Four Queer Black Canadian Women Writers You Should Be Reading for Black History Month

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Canada, Gay & Lesbian, Media Archive, Women on 2017-02-06 16:38Z by Steven

Four Queer Black Canadian Women Writers You Should Be Reading for Black History Month

Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian: A Queer Canadian Book Blog: News and Reviews of Queer Canadian Writers and Books
2017-02-03

Casey Stepaniuk

It’s February, and that means it’s Black History Month! Check out these four queer Black Canadian women authors whose books you should definitely have on your shelves.

Suzette Mayr

I only recently read my first book by Calgary fiction writer and academic Suzette Mayr, who’s got mixed Afro-Caribbean and German background. Venous Hum is a satire set in Calgary full of wacky stuff like vegetarian vampires, extramarital affairs, and high school reunions, while the African-Canadian mixed race lesbian main character Lai Fun (named because her father loves the Chinese noodle of the same name) stumbles through her late thirties. It’s weird, and really funny. Mayr’s most recent novel is Monocerous, which has won and been nominated for lots of awards like the 2012 ReLit Award, the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Award, and more! It’s a tragicomic story about the aftermath of the suicide of a 17-year-old bullied gay boy and how his death affects everyone around him. Her previous novels are The Widows and Moon Honey—don’t you just love her unique, inventive book titles?—are about topics as diverse as three older women deciding to go over Niagara Falls in a bright orange space-age barrel and white lovers magically waking up Black. Hers is fiction to read if you are looking for a new take on magical realism and are bored of all the same-old, same-old tales about lesbian relationships. Her next book is due out later this year, and is called Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall

Read the entire article here.

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Citizen Monsters: Race and Cannibalism in Suzette Mayr’s Venous Hum

Posted in Articles, Canada, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2016-11-20 00:04Z by Steven

Citizen Monsters: Race and Cannibalism in Suzette Mayr’s Venous Hum

Andrea Beverley, Assistant Professor of Canadian Cultural and Literary Studies
Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada

Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d’Ă©tudes canadiennes
Volume 47, Number 1, Winter 2013
pages 36-58

Halfway through Suzette Mayr’s 2004 novel Venous Hum, a number of the central characters are revealed to be cannibalistic vampires, some of whom are reformed and loveable while others are violent and villainous. The novel is funny and satirical with connections to cult horror films and canonical Canadian literature. By reading Venous Hum in terms of magic realism and literary cannibalism, this essay focusses on the ways in which Mayr’s evocations of vampires and cannibals lead readers towards a politicized questioning of the relationship between perceived differences and official nation-state discourse. This essay thus examines the novel’s magic realist monster imagery in relation to racialization and the politics of interpellation, visibility, inclusion, and assimilation in multicultural Canada. Mayr makes ironic use of the colonial resonances of cannibalistic discourse in order to critique the relationship between the nation-state and its varied citizens, and between official multicultural policy and the lived experience of racialization.

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Venous Hum

Posted in Books, Canada, Media Archive, Novels on 2016-11-19 22:06Z by Steven

Venous Hum

Arsenal Pulp Press
2004
232 page
Paperback ISBN: 9781551521701

Suzette Mayr

High school reunions can be hell. But when you throw in racial and sexual tensions, extramarital affairs, and cannibalistic, undead vegetarians, it’s hell times infinity.

Brash, clever, and monstrously funny, Venous Hum charts the lives of Lai Fun Kugelheim and Stefanja Dumanowski, best friends who, upon hearing the news of an old high school acquaintance’s death, are gripped by an insatiable nostalgia and organize a twenty-year reunion. What initially seemed like a simple task becomes increasingly complicated for Lai Fun, but the past is nothing compared to her messy present: her marriage to a successful businesswoman is crumbling, she’s having an affair with a man (who happens to be Stefanja’s husband), and her oddly supernatural mother—an immigrant vegetarian with an unusual appetite—only wants her daughter to be happy. But in the wake of such chaos, the only constant is the hum of the blood coursing through her veins.

A satire on race, gender, sexual preference, and vegetarianism, this is a magic-realist novel that will throw your assumptions of the world and the people who inhabit it out the window. It’s the exclamation mark at the end of the sentence that announces the end of CanLit as we know it, and the beginning of something entirely new.

