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Gift Guide Week: Hollay Ghadery
Our final Gift Guide recommender is poet and writer Hollay Ghadery whose five picks will especially appeal to the people who will stand in protest of inequalities, the ones who like their stories insightful. Read on for her book recommendations, which include exceptional poetry, personal stories, and a family drama.
There’s usually one in every family: the sibling who pushes boundaries, rallies against injustice, smashes the patriarchy and makes family meals a little more entertaining, topical, and intense.
I should know. I am that sibling, and this All Lit Up Holiday Gift Guide is for siblings like me: the ones who rage against the machine.
These books are not abrasive, and probably won’t even cause any pearl clutching, because rage doesn’t have to be a roadblock. It’s not always loud and it’s not necessarily bad. Sometimes rage can be righteously therapeutic; a quiet, bubbling current, and yes, sometimes it can be cacophonous. Sometimes, rage is needed to crack our collective apathy and awaken us to injustice and perspectives different from our own.
These five books do just that, and they are great bookish gifts for the resident rage-y sib in your family.
Remedies for Chiron by m. patchwork monoceros
Remedies for Chiron is one of my favourite poetry collections of the year. It’s replete with musicality and sensory experience, and recounts the days of a young, queer, Black, disabled person trying to navigate love in an often inaccessible and inhospitable world. Through their poems, monoceros explores bodies in pain, bodies in love and lust, and bodies refusing to make sense in a way we’ve been taught bodies should make sense. These poems pulse with beauty as they show marginalized, disabled bodies refusing to pretend otherwise, longing for vital connection and softness. monoceros’s work is much like their textile art: it has elegance and texture and brims with colour. It gives us a look into a world that may or may not be different from our own, but reminds us that while we may be capable of great strength, we are also deserving of rest and grace. A breathtaking collection.
Find Remedies for Chiron here on All Lit Up or use our Shop Local feature to purchase from your local indie bookstore.
Imagining Imagining: Essays on Language, Identity
and Infinity by Gary Barwin
(Wolsak & Wynn)
Imagining Imagining: Essays on Language, Identity and Infinity by award-winning author Gary Barwin is a transfixing collection of personal essays that offers a wide-eyed exploration of identity, language, belonging, and the unruly wonder of our existence. Barwin’s writing is a timely and vital antidote to the desensitization of the echo chamber and anxiety of the news cycle. Through his essays, which spiral and circle and bring us back to our centres, Barwin’s writing is a reminder to pause and indulge our curiosity of each other and our universe.
I think Imagining Imagining has everything fans of Barwin have come to love about his work: it melds rib-splitting humour and world-shattering insight. I was as hooked on these stories as Gary’s braces were to his future wife’s sweater. (To read all about this tender and hilarious story, you’ll have to pick up the book, which of course you should—for your sibling, but also, for yourself.)
Find Imagining Imagining here on All Lit Up or use our Shop Local feature to purchase from your local indie bookstore.
You Break It You Buy It by Lynn Tait
You Break It You Buy It is Sarnia poet Lynn Tait’s debut collection of poetry. As a poet, she defies the “Boomer” stereotype, speaking up with insight, humour, and tenderness about our personal and collective failings. It’s almost impossible not to feel drawn into these poems. Whether they address narcissistic mothers, racism, climate change, or the fentanyl crisis, Tait’s poems resound as she defies a generational standard of silence and speaks out about how we fail ourselves and each other.
These are poems that will make you laugh (“Before Meeting My Cousin for the First Time, or Waking Up After All These Years”) and make you cry (“Who Could Try to Tell Us We’re Not Beautiful”). I love how these pieces josh and push and pull and provoke us to into thoughtful, and sometimes uncomfortable corners of ourselves. A definite must-read for your rage-against-the-machine sib!
Find You Break It You Buy It here on All Lit Up or use our Shop Local feature to purchase from your local indie bookstore.
If you lie down in a field, she will find you there
by Colleen Brown
From the moment I heard about this book, I couldn’t wait to read it. If you lie down in a field, she will find you there is a tender and unforgettable tribute to author Colleen Brown’s mother, Doris Brown, who was murdered by a serial killer in 1974. Through family stories and her own memories, Colleen—who was only eight years old when her mother died—attempts to reclaim the singular, ordinary beauty of her mother’s life from the violence of her death. The effect is absorbing and reminds us of how society’s true crime obsession can rob victims of agency and families of closure.
I have been recommending this book to everyone. It is definitely perfect as a gift to a member of your family, too, since the narrative is composed of stories from Colleen’s siblings as well as her own memories, and this chorus of voices is stitched together, like a well-loved, well-worn family quilt.
Find If you lie down in a field, she will find you there here on All Lit Up or use our Shop Local feature to purchase from your local indie bookstore.
The Family Code by Wayne Ng
Author Wayne Ng is not only a phenomenal award-winning novelist, but he was also a social worker for three decades. He’s seen some stuff. He’s met some people: people who cannot and should not be pushed into restrictive categories and who may be part of a problem, yes, but are also a product of an imperfect system.
The Family Code tells the story of Hannah, a crass and thoroughly unlikable woman who loses custody of her daughter due to her own negligence and is on the verge of losing her young son too. Throughout the course of the story, Ng reveals Hannah’s humanity. She abuses and was abused. She’s failing her children and was failed by her parents. I didn’t end the book liking her, but I was rooting for her. Ng’s exceptional storytelling forces us out of our binary views of the world and compels us to consider–often uncomfortably–our complexities. To reconsider our own perceived moral superiority and our privilege.
Find The Family Code here on All Lit Up or use our Shop Local feature to purchase from your local indie bookstore.
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Hollay Ghadery is an Iranian-Canadian writer living in Ontario in Anishinaabe land. She has her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph. Fuse, her memoir of mixed-race identity and mental health, was released by Guernica Editions (2021) and is a finalist for The Canadian Bookclub Awards. Her collection of poetry, Rebellion Box, came out Radiant Press in 2023 and her collection of short fiction, Widow Fantasies, is scheduled for release with Gordon Hill Press in fall 2024. Hollay is a poetry editor with long con magazine, and the Fiction Editor of untethered. She is also the Poet Laureate of Scugog Township. www.hollayghadery.com
Thank you to Hollay for sharing these carefully-considered gift guide picks, especially appealing for the most rage-against-the-machine types on your list! Catch up on the other 2023 All Lit Up Gift Guides here.