Hiya, Witches Dames Nation!
We’re delighted to be your guest-bosses this week, and we have a ton of totally-not-thematically-related links to bring you, but seeing as there’s a perfectly reasonable chance that most of you have no idea who we are, an introduction:
Those of you who know us already almost definitely know us as the hosts ofWitch, Please, a fortnightly-ish podcast about the Harry Potter world. When we aren’t talking about the rise of white nationalism in the wizarding witching world or how hot Jamie Parker looks in a suit, though, we have these day jobs where we mostly think about Canadian literature and culture.
He doesn’t put his hands in his pockets in this gif, so just take our word for it…
Being both literature scholars and feminists puts us solidly in the killjoy camp: it feels like we’re always sucking the fun out of something, whether it’s your favourite book or your desire to wear high heels (kidding, we believe in bodily autonomy for everyone). And, yeah, we’re not above killing a few joys here and there, but we’re also ride-or-die for the idea that you can love something fiercely and fully, with the whole of your heart, and critique it at the same time. Lots of books and movies and comics and TV shows are flawed but still great, and we really love to think about the flaws and the great things at the same time, and celebrate what we love and hex the stuff we hate. Herein, you shall find a whole bunch of the stuff we love, with no small dose of feminist shade because, you know:
But first, a quick note about who we are:
Hannah is an Assistant Professor (that’s like a professor, but new) of Publishing Studies (she’s still figuring that part out) in Vancouver (which is in Canada and also the Pacific Northwest). She writes things about podcastingand being a spinster and also just started making a new podcast about feminism because literally the world cannot have enough feminism.
Marcelle is PhD candidate (that means all I have left to do is write a dissertation lol) in English at the University of Alberta (which is in Edmonton,have you heard of it?). When she’s not writing her dissertation (lol) she writes about feminist issues like misogynist graffiti and all the ways baby showers are super creepy.
Hannah Hates Close-Up Magic But Loves LOTS OF OTHER THINGS
SPEAKING OF FEMINISM (I’m always speaking of feminism so this segue always works), you know who I’m obsessed with right now / always? The very cruel and beautiful Scaachi Koul, BuzzFeed writer and Twitter goddess and now published book-author. Please proceed immediately to your favourite independent bookstore or morally dubious megacorporate web retailer and buy a copy of One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter.
The official emotion of Canada is “reluctant acknowledgement.”
Scaachi is smart and funny and a little bit vicious, and I have a definite weak spot for women who foster a public persona premised in cruelty and ungenerosity. Yeah yeah, kindness is great etc., but the fact is that women mostly don’t have the luxury of being unlikeable and instead are told to SMILE IN PUBLIC (I don’t know if this newsletter uses profanity so just fill in the blank here). I just have so much respect for the way Scaachi negotiates her public persona as a high femme woman of colour on platforms as public as BuzzFeed and Twitter. One time she responded to trolls for a whole night by quoting Good Will Hunting at them. And look at how she deals with accusations of being a bigot:
But even as a longstanding fan, I was surprised and delighted by Scaachi’s book. Her essays talks about the complexities of colourism in Indian culture, the feminist politics of body hair, how clothing shopping immerses us into fantasies of the perfect people we’ll never be, and rape culture. Her deft shifts between self-deprecating descriptions of getting too wasted at a bar with friends to razor-sharp analyses of the perils of being a young woman in public spaces is both familiar and deeply political. She refuses to let the reality of violence take away her capacity for humour, and in the process models a feminist form of humour writing in which the lived realities of being a woman in the world don’t need to be erased for the sake of a laugh. If you aren’t ready to take the plunge and buy her book outright, check out some of her writing on BuzzFeed, starting with this profile of The Rock.
SPEAKING OF FEMINISM (see? it always works), have you heard of Kate Beaton? She’s a danged national treasure and she wrote my favourite cartoon about feminism ever as well as a bunch of amazing books and she is the queen of making Canadian history interesting and funny without buying into stereotypes about our niceness (okay maybe sometimes, but for jokez). Anyway, read her comics about Tom Longboat and Stompin’ Tom Connors and the Franklin Expedition and you will be ready to impress your friends AND enemies at your next fancy cocktail party.
Have you figured out the secret theme of our newsletter yet?
