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.

PLEASE READ THIS BOOK, CANADA.

Environmental justice books

(This is a slightly modified version of something that I posted in the book recommendations discussion of the Environmental Book Club on Goodreads. It’s not a comprehensive list and I haven’t read most of them, so I can only judge them based on their reviews.)

It’s important to read about environmental justice and other related topics because environmentalism should be intersectional. We need to be aware of how and why some communities are more likely to be affected by pollution and climate change, we need to understand how people are further marginalized when we assume that they “choose” to live in a high risk, and we need ensure that they’re welcome in natural spaces and the environmental movement.

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (@ayanaeliza on Instagram and Twitter) wrote an article about how racism derails efforts to save the planet. In it, she notes that black (57%) and Latinx (70%) people are more concerned about climate change that white (49%) people. So, we (white folk) all need to do a better job of listening to them and giving them space in discussions about environmentalism.

I’d like to acknowledge that many of these are not written by BIPOC authors and that we should strive to read own voices accounts, where possible. Also, these books are all American or Canadian because I haven’t yet had a chance to look for books from other places. While many of them discuss global issues, it’s important to read books from other countries (especially countries that have been colonized or that are marginalized due to poverty, war, etc.). I have more books in my bookshelves and I’ll continue to add more as I find them (you can see my shelves in my profile).

Books about the BIPOC experience in nature:

The Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and the Natural World by Alison Hawthorne Deming and Lauret Savoy (editors) – Explores the history, displacement, return, and relationship to place of POC (People of Colour) through 17 essays. BIPOC editor (Savoy)

Trace: Memory, History, Race and the American Land by Lauret Savoy – The author looks at how history and the idea of “race” have affected her and the land through personal anecdotes and historical research. Note: This is the first book/item being read as part of the #alliesinthelandscape reading group (on Twitter), which was created by @jessicajlee (Twitter) to combat anti-Black racism in nature and the outdoors. BIPOC author

Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney – In this book, the author argues that the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial violence have shaped cultural understandings of the great outdoors and determined who should and can have access to natural spaces. BIPOC author

Books about or relating to environmental racism:

There’s Something in the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous & Black Communities – by Ingrid R.G. Waldron – This looks at the legacy of environmental racism and its health impacts in Indigenous and Black communities in Canada. This is now a documentary on NetFlix. BIPOC author Canadian

As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker – A history of Indigenous resistance to government and corporate incursions on their lands and offers new approaches to environmental justice activism and policy. BIPOC author

If You Poison Us: Uranium and Native Americans: Uranium and Native Americans by Peter H. Eichstaedt – This is about the health, environmental and spiritual impact of uranium mining on the Navajo Reservation.

Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility by Dorceta Taylor – This examines the connections among residential segregation, zoning, and exposure to environmental hazards. BIPOC author

The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection by Dorceta Taylor – This book shows how race, class, and gender influenced every aspect of the conservation movement. BIPOC author

Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks by Mark David Spence – This looks at how the establishment of America’s most cherished parks involved the displacement of Native communities. BIPOC author

Books that are relevant, but may not be specifically about eco-justice or environmental racism:

The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution That Could Save the World by David R. Boyd – This is about environmental rights in general, but there’s a lot of discussion about Indigenous groups fighting to save their lands and sacred places. Canadian

Finding Our Niche: Toward a Restorative Human Ecology by Philip A Loring – A look at mistakes we’ve made, how to reconcile our settler-colonial histories and how to move towards a more sustainable and just future.

Noxious New York: The Racial Politics of Urban Health and Environmental Justice by Julie Sze – An analysis of the culture, politics, and history of environmental justice activism in New York City. BIPOC author

Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush – A look at some of the places in the US where rising sea levels are having the most dramatic effects. Includes some discussion about marginalized communities and racism.

On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal by Naomi Klein – A collection of essays talking about how a bold new green deal could lead to a just and thriving society. There essays are about a diverse range of topics, including the rise of white supremacy.

Canada Reads winners reading challenge

Goodreads has a a CanadianContent group that focuses Canadian books. While I’m not an active member, I love to use their reading challenges to diversity my reading while also supporting authors (and publishers) from Canada. One of their active challenges is reading all of the Canada Reads winners. Canada Reads is an annual “battle of the books” challenge. While the debates and outcomes are sometimes a bit questionable, the books are good and every now and then I challenge myself to try to read the shortlist (5 books). But, I’ve never gone back to read past winners.

I’ve listed all of the past winners below (as of 2019 – the 2020 battle has been postponed, but the shortlist was announced). I won’t be reading all of them and I may not even read most of them. But, I’m going to try to read more of them. All of the winners and contenders (the shortlists) are listed on the CBC Books site.

