Register Wednesday | June 12 | 2024

The Spring 2024 Book Room

Firebugs

In Firebugs (Drawn & Quarterly), German artist and writer Nino Bulling masterfully crafts a story about finding oneself in a world that seems to be changing as quickly as we are. The newly translated graphic novel follows Ingken, living in Berlin with their partner, as they begin to face the fact that they might not be a woman after all. Amid Ingken’s deep-­rooted confusion about their gender identity and struggles with the potential of transition, Bulling intricately weaves in a narrative of the climate anxiety that so many young people are starkly familiar with. Firebugs reflects the queer experience in uncomfortably realistic detail: the familiar yet disorienting energy of a drug-fuelled party and the stinging pain of trying to navigate open relationships amid gender dysphoria are brought to life on the page by Bulling’s artwork. Grounded by sharp prose and expert use of illustration and colour, Firebugs is a novel for anyone who knows what it’s like to want to change without erasing yourself completely. —Hannah Mercanti

Dayspring 

Anthony Oliveira’s debut Dayspring (Strange Light) defies easy categorization. Part retelling and recontextualization of biblical mythology, part contemporary gay love story, the boldly experimental book is a bunching together of both forms and times, collapsing memoir and novel with verse as it collapses the present with the distant past. The narrative doesn’t jump back and forth through periods and settings in any sort of easily identifiable way. Instead, time becomes a flat circle, and characters are at once modern and mythological: lovers are disciples, while Jesus is a present-day jokester who seems cheekily fed up with his holiness. This collapse has the effect of deliciously winding together the sacred and sacrilegious so that the book can’t be definitively said to be one or the other, and it wouldn’t be fair to delimit it by forcing it into an easy label. It transcends the sacred and sacrilegious to create something refreshingly new. (Disclosure: the reviewer has a book coming out this spring on the same imprint). —Nour Abi-Nakhoul

The Call is Coming from Inside the House 

In Allyson McOuat’s debut essay collection The Call is Coming from Inside the House (ECW), a sense of eeriness permeates daily life. Everyday subjects like queer identity, motherhood, womanhood and grief are placed up against analyses of horror films and recountings of true crime. The pairing of horror with McOuat’s often-tender personal stories should be jarring, but instead the parallels uncover hidden truths. The narratives range from the terrifying, like a home invasion or a strange man looming at the end of the author’s bed, to the oddly comforting, like a sometimes-benevolent ghost haunting her home after her divorce. Each anecdote is grounded in and shaped by culture: babysitting is complicated by bringing in murderous film tropes and infamous real murders, pregnancy becomes body horror and anxiety starts to resemble the prophetic character at the start of scary stories who warns the protagonist of what’s to come. The analysis of horror and true crime is accessible for those not familiar with the genres, while still fresh and nuanced enough for those who are. With a candid, humourous tone, McOuat’s essays expose terror in the ordinary and vice versa. —Mikaela Toone

Perfect Little Angels 

Perfect Little Angels (Arsenal Pulp) collects stories that are highly localized to their Nigerian setting, yet that feel universal in their searing emotional depth—a testament to Vincent Anioke’s deftness at rich, character-driven storytelling. Anioke’s debut book offers intricate studies of individuals who struggle to mold themselves to the societal demands imposed by those they hold most dear; the characters live under the weight of reality and expectation in their own private hells, experiencing devastating grief over innumerable what-ifs. Anioke’s protagonists reckon with shame, abuse and heartbreak: in “My Americanah,” a mother burns her son’s visa and passport after he comes out, while “All the Failures of Her Being” sees a student expelled from her Christian university and ostracized by her community due to a leaked sex tape. Thrumming with nostalgia, the stories in this tender and bittersweet ode to Nigeria carefully explore marginalization and the ways we keep returning to the dogmatic structures which brutalize and repress our self-expression, yet which can also bring us community and a sense of home. —Olivia Shan

Oh Witness Dey!

Shani Mootoo’s latest collection of poems, Oh Witness Dey! (Book*hug) sees the acclaimed artist and writer turning her inquisitive gaze to the intricacies of colonialism and diaspora. This interlinked collection of lyrical, experimental poems looks at the subjects of origins, ancestry, communities and legacies, asking pressing questions: How does one define a self and one’s place in the world? What is one’s connection to history? In what ways does the violence of history live among us? The poems wrestle with the awful impacts of colonial domination and imperial expansion through woven fragments of stories, lyrics, voices and sentiments. The flow of the book is scattered and chaotic, whipping the reader’s attention around wildly, and yet carefully deliberate, mirroring all the rush and bustle of history itself. Grounded in sharp emotional insight and a keen understanding of the past, Oh Witness Dey! is frequently devastating and solemn, but at times hopeful, compassionate and even playful as it shirks poetic conventions and leans into its unflinching momentum. —Nour Abi-Nakhoul