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Indie Events Roundup: June 29 – July 5

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Tom Buchanan’s newest zine launches at Plan B in Halifax Monday Night.
[image via facebook]

Monday, June 29

HALIFAX

Fasting: A Journal of a Plague Year – Zine Launch and Community Discussion, 7pm, Anchor Archive Zine Library, Plan B Merchants Coop, 2180, Gottingen St, free

Tom Buchanan launches the product of his Anchor Archive zine residency, which intertwines historical research into the Keys starvation experiment with Tom’s personal experience of seeking treatment for disordered eating.

Tuesday, June 30

TORONTO

Latin American Speakers Series: Minerva Cuevas and Jota Castro, 6pm, OCADU, 100 McCaul St, Rm 190, free

Two internationally renowned artists reflect on their practice as an artist in relation to activism.

Toronto Comic Jam, 7:30pm, Cameron House, 408 Queen St W, free

Get together with other indie artists and colalborate on making comix! Bring your own supplies!

Saturday, July 4

TORONTO

The Princess & The Pony Launch, 12pm, Little Island Comics, 742 Bathurst St, free

Join Kate Beaton and Little Island for the launch of her new book. Ponies!

Zine Reviews: The Root

ZINES_The-RootMinicomic, Stacey Bru, staceybrucomics.tumblr.com, sold out

Leave it to root vegetables to unearth an­swers to life’s deep questions. Why was I born? Why am I living? Well, okay, maybe one won’t find answers to these questions here, but at least the existentially troubled little root being in The Root can empathize.

Stacey Bru’s compellingly drawn black-and-white mini comic tells the quick but harrowing tale of one little (radish? tur­nip?) root come-to-life. Happily growing down, down into the soil, everything changes when the greens are harvested and little Rooty groggily transitions to life on the surface. Rooty’s bereavement at the loss of a cozy dirt-womb spins into a murderous rampage, stomping greens left and right, until a brave little fly en­gages in a heart-to-heart with The Root.

Thoughtfully executed with a touch­ing ending, Stacey’s work is as adorable as the story is sad. It’s a quick but lovely glimpse at the mystery and unfairness of life. (Joshua Barton)

Book Review: The Wintermen

BOOKS_The-Wintermen

Brit Griffin, 303 pgs, Scrivener Press, scrivenerpress.com, $20 

Imagine a never ending bone-chilling winter, a harsh landscape with a few unlikely heroes-turned-outlaws, on a post-apocalypse backdrop, with a handful of baddies, and you’ve got Brit Griffin’s The Wintermen.

Set in northern Ontario, Griffin’s first novel is a story of survival. Crazy weather wreaks havoc on the world and ends up getting stuck on winter mode, throwing Canada into what seems like the start of the next ice age. Resources quickly become scarce, causing the government to hire a private security company, Talos, to deal with unruly citizens.

Johnny Slaught, the main character, is turned into a modern day Robin Hood one fateful night and ends up leading a band of outlaws who need to hide from Talos. The Wintermen soon start a haven for people who have lost their homes and need help battling the elements.

Primarily, this story deals with the threat of the law, with the danger of the cold staying to the background. The plot is thrilling and enticing as the reader follows to see if Johnny and his gang will successfully beat the “man”.

The branding of this new genre, the “northern”, is also intriguing. While westerns are usually set in the dry heat of, well, the west, it is a far cry from the dry cold north.

It felt strange that although the book is based in Northern Ontario, there were only two Indigenous characters, explained by the fact that they are all still on the reserve dealing with the weather in their own way. Although this may be realistic, there certainly was a missed opportunity to make connections between the similarities of the plight of Indigenous peoples and the characters of this book, having been abandoned by the government and subject to the theft of resources.