2002 In the Skin of the Lion by Michael Ondaatje: This is a love story and mystery set in Toronto in the 20s and 30s.

2003 Next Episode by Hubert Aquin, translated by Sheila Fischman: Considered a classic of Canadian literature, this story is about political dissent.

2004 The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe: A frontier tale centered around the search for a missing brother.

2005 Rockbound by Frank Parker Day: A story of ambition and conflict set on a harsh island off the coast of Nova Scotia. (How have I not read this yet?!)

2006 A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews: A coming of age story set in a town ruled by fundamentalist religion.

2007 (read) Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill: This is a story of life on the streets in Montreal, as seen through the eyes of a young girl. I enjoyed this story, but it’s definitely not my favourite O’Neill novel.

2008 (read) King Leary by Paul Quarrington: A once-great hockey hero looks back at his life. I have zero interest in reading about hockey and only read this because of the 2017 Book Riot Read Harder challenge. It was a slow read for me, but it’s a good book and I loved the ending.

2009 The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill: This is an historic epic centering on an African girl who was kidnapped from her village and forced into the slave trade.

2010 (read) Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner, translated by Lazer Lederhendler: This story looks at the invisible links between strangers and at fate. I loved this book and wrote a review a couple years ago.

2011 The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis: This is a political satire centering around an engineering professor who agrees to run in an election he’s sure to lose. It was made into a CBC TV miniseries in 2014.

2012 Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre: This is about two young girls and their parents fleeing to Canada after a violent coup in Chile.

2013 (read) February by Lisa Moore: A story of grief after a Newfoundland woman’s husband dies in an oil rig disaster (based on a real tragedy). This was a beautiful and heartbreaking story full of love, grief, and hope.

2014 The Orenda by Joseph Boyden: Set in the 1600s, this is about a young Iroquois girl, a Huron elder and a Jesuit priest. I’ve heard wonderful things about this book, but I won’t read any of Boyden’s work because he claimed to be Indigenous, even though he isn’t. You can read about the controversy around his claims of being Indigenous on Wikipedia. Personally, I’m inclined to listen to the Indigenous community, and the majority of what I saw was people being offended and hurt that he claimed kinship, told their stories and took advantage of accolades and programs meant to promote Indigenous voices. There’s a plethora of authentic Indigenous authors that you can read instead: Richard Wagamese, Thomas King, Eden Robinson, Katherena Vermette, Cherie Dimaline, Richard Van Camp, Drew Hayden Taylor, Tanya Talaga, Waubgeshig Rice, Tracey Lindberg, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, and so on. Here’s a list of 108 Indigenous authors that CBC compiled in 2017.

2015 (read) Ru by Kim Thúy, translated by Sheila Fischman: Travelling back and forth in time (and place), this tells the story of a woman who flees the Vietnam War and settles in Canada. It’s a beautifully written account of being a refugee and struggling to settle in a new country.

2016 The Illegal by Lawrence Hill: A story about a refugee who risked everything to start over in a country that doesn’t want them.

2017 (read) Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis: The story of 15 dogs who are given human consciousness by Hermes and Appollo. I’ve read this twice and it’s a fascinating look at human behaviour and the way we “other” people through fear and a false sense of being unique, special or better.

2018 Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto: This book intertwines the story of a white Canadian soldier captured by the Japanese and a Japanese Canadian family sent to an internment camp after the attack on Pearl Harbour.

2019 By Chance Alone by Max Eisen: This is about the author’s survival of the holocaust.

When stories end

“Perhaps,” the girl said. “There is always a moment when stories end, a moment when everything is blue and black and silent, and the teller does not want to believe it’s over, and the listener does not, and so they both hold their breath and hope fervently as pilgrims that it is not over, that there are more tales to come … But no breath can be held forever, and all tales end. … Even mine.”

The Orphan’s Tale: In the Cities of Coin and Spice, by Catherynne M. Valente

Glow-in-the-dark Halloween cross stitch

Many years ago, I bought some glow-in-the-dark thread, but I didn’t like it because it was hard to stitch with (it was essentially thread wrapped in/with thin plastic) and it came in weird colours (think florescent colours, but in pastel). Then, I found DMC’s glow-in-the-dark thread and I knew that I had to find a pattern immediately because glow-in-the-dark is cool.

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Halloween was coming up, which seemed perfect for glow-in-the-dark thread, but I didn’t like any of the patterns I found, so I made my own. This was not an easy feat – I studied many patterns and even tried to play with free patterns (merging  2 or more, adjusting colours, etc.). In the end, I designed my own pattern in two parts – the pumpkin with glow-in-the-dark facial features and a glow-in-the-dark spider web for the background. It was early October 2011 and I figured I could whip it together by Halloween.

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By early November, I’d managed to get it half done. No problem – that just meant that it would be done by the following Halloween. Or, you know, Halloween 2018.

Seven years. It took me 7 years to finish the piece.

