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Friday, September 22, 2017

The One Memory of Flora Banks



"You always remember your first kiss. Flora remembers nothing else."
It all starts with the curious cover, then the inside pages filled with Flora be brave, to the back cover with numbers in all caps followed by one line like "SIX - People out there looking for me on the ice." The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr is an unusual story of a girl you just can't figure out, and no wonder, considering what she's been through.

A little bit reminiscent to me of the movie Groundhog Day, The One Memory of Flora Banks is about 17 year old Flora who has lost all the memories of the last 7 years of her life. So she writes reminders to herself on her arms and leaves Post it notes everywhere. She keeps a notebook of what has happened to her, and reads it and relives it everyday. 

The few people in her life consist of an over protective mother who wrote her own version of Flora's story for her to read as a reminder. Her dad goes along with whatever her mother says, and her brother, who she adores, is estranged from her parents and lives in Paris. Flora does have a best friend since childhood Paige, but not since she kissed her boyfriend. 

Flora's adventure begins with her kiss from Drake, which she remembers. She's convinced that since she remembers the kiss, that must mean her memories will return. Her obsessive quest to have Drake in her life takes Flora out of her physical and emotional comfort zone.  

Flora is always under estimated, particularly by her mother, but it's through her incredible journey that she discovers her strength from having to be brave.  

I enjoyed reading her story from her unique perspective, and rooted for her all along the way. When she achieved what she set out to do, I cheered for her big accomplishment. Then the confusing twist comes, showing nothing in Flora's world is straightforward. But clear cut would be quite dull. It all makes for an interesting novel. I'd like to read a Part II. 

I received The One Memory of Flora Banks in a GoodReads giveaway.

Until next time, 

Kara 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Love and Trouble


Seattle born writer Claire Dederer gives us a raw, clever memoir growing up in the hip grungy city.  

I'll start with what I can identify with, the first of which is letters. You know, going to the basement, rummaging through boxes looking for that girl you were. Finding those old letters, and pouring through them, looking for clues, something to make sense of how you became who you are now. Letters were the stuff of life. At mid life, it's about yearning to be young. 
I had diaries, later "journals", and know the feeling looking back: "All I write about is boys, boys, BOYS." Yep. That was the 80's. 

Dederer explains why she's so preoccupied with the man she kissed (not her husband). She describes obsession, and how obsessing over a man is more about her than him. I can appreciate her admitting it's not a case of "I love you", but "Love me." 

Finally, someone writing about the physical indignity of aging, not spouting unhelpful platitudes like grow old gracefully, and embrace your aging body. Dederer tells us don't gain weight past 42. (More like 35, truth be told.) 


Ask Facebook, called the oracle, and you shall receive answers. The need for people to open up and try to sound witty provided her with everyday answers to her question What don't you want to think about? in The, You know, Encroaching darkness chapter. 

I liked her approach in the Roman Polanski letters. She tried to see it from his point of view, not an easy task. Because most 13 year olds aren't sexual, she wanted to understand how he thought, what he saw. We learn more about Dederer's teen years, and why she thought so much about him and Samantha Gailey. 

Dederer is best with her descriptions. E
verything is described in such a natural, simple way that takes you right there. She details what her best movie kiss by Helena Bonham Carter and Julian Sands (Lucy & George) in Room with a View meant to her. That kiss is revolutionary, what she's been looking for, and is an agent of change, she explains. For me, that kiss was Matthew Modine and Linda Fiorentino in Vision Quest / Madonna Crazy for You video. Remember? 

Now, with what I can't relate to. 

All. That. Crying. How so many of her friends can cry so easily baffled me. I thought at the beginning of the book I wouldn't be able to get through it if there was going to be this continual sniffling fest. What was there to cry so much about? Is it all the rain? The grayness? The surroundings weren't described as beautiful, and climate can have an impact on our emotions. What got me though, was her adoring husband who is still passionate about her, and the (seemingly) happy marriage, yet not being satisfied. So much sadness. It wasn't until the fourth chapter when she started to detail all her real woman's issues that I began to understand Claire Dederer.

I would have liked to hear about the nude modeling. She dropped it on us to peak our curiosity, but then left it, and I was unsatisfied. 

Also I really hoped she left the Quark Basher's place with the Christmas newspaper cutouts on the wall, and didn't clean up the broken window & syringes.    

