A small imagining, based on the metaphor of mycelium in forests. In this imagining, we are the trees.
Mycelium are fungal material, spread throughout soil and other substrates, which can fruit into mushrooms under the right circumstances. Mycelium can be tiny, or, as the Armillaria in Oregon, vast and ancient. Mycelium not only break down dead matter, they also distribute resources across ecosystems. The mycelium network within a forest can link trees across a vast distance, sharing nutrients from one part of the forest to another.
What is the soil in which you find yourself? (Your social context, your environment.)
Does this soil feel rich and nutrient-dense, or does it feel depleted? (Are you nourished and supported by your social context?)
Do you remember a time when you were in different soil? (Have you ever found yourself in a different social context?)
Who is in this soil with you? Who is in your forest? (Who is alongside you? Perhaps these are cherished companions, perhaps they are not. Forests are places of magic, and also danger, after all.)
What else is present in the forest? (Are there birds, squirrels, bears, bees, mosquitoes? What other non-tree / non-human companions are in your forest?)
Who are you connected to across distance? (What companions do you cherish and stay connected to? These may be living or not, they may know you in return or not. The mycelium network is magical because it can connect us in seemingly impossible ways.)
What nourishment is shared across your connection? (What do these connections make possible – what do they offer that you do not receive in your immediate environment?)
What information is shared? (What have you learned from these distant connections?)
What do the mycelium share from you, out to other parts of the network? (What contributions have you made, what has your existence made possible in the lives of others?)
We (Lindsey and Tiffany) are writing this letter from Calgary, Alberta, in so-called Canada. From Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani) and Stoney-Nakoda (Wesley, Chiniki, Bearspaw) and Tsuut’ina land. Métis land. From the place where the Bow meets the Elbow river.
This is beautiful, breathtaking land.
We wonder about the land that you are on.
Are there trees? Rivers? Mountains?
What do you see when you look out the window, when you step out your door? What do you smell? What do you hear?
What is the landscape, and what are the plants and animals that you share space with?
What is your relationship with the land you’re on?
In an Indigenous Counselling and Trauma Work course, Cree/Métis therapist and academic Karlee Fellner taught Tiffany that the land is old enough, strong enough, wise enough to help us hold our pain, no matter how vast that pain is. As we write this letter, we are thinking about the pain that exists following the events of the last years.
The land we write this from, and the Indigenous people on this land, and every marginalized community here, is currently threatened not only by the conservative government in power in this province, but also by Canada’s ongoing commitment to extractive and exploitative relations with land and people.
We’re sharing this context because we want to be clear that we recognize as much racism, as much white supremacy, as much racial capitalism and neoliberalism here in our country, in our province, in our city, as we see happening in the US. We are not writing from a position of distance or superiority, but from a position of shared struggle against these oppressive discourses and systems. And, as white settlers, also from a position of complicity with these discourses and systems.
We planned to write this letter before the results of the 2020 presidential election came in, because we wanted to offer some care to our friends in the US. But we found ourselves, like so many other folks, slowed down by the thick mud of distraction and doomscrolling through our social media feeds. So, instead, we are writing this after Joe Biden has been named president-elect, after the wave of celebration and the deep collective sigh of relief. (We were relieved, too!)
This little document contains some of our hopes for you, and reflects some of our hopes for ourselves. It also contains some art, a little recipe, and a few reflection questions that we have found helpful for ourselves. The document comes out of our work together in the Unexpected Light speculative fiction and narrative therapy course, and we hope that this document can be a tiny invitation to imagine more just, more liberated, more possible futures.
We wonder about what kinds of futures you hope for, and how you learned to hope for them.
What are the systems and structures that you hope will change?
What do you hope will be possible once these systems change?
What are the existing forces that have the power to change these systems – what are the networks working underground to transport nourishment, encouragement, information; what are the histories of collective action, the legacies of resistance?
Do you see a place for yourself in these existing frameworks of resistance and change?
We hope that you can sink your strong roots down into the earth, and feel the mycelium surround you, supporting you and enabling you to support others.
How to Make a London Fog
To start: 2/3 mug of strong Earl Grey tea
Flavouring: Spoonful of vanilla sugar Splash of vanilla extract
To finish: Warmed and frothed milk or milk alternative
London Fogs are one of Tiffany’s most cherished soothing rituals of care, both alone and with friends. This recipe was included in the Unexpected Light course, and has become one of Lindsey’s soothing rituals, too. So, we decided to share it with you, too!
What are some of your rituals of care? Who taught you these skills? Who do you share them with?
We chose mushrooms (or, more accurately, the mycelium network!) because of the way that both hope and oppression can live underground, barely visible for such a long time, sustained by nearly invisible threads sometimes across vast distances and over unimaginable lengths of time, and then, given the right circumstances, the right rain (to quote Tiffany’s beloved Nathan), they spring up again like mushrooms.
