Monthly Archives: February 2016

Finished this book: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Cover of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Cover of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Here’s another book I love, and one I’ve read many times. This month I started with some difficult books but finally remembered to reach for the tried-and-true, since February is hard enough without reading emotionally draining books.

I guess this one could be seen as a difficult book, given that it’s a dystopian story  about one woman’s experience in a repressive religious society in which women are severely oppressed based on their gender, while the country is at war on the outside, and controlled by a secret police on the inside.

But Atwood’s writing is so amazingly pure and clear. It is uncluttered, and yet somehow attends meticulously to detail. The way her protagonists view and think about the world around them is so real and recognisable that it is sometimes startling.  There are very few of her books that I do not love (Alias Grace is one of those, though). Continue reading

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February is the Worst Month

Every year, February hits me like a tonne of bricks. I don’t know why February is so hard. Part of it, I’m sure, is that the winter has gone on so long by now, and the end is not quite in sight yet. But on the other hand, the days are visibly longer, and this is usually a sunny month (goes with the cold, dammit).

Part of it is maybe that the pattern of difficult Februarys means that I start dreading it in advance, before anything bad even happens. As soon as I stop stressing about Christmas, I start dreading February. Maybe there’s no way I approach February with an open heart anymore. Continue reading

Old Dogs: When the News is Bad

With a clump of snow on her adorable nose.

Ten years ago this month, when she was only two years old, the Brindle Dog developed a mast cell tumour in her neck. I remember very clearly the moment I first felt it, when she and I were playing and I was rubbing and tugging at the sides of her neck. She was wiggling and wagging, and I was laughing. Under my fingertips, I felt a lump deep in the left side of her neck and I thought that’s weird, I don’t recall that dogs are supposed to have a bump there, and at the same time I was reaching for the other side to see if it was bilateral. No, it was not. No matter how hard I poked and prodded, I could not find a corresponding lump on the right side, and my heart sank. I felt a deep fear in my belly and called the vet right away to make an appointment.

A veterinary surgical oncologist removed the malignant tumour, but due to the amount of structures in the neck, the margins were not as clean as desired. My then-partner and I were advised to send her to Saskatchewan for a month of radiation treatment during which time she would be fostered, undergo general anaesthetic every day for the radiation treatment, and require intravaenous feeding because her throat would be burned from the radiation. We elected not to do this. Continue reading

Weekly Pet Peeve: I Am Not a Mental Health “Consumer”

Words matter. The labels we are given or choose to use matter. Language structures how we think, and how we think structures how we use language.

Once we were victims or sufferers.

Then we were patients (and if we were lucky, ex-patients).

Clients.

Person with X.

Survivor.

All problematic in different ways, but none as problematic for me as the trend to call us users or consumers of the mental health care system. My mental illness is not a commodity. To deal with it, I am not choosing or shopping or consuming or using the mental health care system. That implies that there is actually an array of effective, accessible, affordable, respectful options from which to choose. To commercialise mental health care (and all health care), to position the people who need health care services as users, as consumers, as if we are freely choosing to use and consume resources, as if we are the same as anyone shopping at WalMart for plastic toys made by kids in factories in overexploited countries, is to make illness and its treatment on par with any other goods and services in a capitalist system. That is absurd. Getting help isn’t as simple as picking out canned goods at the grocery store. Health care is not a commodity, and illness is not a lifestyle choice. Continue reading

Finished this book: A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay

Cover of A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay.

Cover of A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay.

This is maybe my sixth or eighth time re-reading this book. It’s one of my “feel-good books,” a go-to when I am feeling the need for both entertainment and the comfort of the familiar. Some people watch movies over and over to get this, but for me it’s books. Kay’s books tell stories I enjoy in a way that I like. The storylines linger on relationships between people and how influential those relationships are, but there are also politics and wars and romances and magic and intrigues. I always like Kay’s imaginary worlds; Arbonne and its neighbouring countries are no exception.

Sometimes I am a little frustrated that Kay relies so much on problematic gender stereotypes. While I do understand that the fantasy genre is fairly reliant on those stereotypes, Kay’s imagination and transformation of those tropes in so many other ways makes it all the more disappointing Continue reading

Finished this book: Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid by Evelyn Lau

runaway

This was a disturbing book. Evelyn Lau writes about her experiences living on the street after running away from home at the age of fourteen to escape her abusive, controlling parents.

Lau had always wanted to be a writer, and had already received some awards and recognition for her writing at a young age, but she was forced to leave home to escape an unendurable situation. She stayed with friends at first, given the network of friends and fellow writers she had already established, but as the pressure from police and child welfare authorities increased, her friends became unable and unwilling to shelter her. Continue reading

To End Racism, White People Must Invest in Other White People

Reblogging on Barking Back.

Change From Within

gay-coupleOriginally Published at Everyday Feminism.


As I sit here writing this after learning of the brutal murder of Natasha McKenna while in police custody, a death local authorities ruled an “accident,” a familiar feeling rises inside of me. I recognize this anger and this sadness.

Sadly, this is a feeling that comes up for me nearly every single day as I work not to allow myself to numb to the brutality Black, Brown, and Indigenous people experience at the hands of the police. And frankly, I have little patience at the moment for talking to White people.

Similarly, after the grand jury decided against indicting Darren Wilson, I found myself lashing out at those who share my race and who were defending the decision. I was incredibly snarky, and I was looking for the best thing to say to sound right, not to actually help them understand the roots…

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