Those of us in "mid life" can find a sometimes fun, sometimes not so fun trip down memory lane in Love and Trouble.

I received Love and Trouble in a GoodReads giveaway.

Until next time, 

Kara 


Thursday, July 27, 2017

One Brother Shy


I had read Terry Fallis' Up and Down, so was pleased to receive his latest humourous book, One Brother Shy, which had an intriguing description. 

Who was Gabriel, this person who caused the huge, life changing, and socially isolating event in Alex? Why did Alex continue to work for his ridiculously impossible boss? Would he ever flirt back with his cute coworker? 

Fallis presented main character Alex as a mystery that I wanted to solve. I was curious to find out what caused his social anxiety. No, I NEEDED to know. Going through One Brother Shy, and seeing how unusual and wounded Alex was, I really hoped things would turn around for him.   

Alex tells his story in a simple, factual, yet amusing way, which is what makes up his personality. His witty tone adds a fun dimension to his character, helping me picture actors acting out the various scenes in the novel. One Brother Shy is a book that, if done right, would make a funny movie. Now I'm thinking about who would play Alex, hmmmm...

I got a chuckle out of his description of the silence after a coworker spoke up and said no to his crazy mean boss: "I thought I knew what true silence was. I'd already experienced it a few times in my life. Remembrance Day, of course. And during the pause I strategically placed in the middle of performing, not reciting, performing, one of Macbeth's famous soliloquies, in grade nine English class. (Incidentally, it was a tour de force.) And several years ago when my mother told me she'd been diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. But I was wrong. The silence that greeted Abby's pronouncement was so much more, um, silent, than anything I'd ever heard. (Or is it hadn't heard?) If a pin had dropped on the carpeted floor, it would have sounded like a car accident." 

So as to not give anything away, I won't say anything about what unfolds for Alex, but I will conclude by saying there are interesting characters that come along, and terrific twists to the story. Oh, and Gabriel was not what I expected! 

I received One Brother Shy in a GoodReads giveaway.

Until next time, 

Kara 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Suction black mask


Seeing those (gross) videos of blackheads being sucked off noses & chins, I knew a black mud mask was something I had to try! I searched & read reviews on Amazon.ca for a reasonably priced one that works, and decided to give LuckyFine Blackhead Cleansing Acne Peel-Off Face Mask a try.


I've been using it for several months now. As suggested, after cleansing, I left a face cloth soaked in warm-hot water on my face for more than 5 minutes first before applying. Not much of the shiny black "polish" is needed, it goes far. I've applied it on my entire face, and also just the T zone, keeping it on for 10 minutes total every time. It's easy to peel off, and yes, it does sting, especially on the cheeks, but I'm not that sensitive to mild pain, so I'm ok with it. Never have I seen the icky evidence we're all so fascinated with afterwards though. Not many blackheads, which are really white, have been sucked out like they are pictured. All I really see are super fine white hairs. So while this mask leaves my skin tight and soft, I don't believe it's removing white/blackheads as it should.     


They do warn that it will tear facial hair when peeling the mask off, so only use it on the nose. But for me, it was just those microscopic hairs it removed. 


$6 wasn't a big cost, but if you really want to see proof white/blackheads are removed, go for a more expensive brand. 


The claims are: 

  • More face care : Oil-control, anti-aging, acne treatment, pore cleaner
  • Cleaning : Cleaning out of dirt and cuticle effectively on face
  • Blood circulation : Improving the blood circulation of your face by this mask. Help to keep your face smoother and tender
  • Daily using : This great blackhead remover helps to remove stain or oil spots on your face with daily use
  • Note: Product is not suitable for sensitive skin and recommended that customers use the item on the hands or ears then to use on the face

Until next time,

~Kara 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Mr. Rochester


I get especially excited over a 400+ page novel. If it's captivating, I get to have much more of it, I don't have to let it go so soon. The synopsis of Mr. Rochester sounded intriguing and different, so I looked forward to starting this book by Sarah Shoemaker. 

Always an avid reader of modern literature, I never had an interest in historical fiction, so I haven't read Jane Eyre, the classic always on the top of required reading lists. My interest in Victorian literature didn't come until recently when I started The Sisters of Versailles series. 