We were thinking about how shocking the rise of fascism has been in the US and also in our own province, and yet how unsurprising, how these networks and threads have persisted. Death cap mushrooms. Indistinguishable from harmless button mushrooms when they are just sprouting.
And we were thinking about hope, too. About collective action. About the community care, the mutual aid and networks of support that sprang up in response, and that had always existed. Truffles. Precious, hidden, sustaining the roots of trees and feeding the forest, even when they are deep underground. Protecting ecosystems from drought and making the most of available nutrients in times of scarcity. (May we each be some glorious truffle-hunting animal, seeking out what is delicious and life-giving.)
What are some delicious things in your life right now?
What delights you?
What comforts you?
What brings you joy and ease?
And what are some nourishing things in your life right now?
What sustains you?
What warms you, strengthens you, fortifies you?
What brings you energy to keep working towards change?
We thought about how, in the last four years, many mushrooms have sprung up, and how some of them represent decay, rot, destruction. How the mycelium network can be so sustaining but also how it can be something other. How it can represent “ruptures in our unspoken contract of trust and care” (to quote BK Chan). And also, how even decay (maybe especially decay) offers us the opportunity to take something noxious and turn it into something nourishing.
To quote Paul Stamets (the real-life mycologist that the Star Trek: Discovery character is named after), “fungi are the grand recyclers of our planet, the mycomagicians… Fungi are the interface organisms between life and death.”
If we are, then, between life and death, and with choices about how to navigate this liminal space, perhaps we can learn from the fungi around us.
Have you experienced or witnessed life-affirming transformation?
What made it possible?
What supported the work of transformation
Credit must also be given to adrienne maree brown for identifying a tugging between life and death in her post on unthinkable thoughts, which was written specifically for movement organizers in Black and Brown organizations.
We recognize that the nourishment we find in her words was not first meant for us, and parts of it are not ours in any way. Thinking about life and death, cultural urges that sustain life or that threaten it, we must acknowledge how white supremacy, which benefits us, which makes our lives easier, makes the lives of Black and Brown and Indigenous people in both of our colonial nations so much harder to hold onto. As Claudia Rankine and Judith Butler so clearly named, the scripts available to us as white people acting with whiteness lead to the death or incarceration of Black people. Access to life, to systems that support life, is not equal across social location.
And, equally true, we share adrienne maree brown’s hopes when she writes:
“i want us to want to live in this world, in this time, together.
i want us to love this planet and this species, at this time.
i want us to see ourselves as larger than just individuals randomly pinging around in a world that will never care for us.
i want us to see ourselves as a murmuration of creatures who are, as far as we know right now, unique in all the universe. each cell, each individual body, itself a unique part of this unique complexity.”
We thought about the ruptures that interrupt our togetherness and how perhaps hope can be a balm for the ruptures. We thought about hope as a collective practice (to quote Angel Yuen), hope as a discipline (to quote Mariame Kaba), hope as something that we can carry together.
We imagine the network that connects us to you, our friends in the United States of America, whose country has suffered such ruptures – ruptures as deep, as old as the founding of your country, so similar to the ruptures that also fragment so-called Canada. We want to connect, like mycelium. The threads and tendrils that stretch across distance, and that, given the right rain, fruit into mushrooms.
May we grow the medicinal mushrooms, the transformative mushrooms, the mushrooms that rejuvenate and regenerate. And may we also rest sometimes, knowing that this network is vast, our connections are real, and the mycelium can sustain us even in drought, and support us through transformation.
We love you, and we are stretching our roots out to you, with hope for all of us to find the way through, to do the work of decolonizing, of amending the soil, of being part of an ecosystem that is more wildly diverse, chaotic, joyful, and generative.
Lindsey and Tiffany
 Chan, Karen BK. (2020). In Calling in: Doing social justice with compassion. Webinar.
I’m not sure how to introduce these essays, poems, comics, and fiction, and, like everyone else, I am swimming in the cold waters of exhaustion and overwhelm. Bi+ Visibility Day lands 6 months into the novel coronavirus pandemic. Every one of the contributors to this zine, from Aoife in Ireland to the folks in the US and those of us in Canada, are affected by the pandemic.
Search for “bisexual health outcomes” and you’ll find years of studies that demonstrate that, as the HRC puts it, “bisexuals face striking rates of poor health outcomes” (you can read the Health Disparities Among Bisexual People brief here).
And we know that the pandemic has already highlighted multiple systemic health and social inequities. The economic impact, the differential access to health care – none of these fall equally on different communities. Fat folks have faced significant increase in fatphobic discourse during the pandemic. Women are bearing the majority of the increased burden of childcare and at-home education. Black, Indigenous, and brown communities are seeing the pre-existing unequal access to health care and social support escalate.
And it is not just the pandemic that impacts these (and so many other) communities. Overt acts of racist violence are more frequent – white supremacy and colonialism lashing back at those who are protesting. The pandemic arrived in Canada as the invasion of Wet’suwet’en was ongoing, and as the pandemic crosses the half year, more colonial violence is being enacted on Mi’kma’ki – coast to coast, Canada has escalated the violence against Indigenous communities. In the US, police violence (in response to protests against police violence!) has been going on for months.
