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Conversation Starters

So, it’s the festive/holiday season, and it’s possible-to-likely that at some point you’ll find yourself in a room with friends, family and strangers who upon learning that you’re a book lover will ask you what you’ve been reading. Why not offer them a taste? Here are a few passages from recent books that are sure to keep the conversation going and deepening, long past the expiration date of the wilting paper plate in your hand.

“Blame the microscope I got for Christmas when I was about thirteen. This gift from my parents was less a scientific instrument, I quickly realized, than a way of seeing everything as if for the first time. Ordinary, everyday things—the cuticle of my thumb, a drop of pond scum—looked alien upon closer scrutiny, with unmapped mountain ranges and nameless oceans swarming with life.” — from Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road by Kate Harris (HarperCollins Canada)

“I loved how Selah remained attentive to popular things while I made up theories for them. Selah ignored me. She said how old-fashioned I was, how out of time, how queer. She was right. I know I am out of time. Everything about our different tastes made me question why we were together, but I still ignored this question.” — from Theory by Dionne Brand (Penguin Random House)

“When I go to another city, I lie / to my company / and visit a mall / to look at people / who live in that place / and who choose to meet / there.” — from “Parents Poem” from Port of Being by Shazia Hafiz Ramji (Invisible Publishing)

“[An] ordinary thirst was brought on by the thick sweet of the cake, and so I stood and moved towards the nearby tap to get us both a glass of water, encountering a woman on her way to do the same thing. … We reached the tap at roughly the same time. I hesitated out of a politeness, and this very gesture seemed only to irritate her. She shouldered herself in front of me, and when filling her glass of water, she half turned to explain, ‘I was born here. I belong here.’” — from I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You: A Letter to My Daughter by David Chariandy (Penguin Random House)

“I’d lodged the dare in the spirit of carefree abandon, but it hung heavy in the air, loaded with the weight of its implications. My words seemed suspended just beyond my lips. Their lingering evoked in Becky the kind of resignation she needed to pull off this stunt like the seasoned meeter-of-dares she claimed to be.” — from “The Mouths of Babes” from This Keeps Happening by H.B. Hogan (Invisible Publishing)

“To fill in the time at work, I began to take photos of myself with different emotions to see what I looked like when I was sad, happy, surprised, etc. They all kind of looked the same. I began to organize them in folders labelled sad, happy, surprised, etc. I took the photos every day to see if they were different and put them in a hidden folder on my computer titled ‘Progress.’” — from “Progress” from Everything Is Awful and You’re A Terrible Person by Daniel Zomparelli (Arsenal Pulp Press)

“I stretch to the sky / with my fingers / open wide. / I sprouted!” — from They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki (Groundwood Books)

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