Our penultimate 2020 Gift Guide is courtesy of Scotiabank Giller Prize-finalist Francesca Ekwuyasi who recommends four choice titles from Arsenal Pulp Press and Nightwood Editions for everyone from your "future-thinking Aquarius bestie" to "your twenty-something-year-old self."
I was hungry for stories about bold, reckless, and complex Black femmes in my early twenties. During the last year of my twenties, I found Tea Mutonji’s Shut Up You’re Pretty and finally felt that there would be room in the world for me and my work because there is room in the world for Shut Up You’re Pretty. So I highly recommend this for the twenty-something-year-old literary femme in your life who enjoys sharp, daring narratives of honestly human characters. Get this gorgeous and affecting collection of short stories, following the main character, Loli, from childhood to her early twenties—for your favourite bookworm with discerning tastes. Each story reads like a chapter from Loli’s life, making it compulsively readable, relatable, and set in a world into which readers can dive seamlessly.
Since I learned to do it, reading has been a constant companion in my life; I read for pleasure, to learn, relax, and research so that I can engage in some caustic intellectual sparring with strangers on the internet. I also read when I’m struggling, when my emotions have moved from sadness to the flat and temporary numbness that often follows. I was in that place when I picked up Arielle Twist’s Disintegrate/Dissociate, and it brought me back to life. Twist’s viscerally compelling collection pulled me back to the present and made me feel again. I recommend this as a gift for your poetry-loving friend who needs to feel something again. Disintegrate/Dissociate is fresh, raw, and evocative; Twist pours her heart out onto the pages and constructs something incredibly moving.
When I was twenty-two, one of my aunts asked me never to tell her if I was queer, so I haven’t told her. But I frequently think of ways to invite her to confront her queerphobia. Though I haven’t developed the courage to do it, I think gifting her a book would be a great entry point. So I recommend Ahmad Danny Ramadan’s The Clothesline Swing as a gift to your queerphobic aunt who you love but has so much work to do. Ramadan’s English debut is a stunningly woven narrative about storytelling, love, war, death, desire, and queer sexuality. It could be a poignant way to bring your aunt around to accept you, or at the very least, you would be gifting her a simply exquisite story.
When we first met, my sweet friend Portia told me that she doesn’t think she has the upper body strength to survive the apocalypse. We laughed about it over burgers, but we, along with many of my other friends, are often semi-seriously pondering on what the "apocalypse" will look like and if and how we might survive the end. So I recommend this book as a gift to your most ingenious future-thinking Aquarius friend who already knows that the structures upholding the current global socio-political systems must crumble, and has already drawn up a blueprint for how to survive and thrive in more equitable futures. This profound, complex, and moving collection would make a great addition to their already well-stocked go-bag.
Francesca Ekwuyasi is a writer, artist, and filmmaker born in Lagos, Nigeria. Her work explores themes of faith, family, queerness, consumption, loneliness, and belonging. Her writing has been published in Winter Tangerine Review, Brittle Paper, Transition Magazine, the Malahat Review, Visual Art News, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and GUTS magazine. Her story "Orun is Heaven" was longlisted for the 2019 Journey Prize. Butter Honey Pig Bread, longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, is her first novel.
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Thank you to Francesca for sharing these thoughtful book picks for all kinds of giftees on your list. Stay tuned for our final Gift Guide tomorrow.
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