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February Books

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February 28, 2010

February Books

Essays on queer parenting, and a seductive new cookbook

by Megan Stewart, JD Drummond

And Baby Makes More: Known Donors, Queer Parents and Our Unexpected Families
Susan Goldberg and Chloe Brushwood Rose, eds
Insomniac Press: Toronto, 2009.

Queer people have long fought to overcome a collective sense of invisibility, but queer parents are all the more likely to be lost or ignored in complicated networks of chosen family, partners, sperm donors and surrogates. The stories in this collection are loud and inspiring examples of courage, creativity and love in queer parenting. I knew these people existed somewhere—the queers who make their dreams of babies and families come true, in the queerest of ways.

The experiences shared in this book are sweet, well-meaning stories of struggle and pride, and they deserve to be heard. Located beyond the standard categories of parents, donors or "alternative family networks," queer parenting must be acknowledged as something inherently unique. And first-person narrative prose is the best way to capture these experiences.

However, the focus on personal narratives leaves some threads only partially explored. Common themes emerge through many of these stories, such as the need to challenge mainstream conceptions of the family, and the subsequent limitations of language to describe family roles and relationships. Many of the authors engage in the same search for non-biological links that hold their relationships together. They need new language to describe their family. This project—finding words to fit our experiences and creating new words where there were none before—is queer in itself.

If queer is about making space for difference, acknowledging the fluid, shifting and inter-sectional nature of identity, and being ourselves in the world, then the stories shared in this collection are not only about queer as an identity category, but more about living queer. Queerness extends beyond your intimate life and the identity of your partner; it materializes in the structure of your social and family circles, how you conceive your children, how you parent and the people you parent with. Despite my desire for a more in-depth exploration of themes brought up in these stories, this book succeeds in the most urgent of its aims: creating a space for these stories to be heard.

—JD Drummond  

Wisewoman’s Cookery: Food, Sex, Magic and Merriment
Shannon Loeber and Mary Elise Edwards
Shannamar Publishing House: North Vancouver, 2009.

This is a sexy book.

Almost every page in this aphrodisiac cookbook features an image of nude bodies, flower petals like a woman’s flesh, and food pics you can almost lick.

The authors self-published this guide to folklore erotica and also grew the vast majority of the herbs, spices and vegetables in their North Vancouver gardens. The recipes are theirs and the research is extensive.

I love what these women have done—through each ingredient, they’ve found a way to tell the story of a powerful, sensuous and creative woman with a reputation as a smut-lover who rocked in the sack. They introduce us to Veronica Franco, a 17th century Venetian courtesan, as a way to play up the carrot, a household phallic symbol Wisewoman trumps as a tool for self-love and muscle conditioning. (And the carotenoids that give the carrot its colour are antioxidant.)

And then take the plum. A pert, late-summer stone fruit that looks and feels like bum cheeks, the plum reached Europe from Persian orchards on the spice trails ruled by Alexander the Great. Wisewoman introduces legendary men of history and literature to elevate the women standing behind—and laying with—them. Alex, for example, was wanted by all the regal Macedonian wenches, but he lusted after Roxana, a noble from across the Mediterranean Sea who conquered his loins, heart and kingdom. It’s not like she seduced him with plums, but the story behind the man allows the authors to tell us about a woman and a fruit, both with sex appeal.

Oh, and on the pages dedicated to the plum and a recipe for plum liqueur, there is a pleasantly soft-core etching of two people fucking.

As appealing and arousing the content, the packaging of this book doesn’t always do it justice. I hate to rag on typography, but the font is coarse and thick—it needs to be much more elegant and pleasing to the senses. The awkward and text-bookish footnotes that follow lines of poetry, classic artwork, and passages from various myths and legends are distracting. The treatment is stuffy and in utter contrast to the relaxed, open-minded and experimental content.

An element of new-age and sage hippie surrounds Wisewoman, who delivers a message to find pleasure in our bodies and the natural world around us. Will I work my way through the recipes for raspberry sex tonic, blackberry body syrup, love-apple seduction or spiced nuts? Maybe one day... For now, reading about the food is enough to enlighten and stimulate.

—Megan Stewart

JD Drummond is a researcher, writer and artist who is almost finished her Master's of Social Work thesis focusing on sexuality, gender and disability.

Megan Stewart is an independent journalist in Vancouver, where she is completing her graduate degree at the University of British Columbia.

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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