As laid out in the first-ever Evan Yeong Literary Awards, the purpose of these blog posts has been to provide a retrospective of the books read in the past year. Typically these have been written and published in January, but here we are. Better late than never, as I always say.
This is the first of these awards to be written during my relatively new career in publishing. While I wouldn’t say I have a strong understanding of the ins and outs of what’s hot in the industry, I certainly have a healthier grasp of things, especially compared to past years when I had none whatsoever.
The other notable difference is that the list of books read has been censored in part, due to a number of the books having been unsolicited manuscripts that I was asked to read during my time as an Editorial Intern at Penguin Random House Canada. A handful were also unpublished manuscripts or ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) and have been marked as such. You can check out a full list [with the exact dates of when I read each one] at this link.
ALMOST AS COMPLEX AS THEIR NAMESAKE
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
Those who aren’t as familiar with the works of C.S. Lewis should know that “Aslan” is the name of the Judeo-Christian-God-stand-in of that author’s Narnia series. The lion is a complex figure, embodying a dichotomy of a being that is “isn’t safe” while also “good”. Aslan himself is a likewise complicated man, having been raised Muslim, converted to Christianity in his teens, then back to Islam, a faith he continues to practice, and did during the writing of this book. A fascinating fact for both believers and nonbelievers alike is his statement that whether or not he was the son of God, the Nazarene definitively performed miracles.
SHOULD HAVE WON THE 2017 GILLER PRIZE
Brother by David Chariandy
One of many short, powerful works of fiction that I read this year, Brother is as unpretentious and beautiful a novel as you’re likely to find, and a worthy contender for Canada’s loftiest and most coveted literary prize. Shining a spotlight on Scarborough in the 90s, an area that I have (recently) shamefully joked about only “technically being Toronto”, this book would have served as a reminder of the real life stories that are overlooked and underheard.
The actual winner of the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize was Michael Redhill’s Bellevue Square, which I read the ARC of. Brother was longlisted. Continue reading
Posted in art, Canada, Christianity, Comedy, food, Islam, literature, race, relationships, religion, review, science, sex, writing
Tagged An Ocean of Minutes, Anonymous, Beauty Queens, Blink, books, brother, David Chariandy, E. V. Cunningham, Evan Yeong Literary Awards, Horns, horror, Joe Hill, Joey Comeau, Joy Kogawa, Libba Bray, literature, Malagash, Michael Pollan, novel, Obasan, race, relevant, Reza Aslan, romance, satire, Ted Dekker, The Botany of Desire, The Case of the One-Penny Orange, The Incest Diary, Thea Lim, Zealot
“Qiyamat ka din to nahin hain.” It’s not like it’s the end of the world, Mr. Khan muses aloud to his family in Urdu. But it is, at least until next month when the first issue of Ms. Marvel Volume 4 hits stands everywhere. This issue effectively marks the destruction of the universe for these characters, but it’s everything the finale could be and more.
It’s now that I’m forced to eat some of the words I published in my last review, those concerning the “meandering plot as it slowly reaches the end”. Yes, Issue #18 ended with the reveal that Kamala’s mother knew about her vigilantism, but there are so many other relationships that are fleshed out and given the closure they need as this chapter closes [in preparation for the next one beginning].
The first involves, as mentioned, our heroine and her parents of course. Kamala opts not to tell them about the impending apocalypse and simply enjoy their company. Following up with that are two female friends, one of which felt like a blindside but not in a bad way. We’ve seen so little of Nakia since Issue #1 that it’s easy to forget that she’s one of Kamala’s closest friends, and she voices her concerns that they might be drifting apart. It feels real because, as anyone in any kind of relationship can attest to, it can and has and will happen to all of us. And since we’re coming full circle back to the first issue we have Zoe-
Posted in art, comics, relationships, review, writing, Youth
Tagged 19, Aamir, Adrian Alphona, All-New All-Different Avengers, art, brother, Bruno, character, comics, end of the world, family, G. Willow Wilson, Ian Herring, Joe Caramagna, Kamala Khan, Last Days, Marvel, Ms. Marvel, relationships, review, Sana Amanat, Secret Wars, Urdu, Zoe
So the world is still ending. While the final incursion was revealed back in Issue #16 New Jersey, and consequently the rest of the Marvel universe, continues to exist. That’s not to say that Ms. Marvel is alone in dragging its feet towards the apocalypse given that Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier and All-New Hawkeye are just two other titles that haven’t yet wrapped things up. No, my observation has more to do with it appears to be one to two days stretched out over the course of four issues [with next month’s #19 being the last before the book’s new #1].
