Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January Cultural Roundup

Interview with Steve Paikin on The Agenda, January 2, 2018
Interview on TVO with River Fujimoto, January 5, 2018

Launch of Captive Love by Karen Mulhallen, January 14, 2018

The Shape of Water (U.S., 2017)
The Post (U.S., 2017)

Call me by your name by Andre Aciman
The Spider and the Fly: A Writer, a Murderer, and a Story of Obsession by Claudia Rowe

Sunday, December 31, 2017

December Cultural Roundup

Call me by your name 
Hunger by Roxane Gay
Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder and One Man's Fight for Justice by Bill Browder

White Christmas (U.S., 1954)
Call Me by Your Name (US/Italy/Brazil/France, 2017)
Bright Lights (U.S., 2017)
The Darkest Hour (U.S., 2017)
I, Tonya (U.S., 2017)
Three Billboards outside Ebbings, Missouri (U.S., 2017)
All the money in the world (U.S., 2017)

Interview with Gill Deacon on Here and Now, CBC Radio, December 5th

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

November Cultural Roundup

Lady Bird 
Interview about The Unfinished Dollhouse with John Moore on CFRB, Newstalk 1010 featured on November 11th and 12th

Carter V. Cooper Short Fiction Anthology 7 Awards at the Hot House Restaurant, November 17th featuring Darlene Madott and others

The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood

Lady Bird (U.S., 2017)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

October Cultural Roundup

Chinatown (U.S., 1974)
Valley of the Dolls (U.S., 1967)

Book Launch for The Unfinished Dollhouse at Ben McNally Books, October 5, 2017
Heather O'Neill at International Festival of Authors, October 24, 2017
Tartan Turban Secret Readings #5, October 26, 2017

Saturday, September 30, 2017

September Cultural Roundup

Brian Regan at Massey Hall, September 8

Kodachrome (Canada/U.S., 2017)
Chappaquiddick (U.S., 2017)
What will people say (Norway, 2017)
Alanis (Argentina, 2017)
A Worthy Companion (Canada, 2017)
Film stars don't die in Liverpool (U.K., 2017)
The Butterfly Tree (Australia, 2017)
In a Lonely Place (US, 1950)
Custody (France, 2017)
Tigre (Argentina, 2017)
Battle of the Sexes (U.S., 2017)

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
I love Dick by Chris Kraus

Featured at the International Festival of Authors at Harborfront with Anne Hines, September 27th

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

August Cultural Roundup

Get me Roger Stone (U.S., 2017)
The Trip to Spain (U.S., 2017)

Sesqicentennial Authors' Symposium in High Park, August 27, 2017

The Partially Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell

Monday, July 31, 2017

July Cultural Roundup

George O'Keefe
Georgia O'Keeffe Retrospective, AGO, July 3rd

The Beguiled (U.S., 2017)
The Big Sick (U.S., 2017)

The Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit, July 16th
Ryerson Image Centre, July 30th

Ties by Domenico Starnone
Nutshell by Ian MacEwen

Jazz on Jarvis featuring the Wintergarten Orchestra, July 17th

The Love Poetry Festival honouring Milton Acorn & Gwen MacEwen at Queen Books, featuring George Elliott Clarke, Patrick Connors, James Deahl & Norma Linder West, Karen Mulhallen, Charlie Petch, Robert Priest, Banoo Zan, with emcee Michelle Alfano, July 29th

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Love Poetry Festival


Until 2015, Michelle Alfano served as an Associate Editor with the literary quarterly Descant. She is the co-organizer of the Love Poetry Festival honouring Milton Acorn and Gwen MacEwen. Her novella, Made Up Of Arias, was the 2010 winner of the Bressani Award for Short Fiction. Her short story “Opera”, on which the novella was based, was a finalist for a Journey Prize anthology. She is currently at work on two projects: a personal memoir entitled The Unfinished Dollhouse (Cormorant Books, 2017) and the novel Destiny, think of me while you sleep.

The 4th Poet Laureate of Toronto (2012-15) and 7th Parliamentary Poet Laureate (2016-17), George Elliott Clarke is a revered wordsmith. He is a noted artist in song, drama, fiction, screenplay, essays, and poetry.  Now teaching African-Canadian literature at the University of Toronto, Clarke has taught at Duke, McGill, the University of British Columbia, and Harvard. He holds eight honorary doctorates, plus appointments to the Order of Nova Scotia and the Order of Canada. His recognitions include the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Fellows Prize, Governor-General’s Award for Poetry, National Magazine Gold Award for Poetry, Premiul Poesis (Romania), Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction, Eric Hoffer Book Award for Poetry (US), and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award. Mr. Clarke’s work is the subject of Africadian Atlantic: Essays on George Elliott Clarke (2012), edited by Joseph Pivato.

