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Junction Reads

A Prose Reading Series.

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Hard stories make big hearts

Ivan Baidak comes to Junction Reads on Sunday October 2 at 5:00pm EST. On Zoom.

I was at the Guernica Editions launch for Ivan Baidak’s novel, (In)visible, on September 18, and was so moved by his introduction to the reading. He talked about the almost 2 million Ukrainians who live with disabilities and that the majority of them live indoors, away from the public’s gaze. They live in fear of being seen, being mocked and feel safer indoors.

As the mother of a kid with a facial difference, this was hard to hear. There have been many times in his life that I felt we shouldn’t go outside, especially when he was very young and had spots all over his face from laser surgery. But we went anyway; we went shopping at IKEA where he played with other kids in the ball area; we went to the park where kids could see him and he went to school. We did this for no other reason than he deserves to live like everyone else. I didn’t think about the other side of it until years later when my very young niece told her best friend (who was staring at her cousin’s port-wine-stained face), “Don’t worry, after a while you won’t even notice.” She was right. The more people hang out with him, the more they see he’s loving, caring, empathetic and funny as hell. The more they see him, the less they see the birthmark because he is more than his face. My kid needs to be seen; people with disabilities, both visible and invisible, need to be seen.

In the first section of Baidak’s novel, the characters, who are members of a support group for individuals with visible differences talk about their reactions to people staring and inquiring. Anna, a character with a large hemangioma on her cheek says, “I wish they didn’t notice us at all…or rather ignored us.” Eva says, “I usually joke about it. Whenever someone asks me about patches on my skin, I pretend I have no idea what they’re talking about. Patches? What Patches?” The conversation turns when the group’s facilitator says, “Don’t be hard on others. They might just need a bit more time to get used to you.” This upsets Eva, who is angry she can’t ever hope to make a good first impression and that no one will ever fall in love with her at first sight.

This is the heart of the story, for me. We live in a world where our physical bodies, our faces, our hair and how we move in the world, are judged at first sight. Unless my son decides to hide inside, the images he shares on social media will be commented on by those who will see his birthmark first, and then, hopefully notice his beauty. This world is exponentially more difficult for him and for people with visible disabilities because the first impression will always include their differences. What I like about Baidak’s novel is, his characters are allowed to speak their own experiences and share their own opinions about what they should be doing and what the general population should be doing.

This novel explores the experiences of four characters with visible differences. From Tourette’s to alopecia to a facial hemangioma and vitiligo, Adam, Marta, Anna and Eva confront their own fears and trepidations as they move toward a new place in their lives. They are each courageous and confident as they learn “patience and resilience” on their journeys of self-discovery.

In the final chapter, Adam says: “Each of us is fighting our own battle…Whenever I meet someone for the first time, I feel like I’m opening a new book. I am not familiar with this person’s story…but I know…they might be struggling with something…So, I try to be kind to them.” We need more books like (In)visible in the world. We need more people to see others as they hope to be seen. We are all struggling. We come “in many different shapes and forms” and it is only when we look beyond the book cover – beyond the faces and bodies – that we will understand each other. I cannot say enough how important it is for people with differences to live inside the books we read. At the reading, before Ivan stopped talking, my son said, “I need his book.” He wanted – he needed – a book that spoke to his own experiences. Ivan dedicated the book to Duncan with the words: “Hope you have a wonderful life.” Isn’t this what we should want for everyone?

I hope you will join us on October 2, but in the mean time, please read Ivan’s book. Find resources and follow groups and individuals on social media.

Suggestions: AboutFace Canada an excellent group for individuals and families living with facial difference. Face Equality International, an organisation of many fighting for face equality as a human rights issue. Tourette Canada, a fundraising and support organisation raising awareness. The Canadian Skin Patient Alliance, “a national non-profit organization that improves the health and wellbeing of people across Canada affected by skin, hair, and nail conditions through collaboration, advocacy, and education.”

