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April 18, 2011

We read Room Magazine 34.1

I wasn’t planning to make a project of this, but I encountered so many wonderful things as I read through the latest issue of Room Magazine that I really had to share them. The cover, first of all, whose colours go so perfectly with the title, and this eye for detail is reflected in the design of the magazine all the way through. And it’s the case with every issue of Room, which is a feminist magazine run by a volunteer collective of women in Vancouver (and used to be called A Room of One’s Own, but decided to open up onto the world more).

Issue 34.1 is themed “Momentous”, and it’s their contest winners’ issue too. Though it reads more cohesively than you’d expect from that, and I forgot about the contest until I finished reading the magazine and reread the cover. I enjoyed Amy Kenny’s story “Chocolate Season” about a woman in an East Coast tourist town carrying on the family business after her father’s death. The full text of Chantal Gibson’s “The Mountain Pine Beetle Suite” is available to read, and it’s great, brutal, subtle and scary. And “The Goddess of Light & Dark”, which won the creative non-fiction category and one of the best things I’ve read lately, full stop, about the education that comes when the author becomes a clinical teaching associate at BC Women’s Hospital, a model and guide for students learning how to do pelvic exams: “Maybe revolutions are about knowledge”.

Sigal Samuel’s “Love and Other Irregular Verbs” is by a woman whose father has seen the women he’s loved as a portal to new languages, and how she learns these languages to erase the distance between them. I enjoyed the interview with Cathleen With about how her experiences teaching in Northern Canada have influenced her fiction, and the ethics of the decisions she’s made: “It’s about bearing witness; because there are many potential storytellers up there, and yet a lot of these kids are too busy being in it to sit down and write about it.”And I liked Wendy Marcus’s “Just John” about a mysterious neighbour and his legacy of plum trees.

I tried to read Nalo Hopkinson’s “Chance” but just couldn’t. I mention this only because Nalo Hopkinson has enough readers that she won’t even notice this one missing, but more because I am fascinated with my inability to read science fiction. I have so little patience with unpacking these stories, when I can find it for so many other works/genres. It is like the fantastical elements of these stories construct a barrier between me and the meat of the story, and I just can’t be bothered scrambling over it. Part of this is definitely my fault, but it’s also that there are some kinds of readers we were never meant to be.

The issue ends with several pieces that resonated with me: Laurie D. Graham’s poem “Say Here, Here”, about words, place and the depths beneath your feet; Christy Ann Conlin’s “Album”, which whisks its reader across decades and a continent; and “Six Reasons I Miss Being Pregnant” by Anne Panning and not just the “A free pass–however briefly– to wear giant corduory overalls”. And then Room’s backpages, which I always enjoy, which gives me the sense that as a Room reader, I am most certainly part of a wider community.

7 thoughts on “We read Room Magazine 34.1”

  1. Lorrie says:

    Love hearing from other Room readers! Roommate is a spot for readers like you!

    Enjoyed your blog.

    1. Kerry says:

      Thanks! It was a great issue.

  2. Hey, thanks for posting this! I haven’t read the issue yet, despite having a piece in it; have been up to my ears in novel deadlines and teaching. But at least now I know what I’ve been missing, and what I have to look forward to when I do plunge in. Thanks too, for being honest enough to describe your difficulty with reading science fiction and fantasy (my piece was more the latter than the former). People say that good literature is good literature and so everyone who likes fiction should be able to appreciate any genre of it, but I agree with you that it’s not quite that simple. For me, unpacking the social context of a science fiction or fantasy world is a big part of the enjoyment of reading it, and I’m quite addicted to the process. It has aspects of reading a mystery novel. But like you, there are modes of storytelling with which I just can’t make myself mentally engage. It’s useful for me to know the kinds of things that can pose barriers to non-sf&f readers. Bless.

  3. Susan Olding says:

    Isn’t Jane Silcott a terrific writer? I had the great pleasure of reading “Goddess of Light and Dark” in draft because Jane is a friend of mine. I will be passing your comments along to her because I know she’ll be thrilled.

  4. Jane Silcott says:

    And I am! Thank you, Susan — and Kerry! — for the very generous compliments. I love the issue too and think we’re lucky to have a magazine like Room in our midst. It was especially exciting to be at the launch, held (so appropriately) on the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day at Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver. It was a real treat to hear Judy McFarlane, Chantal Gibson and Sigal Samuel read in that intimate space.

  5. Jane Silcott says:

    Oh, the hazards of writing too quickly! I’ve just dropped back in here — admittedly for a little reassurance after yet more rejections — and seen that my casual “And I am!” here could read the wrong way. I meant it as, “I am thrilled by your comments, Kerry,” not that I think I’m a terrific writer — red face here! And while I’m here, I’ll add that I love Nalo Hopkinson’s story, “Chance.” I don’t often enjoy fantasy, but I fell into this one, perhaps because the story enveloped me first, and the fantasy felt natural to me, as if an extension of the character’s need. It’s endlessly interesting to see and hear what people respond to. Thanks for your blog, Kerry. It’s terrific.

  6. Kerry says:

    Hi Jane, there was no misunderstanding. Clearly, you are a more terrific writer than you give yourself credit for!

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