Pat Connors first chapbook, Scarborough Songs, was published by Lyricalmyrical Press in 2013, and charted on the Toronto Poetry Map. Part-Time Contemplative , released last year, was his second chapbook with Lyricalmyrical.  He is a manager for the Toronto Chapter of 100,000 Poets for Change.

James Deahl is the author of twenty-seven literary titles, the four most recent being: To Be With A Woman, Landscapes (with Katherine L. Gordon), Unbroken Lines, and Two Paths Through The Seasons (with Norma West Linder). A cycle of his poems is the focus of a one-hour television special, Under the Watchful Eye. His Red Haws To Light The Field will be published in September by Guernica Editions. He lives in Sarnia.

Norma West Linder is the author of six novels, a volume of selected short fiction, fifteen collections of poetry including Adder’s-tongues: A Choice of Norma West Linder’s Poems, 1969 – 2011, a memoir of growing up on Manitoulin Island, two children’s/young adult novels, and a biography of Pauline McGibbon. Her sixth novel, Tall Stuff, was recently published. She also lives in Sarnia.

Karen Mulhallen has published a pile of books, lots of poetry, interviews, essays, and even some criticism. Her newest poetry book, Seasons In An Unknown Key, came out this year from Tightrope Books. She edited Descant magazine for 45 years and also was the Arts Features Editor of the Canadian Forum magazine and a columnist for the Literary Review (London). She was lucky enough to teach English and miscellaneous stuff at Ryerson University where her students changed her life and her thinking about nearly everything. Editing Descant and working with many marvelous writers and editors and designers was another stroke of luck and she is grateful for what life has given her.

Charlie Petch is a playwright, spoken word artist, haiku deathmaster and musical saw player. Their full poetry collection, Late Night Knife Fights was published with LyricalMyrical Press and they are currently touring their full length spoken word vaudeville show "Mel Malarkey Gets The Bum's Rush". They have been published by Descant, The Toronto Quarterly and Matrix journals. Petch is a member of The League of Canadian Poets and is the creative director of "Hot Damn It's A Queer Slam". Find out more at

Bänoo Zan is an immigrant poet, translator, teacher, editor and poetry curator, with more than 120 published poems and poetry-related pieces as well as three books. Songs of Exile (Guernica Editions), was shortlisted for Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Letters to My Father was published in 2017 by Piquant Press. She is the founder of Shab-e She’r (Poetry Night), Toronto’s most diverse poetry reading and open mic series (inception: 2012). Facebook and LinkedIn: Bänoo Zan
Twitter: @BanooZan & @ShabeSherTO

Friday, June 30, 2017

June Cultural Roundup

For Colored Girls ... 
Riverdale Art Walk, June 3rd

For Colored Girls who have considered Suicide/when the Rainbow is enuf, Soulpepper, June 3rd

The Night of the Gun by David Carr
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
South and West by Joan Didion
My Name is Lucy Barton by  Elizabeth Strout
Things that can and cannot be said - Essays and Conversations by Arundhati Roy and John Cusack

Beatriz at Dinner (U.S., 2017)

Amazons of the Mediterranean, Black Swan Tavern, June 24th

Sandra Battaglini's Party Time Comedy Hour, June 27th

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May Cultural Roundup

1920's film icon Sessue Hayakawa

Elizabeth Smart: On the Side of the Angels (Canada, 1991)
The Mystery of Mazo de la Roche (Canada, 2012)
Out of Thin Air (UK/Iceland, 2017)
Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press (US, 2017)
Girl Inside (Canada, 2017)
Sweat (Canada, 2017)
Birth of a Family (Canada, 2017)
The Departure (Japan, 2017)
Mommy Dead and Dearest (U.S., 2017)
Strong Island (US/Denmark, 2017)
The Cheat (U.S., 1915)

OCADU's GradEx 2017 - Student Exhibition, May 6th
A Silent Storm by Nicholas Pye, Birch Contemporary Gallery

An Evening with Ira Glass, Massey Hall, May 14th
Elizabeth Strout: Painfully Human, The Bram & Bluma Appel Salon, Toronto Reference Library, May 16th
Open Doors, May 28th 

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

Sunday, April 30, 2017

April Cultural Roundup

Jean Harlow and Marie Dressler in Dinner at Eight
Dinner at Eight (U.S., 1934)
Citizen Jane: Battle for the City (U.S., 2016)
Whitney: "Can I Be Me" (U.K., 2017)
The Genius and the Opera Singer (U.K., 2017)

Remembering Vimy Ridge, Munk School of Global Affairs, April 9th

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
They Left Us Everything by Plum Johnson
Seasons in an Unknown Key by Karen Mulhallen

Tightrope Books' 2017 Spring Poetry Launch at Glad Day Books, April 12th

Settling in Toronto: The Quest for Freedom, Opportunity and Identity, Market Gallery

Monday, April 3, 2017

Black Like Rachel

Rachel then ..
I can feel my husband’s questioning glance when this particular topic arises: what to make of Rachel Dolezal (who has, in another phoenix like move, re-named herself Nkechi Amare Diallo)? And why am I so angry about it?

