High School by Tegan and Sara

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cover of High School

Dancing (or crying) to songs by Tegan and Sara is practically a rite of passage for queer women and girls in Canada and beyond. Both Vancouver-based twins have been open about their sexuality since their music career took off in 1998 and they quickly became icons for the LGBTQ+ community. But before “Closer,” before “Boyfriend,” before the Grammy nomination and the inception of their LGBTQ+ advocacy foundation, Sara and Tegan Quin were just everyday sisters growing up in Calgary, Alberta. Their new memoir, High School (Simon & Schuster, 2019), guides readers through the tumultuous halls of Crescent Heights High as the sisters find love, drop acid, and pick up the guitar.

Told in alternating perspectives—one chapter is Tegan’s, the next Sara’s—the memoir spans grades 10 through 12. By the end, the Quin sisters are beginning to emerge as the queer rock stars that we know today. Though the conclusion is no surprise for Tegan and Sara fans, the raw emotion and honesty of their shared memoir never fail to captivate. The stories that earned High School a 2020 Alex Award (given to adult books with special relevance to teens) offer comfort to people who may be having similar experiences and are as relatable as the duo’s hit songs.

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Atlantic International Film Festival: Diary of a Feminist Film-Goer

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Cover of the program guide for FIN 2019Did you attend the 2019 Atlantic International Film Festival? Are you planning to submit a film to the 2020 festival? We are now about half way between the ’19 and ’20 festivals so what better time to post a review? Last September, we sent our intrepid reviewer Corinne Gilroy to FIN. (Yes, the Atlantic International Film Festival is known as FIN. No, FIN is not an acronym; it’s just a name.) In the diary entries below, Corinne relates her experience at FIN, focusing on select films directed by or about women. Enjoy—and maybe we will see you next year!

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Although 2019 was my first FIN, it wasn’t my first kick at the film canister. I was but a young whippersnapper, newly away at school, when the Tidal Wave (now Silver Wave) Film Festival launched in Fredericton in the early aughts. My friends and I made a November ritual of shuttling our bundled-up bodies between the rigid bear-trap seats of an old UNB auditorium and the drafty uptown multiplex. We wrung every last ounce of movie magic out of our student passes and cut our teeth on quirky world cinema in the process.Continue Reading Atlantic International Film Festival: Diary of a Feminist Film-Goer

Rebent Sinner by Ivan Coyote

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Book cover for Rebent Sinner showing a black-and-white photo of a child blowing bubbles through a window; an old-fashioned toboggan run is also seen through the window.)“I read and then reread Stone Butch Blues [by Leslie Feinberg] in 1993, and […] I recognized myself in someone else’s story for the very first time.

“I recognized myself and picked up a pen, and now it’s twenty-seven years later and I have not put it down.”

Observations like this are the heart of Ivan Coyote’s remarkable new book, Rebent Sinner (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2019). A collection of anecdotes, memories, and essays that range from a single sentence to several pages, Coyote takes the reader on an odyssey-like journey through life as a trans person, a working artist, and a storyteller. The stops along the way range from a trailer party in Whitehorse to a prison-turned-arts-centre in Hong Kong, but Coyote skillfully guides readers to each place with their clear, passionate voice.Continue Reading Rebent Sinner by Ivan Coyote

Hustling Verse edited by Amber Dawn and Justin Ducharme

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Book cover for Hustling Verse: An Anthology of Sex Workers' PoetryHustling Verse: An Anthology of Sex Workers’ Poetry (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2019) showcases the literary talent of almost five dozen self-identified current or former sex workers (an umbrella that includes stripping, phone sex, full-service, etc.). The autobiographical thrust of Hustling Verse renders slut-shaming absurd and delivers a kind of reality check that only sex workers can.

Sedgemore’s poem, “A John’s Funeral,” for example, is a fond tribute to a client who “paid fucking well / and tipped too, also a great fuck” —one hundred and eighty degrees from the “violent john” bogeyman used to infantalize or concern-troll consenting adult sex workers. Hysterika’s “Going to Hell” revels in hedonism and not only eschews judgement but mocks the judgemental for their lack of imagination: “Twerking for Jesus / And his hair is metaphorically tied back in a gorgeous yoga man bun.”Continue Reading Hustling Verse edited by Amber Dawn and Justin Ducharme

On Creating a Literary Festival: Five Questions with AfterWords Co-Organiser Stephanie Domet

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Official poster for the After Words Literary festival listing a selection of speakers.Understorey Magazine: AfterWords is a brand new literary festival for the Halifax area. What inspired you take on this project?

Stephanie Domet: My co-organiser, Ryan Turner, and I have had the idea for AfterWords since the final Halifax International Writers Festival back in 2008. Halifax hasn’t had a multi-day literary festival for the past ten years. We aimed to create the kind of event we would like to go to. There’s so much happening in Nova Scotia. We wanted to show writers who travel here for the festival—as well as local readers and writers—the very best that Halifax has to offer.

UM: Tell us about the AfterWords slogan: “Where writers and readers meet.”

SD: The focus of the festival is on conversation and hospitality, not just readings to an audience. So we have a lot of different venues, including Cafe Lara and the Agricola Street Brasserie. Some events free. Some have food and drink. We hope to widen the appeal of a literary festival, especially to people who might not think “literary” is their thing. This is not an elite event. It’s for everyone.Continue Reading On Creating a Literary Festival: Five Questions with AfterWords Co-Organiser Stephanie Domet