Book Review: A Taste for Brown Sugar: Black Women in Pornography

51XFdkyMBlL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Mireille Miller-Young, 392 Pages, Duke University Press,, $27.95 

Open an academic tome analyzing the role of black women in pornography and you may expect major criticism of the industry and the women who work in it. You know, complaints of how it exploits women, perpetuates stereotypes, and how the majority of the women working in it are doing so out of desperation and limited options.

In A Taste for Brown Sugar, all of those issues are acknowledged and given their due, but author Mireille Miller-Young — an associate professor of feminist studies at the University of California — argues that despite being a minority in an already maligned industry, and having to represent many of the worst racial stereotypes around sex, black female per- formers have always given the viewer signs of agency and degrees of control, while subverting their confines in the porn industry through their individual performances.

Miller-Young shows this by analyzing pornographic film or stills featuring black actresses, searching for any interventions on the presented narrative, whether it be a knowing glance, a satirical look or a tender moment during a scene. She also interviews women who’ve performed in the industry from the 1980s to present, which is where the work really delivers its most unique insights. Many performers explained how they negotiated their radicalized portrayals even within their stereotypical roles: “If they wanted the maid, I was going to look good!” starlet Angel Kelly told the author. “I was not going to be the rundown, Aunt Jemima-looking maid.”

Beyond these revelations, Miller-Young’s work is one of the first to chronicle of the rise of the porn industry from the turn of the 20th century to the present from the African-American perspective. She moves from stag films shown in frat houses and men’s clubs to the golden age of porn in the 1970s and finally, the influence of hip-hop and gangster rap on the marketing of porn featuring black performers.

Readers may recognize a constant fluidity, as the push-pull of negotiated labour boundaries are constantly being adjusted and then readjusted even within the racist stereotypes being perpetuated. Miller-Young even begins to suggest that within the porn industry, black women have more sexual freedom and control of how bodies are used and depicted than they do in mainstream society.

If there’s one sticking point here, it’s that the language used in this work is too academic to hold one’s interest long-term. Your eyes may glaze over at certain points, which is unfortunate because there’s a valid, believable argument here that’s creatively and compellingly presented. It just may have worked better as a documentary. (Aaron Broverman)

Canzine Toronto Vendors



From Canzine 2014: Kat Verhoeven and Jason Bradshaw!

MEET YOUR 2015 VENDORS! See all these great folks at Canzine Toronto at the Art Gallery of Ontario on Saturday October 17!

Book Review: Shopping Cart Pantheism

9781894037617Jeanne Randolph, 135 pages, ARP Books,, $14.95

In examining the various “Christianisms” depicted by consumerism in North American society, Randolph considers the removal of Christianity as the dominant form of worship and its replacement: the shopping cart. According to Randolph, “Christianity has not been destroyed; it has been digested.” In order to show this, Randolph documents her trip to the mecca of consumerism, Las Vegas, and outlines the multitude of Christian- isms each product or place represents.

By using photos as mnemonic devices, but not including them, Randolph forces the reader to use her prose to imagine the picture she is describing. This is easily done, due to both Randolph’s vivid descriptions, and the number of recognizable elements she encounters.

Combining poetry that is “more like photography than verse,” the trip to Las Vegas, a history lesson, and an internal dialogue of critical theory, Randolph simply wants to show “that a Christian- ized Subconscious is already laid out like a sheet of flypaper.” Some examples stand out; among these, the Apple logo described as a symbol of Eve biting the apple is the most salient. Others, however, should be recognized as an interpretation, maybe even a stretch,

What Randolph nails are the many feelings and attributes that come from the pantheism. The shopping cart is the ideal place of worship. The goods are the new gods. The “metabolizing” of Christianity makes this an easier transition. The slogans are the hymns and commandments, the clicks and jingle of placing items in the cart are worship, and the act of purchasing is your answered prayers.

Shopping Cart Pantheism is not The Godliness of Goods, but it is the next best thing. Definitely add this one to your cart. (Brandon Daniel)

Canzine Toronto Vendors: DAYTRIP


In the summer of 2014, photographers Erich Deleeuw, Andrew Savery-Whiteway and Matthew Volpe came together to form the DAYTRIP collective. Bringing their varied visual practices together into a singular lens, their self-published bi-yearly publication is centred around documenting the Canadian cultural landscape.

Their second issue After Frank is an homage to The Americans, a photographic book by the eminent street photographer Robert Frank. After Frank is a poetic visual archive of Canadiana in all its kitsch, detritus and natural splendour, as the DAYTRIP boys drive from Toronto to Mabou, Nova Scotia in an attempt to find the reclusive Frank.

They are currently working on their first submission-based project, a choose-your-own-adventure zine set to release next year.

Book Review: Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent


Liz Howard, 91 pgs,McClelland & Stewart, $18.95

Liz Howard opens an interiority into rural and urban northern landscapes in this powerful debut collection. Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent manages the complexity of identity by examining one world through different human traditions of understanding, set up as though in competition and ultimately reconciled by their mutual presentation in the language, or in language as such that is ultimately at odds with what it describes.

Spinning together words and phrases from the Anishinaabemowin language, lines and metrical patterns from colonial literature, and the coolly removed terms of theory and science with lived feelings and experiences, Howard presents as a landscape a mishmash of romances reimagined and corrected. Failure to touch the world, explicitly and representationally linked to the “natural” world, is what characterizes the new world emergent in Shaking Tent: what is said is managed in meditation on the impossibility of saying it and speaker and reader are located virtually just beyond the text, communing in a longing for the recognition of oneself by another.

Read this book because it’s stupid pretty. Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent isn’t an easy read, and contains more than a few four-dollar words that might send you running to the dictionary, but each poem turns on a chill haunting beat to satisfy a formal understanding preceding a more concrete one on a second or third reading: “the site was discovered / during construction of a new venous / highway for stars birthing themselves // out of pyroclastic dust and telepathy / in the time zone of some desperate hour / when all our exits are terraformed.” Read it. (Maureen Brouwer)

Indie Events October 6 – 13


Celebrate the future because it doesn’t exist!
BP founder Hal and pal tell you why the world is ending in their new books, launching Thursday.

Tuesday, October 6


Shake-n-Make Collective: What’s Cookin?, 5pm-7pm, The Artists Nesstand, Chester Station, 22 Chester Avenue, free

A new show bringing a fresh baked reimagination of ‘70s crafts! Macaroni portraits, reverse applique aprons Betty Crocker and more.

No Ordinary Reading!, 6:30pm, 145 Annette St, free

Readings from Lisa de Nikolits, James Grainger, Lorrie Jorgensen, Evan Munday and Andrea Thompson.

Coach House Books vs. The Fall, 7pm, The Garrison, 1197 Dundas St W, free

A whack ton of new books launch from the inimitable laneway press!

Art Bar Poetry Series, 8pm, Black Swan Tavern, 154 Danforth Ave, free

Chad Norman, Gianna Patriarca and Rocco de Giacomo read, plus an open mic.


Speaking Crow, 7pm, Millenium Library, 251 Donald St, free

The first edition of the fall features the fantastic Luanna Hiebert. Open Mic sign-ups at 7.