Tag Archives: guest post

Queer Memoirs

I love reading memoirs because unlike fiction, you know as the reader this is the writer’s version of the events that happened in their lives.  It is the edited version of course, which makes it that much more intriguing. The authors have to ask themselves what they want to share and who they want to name and what details should remain quiet. The magic of queer memoirs is that these create narratives that give voice to LGBTTQ+ experiences.  Definitely not a new genre and there are so many authors to check out!  Audre Lorde, Alison Bechdel, Leslie Fienberg and Jeanette Winterson  have written autobiographies, and they are all available at Winnipeg Public Library!  Read on for some suggestions of recent memoirs that have caught my eye.

 

Dirty River by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

This book is a quick, engaging read that contains some heavy content. It is a relatable coming of age story about Toronto-based activist/writer/artist Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha that details being broke, queer, and living with a disability in the 90’s, interspersed with the writers fraught relationship with her parents.

 

How to Grow Up by Michelle Tea

Speaking of coming of age stories, “How to Grow Up by Michelle Tea” is a memoir that focuses on becoming an adult. This title reads as a series of essays with advice for the reader. What I appreciated most about this book is the author’s honesty about how her path to “adulthood” has been a rather slow and twisty one, which I’m sure many of us can relate to.

 

A Two-Spirit Journey by Ma-Nee Chacaby with Mary Louisa Plummer

This book (technically an autobiography) details the amazing and very difficult events in the life of Ma-Nee Chacaby, an Ojibwa-Cree lesbian.  Chacaby discusses how she was taught traditional knowledge by her grandmother, learning to survive through trapping and hunting.  She also details her experiences with abuse, racism, addiction and poverty. Chacaby overcame these barriers, helping many people throughout her life including her own children and foster children. While not technically a memoir I had to put this item on the list as it is an incredibly inspiring book that has many gifts to offer potential readers.

 

My Body is Yours by Michael V. Smith

The first sentence of this book sets the tone – “I spent the first thirty years of my life trying to disappear”. Michael Smith grew up in a small town and did not fit into the strict understanding of gender and sexuality. His honesty in this memoir is striking, examining his life as a young queer person growing up in a working class town and not holding back all of the gritty details.

 

A Queer and Pleasant Danger: A Memoir by Kate Bornstein

This is “the true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today.” Kate Bornstein has a writing style that will bring the reader in and keep engaged from the first page. Bornstein explores her gender transition journey and doesn’t shy away from a lot of facts about her life.  An honest and brave book recommended for anyone looking for a little inspiration.

 

Check out the LGBTTQ+ Info Guide for more books suggestions, new books, local resources and more.

Kim

Spring into some Musical Reads

As spring and summer make their way into town, one of my favourite parts of this city comes alive: its vibrant music scene. Winnipeg is home to some of the best music festivals in the country, with the Winnipeg Folk Festival and The Winnipeg Jazz Festival, not to mention some of the smaller rural festivals such as Harvest Moon, Rainbow Trout and Real Love.

The library is fortunate enough to house some of the most critically acclaimed books on music and musicians. So before you head out to Birds Hill or Old Market Square this summer, brush up on some music history, read about your favourite artist or listen to a few tunes!

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Just Kids offers a rare glimpse into Patti Smith’s remarkable relationship with photographer Rober Mapplethorpe. Her first book of prose, she describes the epochal days of New York City and The Chelsea Hotel in the late sixties and seventies. A story of youth and friendship, Smith brings the same unique, lyrical quality to Just Kids as she has to the rest of her formidable body of work- from her influential 1975 album Horses to her visual art and poetry.

You can also check out her latest book, M Train

Cash by Johnny Cash

The ‘Man in Black’ writes this critically acclaimed autobiography about the highs and lows, the struggles and hard-won triumphs and the people who shaped him throughout his life.

In his own words, Cash sets the record straight, dispelling a few myths along the way. He describes growing up in Arkansas, his superstardom in Nashville, playing with Elvis, his battles with addiction and his relationship with his wife, June. He reminisces about his life long friends- Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Bob Dylan. He talks about his gratitude for life and his thoughts on what the afterlife may bring. Filled with candor, this book shows the wit and the wisdom of a man who truly ‘walked the line’.