Edward takes readers through it all: some of his young childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. His is certainly a fascinating life, not one you'd expect from a son raised on his wealthy father's estate. But what causes all the dramatic twists & turns in Edwards life is that he's not the fortunate first son but the unlucky second son. Nothing would be handed to him like it was with his brother Rowland, he would have to work for everything, as Edward was constantly reminded of by his harsh, cold father. 

With no mother in his life, as she died giving birth to him, his father constantly away on business, and an eight year difference with his brother, Edward, in his words, lacked love. I could feel his need for affection and sadness in his telling of the 8th birthday spanking/whipping he received from his only family there, his brother. It was on this day that he first learned how he would come to be told about all decisions regarding his life, by letter from his father, that he was being sent away to live with a tutor.  
I expected the worst for him in his four years at private school, but was relieved that he enjoyed the unconventional lessons, and developed lasting friendships with the two other boys.  

But when he was 12, a letter from his father with his next assignment advised him he will be moving again and working at a mill. His years acting as an apprentice at the mill were all in preparations for his eventual move to Jamaica, where he will take over his father's plantation. It was in Jamaica that Edward came to discover his father's biggest, most calculating and heartless arrangement he made for his life.  

What stands out about Edward throughout is how bound by loyalty and duty he is. He remained a dutiful son and son-in-law in spite of the deception. I felt such fury at his father, and couldn't believe how he just accepted his horrible situation. Just when you think he will put an end to being a pitied pawn, he carries on, brings his burden with him and returns to his childhood home in England. 

It's when Edward meets Jane that you start to think he's going to make his own choices, decide what he wants, and find true happiness. But even here the situation is far from easy, and he's presented with a dilemma. Towards the end of Mr. Rochester, the trauma is too much, and you think he's never going to get a break.  

It's constant chaos for Edward Rochester and his story would play out well on the big screen.    

I don't think it's necessary to have read Jane Eyre in order to read and get Mr. Rochester. In fact, having read Mr. Rochester has made me want to read Jane Eyre, especially to experience their conversations from her point of view.  

I received Mr. Rochester in a GoodReads giveaway.

Until next time, 

Kara 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Matter of Geography


What I really like about Jasmine D'Costa's writing is her vivid descriptions that take you right there. In the case of her latest novel A Matter of Geography, it's Bombay, India in the early 1990's.   

Math teacher Peter, who tells us his story, describes math as a world of definition, certainty & comfort. He explains "There must be a mathematical, numerical solution, some certainty to human behaviour." He takes comfort in thinking there must be a mathematical approach to everything, from the conflicts between the Hindus and Muslims, to love.  

The Billimoria compound where Peter and his family lived had the necessary assorted characters that make up fascinating funny anecdotes, such as the woman who wore 3 dresses at once. There was also the humorous tale of when some men bought chicks for an eggs supply, and how that turned out. 
The Marchon sisters, who always had "puppies" (guys) around them, were cause for much talk in the building. In explaining the sisters very provocative behaviour, D'Costa says "their destinies were defined far before they were born."  
I enjoyed the way the Hindu nationalist organization was described: "a bunch of bony men with flared khaki shorts, sticks and some unskilled exercise routines could do a better job than the Indian Army." 

Something memorable for me was the child parent perspective told by Peter, how children see things differently than adults. Kids look at their own shadow & with imagination, call it a plane, but moms look up in the sky with worry their child is seeing things.  

I could sympathize with Anna when she wrote in her diary about her father who couldn't afford a summer vacation every year to visit their grandfather, but would never admit that truth to his kids, instead, he blamed it on them, like they didn't get excellent grades. 
Also, he would give his kids choices, but there never actually were any. Like asking the children if they want a real cooked egg, or candy egg for Easter, but it always ended up being the fried egg, even though the kids chose candy.    

Such a straightforward explanation for intermarriages and the caste system was given by Dr. Apte, Peter's frequent forced visitor: "The tradition of marrying one's own caste is not as unscientific as you may think. The country has so many cultures, religions, languages, customs... Bad enough, marriage is a major adjustment, but if you have to adjust to more - language, religion, customs - the chance at success is really challenged."  