She has irked me - as she has irked many progressive people who have intensely disliked the charade of a woman, born white and of European descent, pretending to be black or, at best, permitting others to assume that she is black because she has done a number of things to suggest she is black including: colouring and curling her blonde hair into a dark afro; darkening her skin cosmetically; wearing afro-centric clothing such as dashikis and African-inspired styles. Whether by a sin of commission - she actively lied and distorted her personal history - or omission – she did not correct people when they assumed she was black or bi-racial - it has all just felt wrong.

I don’t object to the fact that she loves black culture or identifies with black people. Her first husband was black and her children are bi-racial; her four adopted step-siblings are also black – three African-American and one of Haitian origin. Nor do I object to the fact that she has worked with civil rights causes and institutions to help benefit the black community. Some of us love black culture and feel an affinity to the black community. Some of us, as allies, have volunteered with similar organizations.

It’s the consistent lying. And to what end? Stories that she traveled to South Africa (she did not). She said that she was born in a teepee. I can’t even begin to explain that one – not many African Americans would dare claim that very specific circumstance. Stories that she was abused by her parents – specifically that she was whipped (what historical parallel does that bring to mind when thinking of the sufferings of black people?). She has since walked that back although she insists she was abused physically by her religious parents. Assumed to be black by the admissions office at her university when she applied - because her portfolio of art was full of African-American portraiture - she received a scholarship based on her presumed racial identity. She was also accused of plagiarizing the work of the artist J.M.W. Turner by closely duplicating his 1840 work The Slave Ship. The ... slave .. ship.

Lie. Upon. Lie.
Rachel when "uncovered"
My problem with Rachel is not just the lying. My problem with Rachel is that I know exactly how she feels. As a woman who presents in a racially ambiguous manner – I have dealt with this issue for decades. In the town where I was raised, my very curly hair, olive skin and full lips invited curious remarks about my parentage. 

What was my nationality? Was I truly Italian? Was there not something else mixed in there? Was I Italian on both sides? If you knew anything about the history of southern Italy (as I was later to learn and educate myself on), my looks would not have appeared so curious or strange upon reflection.

Why a person of southern Italian descent might resemble a person of African descent should not be much of mystery. Sicily – where my parents were from – is closer to Africa than to Rome and sometimes that was not just a geographic distance.

But then, when I was seven or ten or fifteen and I faced those questions – in that conservative, racially homogenous, racist environment where ethnic groups clung together with a rabidness that amazed and puzzled me – the questions about my parentage were not merely curious, they were rude, hostile and suspicious.

It made me look at myself in a new way – as an Other – and to seek out other people who might mirror my experience, and physically resemble me. In this case, it was other black people. So, in a sense, I was black like Rachel was black. Not truly black but perceived as black by some.

I, too, was drawn to people with whom I had been compared – people with afros and braids, people with café au lait or dark skin, people who may have been outside of the white mainstream. And there too, sometimes people would assume I was bi-racial. Some of the time. Some of the time, there was merely hostility as to just why this white girl was hanging around. I was not particularly welcomed or liked. I was just tolerated, tolerated at best.

Even in multicultural, tolerant Toronto where I moved to when I turned nineteen to attend university the questions were similar – but now I was exotic, interesting looking. For people that look like me – this is just politely worded code for “You ain’t from around here, are ya pardner?”

But during that time, and afterwards, even though I felt an affinity with black people, loved “black” music, had black friends, read James Baldwin and Langston Hughes and Eldridge Cleaver and Toni Morrison voraciously, I never once said yes, I am black, when someone asked me. And I forbore the intrusive, mildly insulting questions from white people, “You don’t mind me saying – I thought you were black?” I don’t mind because I don’t perceive it as an insult although apparently you do. That I do perceive as an insult.

I understand Rachel’s confusion, her desire to escape what appears to be an unhappy family situation, the desire to identify with her four step-siblings, her black husband and bi-racial children. I understand her attraction to black culture and history. If you feel oppressed or victimized by your circumstances, it makes sense that you might turn to a like-minded group for comfort or strength. I know I have white skin but I have my sorrows too, you might think. I am like you.

But my husband also raised an important point during our discussion which got very heated – it’s only white people who get to claim the privilege that they are of another race and asked to be treated sympathetically. A black man cannot claim that he identifies as white and should be treated as such. An Asian woman could not either. No person of colour could assume this posture and expect sympathy. Because they would be considered to be delusional as many people consider Rachel to be.

Rachel ... now