You know her as half of the Canadian indie pop sensation, Tegan and Sara, and along with her twin sister, Sara Quin is also the co-author of their upcoming memoir, High School. (Pre-order it here and pre-save the accompanying album, Hey, I’m Just Like You, here.) Told in alternating chapters, their disarmingly frank account evokes this uniquely awkward, charged and very tender time, when you’re still trying to figure out who you are, what you stand for, and whether or not you’ll be able to sneak into that rave on Saturday night. (Trigger warning, parents!) But these kids will be (quite) alright, emerging from their occasionally fraught formative years in Calgary to become the lauded songwriters, musicians, and LGBTQ icons they are today.
I'm happy to report that Tegan and Sara are also unabashed bookworms, something that will be obvious when you read Sara wax eloquently about some recent favorites here:
Outline by Rachel Cusk
The truth is that I struggled to pick my favorite book or writing from Rachel Cusk. All three novels in her Outline series are fantastic, and I’ve reread each of them first with passion and then again with a studious eye. For me there is the lonely, yet pragmatic, keen observational protagonist that appeals to me deeply. But also, a woman traveling, forever on the receiving end of looping conversation with strangers. I find her writing extremely romantic.
What I’d most like to include on this list, is a piece of her writing from the New York Times Magazine: "Making House: Notes on Domesticity." It is a perfect piece of writing about the struggle of making a home and living it in comfortably.
“Like the body itself, a home is something both looked at and lived in, a duality that in neither case I have managed to reconcile. I retain the belief that other people’s homes are real where mine is a fabrication, just as I imagine others to live inner lives less flawed than my own.”
Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro
Jamie Quatro’s novel about devotion, longing, lust and god was impossible to put down. I read it in one giant gulp. While male writers are given ample opportunity to write about these ideas, it still feels rare and thrilling when women do.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Everything Jesmyn Ward has written has haunted me afterward. Unblinking, brutal, heartbreaking stories. Her writing feels both modern and like something from a masterpiece that every student is meant to read in high school or college.
The Topeka School by Ben Lerner
I love a hook, a melody that on first listen gives you goosebumps, or makes your stomach lurch up to your throat. Sometimes I hear one and I think, “that is a smash,” and then settle in to envy that I didn’t write the song myself. That was the feeling I had reading The Topeka School. I couldn’t help but compare our memoir because both books center adolescence and high school at their core. While Ben writes dazzlingly about masculinity and violence and the bubbling rage of teenage boys, I thought about the way we wrote about the paralysis and fear of being a queer girl in that same kind of world. While his boys turn their rage outward, we focused our violence inward, on the most tender parts of ourselves. Ben’s writing opens a door to understanding something about my own experience of those adolescent years. He sheds light on the parents and teachers whose complicated lives indelibly haunt our own, in ways we don’t realize until we become adults. It seems much of our public conversation revolves around what to do about and with men, The Topeka School is a thrilling response. All of that to say, I think Ben’s book is a smash.
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