This May I got to spend several days in a 200-year-old stone cabin in rural Western Ireland with some dear friends, so obviously I spent my time reading sad Canadian books about race, class, and our unbearably complex relationships with our mothers. Seriously, though, Jen Sookfong Lee’s The Conjoined is a heartbreaking new novel that begins when the protagonist, cleaning out her recently deceased mother’s basement, finds the frozen corpses of two Chinese teenagers they fostered years before, and who everyone assumed had run away. It’s about a lot of things, including what we don’t know about the people we love and the cities we live in. Jen also wrote a really important essay about racism in Canadian literature that should be required reading for everyone who cares about books.
Want something a little lighter? How about a poem comparing child soldier and long-time Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr to Harry Potter? Khadr has been in the news a lot lately, since the government decision to pay him a $10.5 million settlement for failing to protect his rights as a Canadian citizen. In the long poem “Omar Khadr Is Not Harry Potter,” part of the collection Human Misunderstanding, Kathy Mac asks why we celebrate a fictional child soldier as a hero while letting another spend ten years in a detainment camp (read an excerpt here). If you’re unfamiliar with Khadr’s case, here’s an old-but-excellent long read from Rolling Stone.
You’re very welcome, Buffy.
Sorry for all the downers, folks, but that’s the secret theme of most Canadian literature. Don’t worry, we have fun here, too:
Par example, have you heard of the really incredibly good GUTS: Canadian Feminist Magazine? They’ve published eight issues so far, on topics like Love and Moms and Cash. In between issues they feature regular columns, including an A+ weekly links roundup. If you want a place to jump in, try this piece on emotional labour from their most recent issue.
SPEAKING OF FEMINISM (last time, I swear), you should definitely for sure read Erin Wunker’s Notes from a Feminist Killjoy: Essays on Everyday Life, which includes essays on feminist mothering and rape culture and (my personal favourite) feminist friendship as a way of life. Do you want to read beautiful words about how magical and sustaining feminist friendship is? OF COURSE YOU DO. Videos and excerpts at the link!
If you would rather write your own Canadian novel instead of reading one I’ve recommended, here’s a handy CanLit Premise Generator. Spoiler alert, they’re mostly about fish, the prairies, and long-buried family secrets.
I know I said these would be things to read but listening is good too and you should definitely listen to the eleven-episode podcast Colour Code, by journalists Hannah Sung and Denise Balkissoon. Each episode takes up some dimension of race politics in Canada. Start with episode four, where they tackle “The Angel Complex”—the myth that Canada is a kindler, gentler place than the U.S.
And while you’re putting Canadian things in your ears, why don’t you check out an underrated but excellent Canadian folk singer? Andrea Warner’s candid interview with Ferron introduces you to an artist who belongs in the pantheon of Canadian singer-songwriters, alongside Joni Mitchell and Buffy Sainte-Marie.
Marcelle’s Magic is REAL Bag of Tricks
Can’t stop, won’t stop.
Having a toddler has been weird in that lately most of my contact with the world comes from “kids stuff” but fortunately we live in an age of AWESOME KIDS STUFF. Like, have you seen the picture book The Boy & the Bindi by Vivek Shraya? Actually wait, HAVE YOU HEARD OF VIVEK SHRAYA? She is a sensationally multi-talented artist, musician, and writer based in Toronto. It was the picture book that introduced me to this prolific artist, and now my gift to you is the link to Vivek’s website where you can watch her films and buy all her books and albums (she has a widely celebrated poetry collection called Even this Page is White, and a new EP called Part-Time Woman).
Remember when reading was this fun?!
Anyone who knows me knows that I never finish books anymore unless they’re written for children, but recently I finished a whole book that was written for adults! I read Ami McKay’s The Witches of New York with my grandma (actually she finished it back in January) and if you haven’t read it yet, it is spellbinding! Women, magic, mystery, animal familiars, intrigue—what more could you want? The US paperback release JUST HAPPENED so you should get yourself a copy today!
Speaking of witchcraft, I had a tarot reading by an old friend of mine who just happens to be an incredible, powerful, body positive, gender queer witch. Carly helped me put a lot of things into perspective and I am now fully convinced that tarot is therapy. If you’ve ever considered doing a tarot reading let my glowing review be the nudge that makes the difference. If you’re in the Toronto-area you can get in touch with Carly professionally via Tiny Lantern, or you can check out her advice column for GUTS Magazine (featured above): Ask a Feelings Witch.
