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 Her novel Scarborough, which is soon to be a motion picture, won the Jim Wong-Chu Award for the unpublished manuscript; was a finalist for the Toronto Book Award, the Evergreen Forest of Reading Award, the Edmund White Award and the Trillium Book Award; and was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.

Must See: Meat The Future

Covid – 19 has made me re-think a few things in life. How about you? I have taken some to reflect on my health, our planet and the animals we share our earth with. I haven’t figured it all out yet. But I have a few starting points. Check out this documentary and tell me what you think.

With animal agriculture occupying roughly 45% of the world’s ice-free surface area, producing more greenhouse gases than cars, the prospect of meat consumption doubling by 2050 is awake-up call for solutions.The future may lie with “clean meat,”also referred to as“cell-based,”and “cultivated”meat–a food science that grows real meat from animal cells, without slaughtering animals.Meat the Future chronicles the birth of a revolutionary industry,and the mission to make it delicious, affordable and sustainable. Documented exclusively from 2016-2019, by award-winning filmmaker Liz Marshall (The Ghosts in Our Machine), the film follows pioneering food scientists who are risking everything to bring their product to supermarkets and restaurants in the near future. This timely character-driven documentary focuses largely on former Mayo Clinic Cardiologist Dr. Uma Valeti, co-founder and CEO of American start-up company Memphis Meats. In 2016, Valeti and his team unveiled an $18K /lb meatball. At the forefront of the industry, Memphis Meats has attracted tens of millions of dollars in investment from billionaire influencers and corporate food giants. Their confidence is buoyed by the plummeting price of the product-in-progress.There are salivating moments as well, as top-ranked chefs perform their magic on the meat-of-the-future.Says director Marshall “The future of cell-based meat is unknown, but its revolutionary promise and journey into the world is a powerful story that I believe will stand the test of time.”

We All Need to Do Better

I hope you guys are safe and keeping well. I have some thoughts that I would like to share. I hope this post doesn’t offend you, if so I gently apologize in advance.
In the last few days, I have been reading Facebook posts, tweets etc. about what is happening in the U.S.. It’s beyond horrible, sad and infuriating. Aubrey, Christopher, George, Breonna are just a few casualties. I have also been thinking about all the countless others who have been erased over the years who never benefitted from the battle cry coming out of the U.S. in the moment.
I am not Black. I am not Indigenous. I would define myself as South Asian, able bodied, heterosexual woman, Catholic and yes, extremely privileged.
I cannot speak for Black and Indigenous people – nor should you. If you are a White person, I would gently ask that you do your research and make some time to understand the privileges you own. It’s not about just saying it in a Facebook post because you don’t want to be silent. Do the work and understand what disrupting White supremacist agendas really means. Yes, we are dealing with White supremacy here.
Some of my friends know the following story, but I thought I’d share it with you. I applied for my Masters two years ago and did not get in because my Undergraduate grades were too low. I completed my Undergraduate degree when I was 23. I was 44 when I applied for my Masters. When I received the letter of rejection, I made a decision to appeal the decision. No one tells me no. After weeks of back and forth emails, the university provided me with an interview with a panel of three scholars.
The interview date came and I was sat in front of three scholars, a Black male, a White woman and a South Asian woman whom were all Canadian. The questions they asked me consisted of, “What was happening to you at 23 for your grades to have been so low?”, “Are you sure you really want to do your Masters at 44?”, “You know, we just don’t give out spots for a Masters program” and “We can’t give you any funding.” I felt worn down, embarrassed and humiliated with the process but I leaned into it. I wanted to earn my Masters degree that bad. The university relented and gave me a spot. They also told me because I advocated for myself, they would be pulling all the other applications that didn’t get in because of their grades and re-evaluate them. I broke down. It was a powerful moment.
For the last two years, I worked full time as a Counsellor and taught part time at a local college so I could pay for my tuition and mortgage. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. I am also keenly aware that even as a person of colour, I have profited from Black and Indigenous individuals whose activism in Canada paved the way for me to have a platform to advocate for myself. There are many Black and Indigenous individuals out there that are deserving of a Masters degree but because of oppressive systems, intergenerational trauma etc. they are unable to attain those goals. I have taken from them and I have to give it back to both of those communities.
Canada is extremely racist. Colonialism is embedded within child welfare, schools, the legal system and health care systems, which force assimilation into Euro-Western paradigms. We all benefit from systemic racism, yes even if you are a person of colour. All of us. Black and Indigenous people do not have those same privileges.
I don’t have all the answers. Racism affected me as a youth, it affected my graduate studies enrollment and it continues to affect me on the streets of Toronto. That said, I am able to weave my identity between White and coloured spaces and use it for my benefit while oppressing others. There it is, and I am a person of colour. Black and Indigenous people do not have that same privilege.
If you want to learn more, I encourage you to read up on anti-oppression and anti-racism in Canada.
Two books that I recommend as starting points are:
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present