Featured post

…some form of April hallelujah 

“Spring is made of solid, fourteen-karat gratitude, the reward for the long wait. Every religious tradition from the northern hemisphere honors some form of April hallelujah, for this is the season of exquisite redemption, a slam-bang return to joy after a season of cold second thoughts.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

It has been said that April is the cruelest month, but I do not, I cannot, have faith in such a statement. It’s kicked off with laughter (if your foolish joke lands) and it ends with a very real promise of warm sun on your face (not like the now you see it, now you don’t sunshine of March).

April at Junction Reads is going to be great. We’ve got Cary Fagan joining us for #TheFirstThirty with GREAT ADVENTURES FOR THE FAINT OF HEART (follow us on Instagram for more details). Stephen Henighan returns on Sunday April 10 with THE WORLD OF AFTER and Edith Blais joins us with her incredible memoir, THE WEIGHT OF SAND.

This month, we’ve got two very different books to talk about and we cannot wait.


On April 10, Stephen Henighan returns to Junction Reads with his latest novel, THE WORLD OF AFTER. It might make you think about an April Fool’s joke that went horribly wrong and it might make you think about those important friendships you once had, but that ended or fizzled out.

Stephen has published several novels, short stories, and non-fiction titles. “For his fiction Stephen has won the Potter Short Story Prize and a McNally-Robinson Fiction Prize.  For his non-fiction he has been a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Canada Prize in the Humanities, a National Magazine Award and a Western Magazine Award.”

From Cormorant Books: “When Kevin, an Irish Montrealer, attends graduate school at Oxford University in the early 1990s he meets Leon, a London Jew from a Communist family, and Alex, a Soviet defector’s son raised in Toronto. As the trio begins to form a complex and conflicted friendship, Alex pulls away and spends more of his time tutoring a charming, yet troubled, upper-class undergraduate and less of it with Kevin and Leon. In a fit of jealousy, Kevin and Leon play a prank on Alex and the undergrad, a prank with dire consequences.

Ultimately, the three young men go their separate ways, but what happened that night binds them together and helps lead them to freedom and self-discovery in a post-Cold War world.”

You can register for the event today. PWYC. All proceeds to the author. All attendees are entered into a raffle for a chance to win a copy from Cormorant Books.

This reading is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and The Writer’s Union of Canada Public Readings Program.


On April 24, we will meet Edith Blais, who will share a reading from her incredible memoir about her kidnapping and 450 days of captivity and her incredible escape in March 2020. In The Weight of Sand, “Edith Blais describes her harrowing hostage experience for the first time—and reveals that writing poetry in secret helped save her life.

Edith recounts the prolonged terror of her months as a hostage, enduring violent sandstorms, constant relocations, grueling hunger strikes, extreme isolation, and the unpredictability of her captors. She also shares the luminous poems she wrote in secret with a borrowed pen, which became a lifeline of creativity and one of the few possessions she smuggled out in her escape, strapped to her leg under her clothes.”

From Greystone Books:Edith Blais is a chef and self-taught writer and artist who chooses to lead a simple life. In 2019, she and her traveling companion, Luca Tacchetto, were taken hostage by an Islamic militant group in the Sahel region of Africa. Her writings during her fifteen months of captivity became the basis for her first book. Edith escaped her captors in March 2020 and currently lives in Sherbrooke, Quebec.”

You can register for the event today. PWYC. All proceeds to the author. All attendees are entered into a raffle for a chance to win a copy from Cormorant Books.

February is for flying!

We’re at the worst of winter. Shorter days, mean longer nights, it’s cold where I am, and it’s about to get colder. Every morning, when I see the sun shining through the window, I imagine, maybe it’s not that cold. I dream of warm spring rain falling and carrying it away. When I flick on the stove, I think about sitting by a roaring fire in a big cottage somewhere. I go online and search beach vacation and I just look at the stock photos of people running in the sand, frolicking in the water.

What is her point, you might be asking? Well, my point is that winter is for dreaming. Winter is for sitting in your favourite chair and imaging another world. I’ve said it before (maybe even in my last post), winter is for reading! And because winter is for flying and traveling around the world, we’ve got two PERFECT books to talk about this month.


Join us on February 6 when we welcome Lindsay Zier Vogel with her epistolary novel, LETTERS TO AMELIA from Book*hug Press. Register through our EventBrite page. PWYC. Tickets are $0-$20. All proceeds go to the author.