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Defying Categorization: The Work of Suzette Mayr

Posted in Articles, Canada, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2013-12-28 03:06Z by Steven

Defying Categorization: The Work of Suzette Mayr

Canadian Woman Studies / Les Caheiers de la Femme
Volume 23, Number 2 (2004)
pages 71-75

Katie Petersen

Le corpus littéraire de Suzette Mayr examine les croisements raciaux, la sexualité marginalisée et la formation de l’identité personnelle dans des espaces indéfinis. Ses recueils de poemès et ses nouvelles ont tous remis en question la situation et le classement des populations. L’auteure a exploré et validé les espaces non explorés et non compartimentés qui sont présents dans les réalités traditionelles.

The literary corpus of Suzette Mayr examines racial mixing, marginalized sexuality and the formation of personal identity in undefined spaces. Her collections of poems and novels have questioned the status and the classification of the groups concerned. The author has explored and validated the unexplored spaces and those spaces not compartmentalized that are present in traditional realities.

In the afterword to her Master’s thesis “Chimaera Lips” (1992), the Calgary poet and novelist Suzette Mayr states that

a positive approach to categorization would not rely on having to distinguish oneself through comparison to another group, but would emphasize the whole or merged self, rather than the categorized self. (59)

In this work, Mayr explores “existence between ‘realities.'” She investigates and attempts to undermine the binary constructions surrounding race, sexuality and gender, by writing about, and presumably from within, what she terms “middle spaces;” spaces which exist between the starkly delineated realities commonly associated with various racial, sexual and gender categories (61). Mayr posits an absorption of “realities” by these in-between spaces, leading to an integrated system in which neither reality nor intermediate space dominates. The novels Mayr wrote following “Chimaera Lips,” Moon Honey (1995) and The Widows (1998), and her chapbook of poems, Zebra Talk (1991), all serve to challenge the ways in which people are necessarily located or categorized and to explore, expose, and validate uncharted, uncompartmentalized middle spaces…

Mayr’s chapbook, Zebra Talk, is a collection of poems of a relatively personal nature which describe Mayr’s own perceptions as a lesbian and a Canadian of mixed, Black-Caucasian, race. She explores issues of race and sexuality, identity and family, describing middle and hybrid spaces. Mayr treats her poetic subjects in much the same way as she does the characters in her novels; their appearances, actions and significances are described in unique, creative and at times ambiguous ways which emphasize the difficulty, if not impossibility, of categorizing individuals without that action being destructive and/or reductive.

Zebra Talk contains poems which discuss the idea of being a “zebra,” a person of mixed race. Mayr details the process of coming to terms with racial hybridity and of understand ing how a person of mixed race locates herself within a multiracial family setting and within the larger setting of a multiracial community or nation. Clearly, racial and cultural hybridity create new spaces. People of in-between colors and in-between cultures have to forge in-between identities and locations for themselves. However, what stands in the middle cannot be identified simply in relation to the poles it stands between.

Mayr’s use of the repetitive imagery of skin, invertebrates, volcanic insides, and people made of earth turns ordered family and romantic structures into a tempestuous and vividly multicolored mixture. In the first poem, the speaker describes her family:

The skin on a drum
The skin stretched over a moving rib cage
The skin stretched and bitten by two other heads on this
three-headed body
2 brothers 1 sister 3 heads and 1 body
plus 1 and 1 parents. (2)

The children, each different versions of the same mixture, form a three-headed being, sharing a body. The parents, “1 and 1,” remain separate. The skin to which Mayr refers appears thin but strong, stretched and fitted over skeleton and roiling core: “(Zebra pelt stretched over a hot and bloody centre)” (2). This particular mixture of heat and blood and guts is never given a clear meaning. It could be a reference, as George Elliott Clarke suggests in “Canadian Biraciality and Its ‘Zebra’ Poetics,” to “a volcanic core—a history of violence and death … O the same seething hurt,” an internal upheaval particular to people of mixed race (233). Or, Mayr could be pointing out that everyone, regardless of race, is, at the core, composed of the same unstable material, which cannot be classified or associated in any way with outside appearance…

Read the entire article here.

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The Widows

Posted in Books, Canada, Media Archive, Novels, Women on 2013-12-26 23:25Z by Steven

The Widows

NeWest Press
April 1998
256 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-896300-30-6

Suzette Mayr

Hannelore, Clotilde, and Frau Schnadelhuber are three old women tired of living in a world which does not allow old women to be seen or heard. Deciding to shake their fists at such a world, the three women plot to go over Niagara Falls in a bright orange space-age barrel. With the assistance of Cleopatra Maria, the 26-year-old genius granddaughter of Hannelore and grandniece of Clotilde, the four women steal the barrel from a travelling show and drive it across Canada determined to prove their worth to a world devoted to youth.

