I know it was a couple months ago now, but did anyone else get the chance to go to TCAF earlier this year? I always want to buy ALL THE BOOKS, but physical limitations (e.g. do I have any more space on my bookshelf? No, no I don’t.) and financial ones (i.e. how much can I buy) coupled with moral ones (e.g. how much should I buy) always get in the way.
One of the graphic novels I had wanted to take a closer look at, but didn’t since I already nabbed a couple other titles, was Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki (co-author of This One Summer, which is on our Adult Summer Reads: Nostalgia list), illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. I follow Valero-O’Connell on Twitter (@hirosemaryhello), so it had been on my radar right from the start. Even with the positive bias in mind, this one sucked me in right away with the composition, the reduced colour palette*, EVERYTHING. Its cast included a wide variety of LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC characters as well, which I appreciated (the protagonist, Freddy, and her on-again-off-again girlfriend Laura Dean are just one of the many non-heteronormative relationships in this graphic novel). When I take a step back and think about this particular aspect of it, the openness of the characters and their relationships in their high school environment, it gives me a bit of pause and I can’t help but think this must all be taking place in an alternate reality where there is no longer any discrimination against LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC people. Seeing a portrayal of a world in which this is the case, but is still based on historical events rooted in reality, was both life-affirming and a bit crushing (because we’re not quite there yet, with some work yet to be done).
This summer, Adult Summer Reads: Amazing Quests takes us on a 70s rock adventure as we read Daisy Jones and the Six. Join us on Thursday, July 18 at 7:00 pm at the Civic Centre Resource Library for our Books with Buzz program, where we’ll be discussing this hot new title (and any other buzz-worthy books you like!).
Daisy Jones and the Six is a story about a fictional band, but don’t feel embarrassed if you had to google that to make sure. Reid’s latest novel is so steeped in 70s rock culture, from shaggy hair, bangles, desert vibes, and plentiful drugs, it definitely feels real.
If you’ve ever been the type of music fan to get caught up in a good backstory, or loves some behind the scenes drama (honestly, which of us doesn’t?), Daisy Jones has what you’re looking for. In an interview with Rolling Stone (how appropriate!), Reid speaks to her inspiration behind the fictional band, about how she “was really intrigued by that story of these two people that create this incredible, intimate art together that sounds so romantic but they’re not romantically involved.” Reid points to Fleetwood Mac and Civil Wars as examples of bands whose breakups intrigued her, which led me to recall the time in my own life when I obsessively chronicled the implosion of The Libertines. There’s something about the particular chaos and tragedy of rock bands that lends an air of romanticism and glamour, even though it is often less-than-glamourous things like drugs and jealousy that cause their downfall. Daisy Jones is proof that we are all still susceptible to that rock band charm!
As Willy Wonka cribbed from Arthur O’Shaughnessy, “We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of the dreams,” and it is interesting to note the motifs that arise over time, particularly in stories. As Martine Mussies observes, “The exploration of the recreation of myths gives us valuable insights in the complexities of human interactions… It creates a sense of continuity in societies, across generations, using the past as a foundation on which to build a better, or at least more ‘authentic’ and relevant, understanding of the present and future. The influences that shape fantastic beings like mermaids tell us so much about what it means to be human”. Mermaids have been a persistent fixture in folklore the world over for centuries and continue to appear in contemporary fiction. Plenty of merfolk besides the mermaid ‘exist’, “these include not only the mermen, but such creatures of the imagination as the seal-folk and the water horse or kelpie,” but mermaids seem to have won a special place on the narrative stage. Even still, it can be easy to treat such creatures of fantasy trivially; they are the stuff of glittery merchandise and 5-year-olds’ birthday parties, but I think this surface observation can be deceiving. Even the most whimsical of storytelling may have something worthwhile to share, and this sentiment is described beautifully in an interview with Neil Gaiman for World Refugee Day 2014. He talks about his cousin, Helen, who survived the Warsaw ghetto in World War II; “She actually told me a story that made me realize that what I do is not trivial, because if you make stuff up for a living—which is basically what I do—you feel kind of trivial.” His cousin, Helen, had started teaching mathematics and grammar to the girls in the ghetto during the day:
“And at that point, you had a death sentence for possessing a book—books were illegal—but she had a Polish translation of Gone with the Wind that was slipped to her and she would keep it behind a loose brick in the wall and stay up late every night reading Gone with the Wind so that when the girls came in the next day, she could tell them what happened in the chapters she read that night. And just for that hour, they got out of the Warsaw ghetto… and I thought that actually changes everything: the idea that it’s not just escapism, it can actually be escape and it’s worth dying for.”
I think that stories have much more to tell that what is present at face value; storytelling is our shared human heritage and in a lot of ways, it makes us who we are. And while not everything can be a literary masterpiece or worthy of special merit, stories count, even those that take on a lighter—perhaps humbler—form.