Brit Griffin’s debut novel successfully reworks the western genre to fit a chillier climate, while keeping with the traditional struggle of the outlaw to do what is right. (Carissa Ainslie)

Zine Review: Pizza Punks

ZINES_Pizza-PunksComic, Cole Pauls, tundrawizard@gmail.com, $3

Sometimes you pick up a zine and you know exactly what you are in for. Pizza Punks‘ sleeveless, studded jacket, com­plete with pizza back patch says it all. Fans of punk and pizza rejoice, here is a comic for you to shove in your face like many a triangular slice of carb-filled goodness. What we have here are comics and illus­trations about punks and their slices that range from silly to gross. My favourite is a stencil-style motivational image of a mustachioed punk munching up with a caption that reads, “Remember to eat at least one pizza slice a day.” What more do you need to say? It ain’t deep. Its bright green pages feature comics by Cole Pauls and pinups (yes, pizza punk pinups, to coin a term) by Kirsten Hatfield, Joel Rich, and Brian Fukushima. The quality varies a little bit but it generally delivers the goods, no pun intended. (Chris Landry)

Book Review: What I Want to Tell Goes Like This

BOOKS_What-I-Want-To-TellMatt Rader, 256 pgs, Nightwood Editions, nightwoodeditions.com, $21.95 

Sitting at the intersection of history and fiction (and who’s to say which is which?), poet Matt Rader assembles his first collection of short stories concerning the cloud of gloom and desperation enveloping the past and present of Comox Valley, B.C. What I Want to Tell Goes Like This cycles back and forth between the struggles of today’s working class and fictionalized accounts of those same struggles borrowed from a century in the past.

Unfortunately the latter stories are the weakest of the collection, where, such as in “The Children of the Great Strike, Vancouver Island, 1912–1914″, Rader is too concerned with sourcing his historical material, dooming the narrative to a loquacious and professorial recitation of facts and bibliography. The collection’s contemporary stories, on the other hand, look into humanity’s complexity, from its confluence of sex and violence to the encumbrance of its past.

In “Bearing the Body”, a son slowly comes to terms with the abandonment and callousness of his dying father in an epiphany that’s both wistful and poignant: “Somehow, Joe felt, this dying body erased the past; made it so Anders’ body had always been this body and Joe knew that for a long time this would be the only body he remembered.” On the other side of the spectrum, “At the Lake” serves as a gritty and unyielding flash of sexual brutality echoing the violence of the site’s past.

There’s a genuine emotional intelligence to Rader’s exploration that deserves recognition. Still, What I Want to Tell Goes Like This often hides it behind a wall of grandiloquence. Look beyond it, and you’ll find an acerbic honesty demanding to be read and understood. (Paul Rocca)

Book Review: Rough Paradise

BOOKS_RoughParadise

Alec Butler, 128 pgs, Quattro Books, quattrobooks.ca, $18 

With few exceptions — Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex being the most well-known — the lives of gender variant youth are still notably absent in fiction. Rough Paradise, a novella by Toronto playwright and filmmaker Alec Butler, refreshingly expands the breadth of young adult queer fiction.

“Everyone wants the real me, the boy I know I really am, to just disappear,” says Terry, Rough Paradise’s teen narrator. Set in a working class neighbourhood in the 1970s, the book is told from the perspective of a teenager born intersex. Raised female, fourteen-year-old Terry grows a beard and breasts, starts using male pronouns, and dons his father’s clothing. Aghast, his parents send him to the nearby psychiatric hospital, where he is subjected to hormonal treatment, electroshock therapy, and repeated sexual assaults at the hands of his doctor. At school, Terry faces homophobic taunts from his peers and is christened with a new nickname, Pussy Boy. Things change when Terry meets Darla, a headstrong sixteen-year-old with more than her share of troubles at home. As they fall in love, their school and home lives quickly unravel.

There’s a sense of urgency in Butler’s dialogue-heavy writing. A lot happens in 125 pages, and the intensity of Terry and Darla’s adolescent relationship feels very real. Character development, however, is quite thin and takes a backseat to the action. Notably, multiple sex scenes explore vulnerabilities felt during intimacy that are unique to the trans or intersex experience, something not often written about from a teenager’s point of view. Despite Terry and Darla’s numerous hardships (including sexual and physical violence, threat of familial expulsion, and social ostracism), Rough Paradise nevertheless maintains a spirited tone of optimism. Allies are found in unexpected places, characters change allegiances, and Butler shows us that queer folks can and will persevere. (Melissa Hergott)