The heartbreak of the marriage proposal scene was felt, how Anna reacts to Peter discovering love, thinking love conquers all, and telling him the brutal truth, yet in a kind a way as possible. He said he'd protect her from being assaulted for being at a pub, and asked if Canada doesn't have such issues, too? 
Anna responded it's not the way it is for her (women, minorities) in Canada. Peter thought he could be free in Canada too, but Anna broke it down to him finally as " ...they (her parents) realize they came as immigrants and settled as exiles.That is survival, Peter. That is not living." Powerful stuff. 

I received my copy of A Matter of Geography from Mosaic Press. 

Until next time,

Kara

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The River at Night


Heroine Wini feels disillusioned with her graphic design job, and wondered how long she "forced the square of my creativity into the round hole of graphic design." She sarcastically, or perhaps realistically, says "I'd been whoring up the imperfect for a paycheck for so long I couldn't face the real anymore." Not being a fan of excessive photoshopping, I appreciate this. Having gone through some traumatic losses and needing to literally & figuratively get away, Wini reluctantly agrees to an adventurous girls weekend with her BFFs. 
The friends are divided between being either cautious or a risk taker, and it's interesting to see how they handle each other in the situation they find themselves in. 

I like the honest way Wini calls bullshit on Pia's claimed desire to get off the grid, thinking she doesn't need anyone or anything. She isn't afraid to be truthful about her friends addictions, saying "addictions to me felt adolescent at our stage in life as harsh and unfeeling as that sounds." Wini goes on to explain that loneliness, career obsolescence and midlife dread haunt her. With dying parents, divorces and problem teens, who had time for addiction, she wondered.    


Author Erica Ferencik painted the road trip scene quite well, starting in the big city of Boston, to their journey through smaller cities and country towns, then eventually to their remote, isolated destination. She did this with nameless stores which give the very bare bones descriptions. The friends knew they were in the boondocks with one name signs on stores: GUNS. FOOD. MOTEL.  


Things get complicated when they reach their destination to meet their guide, and then even further craziness ensues when they begin white water rafting, making for a captivating story. 


Keeping with the water theme, The River at Night flowed easily, and I found myself eager to follow along & find out what would happen next. I was kept on edge and enjoyed the twists that Ferencik gave us. 


I received my copy of The River at Night in a GoodReads giveaway. 


Until next time,


Kara 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Bubbly clay face!


Just what does a carbonated bubble clay mask do, I wondered? Face products with clay and black mud have become easily available now, so I thought I'd give this Milky Piggy one, by Korean company Elizavecca a go. 🥛🐷 It's described on Amazon.ca as a bubble mud pack that provides pore cleaning and black head removal. The clay looks rather lava like, and has the oddest feeling, like slippery tacky cold putty. 🌋
It expands in size, the bubbles grow as soon as you apply it, so you don't need to use a lot. The carbonation does tingle, and can feel a tad itchy, so I had to resist the urge to scratch! 


Here are the bubbles in action. A very puffy tingly mask!  

The carbonic acid and clay do their thing, massage the pores for 5 minutes. Then you splash water on your face, massaging it in for another couple of minutes, and rinse off. While it doesn't remove black heads, my face is left feeling very cleansed, tight, but not dry.
Overall, I'm quite pleased with this new fun product, for $13.50 it sure didn't break the bank, and does a great job at providing me a different type of cleanser for a change. 

Until next time,

Kara

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Oxi Clean Challenge




I used OxiClean™ MaxForce™ Foam Laundry Pre-Treater on my kitchen sheers that needed cleaning. I left it on some stains for at least a week, then washed them with the OxiClean™ Colour Shield Laundry Stain Remover Powder, and they came out like new. I also spot treated an ink stain which came out, and an old food stain on a sweater, which also removed it. I like the different format of it being a foam.

I did a load of laundry with OxiClean™ Colour Shield Laundry Stain Remover Powder and like the scent, it's not too overpowering or mild. I also soaked a filthy mop pad in hot water for many days and it did a great job of cleaning it. 
I got it free, received these products in the ChickAdvisor review club.

Until next time,

Kara

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Boom Chicka chocolate!


More tasty treats discovered! Boom Chicka Pop really is totally fantastic. I scored their dark chocolaty sea salt popcorn for 44¢ in another holiday markdown at Real Canadian Superstore (RCSS)! ♡ A chocoholics & bargain shoppers dream!  This sweet n salty combo works well.  Good quality chocolate is used, and the bit of salt adds a nice contrast. 