In Alberta, where I live, Bi Visibility Day comes as disabled Albertans are under increasing and aggressive threat, as our government cuts funding from the most vulnerable.
These issues matter on Bi+ Visibility Day because the bi+ community includes fat folks, women, Black, Indigenous, and brown folks. The bi+ community includes parents, and folks who are living alone. This community includes trans and non-binary folks, disabled folks, poor folks, homeless folks. This community includes folks with difficult relationships to substances, and folks who have experienced trauma, and folks who are experiencing trauma right now.
Every issue of justice is an issue that matters for this community, and when we ignore any part of this community – when we forget that this community includes all of these intersections, includes every intersection! – we just recreate the harms that are already happening.
So, how do I introduce a zine into this context that is so overwhelming?
I think, first, by acknowledging that it is overwhelming.
And then, perhaps, by also acknowledging that despite these daunting realities, there is also a resilience, a persistence, a revolutionary ongoingness within this community.
It is worth celebrating our lives and our experiences.
It is worth being visible, today and every other day.
The pandemic, the colonial machine, the vice-grip of capitalism, the clenched fist of patriarchy – these things are not more meaningful than this community.
We exist within these hostile waters.
We exist, and we have always existed, and we will continue to exist.
We are jellyfish – you can find us in every ocean, in every part of the ocean.
The pieces of writing in this zine touch on issues of aging, parenting, and navigating relationships (with others, with communities, and with selves). They include poetry, essays, fiction, and art.
Multiple essays address the tensions between bisexual and lesbian spaces, and the questioning of “queer enoughness”.
This zine is not representative of the entire bi+ community. There are so many intersections missing in these 32 pages, so if you read this zine and find it interesting or inspiring or encouraging, I hope that you go out and find more.
We are here in every space.
We are telling our stories.
We are visible, not just today but everyday, if you know how to see us.
Jocelyn LaVon is an A++ parent, friend, and community member. (This bio was written by Tiffany, not Jocelyn.)
Candice Robinson-Horejsi (Calgary, Canada). Wife, mother, engineer, NaNoML, writer, runner, knitter, nerd. Candice wears many metaphorical hats. You can find out more here: candicerobinson.ca
Gloria Jackson-Nefertiti is a breast cancer survivor, public speaker, workshop leader, panelist, artist’s model, published poet and soon to be published memoirist. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram as GloriaJacksonNefertiti, and on Twitter as @gloriajn. She lives in Seattle, WA.
Aoife Byrne is an artist living in Dublin, with her Partner and two Pups. She focuses on illustration, photography, animation or a combination in her work. She loves cosplay, choirs and dancing.
Sheri Osden Nault is an artist of Michif and mixed European descent, whose art practice and research are grounded in queer, feminist, and Indigenous world-views. Osden lives in Tkaronto on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, Wendat, and Mississaugas of the Credit First Nations, under the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, which precedes colonial treaties on this land. Through their work they strive to elicit a sense of social and ecological responsibility to one another on a damaged planet.
Marlena Chertock has two books of poetry, Crumb-sized: Poems (Unnamed Press) and On that one-way trip to Mars (Bottlecap Press). She uses her skeletal dysplasia as a bridge to scientific writing. Marlena is a bisexual writer and serves on the planning committee of OutWrite, Washington, D.C.’s annual LGBTQ literary festival. Her poems and short stories have appeared in Breath & Shadow, The Deaf Poets Society, The Little Patuxent Review, Noble/Gas Quarterly, Paper Darts, Rogue Agent, Stoked Words, Wordgathering, and more. Find her at marlenachertock.com and @mchertock.
Julene Tripp Weaver, a native New Yorker, is a psychotherapist and writer in Seattle. Her book, truth be bold—Serenading Life & Death in the Age of AIDS, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and won the Bisexual Book Award. www.julenetrippweaver.com. Twitter: @trippweavepoet
Jan Steckel’s latest book Like Flesh Covers Bone (Zeitgeist Press, December 2018) won two Rainbow Awards (for LGBT Poetry and Best Bisexual Book). Her poetry book The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) won a Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Nonfiction. Her fiction chapbook Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009) and poetry chapbook The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006) also won awards. Steckel moderates the Facebook group Bi Poets and is an active member of the Bay Area Bi+ and Pan Network. She lives in Oakland, California, USA with her husband Hew Wolff, host of Berkeley BiFriendly.
This zine was initiated and formatted by Tiffany Sostar for Bi+ Visibility Week 2020. Tiffany is a writer, editor, community organizer, tarot reader, course instructor, and narrative therapist. They are bisexual, non-binary, and chronic-pain enhanced. You can find them online at tiffanysostar.com and foxandowltarot.com or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can support their work by picking up this zine, enrolling in An Unexpected Light, booking a narrative therapy session or tarot reading, hiring them to facilitate a workshop for your group, or backing their Patreon at patreon.com/sostarselfcare.
