Autostraddle recommends Weekend here
1. Weekend by Jane Eaton Hamilton. Do you remember what it feels like to read a novel that has lesbian lives, lesbian bodies, lesbian minds thoughtfully and carefully rendered by a writer of extraordinary talent? If you feel like it has been a long time since you read a novel like that, pick up Jane Eaton Hamilton’s Weekend (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2016). Examining two lesbian couples, their romances, their conflicts, and their lives, Weekend reminds me how lesbian writers render lesbian characters with extraordinary grace, humanity, and insight.
Casey, the Canadian Lesbrarian, reviews “Weekend” here.
Borrowed Bookshelf Recommends “Weekend” for summer 2017:
“The Book” of 2016. After Ellen
8 Lesbian BDSM Novels to Curl Your Toes (and Maybe Melt Your Heart) Autostraddle
#1) on Pride‘s Must-Read LGBT Books of 2016
Weekend on CBC CBC
“Weekend … is a tour de force.” —Vancouver Sun
Recommended at The Rumpus: MixTape by Anna March
“Stunningly beautiful … This is a book I have been waiting to read. It is a book I enjoyed every single minute of reading. It is a book I want to share with everyone. I commend Weekend. This is a story of how we live our queer lesbian lives now. Do not miss it.” –Julie R Enszer, Curve
“This is the best book I have read this year. Hamilton brings us four wonderful characters who live and grapple with lesbian/queer/women’s contemporary experiences. The sex is hot; the characters are wonderfully flawed, human, and relatable. This is the book to beat for the 2016 Lammy in Lesbian Fiction. Buy it. Read it. Love it.” —Julie R Enszer
“Hamilton’s writing is propulsive. The story moves at an effortless pace as it explores a multitude of sexualities and identities, as well as the difficulties and even explosive outcomes of navigating them while remaining faithful to and honest with one’s partner or partners.” —Publishers Weekly
The Vore’s Best LGBT Books, 2016: “Which modern authors can compete with James Baldwin, Edmund White & Patricia Highsmith in the LGBT genre?”
Lambda Literary Review “A real page turner.”
“Sexy and far seeing.” –Gay and Lesbian Review
“…a good fresh take on what we talk about when we talk about love.” Globe and Mail
Pride: 8 Must-Read LBGT Books for Summer 2016
Autostraddle 8 Perfectly Sapphic Summer Reads
49th Shelf Your Can’t Fail Summer Reading List
“Weekend” is both a sexy romp and a tender exploration of vulnerability.” —Zoe Whittall
“In “Weekend” Jane Eaton Hamilton gives us an astonishingly tender queer exploration of gender, race, class, ability, love, family, sexuality, sex, and kink that is also a damn fine story. “Weekend” is captivating as it reveals a complicated interwoven story of not just two queer couples, but the four individuals, as they each grapple with desire, community, boundaries, commitment, polyamory, loss, love, lust, queer marriage and parenthood. “Weekend” is a story of contemporary queer relationships in all of their complexity, and is as sexy as it is heartbreaking. ” –Sassafras Lowrey
Jane Eaton Hamilton’s Weekend is a queer, crip reimagining of “What we talk about when we talk about love.” Two couples, one new and one together sixteen years, come together for a weekend in the country, unexpectedly confronting the demons of their current and past relationships. As one couple unravels under the stress of a newborn, the other wrestles with what it means to love and be loved in the face of a deadly disability.
Weekend is sexy, tender, and raw, with smoldering sex scenes and intimate arguments that leave tender bruises at the intersections of disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, and class. Jane Eaton Hamilton exposes the exquisite and raw vulnerabilities of her characters with empathy and insight—the lesbian who secretly thinks she might be straight, the new mother anxious for her milk to come in, the “heart crip” domestic abuse survivor whose A-fib looms like a death threat, the maybe-trans boi who is terrified of losing the love their life.
