#CanLit in Mississauga | Coming Soon

Heads up Mississauga #CanLit lovers: some exciting news coming your way this winter/spring!


Image courtesy of the event website

In conversation with Charles Pachter and Margaret Atwood

Tuesday, March 29, 6 pm, Noel Ryan Auditorium, Mississauga Central Library

Tickets: FREE, book on Eventbrite

First up, Margaret Atwood (yes, the Margaret Atwood!) hits the stage at the Mississauga Central Library on March 29th. I am a huge fan of Margaret Atwood’s work, so you can bet I booked my tickets immediately and will be staking out a claim on a front row seat.

Atwood and Pachter will be in conversation about their book The Journals of Susanna Moodie (first published in 1970 and reprinted in 1997). The book features poems by Atwood, taking on Moodie’s voice, about life in rural Canada in the early 19th century, and Pachter’s illustrations of these poems.

The event is organized in line with Mississauga Museums’ exhibition The Journals of Susanna Moodie, featuring prints on loan from the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, and can be viewed at the Bradley Museum until April 17, 2016.


13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

Publication date February 23, 2016, YA Fiction

Mississauga will also be getting its time in the #CanLit sun in Mona Awad’s upcoming novel 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl. The story is set in Mississauga (or as the book’s protagonist Lizzie calls it, “Misery Saga”), and features an teenage girl’s struggle with her weight and body image. The author will be visiting Montreal and Toronto (check out the full list of publisher’s events for this book), so heads up if you’re interested.

The book sounds hilarious, and I definitely have it on my TBR pile, so keep an eye out for a review forthcoming on this blog.


Image from Facebook

The Pitiful Human Lizard Issue # 7 by Jason Loo

Publication Date April 20, 2016, Pre-order at your local comic book shop

I’ve long been a fan of Jason Loo’s Pitiful Human Lizard comic book series about a self-deprecating Toronto superhero whose adventures are hilariously endearing.

In issue 7, coming this spring, our hero is stranded in the suburbs of Mississauga, with only his costume and not enough cash for bus fare back to the city. Will he get back home in time for work the next day? Will he discover the seedy underbelly of Square One’s parking lot? And above all, will he team up with iconic former Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion? We’ll have to wait until April to find out!

Poetry | bit by bit, Leonarda Carranza

I usually try to keep my work life separate from my blogging life, but a couple of weeks ago, the Art Gallery of Mississauga (where I work) hosted a poetry event by a group of young writers whose words touched me on such a personal level that I wanted to share the experience. The group is called Pages on Fire, and their work explores themes of race and racism, love and oppression, body image and shame. I generally stay away from what I (unfairly) label as “message poetry,” and I admit poetry is in general not my genre of choice. But the range of works I heard that night, from the sharp edge of Renee McPhee’s “30 Lines by Beyonce” to the understated narrative power of Tina Chu’s poem on an immigrant family’s relationship with language (full disclosure: Tina is a close personal friend) takes the medium beyond its message. These are poems on race, oppression and so on, yes, but these are first and foremost, good poems from perhaps the next generation of Canadian poetry greats. 

Below is a poem by Pages on Fire organizer Leonarda Carranza. During the event, Carranza admitted she was reading this poem first, because she knew it would be difficult to get through. She was visibly choked up, and it took her several tries to get past the first verse. After the event, a woman approached her and said that she, too, was moved to tears by the reading. I love this poem for the subtle yet potent emotional wallop of the first couple of lines, which, by the end of the piece, have taken on a level of texture belied by the sparseness of the text.

[My apologies to Leonarda if WordPress messes up the text formatting. I tried to follow the spacing as best I could.]


bit by bit


bit by bit and step by step

Grandma teaches me about


Bit by bit

And step by step she teaches

And I learn

About the texture of indifference

What it feels like not to be wanted

not to be embraced or held

not to sit on her lap

Bit by bit

And step by step I learn

Not to expect a smile

Not to feel her

I don’t go to her when I’m afraid

I don’t ask for her when I am sick

And she teaches

like the mothers

and great-grandmothers that came before taught her

To stand back

To watch

As she offers herself and her love to

White and light skinned bodies

And bit by bit

And step by step

I learn about colour

– Leonarda Carranza

Review | Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box, JonArno Lawson

9780889843547The text on the back cover refers to the world of poet JonArno Lawson as one “where sound rules supreme.” Sound is indeed the primary strength of the poems in this volume. The world he describes ranges from the fantastic where wolves live on the moon, to the mundane, where a boy is irritated at his friend’s absence. The poems in Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box are meant to be read aloud. The poems I liked best are those that are pure wordplay: “A budgie in a buggy had a buddy with a grudge; / a toucan in a moving van had given him a nudge. / He nudged him back and nipped him, / but the toucan wouldn’t budge.”

Playful as it sounds however, that poem also has a bit of a dark tone to it — a toucan and a budgie’s friend got into an altercation on the road. This darker tone runs through quite a few of the poems, hinting at perhaps more adult themes than the singsongy rhythms imply. Take for example the absolute horror of the following imagery: “It’s easy to injure a gingerbread man / and a gingerbread injury’s bound to expand / from a foot to a leg from a head to a hand / when you’re eating him, eating him, fast as you can.” I know fairy tales and nursery rhymes are more violent than we would have realized as kids, and I suppose the fanciful rhythms will delight kids even though parents will see the more somber subtext.

I did think some of the poems were trying too hard to be clever, with sly references that may make the adult reader pause, but that are too obvious in their attempt to elicit praise. Take for example the one about Sleeping Beauty: “After Sleeping Beauty woke, she never slept again; / she feared another fairy attack, / and that’s why Sleeping Beauty’s now / a beautiful insomniac.” Clever little turn of phrase in the last line, but self-consciously so. I just thought it sad, and not as fun to read out loud as some of his other poems.

Or take the one about the twins whose lives begin “with twice the force” and have fun with bunk beds and double decker rocking horses. Except “what can be doubled can just as well be cut in half,” which makes the twins “sober up at once, of course.” All I could think of was, so what?

Still, a lot of the poems are fun wordplay, and definitely best read out loud. The book itself is beautiful, classic Porcupine’s Quill with paper cuts by Alec Dempster that add a bit of a stark, classical feel to poems. Teachers and parents of young and elementary school children may best appreciate Lawson’s poetry.