Which flavour of Angie's Holidrizzle is your favourite? Smiley Eating Chips Smiley Face, Emoticon


Until next time,

Kara

Friday, March 17, 2017

Lessons through Birds Art Life


Kyo Maclear takes us through a particular point in her life and gives us snippets into her thoughts all through when she went birding with a new friend. The author accompanied a musician/photographer Jack Breakfast (David Bell) for a year of bird watching in Toronto. I assumed she was either interested in learning about ornithology, the study of birds, or would take up bird photography. But in fact, many life lessons were shared with readers, including chapters on smallness, waiting, roaming and regrets. One that especially stayed with me was that big nature trips aren't always necessary. We can gain so much nature and wildlife from visiting city parks, marinas, patios and wooded trails.

I appreciate Maclear's descriptive passages and comparisons like spring roads in Toronto resembling a grey margarita mix and camp being an introverts nightmare. 

I know what Maclear means when she writes about her struggles with inactivity. She explains that she came to realize that a lull need not be filled with activity, some of it unimportant. Isn't it a goal for many of us to achieve a serene state of mind, and learn to embrace silence? We can learn much from our cats, who while they are hunters by instinct, they also really know how to bask in leisure. I envy my ginger tabby who gets such pleasure from napping for hours in a sunbeam.      

The author's description of living in a neighbourhood of incarcerated children is also something I can identify with. Quite often, especially in great weather, I wonder where are all the kids? I live near a grade school, yet only ever see kids walking home after school. It's not at all like where & when I grew up. You could always see children playing outside. Inside was reserved for snow storm days. Are 21st century kids experiencing nature, or just virtual realities?  

So Birds Art Life isn't about birding. It's more about what birds tell us about life. How observing birds, which is art, can give us life lessons.  Like when Maclear came upon the baby goldfinch that fell from the nest, and her automatic instinct was to care for it. Her dilemma is one that women often face. Do we make the nurturing, caring choice, or a practical, non sentimental one?  

What the peregrine falcon symbolized was of particular interest. In a grey concrete jungle, nature & beauty needs to be found in the burst of colours and flight of birds in among the buildings and downtown allies. It reminds me of in times of despair, notice collateral beauty. 

I received Birds Art Life in a GoodReads giveaway. 

Until next time,

Kara       

Friday, March 3, 2017

Chocolate egg nog? Yes please.


I MUST share this indulgent treat with fellow chocoholics & bargain shoppers. I had my eye on President's Choice chocolate egg nog, and luckily, I scored some after the holidays for a mere 25¢!  

It's not just for Christmas, this tastes like a decadent chocolate milk with cinnamon, which you can have at any time. You gotta love holidays markdowns at Real Canadian Superstore (RCSS). Also it's quite tasty mixed with favourites Kahlua or Bailey's for a boozy bevvy. Cheers to the freakin weekend!

Until next time,

Kara

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Peel off lip tattoo?

Missing from the lineup is Sweet Orange, which I gave to a friend.

A video for a new & different type of lip product, peel off lip stain/lip tattoo, appeared on Facebook and I was intrigued.  
I found a 6 pack (for $6!) of Romantic Bear Long Lasting Lip Colors on Amazon.ca
I experimented for awhile with these in order to see how they'd work best. For the most precise application, I use a cotton swab. The next important thing is to keep my mouth open for as long as possible after I apply it, otherwise, the stain won't set, it'll be sticky. It must be dry before I peel it off. Once it's dry, I close my lips tight & press hard so it will all come off on the bottom lip. Most of it does come off, but the bits that remain I rub into my lips, which does stain my finger (so remember to use a cotton swab for an unstained finger).
The 3 darker colours (Cherry Red, Sexy Red, Rose Pink) work better for me than the lighter shades. I mainly use it as a base, then apply lipstick or gloss on top. Even if I don't put on lipstick after it, my lips have colour.
It's good for before you're going out to a restaurant & don't want bare lips, but don't want to leave lipstick stains on cups, cutlery & napkins. It's also nice for wearing at home to have some colour.
For $1 each, this was certainly an affordable and fun purchase!