Policing Black Lives

Thanks for listening.
Melanie xo

@hotdocs 2020 “All That I Am”

After five years in the foster system, eighteen year old Emilie Andrea returns to her family home to rebuild a fractured relationship with her mother and younger half-siblings. Over the next two years a determined Emilie begins to heal the trauma that haunts her, learns to speak her truth aloud, and takes her first steps towards a self-determined future. Now Emilie must gather the courage to reveal to her half-siblings the reason their father was imprisoned and their sister went away. Told with a commitment to emotional insight and dedication to Emilie’s subjective experience, this is the story of an extraordinarily courageous young woman on the cusp of adulthood finding the voice that was long denied to her.

@hotdocs 2020 “A Colombian Family”

When a peace agreement between the FARC rebel movement and the Colombian government looks like it will put an end to half a century of conflicts, 30-year-old Yira visits her mother Ruby in Colombia after spending 10 years in exile in Cuba. Now a mother herself, Yira wants her mother to join her in exile in Canada, so she can give her daughter the family she never had. With a neglected childhood in the shadow of her parents’ political struggles and persecution, Yira confronts Ruby, who is unable to let go of her political ideals to choose her family. It is not just Yira’s childhood that has been sacrificed, Ruby has also sacrificed her own life and safety to such an extent that she must be constantly protected by armed guards. As the peacetime death toll continues to rise, Ruby is faced with a difficult dilemma. If she chooses her daughter, she gives up on her people.

@hotdocs 2020 “Once Upon a Time in Venezuela”

On Lake Maracaibo, beneath the mysterious silent Catatumbo lightning, the village of Congo Mirador is preparing for parliamentary elections. For streetwise local businesswom- an and Chavist party representative Tamara every vote counts, fought by all means, while for opposition-supporting teacher Natalie, politics is a weapon unsuccessfully attempting to force her from her job. And with her sharp eyes, little Yoaini sees her community sinking from sedimentation, her childhood and innocence with it. How can a small fishing village survive against corruption, pollution and political decay – a reflection of all the flaws of contemporary Venezuela.

@hotdocs 2020 “A Thousand Cuts”


Nowhere is the worldwide erosion of democracy, fueled by social media disinformation campaigns, more starkly evident than in the authoritarian regime of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Journalist Maria Ressa places the tools of the free press—and her freedom—on the line in defense of truth and democracy.

@hotdocs 2020 “iHUMAN”

iHUMAN made its World Premiere at IDFA 2019, and is a thrilling look at the current state of Artificial Intelligence. Hearing firsthand from the leading pioneers on the front lines of this revolution, iHUMAN asks: How this technology is being developed and implemented, and investigates the dilemmas experts face as they drive this technology forward? As machines start to develop and think on their own, award winning director Tonje Hessen Schei asks the question – What is at stake when a few corporations and governments lead the defining experiments of Artificial Intelligence?

@hotdocs 2020 “Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles”


The latest documentary feature by director Laura Gabbert (City of Gold, No Impact Man, Sunset Story), Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles unveils the collaboration between the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and global food sensation Yotam Ottolenghi in their retelling of the rise and fall of Versailles through pastry. Through the discerning and careful eyes of Ottolenghi, a deeper understanding of our world is revealed through food.