How Music Got Free by Stephen Witt

In his first book, Stephen Witt traces the history of digital music piracy. From the German audio engineers who invented the mp3, to a CD manufacturing factory worker who leaked two thousand albums over the course of a decade, to Lil Wayne, these interwoven narratives describe the moment when our lives became intertwined with the internet, and the moment when suddenly all music ever recorded was available for free. Not only a story about the history of digital media piracy, this book also serves as a history of the internet itself and its effect on our lives.

Take Me to the Alley by Gregory Porter

Take Me to the Alley is Gregory Porter’s latest album. Released in May 2016, it earned him a 2017 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Critics have described it as ‘sweet and serene’, and a harken back to his roots.

Gregory Porter plays this year’s Winnipeg Jazz Festival in June.

Livin’ On a High Note by Mavis Staples

Her latest album, Livin’ on a High Note is the fifteenth studio album by American musician Mavis Staples. Released in February 2016, Rolling Stone placed the album on its 45 Best Albums of 2016 So Far list.

Catch Mavis Staples at this year’s Winnipeg Jazz Festival.

Port of Morrow by The Shins

Port of Morrow, released in 2012, was The Shin’s first studio album in five years. Following some major line up changes in the group, the album is primarily a collaboration between frontman James Mercer and producer Greg Kurstin. Mercer’s lyrics are based on his experience of becoming a father, his family, and his memories of his childhoold in Germany, giving way to its 1970’s German pop influences. The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200.

The Shins play at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in July.

-Brittany

Fun for the Holidays

The Holidays are a time when friends and family are in close quarters. Much of that time is joyous, full of fun and spent in front of the TV watching any number of Christmas specials. We are never far removed from Jimmy Stewart, Chevy Chase, George C. Scott, Billy Bob Thorton or Little Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun.

However, film and TV are relatively new additions to the Holiday season. A century ago, no one owned a TV and movies were silent. How did people pass the time? The answer, of course, is games. Board games, card games, word games and many others were played for fun.

The Victorian era (1837-1901) which gave us Christmas cards, A Christmas Carol and Christmas Crackers also had games like Up Jenkins, Similes and Throwing the Smile. Up Jenkins was played with 8 or more players divided into two teams. Teams would sit across from each other and one team was given a coin. The team with the coin would pass or pretend to pass it among themselves until the opposing team shouted Up Jenkins! At which point the team with the coin would raise their hands above the table with fists closed. The opposing team would then say Down Jenkins! The team with the coin would then place their hands on the table palms down. The other team would then get one chance to guess which player on the opposing team had the coin.

Similes could be played with as few as two people but more is better. Each player would take a turn telling the other player or players a simile. Here are some examples of similes:

tight as a drum
green as the grass
brave as a lion
strong as an ox.

Players would keep telling similes until someone couldn’t think of one and then that person would be out. Eventually you would be left with a winner.
Those are games from Christmas past. If you’re looking to play games in Christmas present here are some books that can help:

The Complete Book of Card Games

card-games

This how-to book offers a large variety of card games along with rules and instructions about how to play.  You’ll see Poker and Cribbage as well a few games not often played.  In addition to learning how to play, you’ll also get a short history on the evolution of the game.

Hoyle’s Rules of Games: Descriptions of Indoor Games of Skill and Chance, with Advice on Skillful Play: Based on the Foundations Laid Down by Edmund Hoyle, 1672-1769

hoyles

If you’ve ever wondered “how do I play Egyptian Ratscrew?” this book is for you. Providing rules and strategies for card and board games, you’ll find fun from Scrabble to Eleusis. The book also helpfully separates games geared for adults versus those more suited for children.

Family Fun Night

family-fun-night

Check out this book to create an “unplugged” family fun night that appeals to children too! With twists on timeless classics to brand new games, this book provides ideas for indoor and outdoor fun. Plus, it suggests snacks and meals that complement each family night theme.

The Oxford History of Board Games

oxford-games

My list of books would not be complete without a history of board games. David Parlett dives into the rich and interesting history of board games from around the world and from different time periods. His book offers some tips on strategies but focuses primarily on the development and cultural aspects of the games.

