2019 In Review

Currently Reading: Keystone, by Katie Delahanty

News!

Get ready for your TBRs to balloon for the new year! Fellow trans blogger Corey Alexander brings you all the titles published in late 2019 with trans and/or non-binary authors. My top pick from this list are Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi, which I previewed earlier this year, and I’m most looking forward to Beyond the Black Door, by A. M. Strickland, which is on my TBR!

In response to the recent transphobic events at the Toronto Public Library, local independent bookstores are coming together to support trans writers and activists by co-hosting a teach-in at the 519 Community Centre on January 23rd. The store where I work is one of the organizers, so if you’re nearby, please come out and support the local trans and non-binary community.

Re-Introduction

When I first started this blog, one year ago, I wrote an introductory post, which gives a little bit of a window into what I’m about as far as my literary life is concerned. Because this blog and my reading in general is fairly politicized, and I believe that the personal is political, I’d like to offer a bit more information about myself that might give context to some of the 🔥hot takes🔥 that I post in this space.

A selfie of me in the bookshop where I work. I have medium complexion white skin, pink curly hair that is shaved on the right side and has dark roots, clear plastic frame glasses, and no makeup. I'm wearing a black tank top and a grey sports bra, and tattoos are visible on my shoulders. Bookshelves are visible in the background.
Me! 2019.

These are the facts about me that my Twitter bio won’t tell you!

  • Although legally I have to, I don’t capitalize my name. It’s emmy!
  • I’ve been (as) vegan (as possible, depending on where I was living) for more than 20 years! That said, I am firmly in solidarity with Indigenous and other marginalized people who cannot or do not engage with that life – especially (but not limited to) the Indigenous people who sustain their communities through the seal hunt and the deer harvest at Short Hills.
  • I’m a social work researcher, mostly focusing on LGBTQ2S+ health, and wellbeing of working dogs in therapeutic environments. In my previous life, I went to college for circus arts, and spent nearly a decade performing and coaching at a professional level. My specialities were juggling and group acrobatics.
  • I grew up in Newfoundland, an island off the east coast of Canada, in the North Atlantic. The island is the occupied territory of the Innu, the Mi’kmaq, and the Beothuk, who were victims of genocide. My family in Newfoundland can be traced back at least 7 generations on the maternal side, and we are white colonizers. I was raised in a house with my mom, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother, just the four of us most of the time.
  • J’ai appris le français quand j’étais très jeune, et j’ai vécu la grosse majorité de ma vie l’en parlant comme langue principale, alors que je me considère comme francophone.
  • My hobbies, when I have the time and energy, include film photography, snail mail (I collect postcards), roller skating, embroidery, cooking, and recently I’ve started playing video games occasionally. Oh! I also like to read!
  • I share my life with a lot of pets! Right now, that includes living primarily with an eleven year old retired racing greyhound, two formerly feral maine coon cats, and one five month old (by the time this gets posted!) deaf Dalmatian puppy. Their names are Boom, Whisper, Willow, and Pavot (pronounced pav-oh, it’s French for “poppy”, as in poppyseed). You can find them on Insta!
  • I’m polyamorous and have two relationships with genderqueer trans folks. My partner lives in Toronto, and I have a theyfriend and Denver. I am questing for a word that accurately describes “polyamorous but in no way seeking new romantic relationships,” because my life is as populated as I can handle it being.
  • I have diagnosed psychiatric disabilities and chronic illness, both of which are hormone-related (PMDD, chronic major depression, general and social anxiety, and PCOS). It’s also likely that I am on the autism spectrum, and I have most of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder, although these are both more or less undiagnosed.
  • Other alphabet soup diagnoses that play a big role in my life through the people I love are PTSD and DID.
  • I have a very small social circle, and most of my close friends are relationships that I primarily nurture online, in large part because I have am neuroatypical and have a disorganized anxious attachment style.
  • I love bees and kākāpō, but I have a lot of favourite animals.
  • Recently, I have been trying to come up with the books that I would take with me if I was going to be indefinitely stranded on a desert island, and so far, I think they would be The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende; The Tea Dragon Festival, by Katie O’Neill; Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi; Our Homesick Songs, by Emma Hooper; Gingerbread, by Helen Oyeyemi; and Not Quite Narwhal, by Jessie Sima.

2019 By the Numbers

All these numbers are current as of December 20, 2019.
My 2018 In Review can be seen here!

