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 A handful were also unpublished manuscripts or ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) and have been marked as such.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
As I say at the beginning of every year, you can look back at the first-ever Evan Yeong Literary Awards in 2014 for a fuller description of my relationship with reading, which in turn led to their inception.
While eventually I’ll run out of ways to write this, the purpose of the third installment of the Evan Yeong Literary Awards is to shine a spotlight on an artistic medium that has taken a bit of a back seat as screen media becomes increasingly more prevalent, calling attention to a select handful of books I read these past 12 months. In 2015 every pick was objectively a winner, but given the rocky year following it’s no surprise that these awards have their ups and downs.
In 2016 my resolution was, just as it will likely be every year moving forward until it becomes unfeasible, to read more than the year before. That said I was devastated to do the final count to see that I read exactly the same number as I did in 2015. You can check out a full list [with the exact dates of when I read each one] at this link.
wokest novel, PRE-2000’s
The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck
Although it’s fallen out of fashion since the time of its coinage in 2015, “woke” is still the most concise way to say “aware of racism and social in justice”. Throughout a novel that could serve merely as a cautionary tale of public transportation Steinbeck communicates time and time again that even though he lived as a person of great privilege, during an era where those privileges were even greater than they are now, he wasn’t afraid to pen several scathing indictments against the very class he was a part of.
most disappointing, though by no means awful
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
The fault with this YA novel can be laid at the feet of those who framed it as a solid example of an interracial relationship in the genre. Although the titular Park is half-Korean the fact is that this is not something he personally relates to as a character, and certainly isn’t a factor that others take into consideration when viewing him [save for Eleanor, who gushes over his features in a way that borders on the fetishistic]. Apart from that this book very competently portrays the familial issues that can plague teenagers, as well as the most authentic depiction of how intense young love can be that I’ve ever read. Continue reading
Posted in America, art, history, race, relationships, review, sex, writing
Tagged Celeste Ng, Eleanor & Park, Ellen Ladowsky, Evan Yeong Literary Awards, Everything I Never Told You, history, How to Dump a Guy: A Coward's Manual, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jill Lepore, john steinbeck, Judy Pasternak, Juneteenth, Kate Fillion, Kody Keplinger, Let It Be Morning, literature, novel, race, Rainbow Rowell, Ralph Ellison, relevant, romance, Sayed Kashua, Sunjeev Sahota, The Day I Shot Cupid: Hello My Name is Jennifer Love Hewitt and I'm a Love-aholic, The Duff, The Name of War: King Philip's War and The Origins of American Identity, The Wayward Bus, The Year of the Runaways, wokest, YA, Yellow Dirt: An American Story of a Poisoned Land and a People Betrayed
Readers, I want you to picture me.
It’s 10:30 on a Monday, a metric ****-ton past my deadline for this post. I’m weary from a hard day of work (plus overtime). I’m mentally wiped after my past three attempts at creating a post have resulted in thousand word essays, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. And in these times, I turn to the near-infinite bounty of the internet for inspiration, and lo and behold readers the internet hath provided:
Image retrieved from Imgur, fair use
That’s right- it’s a picture of Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, from the upcoming Netflix show A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Because they’re doing that.
Yeah, I’m going nuts here too.
Now I enjoyed the hell out of the books, which were impeccably written (“impeccably written” being a Danish term meaning “the best thing ever”). I thought the 2004 movie adaptation was fascinating, funny, and as faithful a take as could be done in the space of two hours.
There are two kinds of people in the world. People who will say that they want this house, and liars.
That said, I am pumped for the series, and absolutely loving the idea of finally seeing NHP as a villain (yeah, I saw Gone Girl, but I’m not counting that one). And did I mention that the voice of Lemony Snickett will be conveyed to us in the dulcet tones of Patrick Warburton?
Well that’s happening too.
Posted in bizarreness, celebrity, film, literature, television
Tagged 2004, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Aasif Mandvi, adaptation, Count Olaf, Daniel Handler, Lemony Snickett, literature, movie, Neil Patrick Harris, netflix, NPH, Patrick Warburton, Uncle Monty
I read Harry Potter.