“Do you know what we talk about when we talk about love?” One of the women asks. Is love the sum total of things “we can tolerate”—“the vast list of things we give up for companionship?” Is love lust? Is it sacrifice? Perhaps no definition of love can account for the nostalgia one character feels about a lying, manipulative ex, or for taking a leap of fate in spite of impending death. Perhaps there isn’t even such a thing as a “queer” or “crip” version of Carver’s iconic story, because in the end, love all comes down to the same violence, the same loss, the same sacrifice, the same leaps of faith. And yet, it’s not the same, not at all, and that’s the beauty of Weekend, how it illuminates those universal themes but changes them, too, revealing how life on the fringes makes “what we talk about when we talk about love” a riskier and more terrifying proposition. —Karrie Higgins, author of “Strange Flowers”
The Summer Book, Mother Tongue Press, essay “Bull Shark Summer,” BC Bookworld:
Battery (story), winner of Lit Pop 2015, published in Matrix; George Saunders, judge
“I admired and enjoyed the wit, clarity, and compression of this story. It’s fast, funny, precise in its language. The author is really using language as a tool of persuasion. The story also has real heart – the narrator manages to make us sympathize for both chickens and executioners. The details of the operation are chilling and terrific. The story is beautifully shaped and minimal – the writer seems to recognize that the essence of making a work of art is choosing. The story makes us face a certain harsh truth, but without any sense of preaching, and even a sense of wonder. Above all, the story is musical – it zings along, making a world as it goes, with its confidence and its sense of curiosity.” —George Saunders
Things That Didn’t Happen (travel nonfiction)
In Jane Eaton Hamilton’s piece, “Things That Didn’t Happen”, there is an exquisite, mille-feuille-like layering of complex emotions: beauty and love, death and art, rejection and rejuvenation. Travel in this piece is less about structure and accomplishment and more about creating space to mourn a loss and confront an uncertain future. She travels for the sake of movement and distraction from the deeper issues at play. Near the end, the narrator asks herself, “Why Paris in February and what was I waiting for?” The answer: “Just for anything.” –Sarah Richards, Prism International, in review of “This Place a Stranger: Canadian Women Travelling Alone.”
LOVE WILL BURST INTO A THOUSAND SHAPES
Lambda Literary on Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes
Prism International on Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes
Daily Xtra on Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes
Michael Dennis on Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes
“Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes” is a sharp, witty, sexy and oh so astute book … A powerful book that will leave you gasping.” –Cornelia Hoogland, Fanny Bay Flyer
“Extraordinarily good work. So multivalenced, hard-hitting, delicate and continually surprising.” –Marilyn Hacker
“Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes” is jazzy and engaging. Hamilton proves herself to be a real wordsmith, with a trickster’s soul and a heart as big as New Mexico. The poems are enlightening, risky, rough, funny as hell, and ultimately very moving.” –Barry Dempster
“In her new collection of poetry–ekphrastic, maternal, erotic–Jane Eaton Hamilton writes with grace, vigour and brilliant colour.” –Ellis Avery
“Hamilton summons her reader to participate in … intimate newness. These poems are too luscious, too seductively vexatious to read at arm’s length.” –Amber Dawn
“As the publisher’s blurb declares, this collection of poetry (Hamilton’s third) centres on themes of “art, children, marriage, breaking, rejoicing.” Let’s start with art. Those more familiar with the art world than me (which is, uh, probably most of the people reading this) will likely delight in being able to pick out details they recognize from famous artists’ work and lives in the poems Hamilton crafts from the perspectives of Suzanne Valadon, Matisse, Vincent Van Gogh, Edward Degas, Frida Kahlo, and Gauguin. Unfortunately the only artist of that group whose work I’m actually familiar with is Frida Kahlo. I did have an uncanny indescribable feeling while reading the titular poem of the collection (“Love Will Burst Into A Thousand Shapes: Frida Kahlo,” and actually a quotation taken from a letter to Diego Rivera from Kahlo) that the words somehow felt like how her art looks. I wonder if the other poems about artists felt that way for readers who know their art. Readers not familiar with the artists but interested in visual art (this is not really me, unfortunately) might also have fun looking them up and experiencing the art alongside the poems. I also felt “in on” the Gauguin poem, called “Woman With a Mango by Gauguin: Etta Cone” in reference to Gertrude Stein; Hamilton writes the poem in an uncanny reflection of Stein’s strange, mesmerizingly repetitive style and it is bang on:
Gertrude you are a Gertrude are a Gertrude
no one in Baltimore is a Gertrude anymore
If you can’t say anything nice about anyone
come sit next to me
and I did
The next section of the collection following the one focused on artists is “Our Terrible Good Luck,” an apt oxymoron that encompasses the devastation that populates these poems on topics not often associated that kind of horror: motherhood and children. Oh boy, was this part of the collection hard for me. They’re just shattering to read: domestic abuse, the death of children, gun violence, mass murderers, the dark sides of motherhood, the physicality and sometimes grotesqueness of child birth. For me, they were painful and difficult to read, despite their being beautifully written. When I say devastating, this is what I mean:
In the month before they find your son’s body
downstream, you wake imagining
his fist clutching the spent elastic
of his pyjama bottoms, the pair with sailboats riding them
He’s swimming past your room toward milk and Cheerios
his cowlick alive on his small head, swimming
toward cartoons and baseballs, toward his skateboard
paddling his feet like flippers. You’re surprised
by how light he is, how his lips shimmer like water
how his eyes glow green as algae
He amazes you again and again, how he breathes
through water. Every morning you almost drown
fighting the undertow, the wild summer runoff
coughing into air exhausted, but your son is happy
He’s learning the language of gills and fins
of minnows and fry. That’s what he says
when you try to pull him to safety; he says he’s a stuntman
riding the waterfall down its awful lengths
to the log jam at the bottom pool
He’s cool to the touch; his beauty has you by the throat
He’s translucent, you can see his heart under
his young boy’s ribs, beating
as it once beat under the stretched skin of your belly
blue as airlessness, primed for vertical dive
HOLY FUCK, Jane Eaton Hamilton. I don’t remember the last time I read a poem so fucking sad and heartbreaking.
Although the last two sections “This New Country” and “Hands” are about intimacy, love, and sex, they often continue the deeply melancholic tone of the previous poems, but not always. I wonder too, if my sadness about the poems in the middle of the collection crept into my reading of the later poems. Maybe it would have been better to space out my reading of this collection more. Anyway, early poems in “This New Country” are joyful celebrations of brand new intimacy, like when Hamilton writes in the titular poem:
We packed our bags and named
our destination: each other
climbed into the car
the bus, the plane … I
couldn’t stop looking at you. We
didn’t know the new country even
four years later. … This country is
saturated with colour: azure
persimmon, indigo; with light:
dawn, the harsh light of noon, the washed
light of rain, dusk; with heat
We can’t send postcards. We are dumb
exiled to grace.
Unfortunately for my unrelentingly romantic heart, the poems about new love and sex and building a life together progress fairly quickly to, well, more devastation. In “Paris,” Hamilton writes
I didn’t understand the possibility of endings then, I didn’t know you
would soon say you weren’t in love with me and had been hungering
to leave for thirteen years. What time of day was it? Just after noon
and we were off the Montmartre bus
I was taking atmospheric photographs
I ambled down the street to meet you, my grin large
I remember wanting to lift you in the street and swing you
until love made us soar
I don’t know how to describe these poems except to keep using the adjectives devastating and heartbreaking all over again. It’s a testament to Hamilton’s writing talent that she is able to evoke such an achingly beautiful image of love — the “wanting to lift you in the street and swing you” — and at the same time that horrible feeling of looking back on your coupled happiness from the hindsight of the ruins of the relationship. This poem perfectly captures that feeling; reading it brought me back to when I felt that way at the end of my previous long-term relationship, and I have to say it’s not somewhere I really wanted to go, because it’s just painful.
