2021 Gift Guide: Eddy Boudel Tan

Named a 2021 Rising Star by the Writers’ Trust of Canada, Eddy Boudel Tan is today’s All Lit Up Gift Guide recommender sharing five thoughtful must-read picks for “the dreamer who imagines what might be possible if only society would collapse” to “anyone who’s ever felt victimized by dating apps” and more. 


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Tune in this week as we share book recommendations from some of your favourite authors.


For your gay uncle of a certain age whom you wish you were closer to

The Family Way by Christopher DiRaddo (Véhicule Press) 

You don’t have to be a gay uncle (like me) to enjoy this tender, thought-provoking novel as much as I did. Following a gay man at the edge of forty who decides to help a lesbian couple conceive a baby, this novel challenges and celebrates our notions of what a family is and can be. What lies beneath our need to belong is examined through complicated relationships—two siblings who feel like they’re losing their father after he remarries, friends with a shared history of tragedy and pleasure, a couple who invite a third into bed. Reading this novel felt like spending time with the people closest to me. I got caught up in their personal dramas, yet there was always a sense of comfort despite the tense moments and conflicting views. A powerful yet gentle reminder that family is ours to find, create, and define. 

For your friend who believes art has the power to transform tragedy into beauty

Moldovan Hotel by Leah Horlick (Brick Books)

This captivating collection of poems transported me to an unfamiliar place and time: the genocide of Jewish communities in contested corners of Romania and Moldova during the Second World War. This is no history text, though. These tragic events are given life with artistry and immense emotion, while the aftereffects linger throughout the pages like ghosts that walk the land. As the first woman of her family to return to Romania after her ancestors escaped the Holocaust, Leah Horlick’s unrelenting words are a reminder of fascism’s horrors in a time when they’ve resurfaced, yet they also preserve hope that we will learn from the past. 

For the dreamer who imagines what might be possible if only society would collapse

Love After the End edited by Joshua Whitehead
(Arsenal Pulp Press)

During these days when the apocalypse has been meme-ified, this collection of short stories dares to dream of a better world after the end times. These Two-Spirit and queer Indigenous writers envision a future in which they reclaim what they’ve lost at the hands of settlers. Their reimagined worlds are populated by floating cities and synthpersons carrying sacred medicines. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention the bioengineered rats able to make human connections. These tales are unlike anything I’ve read before, bold in imagination as well as hope. Even as the Earth withers and civilization collapses, these speculative futures allow humanity, stories, and—most of all—love to persevere. 

For anyone who’s ever felt victimized by dating apps

Mythical Man by David Ly (Palimpsest Press)

Appearances of Jägerbombs and #blessed instill an ironic, contemporary spirit to this collection of poems, but there’s nothing trivial here. David Ly slices the vain surface of modern queer life like a scalpel, offering glimpses of the ugliness underneath. Evocative images (an over-chlorinated pool, stubble burn, paper plates bleeding onto the street) form stories of sexual discovery, masculinity, heartbreak, and longing. The ways in which Asian Canadian queerness is both fetishized and attacked are laid bare, speaking to a younger version of myself who didn’t yet understand his worth. The result is a triumph of great maturity and beauty.

For your death-obsessed friend who watches too many detective dramas 

The Day She Died by S. M. Freedman (Dundurn Press)

When a novel opens with the protagonist being rammed through the window of a Starbucks while holding a cake for her own birthday, you know you’re in for a ride. Against all odds she survives, but that’s only the beginning. S. M. Freedman takes the reader by the hand and guides them through a story in which the present is as foggy as the past, and what a masterful guide she is having spent several years as a private investigator. I’m always looking for books that surprise me, and this one doesn’t hold back. Every revelation leads to an even wilder one until the final shocking, haunting end.  

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Eddy Boudel Tan
is the author of the novels After Elias and The Rebellious Tide. He’s been selected as a 2021 Rising Star by the Writers’ Trust of Canada and a finalist for the Edmund White Award. His work depicts a world much like our own—the heroes are flawed, truth is distorted, and there’s beauty in the imperfection. His stories can also be found in Joyland, YolkGertrude Press, and the G&LR. He lives with his husband in Vancouver. Find Eddy on Twitter (@eddyautomatic) or at eddyboudeltan.com

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Thanks to Eddy for this fantastic list of books for all kinds of giftees on your list. Stay tuned this week for even more recommendations and follow along with the hashtag #ALUgiftguide!