How many books I read in 2017: 41
How many books I read in 2018: 57
How many books I read in 2019: 124
First book read: One of Us is Lying, Karen McManus
Last book read: Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty
Average length: 287 pages

Books by POC: 52
POC MC: 43
Male authors: 33
Female authors: 160
Non-binary and/or authors: 5
Queer authors: 46
Queer MC: 45

Middle Grade: 18
YA: 74
Adult: 101
Graphic: 5
Short story or anthology: 1
Non-fiction: 37
Memoir: 9
Lit Fic: 55
Poetry: 3
SFF: 46
Thriller: 28
Horror: 18

Purchases: 26
Library: 60
ARC: 105

Digital: 108
Print: 50
Audio: 36

½ Star Books: 3
⭐️ Books: 21
⭐️ ½ Books: 0
⭐️⭐️ Books: 27
⭐️⭐️ ½ Books: 9
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Books: 24
⭐️⭐️⭐️ ½ Books: 28
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Books: 26
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ½ Books: 9
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Books: 41

January: 8
February: 11
March: 6
April: 11
May: 14
June: 16
July: 11
August: 11
September: 17
October: 7
November: 6
December: 6

Reading challenges I participated in: #VillainAThon

DNF: 68
Currently reading (unfinished in 2019): Keystone, Katie Delahanty; The Death of Mrs. Westaway, Ruth Ware; Amanda Greenleaf, Ed Kavanagh
Favourite books of the year: Little Apocalypse, Katherine Sparrow; The Collected Schizophrenias, Esmé Weijun Wang; The Wise and the Wicked, Rebecca Podos; Wilder Girls, Rory Power; Pilu of the Woods, Mai K. Nguyen; Pet, Akwaeke Emezi; In the Dream House, Carmen Maria Machado; The Tea Dragon Festival, Katie O’Neill; The Darkest Part of the Forest, Holly Black; I Know You Remember, Jennifer Donaldson; Your House Will Pay, Steph Cha; We Unleash the Merciless Storm, Tehlor Kay Mejia; The Seep, Chana Porter
Favourite picture books released this year (not otherwise included in stats above): My Footprints, Bao Yi; Stormy, by Guojing; No Room for a Pup, Laurel Molk and Liz Suneby; It Feels Good to Be Yourself, Theresa Thorn and Noah Grigni; King Mouse, Cary Fagan and Dena Seiferling; Princess Puffybottom… and Darryl, Susin Nielsen and Olivia Chen Mueller, Truman, Jean Reidy; Ping, Ani Castillo; The Cyclops Witch and the Heebie-Jeebies, Kyle Sullivan and Derek Sullivan, The Scarecrow, Beth Ferry and the Fan Brothers; The Rabbit Listened, Cori Doerrfeld

Upcoming in 2020

So far, I have three 2020 plans. First: to integrate the reading challenge that my online book community, the Rogue Book Coven, is hosting for next year! Just to be clear, I had no hand at all in creating this – but I’m really glad for the work of some of our other members, who put this majestic thing together. If you want to read along with us, find us on various social media platforms at #CovenBookChallenge throughout 2020! POI for anyone who decides to follow along: we use the octopus emoji (sometimes, gratuitously) to mean hugs!

Second, to my actual delight and pleasure, I recently joined the planning team for the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD), held in Brampton each May. As such, I’m looking forward to curating and participating in the FOLD reading challenge in 2020 as well. The challenges aren’t 100% finalized yet, but you can check out past challenges here.

Last but not least, following a tweet from Esmé Weijun Wang, I committed to reading two Big, Long, Old Russian Books. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy, and The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. This is legitimately the challenge that I’m most worried about so… wish me luck?

Most Anticipated of (Early) 2019

Wondering what you can look forward to me chatting about next year? In January, I’m going to be previewing Karen McManus’ upcoming sequel to One of Us is Lying, the bestselling YA thriller, and chatting with author Chana Porter about gender and her Jewish Indigenous trans MC in The Seep, her unsettling and heartwarming dystopian alien invasion literary horror novel.

Some other Winter 2020 releases that I’m excited about reading? Non-binary Latinx author Anna-Marie McLemore’s new YA fantasy, Dark and Deepest Red, is a spooky modern fairy tale that spans generations. It drops on January 14th, and it’s right in my wheelhouse. I’m also looking forward to The Truants, by Kate Weinberg. It’s a thriller, and I’m curious to see if this NA is another millennial-appealing book in the vein of Such a Fun Age and Normal People, which I read earlier this year.

Kacen Callendar is the non-binary author of Hurricane Child, my favourite middle grade book of all time, and their next book, King and the Dragonflies, comes out this February. I’ll also definitely be checking out The Last Confession of Autumn Casterly, by Meredith Tate. It’s a spooky YA thriller, and my own teenage heart is stoked that this book has a musical, geeky protag, as a former band geek myself.

There are two final February releases I’m hoping to get to. I’m all about fancy school dramas, and Privilege by Mary Adkins is a feminist NA that deals with themes around sexual assault on a college campus. Since the #MeToo movement began, books with similar themes have definitely become more visible, and I’m hoping that Privilege will have something unique to offer. Finally, with some skepticism, I’m eyeing A Woman Like Her: The Short Life of Qandeel Baloch. This is Sanam Maher’s debut book, however she works as a journalist in Karachi, Pakistan. Without knowing a great deal about Baloch’s story, I’m hoping that Maher will have handled her story with sensitivity and respect.

PS, if you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving me a tip! It only takes a minute, and it allows me to keep creating content just like this, buying food for my dogs, and pursuing completion of my education in social work.

Sign off image - an open book with a bright green glowing eye in the centre and several small eyes around it.

Introduction

Currently reading: Jonny Appleseed, by Joshua Whitehead.
This image is a selfie of me with teal hair and red lipstick. It's taken in the basement of the book shop where I work, so there are shelves of overstock books in the background.

