Reviews

WEEKEND

“The Book” of 2016. After Ellen

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8 Lesbian BDSM Novels to Curl Your Toes (and Maybe Melt Your Heart) Autostraddle

#1) on Prides 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

Eight #CanLit Authors Who Write about Survivors and Trauma

Books by Queer Vancouver Authors for Everyone on Your Holiday Shopping List

Virginia Centre for the Book LGBTQ Reading List

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

Book Riot

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”

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Battery (story), winner of Lit Pop 2015

“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

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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.”

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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

see also goodreads.com

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HUNGER

BiblioWomenAuthors, Hunger

Review of Hunger

Absinthe Review, Hunger

“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 Saphhic 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

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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

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STEAM-CLEANING LOVE

Books in Canada, Steam-Cleaning Love

Malahat Review, Steam-Cleaning Love

“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
and strengthen,
grafting ourselves by root,
wetting our faces
and thighs
with gladness.

(“Jitterbug”)

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

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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.

Canadian Medical Association, Mondays are Yellow, Sundays are Grey

Reviews Mondays are Yellow

“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

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BODY RAIN

“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

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JULY NIGHTS

“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.”