“Grace Porter is reeling from grief after her partner of seven years unexpectedly leaves. Amidst her heartache, the 30-year-old library tech is tasked with reading newly discovered letters that Amelia Earhart wrote to her lover, Gene Vidal. She becomes captivated by the famous pilot who disappeared in 1937. Letter by letter, she understands more about the aviation hero while piecing her own life back together. When Grace discovers she is pregnant, her life becomes more intertwined with the mysterious pilot and Grace begins to write her own letters to Amelia. While navigating her third trimester, amidst new conspiracy theories about Amelia’s disappearance, the search for her remains, and the impending publication of her private letters, Grace goes on a pilgrimage of her own.”


On February 20, we welcome Cheuk Kwan with his collection of essays, HAVE YOU EATEN YET? In this collection, Kwan takes us on his documented journey to Chinese restaurants around the world. Published by Douglas & McIntyre. Register at EventBrite. PWYC. Tickets are $0-$20. All proceeds go to the author.

“From Haifa, Israel, to Cape Town, South Africa, Chinese entrepreneurs and restaurateurs have brought delicious Chinese food across the globe. Unravelling a complex history of cultural migration and world politics, Cheuk Kwan narrates a fascinating story of culture and place, ultimately revealing how an excellent meal always tells an even better story. Dotting even the most remote landscapes, family-run Chinese restaurants are global icons of immigration, community and delicious food. The cultural outposts of far-flung settlers, bringers of dim sum, Peking duck and creative culinary hybrids like the Madagascar classic soupe chinoise, Chinese restaurants are a microcosm of greater social forces—an insight into time, history and place. From Africa to South America, the Jade Gardens and Golden Dragons reveal an intricate tangle of social schisms and political movements, offering insight into global changes and diasporic histories, as the world has moved into the 21st century.”

December Readings

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, summer reading has nothing on winter reading. Curling up in a chair with a cosy blanket and a comfy pillow, I can’t wait to finish A GOOD NAME from Yejide Kilanko. I am a short story super fan and Frances Boyle brings our first collection of the season, SEEKING SHADE.

You can register now for both events. As always, you have the chance to win your very own copy of the books. Thanks to the publishers for supporting our events with these great raffles! Pay what you can in support of our authors. See you there!

December 5Yejide Kilanko joins us with her novel (and fabulous eyeglasses!). A GOOD NAME from Guernica Editions is a must read. I’m about half way through and the tension is incredibly taut. 

“Twelve years in America and Eziafa Okereke has nothing to show for it. Desperate to re-write his story, Eziafa returns to Nigeria to find a woman he can mold to his taste. Eighteen-year-old Zina has big dreams. An arranged marriage to a much older man isn’t one of them. Trapped by family expectations, Zina marries Eziafa, moves to Houston, and trains as a nurse. Buffeted by a series of disillusions, the couple stagger through a turbulent marriage until Zina decides to change the rules of engagement.”

December 12: Frances Boyle comes to Junction Reads with her collection of stories from The Porcupine’s Quill. 

“In Seeking Shade, ordinary situations are imbued with extraordinary emotion as women and men explore identity and independence, navigate complicated relationships and confront the fallibility of mind and body.

A reckless young woman dances through the Second World War—and through the lives of many a man in uniform. A graduate student considers a popular film and revisits a past tragedy as she watches flames devour her apartment building. A hardworking man struggles to come to grips with his own helplessness at three stages of enforced quietude. A wife and mother questions her health—and her sanity—when she is plagued by phantom pains and visions of ghostly twins.”

February 22nd at 3030 Dundas West

We are excited to finish our first year with a great line up. 3030 is a super venue with a fantastic menu and delicious indie beers on tap. The Junction just happens to be the coolest place in Toronto to live and work.

Hope we see you there! 4-7pm 3030 Dundas West, Toronto.

February 22, 2015

Aggrey Sambay

Ron Schafrick

Peter Norman

Nancy Jo Cullen

Michael Winter

We will be off the month of March and will return April 26th.

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