The Black Veins by Ashia Monet

This was such a fun book. It’s set in our world, but there are magicians. Blythe and six other teens are guardians associated with the seven types of magic. As they set off to gather each guardian, the two magical governments are on the brink of war. The guardians need to learn to work together and find their own strengths in the process.

It’s a great adventure with 7 very different teens learning to stand up for themselves and each other. It’s about friendship (yes, this is one of those rare books that focuses on friendship and doesn’t assume that everyone needs to couple off). It focuses on families – blood relations and found families. And, it’s about courage and all the different ways people can be brave. Each of these teens come from different backgrounds – from a sheltered, timid kid to a badass superhero. They all need to find their own strengths and their own courage.

This book has all kinds of rep – different racialized communities, different sexual preferences, different gender identities (including non-binary and trans), and different economic brackets. I would have loved for some body diversity (just one fat or chubby kid would have been nice).

Honestly, my only real disappointment is that the non-binary character, who I loved, was only in the first coupe chapters (though, I expect they’ll to make a reappearance in the future as they were close to Blythe).

Red Chesterfield by Wayne Arthurson

This short book (novella? short story?) was very amusing. M, a bylaw officer, sees a red chesterfield in a ditch. When he goes to inspect it, he finds something unexpected that turns his life into chaos for a week.
What I love about this story is that it’s a quiet sort of chaos. M spends a lot of time drifting through events trying to figure out what the heck is going on. Also, Arthurson is able to pack quite a bit into 99 pages.

It’s a fun book. I legit chuckled when I closed the book. I still stifle a chuckle when I think about the ridiculousness of everything that happened. And, I’ll probably never be able to look at a red chesterfield the same way.

If your looking to support Indigenous Canadian authors, Arthurson is Métis (of Cree and French Canadian descent).

Red River Girl: The Life and Death of Tina Fontaine by Joanna Jolly

I have mixed feelings about this book.

This book is about the murder of Tina Fountain and it’s investigation by the police. It’s a true crime novel. It seems to be a sympathetic and relatively neutral account of the investigation, with a few mentions of racism and politics.

When started reading it, I was impressed with the author’s approach to talking about Tina and the overall issues of racism towards Indigenous people. But, I was in the middle of it when I was reminded about the importance of own-voices in reviews and story telling. The author is a BBC journalist and, as far as I can tell, she’s not Indigenous. It made me look at the book a bit more critically and I realized that I knew more about the lead investigator than I did about Tina. It also made me realize that the discussion of Colten Boushie and the demands to address the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) was really only included to set the stage and give the reader some insight on the pressure investigators had to find Tina’s murderer.

Does that make the book bad? No, it just makes it another true crime novel that doesn’t really add to the important discussions around systemic racism, MMIWG, broken support systems, etc.

I’m glad I read it because I, admittedly, didn’t know much about Tina Fountain’s death. But, I could’ve just read the Wikipedia article. I know very little about Tina after reading this book, other than she was a sweet girl and got into a bad situation that ended in her murder. This book was more about the lead detective and his investigation.

Tanya Talaga wrote Seven Fallen Feathers. It’s about the deaths of 7 high school students in Thunder Bay. As I mentioned in my Goodreads review, it’s “…devastating, infuriating, and absolutely essential for anyone interested in learning more about racism in Canada or the issues faced by indigenous youth.” If you’re going to read about Indigenous people being murdered in Canada (and you should), start with this book.

I also encourage you to read the #ownvoices (Instagram) reviews of Red River Girl. For example, @anishinaabekwereads (Instagram)has a lot of important insight about this book and the author’s approach to telling the story (scroll back in their feed to early February).

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

This is about subversive, queer, antifascists librarians. There’s action, adventure, romance … it’s a fun story. If I liked Westerns, this would have easily gotten four stars from me. .

This is the only LGBTQia2+ book I’ve read this month. Normally I wouldn’t be too bothered by that, but I haven’t been doing a good job of reading queer books in general. I think I’ve read 2 or 3 books with LGBTQia2+ characters (only one as the lead). So, that’s something I need to work on this year.