THE SUPERPOWERS o The Superpower of Community (and community care) o The Superpower of Showing Up o Resilience o Endurance o Dialectics as a Superpower (holding multiple true stories) o Empathy and Compassion o The Superpower of Quick Turnaround of Emotions o The Superpower of Being Able to Get Out of a Bad Situation o The Ability to ‘Chameleon’
From the document:
This document follows a conversation, facilitated by Osden Nault and Tiffany Sostar, whose goal was to center the voices of folks who identify with BPD (either diagnosed by a professional or self-claimed), and to shift the dominant narrative about Borderline Personality Disorder. This document includes quotes from participants as well as quotes from BPD folks who were not at the event itself.
This event was the result of both Osden and Tiffany noting the lack of BPD voices in the resources available about, and especially for, the BPD community. So much of what is available includes harmful stories about what kind of people have BPD, and how difficult and even dangerous it is to be in relationship with them. These stories obscure the complex lived experiences of BPD individuals who have valuable insider knowledges into how to navigate big emotions and the ongoing effects of complex trauma.
Because we live in such a complex, overwhelming, and traumatizing social context, we hope that this resource might also provide help and insight for folks who do not identify with BPD but who have experienced complex trauma or are living with overwhelming Feels.
We also hope that this resource will help folks who are facing the injustice of inaccessible mental health supports. We recognize that the BPD community faces intense stigma and is also significantly underserved by medical and mental health professionals. If you have found this resource because you haven’t found anything else, we hope that it helps. You are valid, your experiences are valid, and no matter how much you may struggle with your big feelings at times, we know that you also have skills, strategies, superpowers.
There’s so much more that we could have put into this document, and we hope to continue this work both within the BPD Superpowers group and through engagement with other folks who identify with borderline personality disorder (either through self-identification or through a formal diagnosis). Maybe there will even be a book!
Acknowledging the political climate in which we are releasing this work and the intersections of oppression and mental illness / neurodivergence.
At this moment, Black people in the USA and marginalized groups worldwide are mobilizing against white supremacist, racist, and anti-Black violent systemic oppression. We are unequivocally in support of this ongoing struggle for more just futures. In releasing this document at this time, we wish to acknowledge the compounded effects of anti-Black racism, white supremacy, colonialism, intergenerational trauma, and many more forms of violent oppression and marginalization on individual mental health and neurotypes.
An Indigenous participant has shared:
One of the first definitions of BPD I saw described it as resulting from a “genetic predisposition” and trauma. I immediately thought about my own family’s intergenerational trauma. At a point in time when we know ancestral trauma affects us to a genetic level, I wondered how the history of colonial violence plays a role in my present day neurodivergent experience.
We see the effects of violent oppression on physical and mental health, spanning generations and present today. In what Angela Davis has referred to as a “very exciting moment,” and about which she says, “I don’t know if we have ever experienced this kind of a global challenge to racism and to the consequences of slavery and colonialism,” we acknowledge that there is a great deal of ongoing work and healing to be done. We release this collective document with free access and the hope that it will aid in the future and ongoing well being of oppressed individuals and communities.
With love and solidarity, The BPD Superpowers group
This isn’t new, but somehow I had never put a link into a blog post!
I’m sharing it here now, in honour of Trans Day of Visibility.
Last year, my beloved colleague Rosie and I collaborated on a project – we met with non-binary youth in Adelaide, SA, and also with non-binary youth in Calgary, Alberta. Then we created a collective document bringing together the insider knowledges shared in those conversations.
This collective document has since been published in the International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, and you can download the PDF here.
joyful memory of their dad, David Maxwell:
lover, collector, and sharer of books
January 12, 1953 – November 30, 2019
Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.
Welcome to the David Maxwell Memorial
Make yourself a cup of David-style
coffee: not too strong, with a generous-leaning-to-excessive helping of sugar
or maple syrup, and more milk swirled in than seems reasonable.
Settle in and read your way to
memories and connection.
This reading challenge has been
created by me, Tiffany Sostar, David’s oldest child, in honour of dad and as a
way to invite friends, family, and community to reflect on memories shared with
David and to create new memories and experiences connected to David.
This reading challenge has a bias. It
reflects my story with my dad, and it highlights the parts of dad’s story that
were most impactful in my own life. It’s a gift from me to him, and to you.
There are other stories of dad’s
life, and perhaps there are categories of reading missing that would help
reflect the nuance and complexity of David Maxwell’s personhood and experience.
If there is a category you wish were
here, please let me know.
I will be collecting stories and
titles shared by reading challenge participants and will be creating an updated
reading challenge next year, along with a book of stories.
I would love for that second
iteration to include a broader view of my dad.
But for now, this is what I have to
offer, from my own perspective, from my own heart.