One of the benefits of all the decluttering and prioritizing I’ve been doing is that I’m no longer overwhelmed by all the unfinished projects I have, because I only kept a select few, including this pumpkin. I was quite proud of the design and I like Halloween. So, it was easy for me to pick this up and spend a week working on it.

Then, I took a trick that Alex from Florals and Floss recommended. She stains her hoops to make them look a bit more classy. I figured painting would work, too. So, I painted the outer hoop in black to match and blend in with the back ground. It looks really awesome.

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I also stitched some fabric to the back. This was not as easy as using felt, but I had fabric that worked with the piece. Side note: if you’re using directional fabric and don’t want to worry about lining it up properly, do it on an angle.

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Now my apartment is (sort of) decorated for Halloween because I thought it would be nice to pull out my other two Halloween pieces that I kept: a table runner made with Lizzie House Halloween fabric (newly christened as a wall hanging because I don’t use table runners) and Frankie (a.k.a. my boyfriend, a.k.a. yes, I’m well aware of the fact that he’s name is really Adam, but I prefer the name Frank). Now I get to enjoy them while embracing the autumn weather and lamenting the fact that the city is turning grey (the leaves never last long once they change colour).

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Next up, a few more stitching projects and I might also work on the Christmas quilt I started in 2015 (here’s a peak at a block that I finished). Maybe. Possibly. The website it was on no longer exists, so I’ll have to figure out how to finish it first.

Repurpose

Today, I avoided a day of shopping by repurposing something I was going to get rid of.

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My plan for this windy Saturday was to drag myself out the door to shop for a mat to put by my bed. Despite some pre-weekend Google searches, I wasn’t feeling very optimistic about finding something that would work and that I liked.

I like having a mat by my bed for two reasons: (1) it’s a little warmer on chilly winter mornings, and, (2) my floor gets dusty and dirty when my windows are open (most of the time, most of the year), and I like to have a mat to wipe my feet off before getting into bed. It’s like a doormat, but for my bed. A bed mat!

Over the summer, I was using a woven mat I bought at IKEA a couple years ago. It’s simple, durable, washable, and just about the right size for the space.  But, it belongs by my front door, where it’s supposed to keep most of the outdoor dirt away from my living space. Over the summer, I put up with wiping my shoes on the carpet in the hall and taking my shoes off as I was in the doorway. But, the weather has been wet and I needed to put my mat back by the door to catch the mud.

One of the things that the temporary mat taught me was that I definitely still need something that can be washed. Even though it wasn’t getting outdoor dirt when it was next to the bed, it still got dirty. When it’s by the front door, I typically wash the temporary mat every month or so, but because the mat was next to my bed, I often wanted to wash it more often. Unfortunately, the mat’s bulky and the dye is slowing washing out (i.e., it’s not something I can easily toss in with other things). I would like to wash my bed mat every time I wash my rags and such, so I wanted to find something washable and not too bulky. A couple small, woven area rugs (2 x 3 feet) would have worked.

Initially, I considered going to Ikea, but that’s a long way (1-1.5 hours and 1-2 transfers) for a couple of cheap rugs. Winners is hit and miss. And, most of the decor stores in my areas either didn’t seem to carry what I needed, or had expensive options. I envisioned a lot of “nope” and “where do I try next?”

Have I mentioned I don’t like to shop at the best of times? Needless to say, I was procrastinating to delay what I expected would be a long and annoying day. I convinced myself that I “had” to sort my donation/sell pile into categories. And, that’s where I found my solution.

A couple of years ago, in one of my many attempts to pick up regular yoga, I bought a yoga mat towel (these, but a different design). It was the peak of winter (read: cold!) and I thought that the mat towel would feel warmer. I had also been told that it would protect my mat. I happened to find a beautiful design in dark blue (my favourite colour), but I found it very annoying. Yes, it felt warmer, but it also got caught up in my feet, dragged around, bunched up under me and didn’t feel as grippy as I would have liked. At the end of the day, I much preferred to go without.

It ended up being one of those things that I had a really hard time getting rid of – it was beautiful, it had been expensive … surely I just needed to get used to it! So, there it was, still in my donate/sell pile. And, there was the empty space by my bed. The yoga mat towel has silicone on the bottom to grip to the floor, it’s soft, it feels warmer, it’s washable, it’s not bulky, it’s colourfast, it sort of matches my bedding, and I love it. Also, it’s free because I already own it, and it saved me from a day of shopping.

Sure, it’s not a conventional option for a mat and it doesn’t entirely match my bedding style, but who cares. Using it by my bed means that I get to repurpose something I love but wasn’t using, and it allows me to save the money I was going to spend (or, to spend it on something else, like the Himalayan rock salt lamp I’ve been wanting to buy).

I’ll still keep my eye open for something better (like this, but in pink; or one of the many fabulous rugs I’m pinned over the years), but this meets my needs and will get me through the winter.

