Gift Guide Week: Hana Shafi

Today’s book recommendations come from Toronto writer-illustrator-badass Hana Shafi who shares her own gifting picks from feminist non-fiction to Prairie poetry to a powerful Indigenous read (that you’ll want to gift to pretty much everyone).


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To my sister I’d gift
F-Bomb by Lauren McKeon (Goose Lane Editions)
She’s not one for non-fiction books, but I know this book would intrigue her. After all, as a woman, it’s hard not to be pulled in by a book that explores the women who are actually working against their interests by vehemently bashing feminism and mobilizing against it. It’s an intense read; I learned a lot from it, and it kind of terrified me. I feel like this is the perfect book to gift the progressive women in your life—understanding why some women are abandoning feminism really helped me understand why fighting for women’s rights is so incredibly important. It also helped me understand some of the confusing chaos of the volatile political times we’re living in, and considering my sister and I have often passionately ranted together about the misogyny we’ve both experience, she’d surely appreciate this book. McKeon writes about a difficult, and frankly pretty scary topic, with a softness and wit that helps the reader get through the book without totally losing faith in humanity.
To my best friend, I’d gift
Sedley (Coteau Books)
She doesn’t read poetry often, but I feel like this book would help her get immersed in the genre. My best friend loves natural landscapes, the feeling of being out in the country, and together we’ve often been wrapped up in long reflective conversations of growing up in the same suburb together. I feel like Sedley offers the type of scenic, sometimes dark, nostalgia that she is looking for. When I read it, I was enraptured by the way that Coupal describes the Prairies—the red skies, forever-stretching fields, cold pitch black nights. But I especially loved the way she talked about the past—about high school, people she once knew, about growing up in a small place and how that changes you. I know my best friend would relate to this, and seeing those reflections in poetry would push her to get enraptured by the genre. My friend enjoys sketching and painting as well, and this book is, despite only being words on a page, a wonderfully visual read. 
To a Secret Santa recipient, I’d gift
Holy Wild (Book*hug)
This isn’t an easy book to read; it confronts the reader with the experiences of an Indigenous trans woman, and these are not easy experiences for most cisgender non-Indigenous folks to swallow. And that’s exactly why I would gift it. It’s an incredibly powerful read, and I believe that some of the best writing is the type that confronts you and pulls you into difficult conversations. Still, there is a softness to the writing. Benaway’s poems are so intimate, heartfelt even when angry, and true to self that I think it would be a moving read for anyone you gift it to. Hopefully, it will also open their eyes to new experiences, and to poetry’s capacity to be a radical and engaging genre, rather than the snoozefest that a lot of folks think it is. It’s also vital to introduce people to books that are subversive, and explore narratives that are traditionally swept under the rug in mainstream literature, which is notoriously male and white-centric. Holy Wild is the type of book that I would love to re-read several times, and that I feel I have to in order to fully experience this dynamic, provocative writing. 
At the top of my holiday wish list is
Bad Ideas (Nightwood Editions)
I had the pleasure of meeting him and getting to hear him read excerpts from Bad Ideas at Calgary Wordfest this past October and hearing those little bits of the book got me so excited to read it. The pieces he shared with us were so whimsical and funny, while also really tugging on my heartstrings. There’s something really special about poetry that can make us both laugh and cry. This is not an easy genre to be humorous in, and Smith’s poems did so naturally without taking away from the profound messages he was giving us through his work. I can’t wait to get my hands on this book.* * *Thanks to Hana for these fantastic book picks! If you missed yesterday’s #ALUgiftguide recommendations, click here, and stay tuned for tomorrow’s picks.