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Why has it taken me this long to finally get around to reading this book?! And, why didn’t I order the next book two weeks ago?! This book it so good. It centres on Maggie who’s a Dinétah monster hunter. She’s broken, she’s kinda bitchy, she’s got supernatural clan powers, and she’s feared. It’s set in a world that’s been all but destroyed by floods and where monsters roam. There’s action, there are monsters, there’s magic, and it’s dystopian. What more could you want?

It starts with a slow punch to the gut and ends with a kick to the chest. I loved ever bit of it.

Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape by Lauret Savoy

In this book, Savoy looks at the relationship between the American landscape and racialized communities by exploring her experiences and the experiences of marginalized, enslaved, and displaced communities. It’s a fascinating and difficult trip through history and around the country.
While the content is difficult, the writing is beautiful. I was pulled in and entranced by the way she wove through stories that explain the human story of America’s history.

I read this for the #alliesinthelandscape reading group, lead by @jessicajlee on Twitter (the first discussion was Sunday night, but she also provides questions that you can reflect on by yourself). In retrospect, I don’t think I have the time to fully engage in the reading group, but I’m going to try and check in each week to reflect on the conversations and read the books.

We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer

This is an intriguing take on “save the world.” He starts by talking about stories and how sometimes we’re not drawn to an issue until the right story is told (for example, Claudette Colvin versus Rosa Parks – Claudette wasn’t considered “respectable” enough to ignite a movement).

He also talks about belief and how we may not think that scientists are lying, but we still struggle with believing them to the extend that we’re willing to take action. He explores these things through discussing historic events that can give us a non-climate change perspective. He also explores them through his own experiences and inaction.

It’s a really interesting book that has left me with a lot to think about, like my own inaction.

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

This novella is delightfully intriguing and imaginative. It follows two time travelling operatives from opposing sides, Red and Blue. While they’re altering threads of history in multiple universes on behalf of their respective empires, they begin to leave secret messages for each other. As their relationship grows, they eventually fall in love.

Told threw narrative and their letters to each other, it does a wonderful job of seamlessly moving through time and space and finding increasingly inventive and unexpected ways to leave messages.

Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall

This is a collection of essays about how mainstream feminism has failed to include many marginalized populations and has failed to consider the extent of the issues that affect the daily lives of millions of women. Kendall discusses hunger, poverty, gun violence, housing, education, reproductive justice, and so on.

Each essay discusses harmful myths and focuses on the experiences of communities that are being overlooked by the mainstream feminist movement. I think this book is critical for feminists to read, particularly if they’re fairly privileged, like myself (white, middle class, etc.). I’ve always believed in intersectional feminism, but this book opened my eyes – I wasn’t aware of many of the issues (or nuances of issues) that Kendall discussed.
In the first few chapters alone, Kendall addresses topics like: Soda taxes are unfair to poor communities if they have lead in their water. The reminder that between hunger and crime, there is no choice. How sexy halloween costumes, even if not overtly racist, can sexualize marginalized communities (ex: a sexy maid costume perpetuates the idea that maids are “available” and/or makes them targets of sexual harassment). How people need more then just more food – they need time to cook, a stove that works, a fridge that works, storage that safe (pest free, etc.), pots and pans, etc.
These essays are engaging, honest, and very informative.

I highly recommend this book.

Policing Black Lives by Robyn Maynard

Canadian policing, immigration, incarceration, welfare, schools, etc. It’s all plagued with biases against Black folk and other racialized communities.
You know how we’ve all been taught the shocking and offensive fact that the last residential school was closed in 1996? Did you know that the last segregated school closed in 1983? I didn’t.

As Maynard points out at the beginning of the book, in Canada, anti-Black racism is assumed to exist in another time (the past) or another place (the U.S.). But, it’s real and it’s oppressing the lives of Black folk.

While the book focuses on anti-Black racism, Maynard also draws many parallels with how the Indigenous community is treated.

I highly recommend this book for anyone, especially Canadians, who are interested in learning about racism or having a better understanding of the potential impacts of policing or of defunding the police.

This book is honest and the content could be difficult to read if you don’t understand the full reality of racism in Canada. I know racism exists and I still found many sections shocking and infuriating. But, it’s written in a way that is very approachable and easy to read.