Sometimes, you need to think outside the box.

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Deodorants

I used to use antiperspirants from the drug store. It was what I grew up with and the only option I knew about. But, I hated them. Forget all the cancer scare stuff, antiperspirants stink of manufactured perfumes, irritate my skin, and don’t seem to work all that well in the long run.

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When I first learned about other options, I tried a couple but, at the time, I couldn’t afford to keep trying until I found something that worked. So, I went back to regular antiperspirants.

Years later, when I started walking to work, I struggled with antiperspirants even more because I would get super sweaty from the walk and that sweat turned to stink. Even if I cleaned my armpits and reapplied antiperspirant when I got to work, I would still have days when my pits smelled bad. I was worried that I might have a serious odour problem and started researching what the cause could be. When I couldn’t find an obvious cause (my diet was already good, I showered daily, etc.), I started to consider the possibility that I would need to buy industrial strength antiperspirant.

But, one morning, I forgot to put on any antiperspirant and didn’t realize it until I was most of the way to work. I dreaded the consequences, but it ended up being a good mistake: when I got to work and cleaned my sweaty pits, I noticed that I didn’t smell quite as bad as usual. On a whim, I decided to see what would happen if I stopped putting on antiperspirant before I walked to work. It wasn’t ideal (I still had armpit odour), but it didn’t seem to be as bad as before. It occurred to me that the odour from my sweat was probably being trapped and retained by the antiperspirant. It is, after all, a pasty substance.

This led me to trying rock crystal deodorant, which was the only non-pasty option I knew of at the time. It wasn’t ideal and I had to reapply throughout the day, but I found that I had significantly fewer days when my armpits smelled like something had died in them and my skin wasn’t as irritated or dry. Still, there were some days when the stress or busyness of the day made me regret not using something stronger. I eventually decided to use antiperspirant as needed. This was a mistake because I was back to having problems with the odour lingering in my armpits. There always seemed to be some residue left over from the antiperspirant and I think that trapped the odour.

I was determined to find a better solution and in a position where I could afford to try lots of new options. I did my research, I tried natural and “natural” options, I scoured the drug stores, I spent hours reading product ingredients, I tried random homemade options, and I did countless Google searches. There are far more options now then there were even a couple years ago: Kaia (Canadian) and Native (American, but ships to Canada) are just two of the brands that are similar to standard stick deodorants or antiperspirants. There are countless other options that you can buy from indie online shops, etsy, and your local eco store. A lot of them don’t work for me.

After trying more options than I can remember, this is what I discovered:

  • Baking soda works, but I can’t use it long term (ex: daily) because it irritates my sensitive skin too much
  • Gooey or pasty products (pretty much every stick deodorant or antiperspirant) don’t work for me as they seem to stick to my skin and trap the odours from my sweat
  • I’m really resistant to most floral scents, but naturally derived scents are so much better than manufactured ones (I already knew this, but trying deodorants was a good reminder)
  • Natural doesn’t mean that they haven’t been a bit heavy handed with the perfumes
  • Spray deodorants don’t leave a goey residue and you don’t have to wait for them to dry
  • There are no perfect options and it’s OK to use more than one product to cover all your needs

What I found was that the rock crystal and some deodorant sprays work well enough for most of my needs: they’re fine for quiet days, they wash off my skin or out of clothes with water, they don’t leave a residue on me or my clothes, and I can easily add my second deodorant over top. I’m currently using Green Beaver’s Lavender Natural Deodorant Spray (Canadian) or Lafe’s Soothe Natural Deodorant Spray. Neither are plastic free, unfortunately, and the Green Beaver spray deodorant has something in it that bothers my nose and lungs. It has more additives than the Lafe’s deodorant, and I assume it’s one of those that bothers me. Nonetheless, I have it and I’m going to try and use it up – I just hold my breath when I spray it on.

On days when I need a little extra help (lots of meetings, lots of stress, etc.), I use Schmidt’s Lavender + Sage deodorant (I’ve also used Routine, which is a comparable Canadian brand). The Scmidt’s deodorant is a baking soda deodorant, so I can’t use it every day, but the formula isn’t goey, so it’s easy to wash off and doesn’t leave a residue. It also smells amazing. It can be annoying to apply because you have to use your fingers, but it comes in glass jar that can be re-used. It also comes with a little paddle to get it out of the jar, which is plastic, unfortunately.

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I had hoped that I would find the perfect solution, but perfection doesn’t exist. I’ll keep looking for zero waste options (for example, I could make my own baking soda deodorant), but I’m happy with what I have now because they’re better for my skin, more in tune with my priorities, and both products are from indie companies.

There are lots of other options out there, but some of them can feel pretty pricy compared to the cheap drug store brands. But, if natural products, zero waste or low impact living are priorities for you, it’s well worth the money if you can afford it.