Daily Archives: September 13, 2020

Review: “Crosshairs” by Catherine Hernandez

CATHERINE HERNANDEZ is a proud queer woman of colour, a radical mother, a theatre practitioner, an award-winning author and the outgoing artistic director of b current performing arts. She is of Filipino, Spanish, Chinese and Indian heritage, and she is married into the Navajo Nation. Her novel Scarborough, which is soon to be a motion picture, won the Jim Wong-Chu Award for the unpublished manuscript; was a finalist for the Toronto Book Award, the Evergreen Forest of Reading Award, the Edmund White Award and the Trillium Book Award; and was longlisted for Canada Reads. She has also written the plays Singkil and Kilt Pins, as well as the children’s book M Is for Mustache: A Pride ABC Book. Crosshairs is her second novel. She lives in Toronto. In a terrifyingly familiar near-future, with massive floods that lead to rampant homelessness and devastation, a government-sanctioned regime called the Boots seizes the opportunity to force communities of colour, the disabled and the LGBTQ2S into labour camps in the city of Toronto.

In the shadows, a new hero emerges. After his livelihood and the love of his life are taken away, Kay joins the resistance alongside Bahadur, a transmasculine refugee, and Firuzeh, a headstrong social worker. Guiding them in the use of weapons and close-quarters combat is Beck, a rogue army officer who helps them plan an uprising at a major internationally televised event.

Hernandez keeps the oppression faced by BIPOC front and centre within the narrative of her novel. It’s time. As a global community we are with even more clarity oppressive language, behaviours and micro aggressions that BIPOC face in their lives. This pandemic has unearthed dirt that has been lying silently dormant for decades. The civil unrest in the U.S. has played a huge role within our pandemic journey. This isn’t new news, instead it reminds us of BIPOC lives long buried but not forgotten and those that have been erased.

Hernandez’s nod to a dystopian world where oppression still breathes will make your stomach turn. Hernandez paints a painstaking portrait. It is up to us as the reader to reflect on her words and perhaps find the courage to learn more beyond the context of her work. If you aren’t ready for activism yet, that’s ok. Maybe it’s about taking a moment to educate and start to have those difficult discussions with yourself and your loved ones. If you are uncomfortable with anti-Racism, this book still has something for you. Sit in your private discomfort for a moment or two and breathe in what BIPOC may experience within their lifetime. It’s ok. You can do it. What does that reflection tell you about your privilege and what you bring (or not) to the proverbial table?

If you are looking for a good read as we head into the Fall, this novel is for you. Overall, “Crosshairs” is a lyrical, urgent, beautiful story of pain, injustice, and hope. This is the type of text everyone should read.

Review: “When No One Is Watching” by Alyssa Cole

Alyssa Cole is an award-winning author of historical, contemporary, and sci-fi romance. Her Civil War-set espionage romance An Extraordinary Union was the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award’s Best Book of 2017 and the American Library Association’s RUSA Best Romance for 2018, and A Princess in Theory was one of the New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2018.  Alyssa Cole’s “When No One Is Watching” speaks of privilege. From gentrification and the many systems that are stealing land, and buildings, and lives still in 2020, to police brutality and who they are willing to protect and who they are willing take everything from, to the vast different micro aggressions they are forced to endure every single day. I encourage you to lead into the discomfort.

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.

But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

If you are looking for a thriller as we head into the Fall, this novel is for you. I appreciated Cole’s unpacking of American history embedded within a slow burning mystery. As we breathe in the civil unrest in the U.S., “When No One Is Watching” will truly affect you. If you are a fan of films such as “Get Out” and “Rear Window”, “When No One Is Watching” will be a delicious but also challenging emotional read.