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The Book Room

The Tenant Class


Can a permanent state of affairs really be described as a crisis? In non-fiction book The Tenant Class (Between the Lines), Ricardo Tranjan argues that the so-called housing crisis is the system working as intended. Tranjan posits that the woeful state of housing in Canada is the result of structural inequality and economic exploitation that benefit the land-owning class. In part analysis, part history and part manifesto, Tranjan, a senior researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, demystifies the topic of housing in Canada. With illuminating city-specific examples, he argues that narratives that simply blame housing unaffordability on a lack of supply are part of the problem. It’s more nuanced than that, he explains; the issue isn’t that tenants can’t find affordable places to rent, it’s the very existence of landlords in the first place. The Tenant Class offers a researcher’s holistic perspective on a vital issue, and a chance to dive into a potential solution: acknowledging housing as a basic human need. 

Zainab Al-Mehdar


Back in the Land of the Living


When Marcy has an ill-advised affair with a coworker in her hometown of St. John’s, she’s struck by an overwhelming need to leave everything behind. Remembering a fun trip she once took to Montreal, she spontaneously decides to move there. Eva Crocker’s new novel Back in the Land of the Living (House of Anansi) follows its protagonist’s highs and lows during her time in the city, including many situations that will feel relatable for young adults: struggling to find jobs, living in apartments with cockroaches and thin walls and constantly trying to find ways to cut back on spending. The heart of the novel is Leanne, Marcy’s girlfriend—a sometimes unlikeable, but nonetheless compelling character whose mood switches on a dime. Though Marcy and Leanne’s relationship is supposed to be at the core of the story, it feels like we only scratch the surface of their romance, and lack a real sense of their dynamic. Still, Crocker’s prose is masterful; the sentimental descriptions of Montreal and its many bars, parks and streets will appeal to Montrealers looking for a literary representation of their beloved city. 

Alyssa Wu


Slows: Twice


T. Liem’s Slows:Twice (Coach House) is a remarkable collection of poems that overlays a sense of lapsed time with a feeling of looped repetitiveness, jumping between muffled noises of pain and bursts of joyful acceptance. Moods of hopelessness and stagnation cut through the collection, balanced out by the author’s sketches of a promising future. Liem takes readers on a journey from their father’s birthplace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, to a Motel 6 in Alberta, where they listen to a stranger’s phone call, to a grocery store where they browse the “ethnic” aisles, leaping between past, present and future. Reinvention, both of yourself and the world around you, is a theme throughout this innovative, unruly book that conveys messages that are simultaneously formally wacky and emotionally clear. Slows: Twice is a collection that asks you to welcome it as you would a sunrise: different each time it’s revisited, depending on your perspective.

Sabra Ismath


Statue


In Statue (Guernica Editions), Marianne Micros takes us on a journey through the mystical worlds and times that exist within our own reality. A mixture of the traditional and the contemporary, the collection’s short stories draw on Greek and Celtic mythology and modern experiences, bringing in selkies and time travellers as well as complex interpersonal relationships. “Broken” tells the story of a sculptor who moves into a new neighbourhood and observes the relationship between two childhood friends. A mother in “The Selkie’s Daughter” must leave her children behind in order to return to the water, where she truly belongs. In “The Guardians”, two elderly cousins sacrifice their lives to keep their village and its history alive. The fact that the stories are mostly set in our current time period creates a sense that these creatures of folklore still exist today, and Micros’ intimate writing style pulls us deeply into the lives of the characters. Pondering timeless ideas about life and death using forms passed down between generations, Statue is a thought-provoking reading experience. 

Hafsatou Balde


Girl Juice


Chatting about your plans for going rural when society inevitably collapses in between licks of ice cream. Accidentally getting lost scrolling through your phone for hours while withering away on the couch. With Girl Juice (Drawn & Quarterly), cartoonist Benji Nate outlines the chaotic realities of young people today. We follow a cast of twenty-something roommates through a series of relatable vignettes drawn in a cutesy, colourful style: camping trips turned disastrous, friends obsessing over becoming social media famous. The show-stealer is Bunny, a former-loser-turned-hot-girl trying to live her best, sluttiest life. She should be a compelling, loveable character; but instead of laughing with Bunny, it sometimes feels as if we’re laughing at her as she lapses into an exaggerated stereotype of the ditzy blonde. The dynamic between Bunny and her roommates often sinks into tropes: she’s constantly doing something dumb and horny, they’re constantly being the begrudging voices of reason. The opportunity to honestly portray the relationships between young women is missed; nonetheless, Girl Juice does contain some fun—and funny—moments.

Nour Abi-Nakhoul