When the next set of poems move into new intimacy again, the past hurt is not far behind, the melancholy persists: “I am too hungry. I am too huge. I am too slow. It is too late for me.” But Love Will Burst Into A Thousand Shapes, thankfully, doesn’t end there. The last poem, “The Lovers I Have Loved,” manages to integrate the sadness of the past while not allowing it to overshadow the beauty you still find the relationships that have passed and the lovers who have left you. It’s a delicate balance astutely achieved, as Hamilton ends the poem:
(we did not tarry, we did not root)
I still walk toward them
and lay my palm upon each cheek
a lover’s palm on lovers’ cheeks
All this to say: Love Will Burst Into A Thousand Shapes will probably wreck you. And probably haunt you. And probably make you cry. But that’s not to say there isn’t astounding beauty within and outside the despair and sorrow.” –Casey Stepaniuk, The Canadian Lesbrarian
see also goodreads.com
Painting the Baby’s Room Green
Hunger, Jane Eaton Hamilton, Oberon, 2002
The woman on the cover of this book is painted in vibrant tones of orange and red. Only one eye is visible, and it stares with an intensity that you feel might never quit. The other eye is obscured by her hands, clasped together in a vulnerable and disconcerting pose. And there, captured in the proverbial nutshell, are the stories contained in this excellent little collection. From the honesty, painfully contained and restrained, in “Accusation,” the opening story, where a woman tests the boundaires of her marriage when she draws her husband into her flirtation (read connection) with a younger man at work, to the closing story, from which the collection takes it title, where a manipulative lesbian lover physically and verbally intimidates her partner into staying with her, Jane Eaton Hamilton confronts the lies we may or may not choose to live with on a day-to-day basis.
Hunger is Hamilton’s fifth book, and the most assured foray to date into the genre by this multi-talented writer (she is a noted gardener and writer of poetry also). Her short stories have been nominated for numerous awards; they are included in anthologies; they have appeared in Best Canadian Stories and The Journey Prize Anthology, and in many literary journals, including The Fiddlehead. Hamilton has also been short-listed for the Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize. Hunger was a finalist in the Publishing Triangle Awards NYC 2003.
The stories in Hunger are superbly character driven; the characters we encounter are not always lovable. At times demanding and selfish, they are searching for something more than what they have, and for that we find them interesting, perhaps even admirable. Hamilton’s wry observations on the human condition are poignant, and can be quite witty when they deal with those unfortunate lovers who are about to be dumped. In the darkly tragic, therefore slightly comedic (seemingly inseparable states), take “Goombay Smash,” one half of a lesbian partnership is desperately trying to keep the relationship together, and she takes both herself and her partner off to a gay resort. On the first morning, at breakfast, she is watching the other—apparently happy and contented—couples around her and tries to identify a common element in their seemingly successful relationships. She comes up with the wild notion that matching hairdos may be the answer to true coupledom bliss:
Maybe this is how American lesbians celebrate their anniversaries, you think. Never mind paper, silver, gold: American lesbians have hair anniversaries. If they make it two years, they part on the same side, five years and they spike, ten and they bob. Twenty and they both wear buns in snoods.
“Psst,” you say. “Marg, look over there.”
Marg says, “What, Joyce?”
You point out the women with the waterfall hair and try and explain about hair anniversaries, and how the two of you should get matching buzz cuts, but Marg just frowns and goes back to scraping out her grapefruit with a stumpy-handled spoon.
One of the most original stories is “Lifeboat” which, with complete clarity, catalogues the less than comforting reactions of a husband whose wife has lost a breast to cancer. She refuses to do anything cosmetic to disguise this fact, a situation he finds alternately selfish and frustrating, or gutsy and admirable. His life is significantly altered by his wife’s experience with the disease and the cancer machine of support groups, alternative therapies and the ubiquitous cancer convention. The author pulls no punches in her exploration of the husband’s character, yet we can feel sympathy for this man who cries What about me? The end holds a moment of redemption; anyone who has been there, cancer wise—done that, worn the t-shirt—with any member of her family, will certainly recognize it, and anyone lucky enough not to have been there will surely recognize and appreciate the sense of loss—acutely juxtaposed with the feeling of hope—for what might yet be salvaged.