Until next time,

Kara

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Being extraordinary – Paris Undressed




6


“I can have an ordinary day or an extraordinary one.” Author Kathryn Kemp-Griffin said about what seeing her first French bra reminds her of.

When do you buy lingerie? For Valentine’s Day? A romantic getaway? A big date with a new lover? Your birthday, or even for your man’s birthday? We splurge on lingerie for special occasions. But the point made in Paris Undressed is that French women purchase and wear lingerie any and every old day, no special occasion (read: sex) required. Just as the French have a joie de vivre with food & drink, they do too with lingerie. It’s about being enveloped in luxury all the time, appreciating top quality against your skin, and loving yourself enough to feel pampered everyday.

Although in her comparisons, she refers to American women/consumers, I’d like to think Canadian born Kemp-Griffin meant to include Canadians too, so I will say North American women.  We’re all about the huge lingerie chains in North America, with the BOGO way of shopping. Personally, I don’t shop at “big box stores” for bras, because I don’t care for all those flimsy uncomfortable materials, and see the quality isn’t meant to last. But I admit to being too intimidated to walk into a small upscale shop. The happy medium I choose is department stores, and occasionally, online.

When you buy a new bra, do you also pick up the matching panty? Right – there is no matching panty. So many bras in North America are sold on their own.  We don’t (can’t?) match our underwear all the time. (Unless, of course, it’s a “special occasion” ) The French not only insist on matching, but consider it an art. French women wouldn’t dépareillé, mismatch, unless it’s purposeful and with great flair, as Kemp-Griffin explained.

 7

I enjoyed contemplating what effect the advent of feminism may have had on women’s underwear. Did we stop succumbing to the trappings of seduction at the cost of denying ourselves the pleasure of lovely lingerie? Simplicity took over in the 1970’s, and froufrou was frowned upon. Modern day boy shorts and granny panties are certainly non sensual names for underwear. Being so used to having no details or extras on tshirt bras, and keeping it simple & casual with seamless panties, it was interesting to read about fibres and lace, and their impact on the wearer.

I learned about sister sizes, and know now why my very good quality Calvin Klein bra that I bought in my usual size doesn’t fit. The idea of going through your collection and saying au revoir or bonjour is right up my alley. I’m one for, at the beginning of the year, clearing out. I have purged 8 bras! Now, to replenish with proper fitting beauties…

You have to love the French way of silhouette defining. They took away referring to our shapes as fruit like pears and apples, and instead gave us visually appealing names such as O for ooh la la and V for va va voom. It is helpful to read lingerie suggestions for every figure accompanied by Paloma Casile’s pretty illustrations in the aptly titled chapter Hide & Peek. There’s even a panty pattern for the creative design types, as well as a chapter on creating your own lingerie journal. To close the book, you’ve got a helpful expanded glossary, a French brands listing, and a guide to Parisian boutiques.

I felt like I was there on the walk Kemp-Griffin described in her first month in Paris, and could understand how she became involved in the world of lingerie. Kemp-Griffin’s company Paris Lingerie Tours provides tours of French lingerie boutiques to help women receive a “renewed sense of femininity, confidence and elegance.”

Give yourself a Valentine of Paris Undressed, and I’ll bet, the next thing you know, you’ll be revamping your lingerie drawer.

Be sure to enter the giveaway to receive your own copy!
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I received my copy of Paris Undressed The Secrets of French Lingerie by House of Anansi Press Inc.

Until next time,

Kara

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Bawdy: Five women’s stories

bawdy-image


“You can call me Honey.”

“I’ll call you whatever you want me to, Honey. Now let’s get to business.”

Honey just stood, almost in a trance dreading what the next twenty minutes was going to be like. She hated herself right now. She hated this man. She hated all men who thought that a quick romp with a young hooker was going to make them feel better about themselves. But who was she to judge? 
She had only been doing this for a few months, but it felt like a decade. Nothing had gone as planned since she left the Rez. She was so cocky and arrogant when she left. She was going to make it. She was going to be different. Now she was just another goddamn statistic; another failed Indian.
Vancouver was sucking her soul out. Such a beautiful city with such an ugly underbelly. She missed the trees, she missed the land. Mostly, she missed her mother and brothers.”

That excerpt is from Bawdy: Five women. 5 stories. I spoke with author J. Afton Forde about the sordid subject matter and her reasons for choosing to write about it.

