about the importance of truth in journalism.
  • Crooked Timber looks at the example of Trump and wonders why that kind of charismatic authoritarianism is popular.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a model of the inner debris disk of HR 8799.
  • Far Outliers looks at the cultural divergences between North and South Koreans.
  • Language Hat looks at the complexities of translating the obscenities of the Marquis de Sade.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at the collapse of unions and makes a limited defense of Castro.
  • Marginal Revolution links to a plan in the United States to make social science research more productive.
  • The NYRB Daily shares Masha Gessen’s article talking about the hard choices she had to make in Putin’s Russia and their relevance to the United States.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that Russia’s Ukrainian policy may be self-destructive.

[ISL] “Rachel McAdams voicing Anne of Green Gables audiobook”

leave a comment »

CBC Books reports that Canadian actor Rachel McAdams will be voicing a new audiobook version of Anne of Green Gables.

Actress Rachel McAdams is the narrator of a new audiobook of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. The book will be released on audible.com on Nov. 22, 2016.

McAdams can currently be seen in theatres opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in the Marvel blockbuster Doctor Strange. Her recent role in the Oscar-winning film Spotlight earned her an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress.

In a behind-the-scenes feature produced by Audible (above), McAdams confessed that Anne of Green Gables was “one of my most beloved books growing up.”

“I wanted to be Anne as a little girl and I think a lot of girls do. She’s a very strong female character, but not kind of in a typical way,” said McAdams.

“It’s one of the most exciting things I’ve ever been asked to do in my whole career.”

Written by Randy McDonald

November 22, 2016 at 4:00 pm

[BLOG] Some Monday links

leave a comment »

  • blogTO praises the food court of Village by the Grange.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly talks about the importance of self-care in times of stress.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that KIC 8462852 does seem to have faded throughout the Kepler mission.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that Planet Nine may be especially faint in the infrared and looks at the challenges mapping polar regions on Titan.
  • Imageo notes how melting of the ice cap continues in the Arctic Ocean.
  • Language Hat reports on a new script for the Fulani language.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that people who blame identity politics for the victory of Trump were not exactly non-supporters of the main.
  • Marginal Revolution considers the consequences of bribing the American president.
  • The NYRB Daily shares Charles Simic’s deep concerns for the future of the United States.
  • Jim Belshaw’s Personal Reflections discusses Australia as a target for immigration and calls for honesty in discussions on migration.
  • Peter Rukavina reports on the visit of then-Princess Elizabeth and her husband 65 years ago.
  • Whatever’s John Scalzi makes the fair point that he can hardly be expected to know what his Trump-era novels will be like.
  • Window on Eurasia compares Russia’s happiness with Trump’s election to its elation over Obama’s in 2008, and looks at how Russia is facing decline on a lot of fronts.

[WRITING] “Queer Writers in the Age of Trump”

leave a comment »

The Atlantic hosts Gabrielle Bellot’s article talking about the ways in which queer writers–in the United States, in her telling, but I’d argue worldwide–will have to mobilize to the forces gathered together by Trump.

In 1948, when the American writer Patricia Highsmith started writing The Price of Salt, her seminal novel of lesbian love, she knew it would be difficult to find a publisher as an openly queer author. At the time, as she reflected in her 1989 afterword to the novel, it was already difficult enough just to be out as a lesbian in New York. “Those were the days,” she wrote, “when gay bars were a dark door somewhere in Manhattan, where people wanting to go to a certain bar got off the subway a station before or after the convenient one, lest they be suspected of being a homosexual.” It would be career suicide, she feared, to be known as a “lesbian book-writer.” So when the publisher of her first novel, Strangers on a Train, rejected The Price of Salt, she released the latter elsewhere under a pseudonym, Claire Morgan. It went on to become one of the most important works of queer American fiction.

The United States in 2016 is generally more accepting of queer writers than the country Highsmith described. But some of the rhetoric of President-elect Donald Trump and a number of his supporters paints LGBT people in much the same way that they were seen in Highsmith’s day: as people who don’t deserve the same rights as other Americans. In January 2016, Trump told the Fox News host Chris Wallace that he would “strongly consider” appointing conservative justices who could repeal the ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court decision that made same-sex marriage legal last year. In June 2015, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who has a long history of opposition to LGBT rights, had responded more strongly to the decision, reaffirming his belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.

As a queer American and as a writer, the prospect of a Trump presidency troubles me. Yet Trump’s tenure, ironically, could be a spur to LGBT literature, propelling the development of an even more self-assured literature of American queerness than before.

I came to America from the Commonwealth of Dominica. For me, like many other queer writers in the U.S., particularly those who’ve come from less safe places, America represented a kind of hope. Here was a country I’d decided to stay, as a dual citizen, after coming out. My former home in the Caribbean wasn’t a safe place to be openly queer in, and unlike the U.S., it lacked laws protecting LGBT persons from discrimination or violence. When I immigrated, I felt like a sea-traveler who had escaped from a storm, waves high as Hokusai’s, and who was now in a calmer place, free to fill my eyes with stars.

Of course, the United States was far from perfect. The killing of trans women is in the news so often that I’ve come to expect it. Bigotry against LGBT people is written into innumerable “religious freedom acts” akin to the one Pence signed. But, for all that, America was still a sanctuary, a world that could accept—and even defend—someone like me. Queer people were never fully safe, but here we could be happy and hopeful.

The day Trump was elected, I began to think of Shirley Jackson’s famous New Yorker story, “The Lottery.” In Jackson’s tale, published in 1948—the same year Highsmith began The Price of Salt—a New England town holds an annual lottery, in which each member of the town must pick a piece of paper from a closed box. One unlucky person who gets the single paper with a black dot on it will be stoned to death by the townspeople. Jackson’s story is cool and compressed, revealing the mundane savagery in an ordinary American town that exists when people cling too closely and literally to violent traditions. I had voted, not taken part in a lottery, yet felt like I had pulled out a card with a smudged black dot: an indication that something terrifying, was coming.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 19, 2016 at 7:59 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

leave a comment »

  • blogTO notes that the TTC plans on raising fares for next year.
  • Centauri Dreams notes the evidence for an ocean on Pluto.
  • City of Brass’ Aziz Poonawalla argues against Muslims voluntarily registering in an American listing of Muslims.
  • Dangerous Minds notes the sadness of Abbie Hoffman at Janis Joplin’s use of IV drugs.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that Manhattan’s Trump Place complex has opted to drop the name.
  • Language Hat looks at a seminal Arabic novel published in mid-19th century France.
  • Language Log looks at an intriguing Chinese-language sign in London.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money suggests that the US-Iran nuclear deal is likely to stay.
  • The LRB Blog looks at a critic’s old building, an old warehouse, in New York City.
  • The NYRB Daily looks at the art of the spot illustration.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the state of interethnic relations in Kazakhstan.
  • Arnold Zwicky looks at some flowers of Mediterranean climate zones.