If you would like to get in touch
with me, you can find me at email@example.com, or online at
tiffanysostar.com. I work as a narrative therapist, a community organizer, a
writer, and an editor. The love of stories that dad and I shared has extended
into every part of my life and is present in every aspect of my work.
A reading challenge is a bit like a literary treasure hunt.
Each category is a clue, and you must
go searching for the book that will check that category off.
Both books and treasure hunts were
cherished parts of my relationship with dad, and almost every treasure hunt
that he created for me (each Christmas for 3 decades of my life!) included
clues hidden in books, book titles as clues, gifts hidden behind books, books
as the gift at the end of the hunt – books and treasure hunts, treasure hunts
At a time when I miss my dad so much,
and when I am overcome by the loss and the grief over pages left unturned in
our relationship, and the sudden ending of our story together in this life, it
has been a balm to create this reading challenge. This treasure hunt.
Dad left many legacies that continue
in my life. Books, stories, and the determined pursuit of clues and threads of
connection are among the shiniest.
How to participate
This document is part invitation and
part remembrance. You can participate in either or both.
To participate in the invitation,
you can join the treasure hunt by reading a book in each category and, if you
would like, sharing your completed list back with me at
I will be keeping track of the books
read in each category and will send out a list of all the shared titles at the
end of 2020. I hope that this will be one way to maintain a connection to David
and to create new memories and experiences that connect us in our memories of
The reading challenge invitation is
open to anyone, whether they knew dad or not.
I love the idea of stories and
inspiration connected to dad travelling beyond his circle. If you didn’t know
dad and you participate in the challenge, I’d love to hear what books you read,
what these books made possible in your life, and how the stories of my dad’s
life moved you, if they did.
For those who knew dad, you can also
participate in the remembrance by reading the stories (there could have
been pages and pages more) and by sharing your own stories!
I would love to hear the stories that
these categories remind you of, and to hear about the books that dad
recommended to you, and to know what from him and his life has stayed with you.
These stories and memories will also
be collected, with the hope of creating a story book of David’s life and his
influence in others’ lives. You do not need to be limited to the categories
listed here for your stories – share anything that sparkles in your memory!
You’ll find the categories listed
first, with stories and suggested titles after.
If you’d like some guidance from dad,
here is a list that he shared with me last summer of some of his favourite
things. Perhaps these will spark memories for you, invite you to consider
things that you cherish in your own life, or guide you to titles that excite
and engage you.
(I included the parts of the list that mention specific people, because I think dad’s love for Glenda, for his siblings, and for my sister and I are worth recognizing. I know these specific items, unlike the more general pleasures he lists, might not lead you directly to books, but they are a balm for my heart, and perhaps they will lead you to memories and stories of cherished people in your own life.)
Reading and Collecting books
Collecting an eclectic selection of Christmas ornaments
Setting up the upside-down Christmas tree
Stepping off the plane in Italy
Eating Italian food as prepared in Cinque Terre, Puglia and Rome
Eating authentic Gelato
Working hard to provide a service to avid readers
Spending time with my amazing partner – Glenda
Gardening with Glenda
Talking to two people of whom I am so proud – Tiffany and Domini
Talking and staying connected with friends around the world
Watching my brother succeed so admirably at saving Prairie from financial ruin and rebuilding its heart
Watching my sister do her job so well around the world, especially in Asia
Drinking good wine
Making an awesome BLT
Cooking a thick, juicy steak with eggs over easy
Ethiopian food and coffee
Laying under a warm tropical sun
Listening to Mozart, Telemann, Holinger, Chopin, Haydn, Salieri, Boccherini, Bach
Praying to my Heavenly Father
Travel with David:
Each of these categories is based on a location where David either spent time or planned to.
A book set in Nigeria, or written by a Nigerian author
A book about backpacking through Europe (consider focusing on
the Cinque Terre)
A book set in, or written about, the mid-Western USA
A book set in, or written about, rural Alberta
A book set in, or written about, Calgary
A book set in Italy, or written by an Italian author
A book set in Croatia, or written by a Croatian author
A book set in Costa Rica, or written by a Costa Rican author
A book that includes walking the Camino
Imagine with David
Each of these categories reflects a speculative genre or type of book that David particularly enjoyed.
A book of hard science fiction
A book of high fantasy
A book of historical fiction
A retelling of a myth or fairytale
A pop-up book
Take a stand with David
Each of these categories represent an action David took to either take a stand in solidarity with a targeted community, or to take a stand for his own beliefs and values.
A book about education or pedagogy
A book of Christian theology
A book about Islam or a book by a Middle Eastern author
sharing their lived experience
A book about LGBTQ2+ community
A book about healing after abuse or trauma
Read along with David
Each of these books have specific
cherished memories attached to them, and are books that dad particularly
enjoyed and frequently shared with others.
The Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
The Ring Cycle by Richard Wagner (any version!)