Books and Brands:  Is this your first novel? Why did you choose the topic of prostitution?

J. Afton Forde:  Yes it is (first published). The topic was chosen for 2 reasons.  I was interested in the debate that was going on between the City (of Toronto), the police and public around this issue.  The police were not charging the prostitutes, as many of the cases were being thrown out.  The city was talking about a red light district or legalizing brothels.
It begged the question, is either option opposed on a moral level or on a legal one?  By controlling this industry are you making it easier for women to get into ‘the trade’?  I wanted to know more.  As well, I had a friend when I was in my early twenties who became an escort. I was appalled and thought she could do much better with her future, but she made a choice, and it ended our friendship.

B&B:  Are these women’s stories non-fiction or reality based fiction?

JAF:  I spoke with at least 45 active prostitutes, escorts and a dominatrix over 2 years, gathering their stories anonymously.  Every story and woman in this book is real.

B&B:  You said the women you spoke to trust no one – how did you get them to open up to you, or why did they choose to speak with you and share their, in many cases, horribly abusive stories?

JAF:  It took time and repeat discussions, meetings over coffee and email. I could not pay them for their time, but once I explained I was not mocking what they do and simply wanted the truth, they opened up, slowly.  

B&B:  It’s challenging not to have judgments about women who willingly work in the sex industry – you said you had your own preconceived notions/stereotypes. What were some things that you learned from the women that shattered any stereotypes, or caused you to think of them in a different way?

JAF:   That they are like every woman.  They have bills to pay, lives to upkeep.  They want a place in the world and to be loved.  Nothing anyone can say to them will ever be worse than what their families or friends have already said.  I really expected them to be from marginalized families.  Some were, but many were not.  They were from the suburbs and had a very typical upbringing.  The only common factor was the ability for a man to undermine them emotionally, then exploit them.

B&B:  From your research, did you find that prostitution is not hard to miss, is rampant in Toronto, or is it a small, hidden industry?
         
JAF:   It is less visible in terms of driving around and seeing the girls on the street. Kingston Road was notorious a few years back for the girls being out on the street.  Church and Wellesley was also well known.  With the yuppification and gentrification of many of these areas, they have been pushed out.  A lot of it is now on-line (just look at the back of Now Magazine) or in private events – that is the norm now.  About 20 years ago, Bloor West residents marched and took photos of the John’s license plates until the hookers left. Queen West was also quite bad (I lived there at the time) in the 80’s.  It has moved father west into Parkdale since the Hipsters took over Queen and Dufferin.  Who you see on the streets are mostly addicts with no protection.

B&B:  After the brutal acts committed against Glory, one assumes she wouldn’t want to have anything to do anymore with selling sex, yet she doesn’t run from it, but becomes further involved. What did that tell you about the choices she felt she had, or the realization she made that she could cash in on prostitution in a bigger way?
  
JAF:   It is all she knows.  People tend to hover near the familiar.  It is why women tend to select abusive mates when they have experienced the same abuse at the hands of a father or parent.  They know how to work with it, it is familiar.  It may be wrong and it is a destructive pattern, but they often don’t know how to handle what some may call a ‘normal’ relationship.  Glory made horrible choices.  She heard the voices in her head telling not to do things, yet she did them anyway.  She never had the advantage of anyone guiding her in a positive way, or providing her with the tools to deal with these situations.

B&B:  How much of your own self or view point comes through in your writing? 

JAF:   I am in here too.  I know what it is like to grow up under the dark cloud of alcoholism and abuse. I have seen first hand family members spiral downwards and make the same self-destructive choices again and again.  I enjoyed adding some eccentricities and –isms here and there to try to add some depth to the characters.
  
B&B:  What do you have planned next, are you working on something now? 

JAF:   Bawdy is actually the 2nd book I wrote.  The first one ‘Sisters’ was put onto the back burner when I got consumed by Bawdy.  Sisters dove-tails into Bawdy, but is not as heavy handed.  It is about a woman (Jos, from Dawson City in Bawdy) who is at a breaking point in her life, wins the lottery and …. Well, you will have to wait for it to come out in 2017. 

Bawdy: Five women. 5 stories is available on Amazon.com in Kindle Edition. I received my copy of Bawdy from author J. Afton Forde.  

Until next time,

Kara