Celebrate Pride with Kelly Small and Some Very Good Books
Hello, readers of very good books!
I’m Kelly Small (they/them), the author of The Conscious Creative Practical Ethics for Purposeful Work, a practical guide to ethics for creatives who want to earn a living without selling their soul. Home is Toronto, but I wrote the book in Vancouver during a period I lovingly refer to as ‘my crisis of ethics’. I had sold my belongings and fled westward to escape the ethical transgressions of the advertising scene in Toronto. I was seeking respite. What I got was an unreasonable amount of rain, more than one mental health catastrophe, my now-wife, and a manuscript for the book I wish existed when I felt consumed by systems beyond my control. Anansi would publish it a short time later.
I re-established myself in the creative community as an advocate toward a more humane, inclusive, and sustainable industry. It was essential that the process of publishing The Conscious Creative embodied those values. On contract-signing day, when I was handed a mug that read “First coffee, then the patriarchy”, it foretold what would be a spectacularly safe, affirming and values-aligned partnership. We hired sensitivity readers, designed accessible e-books, and used earth-friendly papers. When I mustered the courage to publicly change my pronouns right before we went to press, the team made it happen without question. I’m thrilled to be publishing a second book — this one for conscious kids — with Groundwood, coming soon.
I’ll be sharing some of my favourite reads this month to help amplify and celebrate the joy, wisdom, and resilience of the queer community. This month and all year, I’ll be reading more queer literature, buying art and products from 2SLGBTQI+ makers, and only supporting organizations with a year-round commitment to amplifying queer and trans voices. Plus, I’m on the lookout for shallow rainbow capitalism and keeping my eyes peeled for Pride campaigns that give back directly to the community, like this one. 10% of all web sales for the month will be donated to The 519.
With love and pride, from Kelly and the team at Anansi.
KELLY SMALL (they/them) is an award-winning creative director, designer, writer, and educator with deep roots in communications and a special focus on ethical and inclusive practice. Founder of the creative agency Intents & Purposes, professor of design ethics at the School of Design at George Brown College, and an affiliated design researcher with Emily Carr University, Kelly holds an interdisciplinary master’s degree in design and received the governor general’s academic gold medal for their research into the ethics of commercial creative work. Kelly lives in Toronto with their wife, Dahlia, bonus kid, Evan, and dog, Richie.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CONSCIOUS CREATIVE
Written by Billy-Ray Belcourt
Each time I read something new by Billy-Ray Belcourt, I am transported back to the reverence I felt when I first read his work. I spent quiet time with this book, allowing each verse to wash over my settler consciousness. A meditation on intersectionality, I could feel its power to help challenge my colonized worldview. His prose is penetrative. His skill for delicately contextualizing and representing the inner and outer worlds of generations of peoples traumatized at the hands of colonizers reads like a rare and tenuous peek into a long-concealed history and present — that is, for people like me. This book of poetry reads like a gift of rare insight. It impels my efforts toward decolonizing my creative and personal life, and I cannot recommend it enough.
Written by Mariko Tamaki
I don’t typically read YA (gasp, I know). That’s going to change after reading Laura Dean. The graphic novel, set in the glow of queer-friendly Berkeley, California, follows Freddy and her high school crew of LGBTQ+ pals. I was unexpectedly absorbed, and even moved, by Tamaki’s fearless characters. She crafts a world where teens are afforded the privilege of societally uncomplicated suffering in their unrequited queer love. Popular and charismatic, Laura Dean breaks up with Freddy three times. In agony, Freddy blunders in her friendships as her fixation on keeping Laura from breaking up with her a fourth time won’t relent. The struggle culminates in a visceral climax of powerful spreads without dialogue that immerse readers in visual representations of Freddy’s pain and frustrations. The illustrations communicate with striking precision. The book is a thoroughly engrossing invitation into the intersection of timeless queer narratives (as a Quill & Quire review puts it, the book has “a distinct L Word vibe”) and the everyday life of post-fourth wave lesbian youth.
Written by Zoe Whittall
Holding Still for As Long As Possible was my initiation into the outright pleasure of getting lost in Zoe Whittall’s worlds. I read Zoe’s engrossing The Best Kind of People the minute I finished Holding Still, which, to me, is as good a review as any. In Holding Still, three twenty-something queer characters — a former pop star, a paramedic, and a rich kid — take turns narrating the book. Each chapter, immediately recognizable by its character’s style, flows seamlessly. For me, it is a perfectly portioned approach to storytelling that suits my post-internet brain just fine. The characters, flawed and likeable, share a complicated and enmeshed young adulthood that, at times, may be better described as an unrelenting sort of late-teenage turmoil. As is Zoe’s superpower, the characters are well-realized without exploiting their queer and transness as their most interesting traits. I appreciate this rarity. I found Zoe’s ability to capture time and place skillful. The book offers nostalgia for the grit of youth in mid-aughts Toronto, almost as if reading about old friends.
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress is a gorgeously illustrated book and one of our family’s favourite stories. Readers meet Morris, a boy with a big imagination, by learning what he loves. And what he loves most is the tangerine dress that reminds him of tigers and his mother’s hair. At school, the kids make fun of Morris. They tell him that astronauts don’t wear dresses, and so they won’t let him play. Morris pretends he doesn’t hear them and, instead, listens to the swish-swish-swish sounds his tangerine dress makes when he moves. For me, the book accomplishes the magic of being as much for children as for their parents. It isn’t an overt education about gender identity. It is, instead, a universal narrative, written and illustrated with warmth, subtlety, and hits of tangerine liveliness, about nurturing our children’s — and our own — differences. Our family, weirdos in our own special ways, finds Morris’ tale relatable and reassuring. It’s a book we come back to time and again. Highly recommend.