Anam Cara by John O’Donohue
Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
A Tintin comic
An Asterix comic
This section includes why I
chose each category, along with a few brief stories and remembrances, and some
suggested titles. This section will be significantly expanded in the second
iteration of this reading challenge, hopefully with titles and stories from
Travel with David
Each of these categories is
based on a location where David either spent time or planned to.
A book set in Nigeria, or
written by a Nigerian author
Dad was born in Jos, Nigeria
on January 12, 1953. He loved Nigeria and had endless stories of his
time there. One of his favourite stories to tell was of rock climbing with a
school friend and reaching up over the top of the climb to find a massive snake
sunning itself at the summit!
One Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi. This book is set in
Nigeria during the Biafran war from 1967-1970. After I read this book, Dad and
I had some really meaningful conversations about his memories of this time, and
about his parents’ actions during this war.
A book about backpacking
through Europe (consider focusing on the Cinque Terre)
Dad backpacked through
Europe by himself as a teenager. This is when he first encountered and fell in
love with the Cinque Terre in Italy.
Rick Steves’ Pocket Cinque
Terre. This little
guidebook didn’t exist when dad backpacked the Cinque Terre as a youth, but dad
was a huge fan of Rick Steves’ books!
A book set in, or written
about, the mid-Western USA
Dad’s years in the States,
including the years he spent in Tulsa, Oklahoma, were formative for him. During
this time, he taught dance and danced professionally, and he also did a lot of
work to support vulnerable communities. It was during these years that he
worked on a suicide prevention hotline, and with survivors of rape and abuse.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. Set in the Midwest, this
contemplation on the seasons in that part of the world is lovely, and Annie
Dillard was an author dad often had on the shelves at Logos.
A book set in, or written
about, rural Alberta
Dad lived in Three Hills for
quite a few years, but his roots in rural Alberta are generations-deep. His
grandfather founded Prairie Bible Institute (now Prairie Bible College), which
dad attended. He also ran the Coffee Break in Three Hills for a time. I still
remember the ham and cheese sandwiches, and the picture of a red soccer ball on
his office wall!
We also camped most years in
Kananaskis Country, and I have so many cherished memories of our camping trips.
Maxwell’s Passion and Power by Harold Fuller. This book is about dad’s
grandfather, L.E. Maxwell, and about Prairie Bible College, which he founded in
Three Hills, Alberta.
First Spring Grass Fire by Rae Spoon. This is a book about growing up queer
in rural and religious Alberta, and close to my own heart. Dad and I had many
conversations about queerness within religious spaces.
A book set in, or written
Dad lived in Calgary for a
long time. He managed Logos Bookstore for almost 30 years, and although he
never loved the climate here, I know that he loved his community. He gardened
here, enjoyed the restaurants here, and grew deep roots within the bookstore
and in the communities that he served – especially the community of teachers
and educators, and the various religious groups that brought him in for
booktables (many, many days spent at the FCJ centre!).
Since John Gilchrist is no
longer publishing the My Favourite Eats series (which dad loved, and
which guided us to many fine meals – dad and I shared a love of fancy food!),
try Gail Norton’s Calgary Eats, with a foreword by Julie van Rosendaal
(who has taken on John Gilchrist’s mantle as CBC food reviewer). And if you
cook from the book, consider adding a fried egg to the recipe for Modern Steak’s
steak with peppercorn sauce – a good steak with a fried egg was one of dad’s
A book set in Italy, or
written by an Italian author
Dad loved Italy, and
he lived there for a couple years. And even when he wasn’t living there, that’s
where his heart longed to be. He loved the food, he loved the architecture, and
he loved the people.
Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King.
How to Think Like Leonardo
Da Vinci by Michael Gelb.
This book isn’t technically about Italy, but it’s one of the books I read when
I was 18, when I designed and undertook my first self-guided “transformative
year” project, which dad supported by guiding me to books like this!
A book set in Croatia, or
written by a Croatian author
Dad lived in Croatia for a
couple years and treasured Dubrovnik and his friends there. When I visited him,
he took me for a walk through the wooded area down to the ocean. It was
A book set in Costa Rica, or
written by a Costa Rican author
Dad also lived in Costa
A book that includes walking
Although dad did not have
the opportunity to walk the Camino, it was one of his cherished dreams. I’ve
included it in this section because although his feet never carried him on the
pilgrimage, I know that his heart did.
Each of these categories
reflects a speculative genre or type of book that David particularly enjoyed.
A book of hard science
I have so many memories of
hard science fiction and my dad! Not only books but also movies and tv shows.
Dad had a deep appreciation for science fiction, and our house was filled with
science fiction novels.
A book of high fantasy
In his last week of life,
dad was talking about the difference between a fantasy story and a fantastical
story. This is such a sharp memory for me, and dad and I did not come to a
clear conclusion in this discussion of what makes a story a fantasy story and
what makes it a story with fantastical elements. This interest in fantasy, what
constitutes fantasy, and what fantasy writing makes possible in our lives is
one that threaded through my life with dad. He loved fantasy novels, and he had
a particular appreciation for how fantasy writing allows us to explore complex
issues of values, morals, and relationships.