Hello, world! It’s me, emmy. I’m a trans enby PhD student and indie bookseller in Toronto, Ontario. I read a tonne, and I’m beginning the arduous process of chipping away at writing a PhD dissertation, so I decided to start this blog to get back into the practice of writing, and keep up my reading pace. I’ve read a lot this past year, and I can’t wait to share some reviews and recommendations with you. I plan to post about twice a month, depending on my schedule. I love giving custom reading recommendations, so if that’s something you’re interested in, visit my contact page.

Although I won’t usually write about me, inspired by the bookish bloggers from Book Riot Insiders, I decided to begin with an introductory post that answers a few of their prompts.

Who/What got you into reading?

I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, and I think that I can credit my grandmother. I was an only child raised by three generations of women all in the same house: my mom, my grandmother, and my great grandmother. We lived in an isolated place, and I can hardly remember a day that my grandmother didn’t have her nose buried in a book. By the time I was four, I was reading on my own, and I just… never stopped. It’s always been a comfort and an escape for me, and I’m not sure who I would be without books.

What are your favourite genres?

I read fiction written for any age group, and adult non-fiction. I’ve read an inordinate amount of non-fiction about animals, because of my academic interests. I don’t read a lot of books written by cis men, and I tend to gravitate heavily toward writing by trans, non-binary, and queer authors. As a white settler living on colonized land, I intentionally focus on books written by Indigenous authors. I love anything spooky.

What are your least favourite genres?

I don’t tend to enjoy comedy, romance, or history books. I don’t read a lot of mystery, popular fiction, or bestseller titles. I prefer long form to short stories or anthologies, and I have to be in the right head space to dig into poetry. The thing I struggle with the most as a bookseller is recommending books that people typically think of as light and fun, “beach read” kind of books.

If you had to choose between bringing a mediocre book series or one great standalone book to a deserted island, which would you pick?

While I don’t typically reread a lot of books, I am a wildly anxious person, and suspense is not my favourite! I enjoy books that are resolved within one volume more than stories that span many books, and I am absolutely adverse to picking up a series that hasn’t been concluded yet. I’d have to say one great standalone book.

How do you organize your bookshelves? Do you even have any organizational system?

Right now, I split my time between two places. One is a 450 square foot apartment in Toronto, which I share with one of my partners and four pets. We are squeezed for space, and this is where the majority of my books live! I keep them in small stacks of picture books, TBR, and a small selection of favourite books that are my permanent collection. I keep it small, though, because I move a lot! My TBR is divided into four sections right now. These are books that I intentionally sought out, ARCs and damaged books that I got from work, spooky books, and academic books. I usually read at least 2-4 books at a time, so depending on my mood and deadlines, I’ll go to a different stack to choose what I’ll pick up next.

Have you ever gone to any book signings? Which was your favorite?

The shop where I work has a very busy event calendar. In 2018, my favourite book event was the launch of Sarah Henstra’s novel, The Red Word, published by ECW Press. I was assigned to sell books at this event, and everything about it was unknown to me. Not only did the book go on to win the Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction this year, but the event was an absolute delight. It was held at the Toronto Arts and Letters Club, which is the most elegant building I’ve encountered in Toronto, despite its unassuming facade. The author herself was charming, friendly, and stunning, and she was an engaging speaker and reader. Her signing was unique, as she’d had stamps made to use on each book to give them a personal touch. The excerpt she chose to read from the book intrigued me and made me laugh, and as icing on the cake, there were two enchanting folk musicians who played, and delicious snacks. It was an unexpectedly magical night.

Hardcovers or Paperbacks or eBooks or Audiobooks?

I read mostly physical books, with a preference for paperbacks for comfort reasons. However, I also make the 22 hour drive between Toronto and Denver on a regular basis, so since I began doing that, I’ve started using Libby to listen to audiobooks, and it has been a game changer for those long trips.

What makes you DNF a book?

A habit I developed during my high school IB program English class is this: if I read 100 pages of a book, and I am not enjoying it, it’s over. I rarely ever give a book more of a chance than that, and I’m fairly unapologetic about that. I am a firm believer that there are always more books in the world than one person will ever be able to read, and not every book is the right book for every reader.

Do you have a bookish pet?

I. Have. So. Many.

D and Boom are my retired racing greyhounds. They’re 10 years old, and I’ve had D since 2011, and Boom since 2013. I also have two formerly feral kittens, littermates, who are a year and a half old, named Whisper and Willow. In Denver, my partner has cats: Bailey, Odin, and Yuki; and an Australian shepherd mix named Kiba.

Do you enjoy readathons? If so, which ones can people find you participating in?

I have actually never done a readathon! Because so much of my reading life has been dominated by academic reading over the past 10 years or so, I’ve never taken on a readathon or a reading challenge. I do tend to make bookish new year’s resolutions… so maybe one day!

What is one part of bookish life you enjoy that isn’t reading?

One part of my job that I have an uncanny enjoyment for is sales pitch meetings from our publishers. I love getting a sneak peek at upcoming books, getting my hands on the ARCs they bring along, and getting excited about what’s to come for the book shop and for my own reading in the upcoming book season!