Register Saturday | July 13 | 2024

The Summer 2024 Book Room

Abolish Social Work (As We Know It) 

It isn’t uncommon for people to feel intimidated by the word “abolition”; it is a large concept, and it requires time and effort to understand. But within the pages of Abolish Social Work (As We Know It) (Between the Lines), the concept, and how it can be applied to the field of social work, are broken down in an accessible way. Through a combination of research and lived experience, the authors in this collection edited by Craig Fortier, Edward Hon-Sing Wong and MJ Rwigema carefully explain how the institution of social work is steeped in carceral logic—meaning it is shaped by our entrenched ideas of imprisonment and the prison system. The first half of the collection is focused on the concept of abolitionist social work, while the latter expands more broadly on the possibilities and risks of abolition within the field. The examples of abolitionist social work in practice are especially powerful, as are the discussions of how social workers can realistically transform how they approach their profession. Through explorations of the ­punitive experiences faced by those within the social work system, readers are opened up to the idea at the heart of abolition work: love and care for your fellow humans.  —Hannah Mercanti

El Ghourabaa 

El Ghourabaa (Metonymy), a collection of delightfully experimental works edited by the Montreal-based writers Samia Marshy and Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch, is a vital new entry to the field of Arab diaspora literature. In these unabashedly queer poems, short stories and personal essays from twenty-four emerging and established Arab writers, the monolithic ideas about Arab culture and sexuality often perpetuated by Western media are challenged. The collection’s sheer diversity in both subject matter and form makes every part stand out: from a reflective excerpt by the renowned late queer elder Etel Adnan, to a staccato panic-filled poem by self-described “punk poet-performer cyborg” Andrea Abi-Karam. The quasi-apocalyptic anxieties and traumas of war and migration haunt, phantom-like, through the book, with an overwhelming grief found wavering quietly behind the voices of the stories’ and poems’ narrators. Due to being published in the midst of Israel’s latest brutal escalation of violence in Palestine, this momentous anthology takes on a morbid timeliness, making it all the more urgent and necessary. —Olivia Shan 

When the Lake Burns

Small-town loneliness, creepily beautiful nature and the raging inferno of a lake on fire are all depicted with equal care and intensity in Montrealer Geneviève Bigué’s graphic novel When the Lake Burns (Conundrum). The story, translated from the original French, follows four teenagers as they take advantage of a rare natural disaster to seek the truth behind a local legend—one that claims that items dropped in a burning lake will turn to gold. For many stretches of the book dialogue remains minimal, and the story is instead pushed forward by the detailed, cinematic illustrations in muted colours, underscoring the landscape’s enormity and indifference. Close-ups of mushrooms pushing through the earth and fallen leaves floating on a stream are juxtaposed with wide shots of the forest and the teenagers goofing around and exploring. The result is a straightforward but immersive narrative experience; and when the flames inevitably get closer and catastrophe strikes, Bigué’s art manages to deftly thread nuanced emotions and complex relationships through the terror.  —Mikaela Toone 

Kilworthy Tanner 

The world of Kilworthy Tanner (Véhicule) is one ruled over by an ever-shifting abacus minutely calculating social status. The eternally conniving group of writers, musicians and associated hanger-ons of Jean Marc Ah-Sen’s newest novel scheme and scam their way through the avant-garde literary scene they’re part of, in obsessive attempts to elevate their relevance within their echo-chamber world or enact petty vengeances—in retaliation for a perceived faux pas, or else just for the dirty fun of it. The silliness of their constant plotting, fighting and fuck-ups is brought into brilliant colour by Ah-Sen’s cheeky playfulness with language; his prose is always stretching English into joyously unconventional formulations. This faculty is most obvious in the quick-witted dialogue between characters as they argue, sleep together and humiliate each other; their borderline-unnatural way of speaking makes the world of the novel seem almost fantastical, like an exaggerated version of Toronto’s literary scene as seen through the looking glass. This aspect makes it so Kilworthy Tanner isn’t only a wild ride through a network of deranged characters; it also feels like an ironic critique of the ridiculous grievances and backstabbings that frequently define our cultural scenes. —Nour Abi-Nakhoul