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Moon Honey

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels on 2013-12-26 19:52Z by Steven

Moon Honey

NeWest Press
September 1995
224 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-896300-00-9

Suzette Mayr

In this modern, magical tale, Carmen and Griffin, young and white, are goofy, head-over-heels in love. When Carmen turns into a black woman, Griffin thrills at a love turned exotic. But Carmen’s transformation means trouble for Griffin’s racist mother, already struggling with a new lover and a husband nicknamed God. The question is, can love be relied on to save the day?

Moon Honey is an inventive, funny, sexy tale of love affairs and magical transformations.

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“The Quiltings of Human Flesh”—Constructions of Racial Hybridity in Contemporary African-Canadian Literature

Posted in Canada, Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2013-12-26 19:30Z by Steven

“The Quiltings of Human Flesh”—Constructions of Racial Hybridity in Contemporary African-Canadian Literature

University of Greifswald, Greifswald, Germany
2010-05-02
366 pages

Heike Bast

Dissertation to obtain the academic degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Division of the Humanities, University of Greifswald

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • ‘RACE’ MATTERS’: A PERSONAL NOTE ON BELONGING
  • 1. INTRODUCTION: ‘SOLE OR WHOLE’ – QUILTING THE RACIALIZED SUBJECT
  • 2. SIGNIFYING THE IN-BETWEEN: ‘RACE’, ‘RACIAL HYBRIDITY’ AND QUESTIONS OF BELONGING
    • 2.1. The Language of ‘Race’ – Notes on Terminology
    • 2.2. Identities in Flux: Discourses on ‘Race’ and Subjectivity
      • 2.2.1 ‘Race Theory’ – a Brief Historical Review
      • 2.2.2. “Identities Without Guarantees” and the Critique of Sameness: Contemporary Race Theory
    • 2.3. Uncertain Crossings: Racial Hybridity and Post-Colonial Belonging
  • 3. APPROACHING AFRICAN-CANADIAN BORDERLANDS
    • 3.1. The African-Canadian Experience: Unearthing the History of Miscegenation in Canada
    • 3.2. Canadian Multiculturalism and Cultural Violence: Mixed-Race Identities and the Intricacies of Belonging
    • 3.3. Living and Writing the In-Between: Tracing a Black Literary Tradition in Canada
    • 3.4. From ‘Tragic Mulatto’ to ‘Zebra Poetics’? – Racial Hybridity in African-Canadian literature
  • 4. EXPLORING AFRICAN-CANADIAN BORDERLANDS
    • 4.1. Borderlands Poetics in the Writings of Suzette Mayr
      • 4.1.1. Suzette Mayr’s Zebra Talk (1991)
      • 4.1.2. Metamorphoses and the Racialized Body: Suzette Mayr’s Moon Honey (1995)
      • 4.1.3. Canadian Hodgepodge in Suzette Mayr’s The Widows (1998)
    • 4.2. ‘Reverse Doublestuff’, or from Halfness to Wholeness: The Poetry of Mercedes Baines
    • 4.3. Polyvalent Blackness in African-Canadian Drama: Difference and Healing in Maxine Bailey’s and Sharon Lewis’s Sistahs (1994)
    • 4.4. ‘An Exile in the Land of My Birth’: Racial Mixture and National Belonging in the Autobiographical Writings of Camille Hernandez-Ramdwar
    • 4.5. Anti-Mulatto Rhetoric in Haitian and Haitian-Canadian History, Literature, and Culture
      • 4.5.1. Unmasking the Carnival: Max Dorsinville’s Erzulie Loves Shango (1998)
      • 4.5.2. Torment, Memory and Desire: GĂ©rard Étienne’s La Pacotille (1991)
    • 4.6. ‘In Pursuit of Wholeness’: ‘Race’, Class and Black Masculinity in Kim Barry Brunhuber’s Kameleon Man (2003)
  • 5. ‘FROM SOLE TO WHOLE’ – AFRICAN-CANADIAN MIXED-RACE POETICS
  • 6. BIBLIOGRAPHY
  • APPENDIX I: BIO-BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTES ON AUTHORS
  • APPENDIX II: INTERVIEW WITH SUZETTE MAYR (JULY 25TH, 2009)
  • Danksagung

Read the entire dissertation here.

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