These books offer some great ways to stay entertained over the holidays. And there is one more twist you can throw into your gaming that can be a lot of fun. Today most games end with a player or players being “out” or being “it”. However, in ages past many games didn’t end this way. Players would perform a forfeit. Here are some examples:

  • A player has to stand on a chair and assume the form or shape of an object or animal the group chooses.
  • Make at least three other people smile.
  • Tell a joke.
  • Mime something and make the other players guess what it is you are doing.

Try these or create your own forfeits to add a different twist to your games!

While the holiday season is a great time to break out the games, it isn’t the only time you can enjoy them. Come to the library and enjoy “Tabletop Games Day”.  Different branches host this games day event at different times of the year.  Come and enjoy an oversized game of Chess, Checkers, or Snakes and Ladders.  You can also have fun with some regular-sized games like Clue, Scrabble or Cribbage.  Check the most current “At the Library” for times and locations.

Happy Holidays!

Andrew

Book Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

A few days before his prison term is supposed to end, Shadow is brought before the Warden. In three years, he’s only seen the Warden once. Shadow is worried that something has happened, he feels that the authorities will find a reason to deny him his freedom. To his surprise he learns that he’s being released a few days early, then the Warden tells him, “…your wife died.”  The life that was waiting for Shadow is gone. The home he shared with Laura, his recently deceased wife, no longer has any appeal. It’s no longer their home, it’s simply a place that’s filled with possessions and memories – memories that are too painful to think about.

American Gods

After Shadow leaves prison, he makes his way to the airport and boards a plane, bound for Eagle Point. After waking from a strange dream he disembarks and learns that his flight has been redirected to St. Louis. Shadow hurries to catch his next flight – missing this plane means missing his wife’s funeral. A seating error results in him getting bumped to First Class. There he meets a mysterious man who calls himself Wednesday, and unbeknownst to Shadow, his life is about to change forever.

‘American Gods’, written by Neil Gaiman, is a story where legendary beings, those who possess great and terrible power, sing karaoke – and where ancient deities seduce men into worshiping them. It is a fantasy story that borrows from folk tales and mythology, and sets it in the modern world. We learn about pixies and how they arrived in the New World, and encounter a djinn who is struggling to survive in a world that’s forgotten his kind. As the story progresses – you begin to ask yourself questions such as; how does a God make its way in the electronic age? How would you interact with a being that’s witnessed countless battles, floods and famines? Would you believe someone if they told you they were thousands of years old? Could you ignore someone perform incredible feats, or would you start to think outside of the box and open your mind to the possibility that magic does exist.

american-gods

Released back in 2001, ‘American Gods’ is available in hardcover, paperback, and streaming audiobook on Hoopla. There is also a ten year anniversary edition available which features the author’s preferred text and has an additional 12,000 words. Daunting? Perhaps. But speaking as someone who’s read both the original and the author’s preferred text, I can honestly say that Mr. Gaiman added more depth to story and fleshed out some of the characters – which made it even more enjoyable. Last but not least, there is an upcoming TV show based on the novel, which is scheduled to air on Starz, in 2017. The author himself collaborated with the production of the series and is excited about it – which I think is the BEST endorsement anyone could give.

– Daniel Bohémier

What’s in a Word?

 

Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity.
Yehuda Berg

Words and language are fascinating to me. I remember as a child feeling very smug about the British slang words I learned from reading Enid Blyton books, and how funny it was to me that my name sounded the same as the word for truck in the “Famous Five” books. That fascination has stayed with me as an adult, as I’ve seen the way we communicate evolve from rotary phones to Facetime. Some things haven’t changed all that much, though. Words still have the power to transform the world.

Humans on an individual level experience changes in language as a part of growing up, as we can see by the way babies  start out using babble and nonsense sounds as all-purpose tools to convey their needs and wants. Reading, talking and singing to babies is an integral part of developing language skills that will eventually lead to the use of words.

 

Chalk

 

Wordless picture books are a wonderful means to assist in language learning, as the story is told literally in the words of whoever is looking at the book.