A book of historical fiction
Some of my favourite
recommendations from dad were historical fiction – Pauline Gedge’s Egypt books,
Sandra Gulland’s Josephine Bonaparte trilogy, Ken Follett’s Pillars of the
A retelling of myth or
I was in grade 6 when Jane
Yolen’s Briar Rose was released as part of Terri Windling’s Fairy Tale
series, and this retelling of the sleeping beauty story, set in a Nazi
concentration camp, was profoundly moving. I cried, and talked with dad, and
this story has stayed with me in the decades since. And it is not the only
fairytale retelling that dad introduced me to. He loved William J. Brook’s Untold
Tales and read the funniest passages out loud to whoever was in the room,
and he also introduced me to Sheri S. Tepper’s Beauty, which bridges
fairytale and science fiction.
Book Riot has a list of 100 best fairytale retellings to invite you into one of dad’s favourite expansive
genres. I would point you particularly to the Terri Windling anthology, the
Neil Gaiman books, and Terry Pratchett.
A pop-up book
We were listening to CBC
interview the man with the largest privately owned pop-up book collection in
Canada. We raced downstairs and started counting. Yep… dad had over 100 more
pop-ups in his collection than the collector being interviewed! Dad had a
particular love of Robert Sabuda’s paper engineering, though he added any new
feat of paper craft to his collection.
Take a stand with
Each of these categories
represent an action David took to either take a stand in solidarity with a
targeted community, or to take a stand for his own beliefs and values.
A book about education or
When Chapters moved in
across the street, dad had to think quickly to keep Logos in business. He
decided to move the bookstore strongly towards education, and his choice kept
the store afloat during a decade that saw so many of Calgary’s independents
close. In the many years of Logos focusing on education, dad built strong
connections within the school boards in Calgary and was a yearly presence at
the Calgary Teacher’s Convention. He also supplied educational books to book
clubs and schools throughout the year. Even if education isn’t your field,
there are gems in this category for any reader.
Turning to One Another by Margaret Wheatley. Although this book was first
published in 2002 and the world is significantly different now, Margaret
Wheatley was one of dad’s favourite educational writers, and this book’s
message of listening and finding common ground is one that dad appreciated.
The Politics of Education by Paulo Freire. Less well-known than Pedagogy of
the Oppressed (which is brilliant and also worth reading!), The Politics
of Education can be a bit more accessible for readers who aren’t already
engaged in issues of pedagogy.
A book of Christian theology
Dad’s Christian faith was
important to him, and he thought deeply about what he believed, and why he
believed it. He read a diverse range of theological texts and pulled threads of
insight from a wide range of traditions. I remember many conversations with him
about thinkers as diverse as Catholic theologians Thomas Merton, Peter Kreeft,
and Franciscan Richard Rohr, Evangelical theologians Dietrich Bonhoeffer and CS
Lewis, as well as mystics like Hildegard von Bingen and Julian of Norwich.
Dogspell by Mary Ashcroft. I cherish this small book, which
dad brought into the store specifically for me and then kept on the shelves for
many years. If there is a vision of faith that appeals to me and rings true in
my heart, this is very close to it.
A book about Islam or a book
by a Middle Eastern author about their lived experience
After 9/11, dad saw that
Islamophobia was rising and he took an active stand against it in the
bookstore. He brought in books on the topic of Islam, with a particular focus
on books that highlighted points of connection and shared humanity.
A History of God by Karen Armstrong. This is one book that was
frequently on the shelf at Logos and looked at views of God through each of the
Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. As conflict with Iran escalates
and we see another rise in Islamophobia across North America, there is even
more reason to return to this book about growing up in Tehran after the
American-backed Islamic Revolution. Dad introduced me to this book.
A book about LGBTQ2+
“Oh, I think I got your
genders wrong! This they/them stuff is tough for an old man like me, but that’s
not the important thing.”
My dad said that to me in
his last week of life, after using the wrong gendered terminology to refer to
me (I am non-binary, and do not identify as a woman). My dad knew, accepted, and
supported both my non-binary gender and my bisexual orientation. I hold
this close to my heart.
But even beyond this theme
in my own life, I remember when dad helped a long-time customer undertake a
personal research project on the topic. This customer was clergy in a
non-affirming denomination, and one of his congregants had come out to him as
gay. His choices were either to break with his church in order to fully accept
his congregant, or align with the church’s stance that homosexual behaviour was
a sin. Over many months and many books and many conversations with dad, he
decided to break with his church in order to stand with his gay congregant. Dad
kept some of the titles on the shelf, despite pushback. This was a powerful
experience for me, a queer youth who had not yet come out even to myself. I
knew that my dad would support me, and when I did finally come out years later,
Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ
People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity by Elizabeth Edman.