Turn with me, if you will, all the way back to the second issue of Ms. Marvel that I ever reviewed. One thing that I pointed out was how G. Willow Wilson’s storytelling was “decidedly decompressed“, or focusing heavily on characterization in a way that often results in stories being stretched out longer than they might usually. While I believe it worked at the book’s inception, with many readers being brand new to comics and needing to be eased in, it feels overdone here in the final issues. Continue reading
Posted in art, comics, review, writing
Tagged 18, Aamir, Adrian Alphona, art, brother, Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers, character, comics, decompressed, end of the world, family, G. Willow Wilson, Ian Herring, Joe Caramagna, Kamala Khan, Kamran, Last Days, Marvel, Ms. Marvel, review, Sana Amanat, Secret Wars, So You Were Wrong About The Zombie Apocalypse And You've Wasted Your Life, Terrigen Mist
I’ve been waiting for this issue to come around since Ms. Marvel first hit local comic book stores roughly two years ago. Kamala Khan fights crime under the moniker that once belongs to Carol Danvers, and idolizes her to the point that the first ever usage of her powers was actually to transform into the blonde, blue-eyed superwoman. While she’s since realized a lot about her own identity as a hero [and as a person] the fateful meeting between the two is nonetheless a momentous event.
If only it wasn’t being overshadowed by, well, the end of the world.
That’s not to say that it’s being poorly handled, only that this isn’t the way many imagined the two would see each other face to face for the first time. Kamala sees Carol at what is hands-down the lowest point of her short career in vigilanteism. The world is, as mentioned, ending, but more importantly to her Jersey City is in danger. That’s only compounded by the fact that her brother has been kidnapped by her “ex-crush” AKA Kamran. And you thought your teen years were overwhelming. Continue reading
Posted in art, comics, review, writing
Tagged 17, Aamir, Adrian Alphona, art, brother, Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers, character, comics, diversity, end of the world, family, finally, G. Willow Wilson, heartbreak, Ian Herring, Inhuman, Joe Caramagna, Kaboom, Kamala Khan, Kamran, Kilowatt, Last Days, Marvel, Ms. Marvel, review, Sana Amanat, Secret Wars, Terrigen Mist, villain, why is Captain Marvel's costume gray
So . . . Secret Wars. I’m sure there are a number of articles out there that could explain what exactly this event is to those new to the medium, but I’m going to try to do it in as few sentences as possible. Basically multiple earths have been colliding with and destroying one another. The last two earths to play interstellar chicken are Earth 616 [the primary Marvel universe] and Earth 1610 [the Ultimate Marvel universe].
That’s pretty much all the context you need, honestly, because what you should really be focusing on is that the world is ending. The tagline to the event as it started out was “Everything Dies” and the Last Days issues for a number of Marvel titles concern how the characters we know and love will spend what time they have left. Throughout the past fifteen issues we’ve seen Kamala Khan own her identity as a superhero; it goes without saying how she plans on facing the apocalypse.
For the Illuminati, a shadowy group of Marvel’s brightest and most powerful, absolutely everything has been counting down to this final incursion. For Ms. Marvel recent events are also coming to a head as her falling for and subsequent falling out with Kamran has left her in a pretty dark place. Heartbreak plays an enormous role in the life of the average teen and she even admits that it’s “affecting [her] work” to a listening
bartender hot dog stand vendor.
With another planet looming above Manhattan all that is soon washed away as Kamala is reminded that she has another city entirely to protect. She directs Bruno and others to Cole Academic High School and then tends to her number one priority: her parents. Continue reading
Posted in art, comics, review, writing, Youth
Tagged 16, Aamir, Adrian Alphona, art, brother, Bruno, character, comics, crush, diversity, end of the world, family, G. Willow Wilson, heartbreak, hipster viking, Ian Herring, Joe Caramagna, Kamala Khan, Kamran, Last Days, Loki, Marvel, Ms. Marvel, review, Sana Amanat, Secret Wars, villain, ward