Didn’t love it.
Which puts me in perhaps one of the smallest minorities on the planet, between folks who’ve been struck by lightning multiple times and folks named “Craig Craigerson”.
Now I, like many, was enthralled at first. Tore through ’em at a lightning pace. But as the series wore on, I found myself drifting away from it. Certain issues I’d have been more willing to forgive as a kid just didn’t hold up. Problems like-
- Why is the reportedly most powerful wizard in the world a high school principal?
- Why are these kids not also being taught history, literature, and chemistry?
- Is Voldemort such a nerdy loser that his plan for domination gets undone by his insistence on conquering his old school?
Also, why not just shoot the guy?
I mean seriously- he clearly views Muggles [non magic-users] in such low regard that he’d never see it coming. Granted, this is the issue I have with Doctor Who, Sherlock, and most British shows, but I do think that there’s few problems a well-aimed .44 can’t solve.
Yes, that’s a distinctly American attitude, and part of my problem with Rowling’s latest venture.
Posted in America, art, Europe, geography, government, history, literature, media, writing
Tagged America, American, appropriation, cultural appropriation, Culture, depth, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, gun control, Harry Potter, history, JK Rowling, literature, Muggle, no-maj, politics, USA, writing
In spite of my nationality there’s very little I’ve been able to do to avoid news about the presidential nominees in our neighbour to the south. While Donald Trump hasn’t yet risen to the absurd heights of celebrity that Obama did shortly after his inauguration, it’s more than fair to say that he’s been creating an indelible mark on pop culture for far longer, for better or for worse.
Given his general notoriety, especially of late, it’s not particularly surprising that comedian Elijah Daniel was compelled to pen what I’m going to generously dub a novella about the businessman. While he was originally inspired by a Huffington Post article surmising that Trump had paid off a secret gay lover [unavailable at the time of this writing], the truth is that there are sex scandals announced all of the time. No, there’s something particularly special about Donald John Trump. Something special enough to skyrocket Daniel’s ten page tale to the top of a handful of Amazon charts.
Now I don’t want to go too deeply into exactly how Trump Temptation was written, especially when you can see for yourself by checking out the author’s very own explanation on Twitter. Feel free to check that out before coming back to this review, because I’m about to dive headfirst into some LGBT erotica. Continue reading
Posted in America, bizarreness, Comedy, lgbt, politics, sex
Tagged Amazon, book, Donald Trump, Elijah Daniel, erotica, gay, homophobic, internet, lgbt, literature, Nick Sanchez, purple-headed yogurt slinger, review, The Billionaire and The Bellboy, Trump Temptations, Twitter
I believe in America.
I believe that the defining characteristic of this nation was its unerring sense of moral conviction- that all we did was in the advancement of some great work set into motion by ages past. That every undertaking stemmed from the deepest confidence in the simple rightness of our cause.
This faith led us, countless times, to commit terrible acts that damn the conscious of the nation. Slavery and Wounded Knee. Manzanar and Kandahar. McDonald’s and McCarthy. It’s led to the popular image abroad of Americans as fundamentally arrogant; loudly voicing their opinions without being asked, demanding where they have no right, interfering where they have no business.
And it was this same faith that has pulled this nation back every time. Yosemite and Normandy. Harlem and Harper’s Ferry. John Muir and Eugene Debs. The faith that sent millions to these shores from every corner of the world and the same unabashed confidence that sent American music, art, film, and literature back.
In spite of our divisions and our failings- and they are neither minor nor few- we are united by the common belief that our cause is not merely just but justice itself, and that its triumph needs only ingenuity, passion, and will to be secured.
For good or ill, it is this value that made America. Continue reading
Posted in America, bizarreness, Europe, government, history, Islam, morality, news, politics
Tagged 9/11, America, art, Background, beliefs, Congress, Conviction, Culture, Curb, Governors, HR 4038, Iraqi, IS, ISIS, Liberty, literature, Manifest Destiny, morality, refugees, Refuse, Representatives, SAFE Act, security, Syria, United States, Values