My particular favourite in this bunch of marvellous incursions into the depths and occasional heights of human experience is “Kiss Me or Something,” the story of a gay woman who falls for a straight woman, or, as I prefer to think of it, the story of a woman trying on different identities to see which one best fits her. Unfortunately, when people experiment with people, someone usually gets hurt along the way, and this story reveals just how deep that hurt can be. The betrayal of one woman is presented to the other as a gift, as something that will bring them both closer together. As the relationship heads toward disaster, it is painful to keep reading, yet read on we must, just as the two women must keep up the charade between them until the bitter end. We may wonder at the cruelty of one human being who willfully dupes another, and we further wonder at the capacity of human beings to dupe themselves:
How could I resist her? She kissed my cheek and my chin, small adorable kisses, and I folded my arms around her, pressed myself against her still taut stomach, groaned.
“Please,” she whispered. “I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.”
Now I knew who it was, I wanted Dorianna in a territorial way. I wanted to mark her, claim her, leave my scent on her. Drunk and confused and overcome by instinct, I felt like an animal. I pushed Dorianna down on her bed and made love to her like a beast, without taking off my clothes, lost in a haze of insane, itchy carnality.
An instinctive response to loss and betrayal, drawn with the kind of honesty that Hamilton is able to wield, her stories chronicle lives we may find uncomfortably familiar.
–Paula Thomas, Fiddlehead autumn 2003 No 217
Emma Donoghue, judge of the Ferro-Grumley Award: “Highly original, gripping, sharp and deepy moving”
“Most of the characters in “Hunger” – women and men, gay and straight – inhabit a world roiled by emotional turbulence. Love evades them; their relationships are disintegrating; partners betray them; their lives are defined mostly by loss, longing, confusion, uncertainty. In “Goombay Smash,” a Key West vacation meant to breathe new life into the dispirited domesticity of a lesbian couple instead disintegrates into days of wrong turns, crossed signals, long silences, and denied sex. In “Kiss Me or Something,” a lifelong lesbian disdains the cautionary fretting of friends, so sure is she that the once-straight woman who now proclaims a Sapphic love eternal will never leave her for a man. In this uniquely voiced collection, nothing about matters of the heart is easy, or obvious, or even settled. The magic of these 10 short stories, though, and of Canadian writer Jane Eaton Hamilton’s insightful, fluid – and often disarmingly witty – prose is that, in elegant, edgy fiction as in messy real life, sorrows of the soul are redeemed by a resilience of spirit.” —Richard Labonte
“Jane Eaton Hamilton is a superb writer. Those who know her deem her to be among the brightest lights on the Canadian literary landscape. Those who do not know this ought to read and judge for themselves. I wholeheartedly recommend her work.” –Joy Kogawa
“These stories will grab you by the throat and not let you go. Highly original, gripping, sharp and deeply moving, they deserve the prizes they have won, and those to come.” –Emma Donoghue
“Jane Eaton Hamilton is a fine and accomplished writer.” –Carol Shields
“Hamilton explores themes of longing and loss in the lives of lesbians, heterosexual men and women. …marvelously quirky. Hamilton successfully weaves humour with pathos in the lean, accomplished style reminiscent of short stories in the New Yorker.” —Nairne Holtz, University of Western Ontario
GOING SANTA FE
No luck locating reviews of this chapbook.
“Going Santa Fe is extradorinarilee accomplished n sew honest evree word adds n multiples nevr misses a beet unbelievable tendr strong n totalee reel sew liberating a book yu embrace with yr mind n yr heart.” –bill bissett
“There is joy in these poems, and a vibrant healthiness. Her poems are about many things we might like to call ordinary, but they’re written in a way that’s anything but.”–sub-TERRAIN
“Her poetry is often ribald, and sometimes it is frankly lewd–and how, these days, one welcomes a bit ofhonest lewdness.”–BC Bookworld
“Hamilton has an attractively skittish voice that lends the work a very individual cast. An accomplished collection.”–Books in Canada
“I was impressed by the amazing insights; an incredible rendering of the pain and joys of truly loving relationships.”–ARC
“Steam Cleaning Love, by J.A. Hamilton, is a passionate book. Many of the poems are fueled by a particularly female sexual fire. Articulated in a forthright way, they are honest and vulnerable. The speaker falls in love, breaks hearts, breaks her own, and takes great pleasure in the body’s capacity for sensing:
And we went on, somersaulting
our persistent luck.
