2 min

Canadian writers recommend gay books

Over the course of the last two years, Xtra has been tracking down the country’s queer literati and putting a tough question to them: if you had to recommend one book written by a gay, lesbian, bi or trans Canadian, what would you pick? Gay classics, hidden gems and touchstones of CanLit all made the cut.


(Ken Boesem)

The results were published regularly in Xtra's Ottawa edition until October. Here are some of the best of the lot:

If you step back from it, it’s a novel about the politicization of
private lives (as you might expect from a novel that ends with all its
main characters in a paddy wagon). It’s a marker of a hinge time
between, say, Trudeau’s bedrooms of the nation (1967) and gay marriage
(2005), a time just shy of the Charter of Human Rights (1982), a time
when most people, including those in the book, don’t feel like they can
be out, a time when being queer meant their children could be taken
away.

–Anne Fleming on Jane Rule’s Contract With The World

Part meditation, part architectural study, part autobiography, part
cultural study, part lament for the end of the world, and all, all, all
pure gorgeous poetry (a word I apply to any piece of beautiful writing,
no matter how it is formatted on the page),
Touch to Affliction is a
book that makes you feel like you are being led by a ghost through a
maze.

–RM Vaughan on Nathalie Stephens’ Touch to Affliction

The short story is a perfect location for experimentation, and With
rises fearlessly to the challenge. Some stories are plot-based, whereas
others focus more on character, tone or atmosphere. We get a glimpse of
the variety of people who end up homeless, the pros and cons of drug
treatment centres and the terror and loneliness of child sex work.

–Sandra Alland on Cathleen With’s Skids

Stan Persky’s exploration of life in eastern Europe after the fall of
the Berlin Wall is a post-modern tour de force whose strength lies in
its seamless transitions between the subjective and the objective, the
journalistic and the philosophical, the aesthetic and the sexy.

–Daniel Gawthrop on Stan Persky’s First We Take Berlin

Imagine you’ve stepped back in time 30 years or so. You’re coming out
of the 519 Community Centre on your way to sit on the famous steps for
a while and wander around Toronto’s gay village.  As you head down
Church St, you notice a street vendor with an army-surplus shoulder bag
and a small pile of pamphlets — a handsome, well-built young guy with a
fashionable shag haircut. It’s 1979, don’t forget.

–Ian Young on Don Garner’s Dirty Laundry (Young also recommends Lawrence Braithwaite’s Wigger)

More from the series:
Brett Josef Grubisic on Don Hannah’s The Wise and Foolish Virgins
Mark Ambrose Harris on Derek McCormack’s The Haunted Hillbilly
Mariko Tamaki on Billeh Nickerson's Let Me Kiss It Better: Elixirs for the Not So Straight and Narrow
Farzana Doctor on Wayson Choy’s Not Yet
Bill Brown on Alberto Manguel’s Reading Pictures: What We Think About When We Look At Art

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