 

 

book

 

 

A fun twist on this format is the picture-less picture book, where the story strings together silly sentences to create a series of visual images that will be different for everyone who reads or listens to the book.

 

 

The effect that comic books and graphic novels have had on language is also interesting. While these formats primarily use images to tell a story, they have also  introduced some of the most enduring catchphrases in recent history.

index1

It’s a bird, it’s a plane….

index-2

With great power comes great…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

William Shakespeare gave the world timeless images in his plays and poetry still influencing us today, but he also created many new words that are still in use. Where would we be without words like amazement, luggage and puking? I wonder what the audience thought upon first encountering these words, and if the reaction was much the same as we’re experiencing with the widespread use of abbreviations in text messages.

 

indexyl1lkn2t

 

Using abbreviations in texts has created a new form of language, one that requires a certain skill set to negotiate successfully. At first glance it would seem that this style of communication is purely utilitarian and very basic, but like any language there is nuance and a certain set of rules to follow in order to get your meaning across.

 

 

The widespread use of emojis and emoticons has also influenced our language. Some see this as evidence that people are losing the ability to use language, or that people are lazy and in too much of a hurry to write things out properly. However, just as new words are being continously added to language, other words drop out of use. When was the last time you asked for a “firkin” of something?

 

It’s something of a chicken or egg question as to whether transformations in language lead to changes in society or that changes in society lead to changes in language. In the end, it’s all about communication, whether you use archaic English on parchment, a microprocessor, or a string of emoticons on your smartphone. Everyone has a voice that deserves to be heard.

-Lori

 

 

 

 

Enough Clowning Around

I was inspired to write a blog about the recent clown sightings. That is, until the weird clowns started popping up in Winnipeg. What started off as a prank in the U.S. has sadly escalated into a continent-wide-frenzy.

Even Stephen King himself, creator of one of the scariest clowns ever, has taken to Twitter, telling people it’s ‘time to cool the clown hysteria’.

I agree. Why are we so afraid of clowns? Is it the makeup that hides their emotions? Is it the unnaturally bright orange hair? Is it because a slew of famous fictional clowns  have been scaring people for years?

Let me be clear: Dressing up as a clown to scare people is NOT COOL, especially if weapons are involved. Instead of dressing up as a scary copycat clown this Halloween, why not introduce yourself to some of the scariest clowns around, at the library? We house some of the creepiest clown characters in history and they’re much more frightening than any costume someone might be cooking up in their basement.

It by Stephen King

As I mentioned before, likely the most famous clown-horror-story around is Stephen King’s It. The story follows seven children who are terrorized by the creature.  Usually appearing in the form of the clown Pennywise (in order to attract young kids), “It” exploits the fears and phobias of its victims in order to disguise itself while hunting its prey. You might want to leave the lights on after reading this one…

Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore & Brian Bolland

The Joker is one of the most memorable villains not only in the Batman series, but possibly of all time. In his comic book appearances, he is shown as a psychotic criminal mastermind with a twisted, sadistic sense of humor. Although he does not possess any superpowers, he uses his expertise in chemical engineering to develop weapons like razor-tipped playing cards, or acid-spraying lapel flowers and play deadly pranks on his enemies. Come check out our graphic novel section and read one that features him, such as The Killing Joke.

polterPoltergeist

Nothing says creepy like a ghost talking to a little girl through a TV set. At first playful and friendly, Carol Anne’s ghost friends become unexpectedly menacing, and an exorcist must be called in once she goes missing. Starring Craig T. Nelson and written by Steven Spielberg, Poltergeist is a 1980s horror classic. And who can forget that clown scene?

Clown Girl by Monica Drake

‘Sniffles the Clown’ isn’t a scary clown, but she’s certainly an endearing one. She struggles to live out her dreams in Baloneytown, surrounded by petty crime, balloon animals and rubber chickens. In an effort to support herself and her lazy boyfriend, she finds herself turning into a ‘corporate clown’, trapped in a cycle of meaningless, high-paid gigs. Monica Drake manages to raise questions of gender, class and prejudice while incorporating the bizarre, humorous and gritty.