How we came. We came to nourish
grafting ourselves by root,
wetting our faces
For Hamilton, the body is “an envelope” personal as a letter and capable of being opened in many ways.
Underlying the poems are the questions of how words and stories mean and what their effects are. The way that these lesbian poems fit into the category of ‘mainstream’ literature (if indeed such a category still exists) may signal a particular answer for this book: “Let Diane / tell you, using my tongue,” she says in “Rising.” These poems are not Hamilton’s confessions; they convey on a larger scale a story of lesbian life, and they do so in a way that readers outside of that experience will find familiar. Look at the way “The Proposal” speaks of the beginning of a relationship. The poem trumpets that the lovers involved are
Two women, two women. (I do,
but the kitchen table flicks
her sawhorses like garters.
Now love becomes sleight-of-hand,
a dialect of muscle and skin,
tang and fandango. We speak fluently:
we are starting to mean everything.
What happens to them, the dance in which they begin “to mean everything,” is the first steps of discovery we all take falling in love.”” -Jay Ruzetsky, Malahat Review
“…Hamilton knows how to forge tough language and difficult truths into poetry, and this collection includes many well-wrought and satisfying poems.
The first section, “How We Are Counted,” contains poems that are primarily centred on the body, with a smattering of poems on mysticism and betrayal. Some of these poems struck me as brave, particularly “Apology”: “Eventually I was the liar… I betrayed you easily / as rain falls, as earth thirsts, / my fledg-ling hunger / parting its beak / for the worm, for the for the kiss, / the satisfying thrust.”
Hamilton seems at her best when talking big poems with big subjects; some writers need the added weight of a big poem in order to really show some of their muscles, and this seems to be the case here. In “Barbara’s Garden,” written for a woman whose lover has died of cancer, Hamilton shows great facility with language: “the sky above Stanley Park feckled with stars, / the candles on our table unwavering…” The narrator imagines Barbara “listening for the vibration of life,” and “her articulate flight / through the thicket of the body.”
It’s in the third section, “Window Box of Bruises,” that many of the tough and hard-won poems rise up. “Rising” shows the narrator shadowed by her dead friend in “October, that hell month… Four weeks / of changing clocks, of sparklers / moaning on the streets. Let Diane / tell you, using my tongue, gibbling / her story with my larynx and these / ugly teeth.” —Sarah Van Arsdale, Lesbian Review of Books
“Reading [these poems] is like reading other people’s letters until, by the transforming magic good poems have, you discover they are all for you.” –Jane Rule
SUNDAYS ARE GREY, MONDAYS ARE YELLOW/NO MORE HURT by Ellen Prescott, pseudonym
a note: This book was republished by Random House in the UK in 2011 under the new title NO MORE HURT.
“A true story about Ellen’s discovery that her daughters were being sexually abused by their father. There are no arrests, no happy endings and no one gets “healed”. Instead, it’s a painful account of how the children are harmed and how communities respond to such accusations. At a time when so much focus is on convictions and criminals, I found this a moving reminder that the reality of these situations is much more complex” —Ros Coward, Observer
“The signposts are recognizable to those who are hiding within their untellable lives. Ellen Prescott courageously shares her traumas with us and makes the ground more familiar and therefore more safe for our walking; I applaud her journey. I’m grateful for Mondays are Yellow, Sundays are Grey.”–Joy Kogawa, author of Obasan
“Ellen Prescott writes with a literary flair that adds to the power of her story. You’d have to be anesthetized to put the book down.”–Toronto Star
“Mondays is well paced and excruciatingly well written.”–Quill and Quire
“This autobiographical work will terrify and inspire.”–Focus on Women
“A deeply moving and disturbing story.”–Regina Leader Post
“One of the most moving books either of us has read in a long time. The most poignant book to date about incest. Bitingly poetic and elegiac.”–Lesbian Review of Books
“This small book presents a shocking look at the nightmare of sexual abuse. It draws so many features of the experience into focus that it could substitute for years of learning from clinical interactions. … This book sensitizes the reader to many aspects of human behavior involving sexual abuse. I recommend it to anyone, including most physicians who deal with real patients in real life, who needs a better understanding of human responses to suffering.”–Willard Edwin Smith, BSc, MD, FRCPC, Department of Psychiatry, Saint John Regional Hospital, Saint John, NB
“This is an incredibly compelling book. I cannot remember a book that touched me as this book does.” —Jim Chapman, CKSL radio, London, ON
“I liked Mondays are Yellow, Sundays are Grey so much that I bought a couple of copies for my office and they are rotating amongst my clients. I’m sure that it will be of tremendous help to both survivors and mothers of survivors.” —Caren Durante, M.Ed.