Bi: Notes for a Bisexual
Revolution by Shiri Eisner.
This book was hugely influential in my undergrad work, and dad and I had
meaningful conversations about what I was trying to do in my work, informed by
Eisner’s book. My “undergrad work” included two honours theses, and the
creation of Possibilities: Bi+ Community Group, which has now been running for
over ten years. In 2018, dad and Glenda attended my Bisexual Visibility Day
event, which was just one of the ways he supported this work.
A book about healing after
abuse or trauma
Dad had a heart for those
who were suffering and had been hurt. This was a thread throughout his life in
many of his dealings with strangers and friends who came to him for help.
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
Read along with
Each of these books have
specific cherished memories attached to them, and are books that dad
particularly enjoyed and frequently shared with others.
The Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Pay attention for
the moment when the dragon pushes its head up above the forest canopy and
shouts, “EAT YOUR GREENS!” Imagine dad hooting with laughter, and reading this
line out loud from his beloved glider in the living room of the house on 35th
The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon. Consider racing us through this
book. Dad finished in three days! It took me an extra half day. How long will
it take you?
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to
the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
The book. The movie(s). The BBC mini-series.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Dad loved this series, and we
both read it multiple times. Stop at the Ender books, if you’d like my
The Ring Cycle by Richard Wagner (any version!). This was one of the
most special things that dad and I shared. We watched a live broadcast of the
opera when I was in elementary school, and then we shared this story in many
formats over the years – the music, the sheet music, the graphic novel
adaptations (both P. Craig Russell’s, and Roy Thomas and Gil Kane’s), the
limited edition translated and annotated hard cover of The Ring of the
Nibelung, The Rhinegold, and The Valkyrie with illustrations by Arthur Rackham,
The Ring of Power Jungian analysis of The Ring Cycle by Jean
Bolen… Despite Wagner’s abhorrent politics, this piece of music and writing
remains close to my heart.
Anam Cara by John O’Donohue. Dad took the title of the Logos
Bookstore newsletter from this book, and took much comfort from the contents.
Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton. Another beloved book, which he
A Tintin comic.
An Asterix comic.
This memorial reading challenge was created for and first shared at my dad’s celebration of life on January 12, 2020.
Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. This is a topic that impacts so many different people, including trans and non-binary folks who experience gender erasure and harm in both medical contexts and support spaces around this loss; Black, Indigenous, and brown people who experience racism in medical contexts and support spaces; disabled folks; neurodivergent and mad folks; so many people who go through this experience (which can take so many different forms, and can be felt in so many different ways) undersupported, underserved, dismissed.
The You Are Not Alone project was first conceived in 2017 as a response to loss resources that are highly gendered, and that implicitly assume their readers are straight, white, and cisgender. It was also created to try and provide something free and easily accessible.
This is the third edition of You Are Not Alone, and we hope to reissue this document yearly with more and better information and resources. In 2019, we have added Aditi Loveridge’s personal story, and expanded the section on handling racism in medical contexts with Aditi’s help. We have also expanded the resources section to include information about Aditi’s Calgary and online-based charity, the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support Centre.
Although this resource attempts to be intentionally
inclusive and anti-oppressive, the two primary collaborators – Tiffany Sostar
and Flora – are both English-speaking white settler Canadians, with stable
housing and strong social supports. Our privilege means that we are missing nuance, and we do not see
what we’re not seeing. We are open to being corrected, and to hearing from
people who do not see themselves represented in this document. You can reach
Tiffany at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This document is designed to be a grief and loss
resource, and we have included abortion stories and resources. However, we
recognize that not every abortion is experienced as a loss or followed by
grief. (This is true for miscarriages, too!) We also recognize that it is
possible to feel grief without feeling regret, and this is true for any
pregnancy loss, whether it’s abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, or adoption.
We are so thankful to the individuals who contributed to
this document. Our call for contributors was met with courage and generosity by
people who shared their stories despite the pain that telling the story brought
up for them.
We are also thankful to Andi Johnson and Randi van
Wiltenburg, both full-spectrum doulas in Calgary, Alberta, who contributed not
only their personal stories but also a wealth of knowledge and information.
Their professional contact information is listed in the resources section.
Parents we want to honour:
Those who have lost a child to miscarriage
Those who have lost a child to abortion
Those who have lost a child to stillbirth
Those who have lost a child after birth to medical illness
Those who have lost a child after birth to adoption
Those who have lost a child after birth to structural violence
People of any gender identity
People of any sexual orientation
People of any relationship status and structure
People of any race or culture
People of any state of mental or physical health
People of any religious belief
People of any socioeconomic status
This kind of work – creating resources that help serve the margins is exactly the goal of my Patreon, and it’s why I do what I do. I am thankful to be invited into this kind of work by people in the community who recognize a gap and want help filling it, which is what happened in 2017 when this resource was first created. I will continue to do this kind of work. If you would like to support me, you can find my Patreon here.