For more scary fiction, check out our “On a Dark and Stormy Night” display at Millennium!

Brittany

The Importance of Harry Potter

Earlier this year I found myself watching Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for the first time since its cinematic debut back in 2001. It was a fun, light hearted adventure that featured Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger as the main protagonists. Soon afterwards my fiancé and I sat down to watch The Chamber of Secrets and it was at that moment that I decided I wanted to read the books.

Harry Potter, an orphan, is raised by his emotionally abusive relatives until he discovers that he’s a wizard. This is a startling revelation, but then he also learns that he’s famous – in fact, he’s the most famous wizard in the world because he survived an attack by Lord Voldemort, a dark wizard who’s responsible for killing his parents. Interesting? Absolutely! Of course, nineteen years after the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published, Harry’s origin story is well known. Everyone knows it. Just like everyone knows that Frodo Baggins was destined to be the ring keeper and travel to Mount Doom in order to destroy the ring of power. These characters and their exploits are part of pop culture and will therefore continue to be referenced for years to come.

So why does Harry Potter still matter?

We all know that the series follows the adventures of Harry and his best friends Ron and Hermione, as they learn the art of wizardry and the world that surrounds them. Throughout the series we see the progression of these characters as they mature from children into young adults. As their relationships blossom into something more, we see the difficulties that arise when friendships changes into romantic relationships. J.K. Rowling excels at describing these painful experiences. I find that when discussing the series it’s seldom mentioned but never forgotten. When Harry and Cho kiss for the first time? It was awkward, to say the least. But I’m convinced that this awkward kiss makes it relatable to many of us.

Hermione, as portrayed by Emma Watson.

Hermione, as portrayed by Emma Watson.

Hermione Granger is a powerful protagonist who deserves to be mentioned. When Harry and Ron often struggle to complete their homework or work out their own problems, it’s often Hermione that has the solution. Although she’s mocked, sometimes by her own friends, Hermione’s dedication to her studies gives her an advantage over the rest of her classmates. Despite Professor Snape’s dislike of her, she always raises her hand, waiting patiently (mostly), to answer his questions.

When Harry and Ron struggle to discover who’s attacking their fellow classmates (in Chamber of Secrets), it’s Hermione who figures it out. After her encounter with the monstrous creature results in her being petrified, it’s up to the boys to connect the dots and save the day. While Hermione often takes the high road she is not a pushover, which we learn in Prisoner of Azkaban. After mocking his Gryffindor rivals, Draco Malfoy learns that he has pushed his luck too far, when Hermione punches him in the nose.

The importance of Harry Potter isn’t the main character, it’s the journey he undertakes with his friends, notably Hermione. Throughout the series we see the characters mature as they embark upon adventures and battle dangerous adversaries. Although we encounter many characters, it’s my opinion that Hermione is the most important. With the upcoming release of the new movie, it’s a great time to re-read the whole series.

Dan

An Information Guide About Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

 

Missing

Vigil for Tina Fontaine. Winnipeg. August, 2014. Photo credit with changes (Flickr), Steve, Creative Commons License.

On August 3rd the federal government announced an independent Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.  The establishment of such an inquiry was one of the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.  The current timeline for the Inquiry calls for it’s work to be completed by the end of 2018.

Winnipeg Public Library has created an information guide to help the public learn about the work of the Inquiry as well as the topic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.  You can find this guide by visiting www.winnipeg.ca/library, opening the “Our Collections” menu and clicking on “Subject Guides”.

Guides

The Inquiry will eventually have it’s own offices, contact information, and website. To learn about the Inquiry, the public should visit this site. Please note the existence of a national toll-free crisis line for anyone needing support after reading the information found within this site.

The “About the Independent Inquiry” section of the site is especially useful.  It provides information about what the Inquiry will and will not (or can and cannot) do, in addition to other practical information such as timelines and budget.

