All Lit Up Turns Six: 6 + 6 Books

At ALU we love bookish roundups and birthdays so we’re putting them together and celebrating with a roundup of 6 + 6 books that made an impact on us over the last year. And we’re taking 20% off any of our birthday selections for one week (until Sept 22) so you can enjoy them too. What’s more is that if you buy one of our #ALUturns6 picks we’ll enter your name in a random draw to win a $50 All Lit Up gift card so you can buy MORE BOOKS! Scroll on for our picks. 


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Get 20% off our birthday book picks until September 22 with promo code ALUturns6.

Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) by Hazel Jane Plante
(Metonymy Press)

We connected hard with Hazel Jane Plante’s debut: this playful and poignant novel is a roadmap for how art and pop culture help us through tough times. Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) is a love letter of a novel narrated by a queer trans woman who’s working through the unrequited love she has for her late friend, Vivian. This one’s for anyone who has ever loved, lost, and binged A LOT of TV to ease a broken heart. 

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Shut Up You’re Pretty by Téa Mutonji
(Arsenal Pulp Press)

Téa Mutonji’s debut short story collection completely absorbed us with its quick-wit, rich prose, and captivating storytelling. A finalist for last year’s Writer’s Trust Prize for Fiction and the first book selected by Vivek Shraya for their VS imprint, this punchy collection of stories explores a journey into womanhood and interrogates the moments in which femininity, womanness, and identity are questioned and imposed. 

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Hands for Language by Uma Menon
(Mawenzi House)

Uma Menon wowed us: at the age of 15, she wrote what would become her first poetry collection Hands for Language which sees the world through the eyes of a young girl of colour living in the US. Uma put it like this in this ALU interview: “As a child, I never had the opportunity to read a book or poem about a person who was truly like me, trapped by the duality of culture. It wasn’t until adolescence that I discovered the underappreciated realm of diasporic writing. This poetry collection is a retelling of my childhood as a daughter of immigrants, and I hope to help other young people of color to embrace their cultural identity through this work.”

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Almost Feral by Gemma Hickey
(Breakwater Books)

Sometimes at ALU HQ we get to connect with some truly inspiring authors like Gemma Hickey, a tireless advocate for the LGBTQ2+ community and first person in Canada to receive a non-binary birth certificate. In an interview on ALU earlier this year, Gemma tells us about their book Almost Feral, which chronicles a 908-kilometer walk across the island of Newfoundland to raise awareness and funds for survivors of religious institutional abuse and the gender equality movement in Canada. Go Gemma!

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The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya
(ECW Press)

Back in 2016, trans artist of colour Vivek Shraya gave us something to think about with the All Lit Up feature “#PublishingSoWhite: 13 Ways to Diversify Your Press” and has continue to be on our radar ever since. We binged her latest novel The Subtweet, a witty, page-turner about two brown musicians whose friendship comes apart via social media. It speaks to art, race, allyship, and collaboration. This one deserves all the retweets!

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Echolocation by Karen Hofmann
(NeWest Press)

We have plenty of legit reasons to love and recommend Karen Hofmann’s short story collection—haunting prose, fully-realized characters, fresh perspectives—but we have to say gabbing about it  during last year’s All Lit Up Summer Book Club was a major highlight. 

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POP by Simina Banu
(Coach House Books)

For our National Poetry Month celebration DiscoverVerse: Choose Your Own Poetry, we asked poet Simina Banu what kind of quest she would be on if she were in her own Choose Your Adventure story and she replied: “The daily quest to strike that ever-elusive sweet spot between too-little and too-much caffeine.” We can so relate. Her collection, POP is a junk food fight of poetic styles that portrays the intensities of a volatile relationship and gives the traditional love poem a shakedown. 

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The End of Me by John Gould
(Freehand Books)

We loved this Q&A with Giller-Prize finalist John Gould about The End of Me, his new collection of 56 very short stories about death, where we talked writing and influences and spied his cat (and adorable office assistant), Pip. Plus, John gave us some sage writing advice: control, abandon, control, abandon. 

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Bones by Tyler Pennock
(Brick Books)

Tyler Pennock’s contemplative debut collection Bones made it into our roundup of books to help you beat quarantine ennui for its spare and urgent poems about a young two-spirit Indigenous man addressing the effects of intergenerational trauma. This is a mighty collection that should be in everyone’s book queue.

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Like Rum-Drunk Angels by Tyler Enfield 
(Goose Lane Editions)

This All Lit Up pick from multiple-award-winner Tyler Enfield has major Kurt Vonnegut vibes and is featured on all sorts of book lists for good reason. A retelling of Aladdin as an American western, Like Rum-Drunk Angels is an offbeat and wildly inventive literary treasure about boyhood confidence and adventure. Fun!

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In the Beggarly Style of Imitation by Jean Marc Ah-Sen
(Nightwood Editions)

When we asked Jean Marc Ah-Sen to describe his debut collection of short stories in this interview he replied: “Maybe a salmagundi—abundant if slightly unpresentable, a little dangerous if consumed in a single sitting.” In the Beggarly Style of Imitation is a literary mashup of varying prose styles, compelling takes on race and identity, and intriguing characters who do terrible things. We may not have heeded the warning and consumed without caution for an intensely enjoyable read. 

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Filthy Sugar by Heather Babcock 
(Inanna Publications)

Our final #ALUturns6 pick transported us to the colour and sensation of 1930s burlesque through the world of its redheaded heroine Wanda Whittle. Heather Babcock’s Filthy Sugar is a cinematic, dream-like romp through the Jazz Age of flappers and artists against the backdrop of the Depression. Full of oomph! 

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Happy reading, 
from the ALU crew