“I was very impressed with the writer’s account and with her accomplishment of dealing with her own and her daughters’ abuse experiences. I appreciate your bringing this book to my attention.” Dr. J. Adler, Registered Psychologist
“I’m writing to tell you how much I admired and relished Mondays are Yellow, Sundays are Grey. I stayed in bed for 2 days and read it slowly. The story’s truth had my inner organs hiding behind each other, shifting all around. Having been abused as a kid myself, I was the victims; being a parent, I was the mother; being a man, I was the abuser. The critical me admired the smooth, unblinking text.” –a reader
“Thank you for writing about your experience. It helped me understand a lot about myself and my relationships to read about all of you. I have never read a personal account that so closely mirrored mine. I wish I had had a mother like you to hold me and comfort me and reassure me that not all life was pain. You’re a heck of a writer.” –a reader
“Does not read like a first book of poems.”–Canadian Literature
“We are moved and astonished that a first book of poems can exhibit such vitality and confidence”–Event
“Hamilton displays an impressive range in style and tone. There are moments of unbearable beauty.”–Whig Standard
“Throughout there are good lines, strong metaphors, a high level of skill.”–Toronto Star
“Jane Eaton Hamilton is not a poet content to whisper in your ear or take you on slow walks through pretty fields. She sits you down in her hardest chair; litters tacks on the floor about your naked feet, and holds you there petrified but alert as she speaks the body’s news.” –Leon Rooke
“These works ride the perilous ride the perilous border between prose and poetry–a place of timeless, breathless beauty. These are stories to be read again and again.”–Vancouver Sun
“A fine new òcollection, one that I highly recommend.”–Monday Magazine
“Hamilton makes captivity to her word-spirits seem, at times, preferable to mere liberty. To favour one story says more about oneself than about the writer.”–Prairie Fire
“This is a strong first collection that will leave readers eager to see Hamilton’s next.”–Quill and Quire
“A disturbing pleasure to read.”–Toronto Star
“Crisp and clean, tender and dangerous.”–Paragraph
Here is what I read to introduce July Nights at the BC Book Prizes, where I was a finalist:
“I didn’t have a clue what my book was about until my editor sent me the back cover copy. Then I said, Hey, it’s about families. That’s a) families. And then Donna Dunlop, writing in Books in Canada, called the stories “vaguely suggestive of symbolic or fabulist tales.” So that’s b) fabulist families. She went on to say they’re mad, as in crazy. “Madness enters in on little cat feet,” she said. So, c) fabulist families who are nuts, as in insane, and who have small feet. Martin Waxman in the Toronto Star said “the author is adept at portraying the nuances” in people’s lives. So, d) wacky fabulist families who can extend their toenails like daggers using lots of nuance And in Paragraph, Bev Daurio said “a sense of place is missing, as if the reader has been abandoned in a round room without windows.” So, e) cuckoo fabulist families with lots of nuance hissing and scratching their way through windowless rooms. And a woman named Paula Gillis wrote that the families in July Nights are “bizarre, twisted and unorthodox.” f) fruitcake fabulist families with lots of nuance twisting their ways through windowless rooms while bizarrely, unorthodox-ly, they grow hair on their feet. Gillis also noted July Night’s “unrelenting emphasis on women’s issues such as lesbianism and menopause.” So I’ll just give you g). g) July Nights is about fruitcake fabulist families with lots of nuance scratching for fleas while they twist their bizarre ways through windowless rooms, stop bleeding and start doing the dirty the gay way.”