Five Commissioners will conduct the Inquiry.  These include:

  • Chief Commissioner, the Honourable Marion Buller, Provincial Court Judge, British Columbia Mistawasis First Nation, Saskatchewan
  • Commissioner Michèle Audette, Former President of Femmes Autochtones du Québec (Québec Native Women’s Association), Mani Utenam
  • Québec Commissioner Qajaq Robinson, Associate, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP Iqaluit, Nunavut
  • Commissioner Marilyn Poitras, Assistant Professor Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
  • Commissioner Brian Eyolfson, Acting Deputy Director, Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, Legal Services Couchiching First Nation, Ontario

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Perhaps the most anticipated part of the Inquiry’s announcement was its Terms of Reference.  Some groups, such as the Native Women’s Association of Canada, have expressed concerns related to family supports, investigation of cold cases, jurisdictional issues connected to the provinces/territories and the Inquiry, and the need to work with the justice system to implement changes.  Amnesty International has echoed some of these concerns. Others were concerned about representation. Pauktuutit, the national Inuit women’s organization, expressed disappointment that the Inquiry does not have an Inuk Commissioner (Commissioner Qajaq Robinson is not Inuk).

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There have been a number of studies – by both organizations and academic researchers – about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls over the last number of years.  We have brought these together in our information guide here.  The most recent study, conducted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, concluded that 1181 Indigenous women and girls have gone missing or were murdered between 1980 and 2012.  Some people expect the number is much higher.

Our information guide also has a section of Manitoba-specific information which will be added to as the Inquiry’s work progresses.  Currently you can find a fact sheet (2010) with statistics about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in our province,  a map of a number of cases, as well as cold case information for some victims.

We have also included a link to a toolkit for families created by family members of missing and murdered women and girls, in partnership with local organization Ka Ni Kanichihk.  The kit provides practical information – including document templates – to assist families whose loved ones have gone missing.

Winnipeg Public Library will update our information guide as the work of the Inquiry progresses, including adding suggested book titles about violence against Indigenous women and girls and Indigenous women’s rights and resilience. We invite everyone to share the guide as a resource for learning about the Inquiry and the important issues it will examine.

As always, we also welcome your questions. You can ask them in person at any of our locations, by calling 204-986-6450, or submitting them online using our Ask Us! service.

-Monique

 

 

 

Summer Road Trippin’

Imagine this: You’re driving down the highway, top down, wind whipping through your hair. A summer road trip.

Road trips are my favourite form of travel. But when you have to decide between a few hours drive to Grand Forks, or a whopping 7 hour drive to Regina, it means choices are pretty sparse in terms of road trip destinations living in Winnipeg. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of hidden gems for day trippers just outside the city. What are your favourite day trips by road from Winnipeg? Come check out our On The Road display on the main floor of Millennium.

Here are some ‘road’ themed material to get you planning your next drive.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Kerouac’s classic novel chronicles his years traveling North America with his friend Neal Cassady, “a sideburned hero of the snowy West.” As ‘Sal Paradise’ and ‘Dean Moriarty’, the pair search the country for self-knowledge and experience, freedom and longing. On the Road was a defining novel of the ‘Beat’ movement; it has and will continue to inspire poets, authors and artists for generations to come.

Drive – a film by Nicolas Winding Refn

The jacket. The soundtrack. The car. This film has countless iconic images. Starring Ryan Gosling and Carrie Mulligan, Drive tells the story of a Hollywood stunt driver moonlighting as a getaway driver who finds himself involved in a heist gone terribly wrong. James Hallis based the screenplay on the 2005 novel. Fun fact: The soundtrack for the movie made Spin’s list for ‘Top 40 Soundtracks That Changed Alternative Music.’

Canada’s Road: A Journey on the Trans-Canada Highway from St.John’s to Victoria by Mark Richardson

“Russia has the Trans-Siberian Highway, Australia has Highway 1, and Canada has the Trans-Canada Highway, an iconic road that stretches almost 8,000 kilometres across six time zones.”

This book tells the story of Mark Richardson, who celebrated his 50th birthday by driving the entire length of the Trans Canada Highway. Stretching 10 weeks in length, Mark’s journey helped him discover the history of the highway and learn what makes it what it is today. Originally published as a blog for macleans.ca, this Canadian-highway-love-letter is not one to be missed.