Honestly, the world doesn’t deserve her.
Body positivity is so hot right now—FINALLY—if by “hot” you mean starting to be taken seriously. One glorious light in my social media is dooleytraining’s Instagram feed. Rae Dooley is a freelance personal trainer who is especially welcoming to transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming, and queer identified clients (I stole that info right from the Dooley Training facebook page, which is loaded with workout tips and videos for at-home use). Rae’s tagline is “practice love, not shame” and I love that so, so much. Let these be the words you take with you whenever you do anything with your body.
More body positive yoga please! xoxo
OK, we’re getting into the deep part of the bag where there’s still so much stuff but so little time for details:
You always wear your seatbelt, right? If you have someone in your life that needs a little convincing about how great seatbelts are, just play for them this Cadence Weapon re-write of the song “Always Strapped” which is probably the greatest seatbelt promo in the history of the automobile.
If you haven’t read Marvel’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl authored by comedic genius and all-around one hundred per cent ACCEPTABLE MAN Ryan North, let me just say you’re welcome in advance for this hot tip.
You seem like the type of babe who likes comics. You’d definitely like Hope Nicholson’s work—she’s also babe who likes comics and has started a whole publishing company called Bedside Press to resuscitate long lost comics (Nelvana of the Northern Lights), and bring new anthologies to life (like the Indigenous LGBT Sci-Fi collection Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time). There’s still time for you to get in on Hope’s current Kickstarter project, a collection of gothic romance comics called Gothic Tales of Haunted Love!
While we’re on the topic of comics history and Canadian babes, did you know that the editor of Weird Tales was a woman from Hamilton, Ontario? Dorothy McIlwraith was the editor in chief for this classic pulp of horror / occult / sf during its golden years. Here’s a two-part blog post: part 1 and part 2 (ok there’s an itty bitty part 3, too).
Canadian content sure is having a parade in the US right now with that new Netflix series adaptation of Anne of Green Gables and the Handmaid’s Tale tv adaptation on Hulu. But if you really want to boost your CanCon ken, you need to turn to national treasure Paul Gross and his short-lived 2003–2006 tv series Slings & Arrows. [Ed note: sadly, Slings & Arrows is not currently available to stream anywhere in the U.S., and the DVDs are quite expensive, so you'll have to rely on the kindness of strangers, libraries, and friends. Readers in other countries, if you are so blessed as to have easy access to this stone classic, watch it now!]
Lord grant me the confidence of a white man who doesn’t shower before work.
Gratuitously Satisfying our CanCon Quotas
Fun fact: Marcelle’s favourite vine in the universe is a “Hotline Bling” / 30 Rock mashup.
DID YOU KNOW: there are regulations in Canada enforcing the amount of Canadian content radio stations have to play? It’s officially 35%, but most stations are committed to 40%. If you want to work on your own CanCon, here are some places to start:
Americans are often under the impression that Canadians aren’t racist—actually, a lot of white Canadians are under that impression, too. Anti-Black racism is a HUGE problem in Canada and one of the best writers on the subject is Desmond Cole, former columnist for the Toronto Star. Follow himon Twitter.
You should also read this piece about literary colonialism by Alicia Elliottand then follow her on Twitter, too.
While you’re there, follow the brilliant Billy-Ray Belcourt, a Cree queer poet.
We’re also fans of illustrator Jonathan Dyck who is another gem of a human.
(We honestly know so many Acceptable Men that we won’t be bothered with Unacceptable Men anymore).
Métis in Space is an “unapologetically Indigenous, unabashedly female & unblinkingly nerdy” podcast where hosts Molly Swain and Chelsea Vowel offer a decolonial perspective on pop culture.
Those dance moves, that dress! <3 <3 <3
One Final, Terrible Thing
Like this, but on a donut.
Did anyone hear about the limited-time poutine donut being offered at select locations of Canadian institution Tim Hortons in honour of our sesquicentennial? Here’s the catch: those locations were all American. The “Honey Dip Donut topped with potato wedges, gravy and cheese curds” (NO) was pitched as “a great way for Americans to get in on the 150th celebration of their friendly neighbor next door” (DOUBLE NO). This nightmare of national branding did remind us of the weird trend of Canadian food chains naming themselves for American cities. See for example Boston Pizza, established (obviously) in Edmonton, Alberta. Why, Canada?