Little Miss Sunshine a film by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris

A dysfunctional family sets out on a road trip of a lifetime in order to get their daughter into the finals of a beauty pageant. The vehicle? A VW bus. This movie is filled with unforgettable characters and moments including a beauty pageant performance to ‘Super Freak.’ It was nominated for several Academy Awards, winning Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin). The film also stars Abigail Breslin, Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette and Steve Carrell.

 

-Brittany

Prairie Pride Indeed!

The first Winnipeg Pride Parade was in 1987. Back then, about 250 people marched, some covering their heads with bags in order to protect their identity. Now, Pride is more than just a parade – it has become a 10 day long festival.

There is a lot the LGBTTQ community can be proud of, including the strides society has made in terms of recognizing LGBTTQ rights. However, there is still work that needs to be done so we can continue to move towards tolerance, acceptance and love. Writers do this kind of work every day – they put art into the world that provides a different point of view, challenges assumptions, and gives a voice to untold stories.

I’ve long been a fan of prairie literature – most of my absolute favourite authors write about western Canada. However, I was embarrassingly unaware of the number of talented LGBTTQ fiction writers the prairies can claim. The four texts below are written by award-winning authors that are not only changing the literary landscape, but have a specific connection to Winnipeg. You can find all of these books at the Winnipeg Public Library.

 
A Safe Girl to LoveA Safe Girl to Love

Casey Plett’s first short story collection, A Safe Girl to Love, is honest, humorous and heartbreaking. Each piece is a snapshot of life from the perspective of a different transgender woman. These protagonists navigate new and existing relationships, all the while trying to find their place in the world. It’s difficult to provide a more eloquent description of this book than the one on the back cover: “These stories, shiny with whiskey and prairie sunsets, rattling subways and neglected cats, show growing up as a trans girl can be charming, funny, frustrating, or sad – but never predictable.” The collection won the 2015 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Fiction and received an Honour of Distinction from the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for emerging LGBT writers in Canada. Plett currently resides in Winnipeg.

 
All the Pretty GirlsAll the Pretty Girls

Chandra Mayor’s All the Pretty Girls is another excellent set of short stories and is the 2009 winner of the Lambda Award for Best Lesbian Fiction. The theme of same-sex relationship and desire is certainly present in the collection, but makes up only one aspect of Mayor’s writing – more obvious subject areas include children, poverty, abuse, and hope. As one reader put it, there doesn’t “seem to be enough lesbian books where being a lesbian is part of the story, not the story.” While her prose is simple, Mayor frequently strikes the reader with beautifully crafted lines of poetry, making it quite difficult to put this book down. Mayor is from Winnipeg!

 
Somewhere ElseSomewhere Else

Somewhere Else is a novel about a sixteen-year-old Mennonite girl, Jess, whose coming out is cut short by her mother’s refusal to listen. Realizing that her family will never accept her sexual orientation, Jess leaves for the big city (Winnipeg!) She meets a cast of characters along her journey, all of whom help her discover her identity outside of the Mennonite community. Originally hailing from our lovely provincial neighbour to the west, Jan Guenther Braun now calls Winnipeg home.

 

When Everything Feels like the MoviesWhen Everything Feels like the Movies

Raziel Reid currently lives in Vancouver but he spent his childhood growing up throughout Ontario and Manitoba, including Winnipeg. I’m certainly willing to claim this bright, young, award-winning author as one of our city’s own. Reid’s Young Adult novel, When Everything Feels Like the Movies, won the Governor General’s Award for English-language Children’s Literature and was included in the 2015 edition of Canada Reads. His novel is a coming-of-age story about a flamboyant teenager, Jude, who steals his mother’s high heels, secretly strutting his stuff in the basement. Whether in heels or not, Jude constantly pretends that he’s on the red carpet. But glamour doesn’t mean that life is easy – Jude has to face all the challenges of high school, including homophobia.

It looks like Winnipeg Pride’s tagline, ‘Pride of the Prairies,’ is not only applicable for the festival – Winnipeggers should also be proud of the remarkable LGBTTQ literary contributors coming out of our city. We’re looking forward to talking books with everyone at the Parade on Sunday, June 5 – keep an eye out for the WPL walking group!

–Stephanie