Monday, March 30, 2015

NOW READ THIS! Ten Amazing People Talk About the Amazing Books They Love, Part A (MF GALAXY 019)

On the previous episode, we heard all about the controversial Bradford Reading Challenge. It shouldn’t be controversial at all, of course. Author, tech-reviewer, and fandom activist K. Tempest Bradford suggested in an opinion piece that readers should branch out beyond the extremely typical, self-imposed restriction of straight, White, able-bodied, and presumably English-speaking male authors.

That’s right: thanks to the educational and media systems and cultures of Canada and the United States, that author category is default for way, way, way too many readers.

So how about, said Bradford, for one year, open up your minds and eyes to encounter the whole universe of writers beyond? To hear all about the outrageous and even vicious backlash Bradford got for suggesting people read books to make themselves happy, download episode 18 of MFGALAXY from iTunes.

But tonight, let’s pick up the Bradford Reading Challenge ourselves, and hear suggestions from:

  • Canada Reads host Wab Kinew
  • Public Enemy leader Chuck D
  • Comedian Darryl Lenox
  • Science fiction scholar Lisa Yaszek
  • Graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang
  • Medical activist Dr. Geoffrey Anguyo
  • Actors Clark Johnson, Clarke Peters, Denis Simpson, and Levar Burton

You’ll notice that almost all those guests are male, and you are about to observe that almost all of will discuss books that men wrote. And that’s yet another example of why the Bradford Reading Challenge is so important. I personally need to read work by more women authors--and I’m happy to say I have several fascinating interviews coming your way in the near future with Nalo Hopkinson and NK Jemisin--but I definitely need to grow, too.

So please, instead of cursing the fart, open a window and let in some fresh air. Post your reading recommendations for work by women writers, coloured writers, Indigenous writers, queer writers, or writers with disabilities right here in the comments section on and the MFGalaxy Facebook group.

Say the title and author and why you loved the book so much. If you like, include a picture of yourself holding the book, or shoot a quick webcam video telling us about your choice!

The three most interesting entries will get each winner a copy of any of my novels--winner’s choice--and you can read all about those on and also watch all the handy-dandy videos including the snazzy cinematic book trailers.





Monday, March 23, 2015


Before I tell you about editor, tech reviewer, blogger, and fandom activist K. Tempest Bradford and what she did, I want to ask you, a typical reader, to do a thought experiment. 

Since you’re a typical reader, I know that in any given year, 90 to 100% of the books you read are by Buddhist lesbians from Beijing.

Now, I know that Buddhist lesbians from Beijing have written many, many excellent novels. I would never claim otherwise. But since you’re already so familiar with books by Buddhist lesbian writers from Beijing, I’m thinking, hey, how about for the next year, you try reading books by authors from the rest of humanity? Like, Buddhist gay writers from Beijing? Or Buddhist lesbians writers from Shanghai? Hey, they don’t even have to be Buddhist. Or lesbian. Or from any Chinese city at all. Because… there’s a planet full of writers.

I’m sure you’ll find a few—maybe dozens, maybe thousands—that you’ll like, especially since you’ve been unconsciously or maybe even consciously excluding them your whole life.

But then again, so did the educational system, and major media book reviews, book promotions, literary events, and Hollywood. So I’m definitely not blaming you for personally for focusing 90 to 100% of your reading on Buddhist lesbian writers from Beijing.

But because I suggested you broaden the range of writers that will entertain you, you’ll think about it, right? And obviously you wouldn't launch vicious attacks against me for my race, gender, sexuality, or appearance, right? Because we're adults.

So back to K. Tempest Bradford.

- See more at:

- See more at:


On the website, Bradford recently challenged readers for one year to read books by queer writers, writers with disabilities, women writers, coloured writers, and any who overlap categories.

Put another way, Bradford challenged readers to read books by writers representing the vast majority of humanity. 

However, she didn’t quite phrase her challenge that way--instead, she said that readers should, for one year, read books by writers who aren’t straight White men who were cis-male (that is, born and widely accepted as male).

The result of Bradford’s challenge was so much pearl-clutching that many people outright asphyxiated themselves. Many people accused Bradford of what they called “racism,” or “reverse racism,” and said they didn’t want to be “limited” in their choices, despite the fact that Bradford’s goal was to get them to stop limiting themselves.

She was not, as she put it, "coming to get their White man books."

She did, however, include a photo of herself holding a Neil Gaiman book with a big red cross-out circle over the cover.

K. Tempest Bradford spoke with me by Skype from her home in New York City on March 4, 2015. She told me about:

  • her goals in issuing the challenge
  • the obscene and deranged attacks her challenge drew
  • what’s she’s learned from the experience
  • how all of that compares to her experiences of multiculturalism vs. Eurocentrism at science fiction and fantasy conventions, and
  • how Neil Gaiman himself reacted to her challenge and the backlash (one case is here; Bradford also collected dozens of disgusting tweets against her, but that link may be gone; if you can find it, please post it here).

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Monday, March 16, 2015



Wab Kinew is the 2015 host of CBC’s national book competition Canada Reads. He’s an award-winning hip hop artist and journalist, a correspondent for Al-Jazeera America, and perhaps best known to Canadians as the advocate for Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda, the winning book for Canada Reads 2014.

Last year on CBC’s Canada Reads, Wab Kinew electrified listeners with his opening book defense that name-checked each rival book in the competition while building to his defense of The Orenda. And he did it all in just under his allotted 60 seconds, memorised, and in verse. He began the competition by demolishing his competitors, some of whom, like runner Donovan Bailey, failed to use even half his accorded time, perhaps forgetting that you couldn’t win this contest by finishing early.
Despite numerous achievements and awards, merit alone wasn’t enough to get Wab Kinew his new gig as moderator of Canada Reads 2015—timing played the decisive factor. Last September, the former Canada Reads host, Jian Ghomeshi, began a public and highly dramatic self-destruction over as-yet unproven allegations of beating women before or during sex. He’s currently living with his mother while awaiting trial.

In that context, Wab Kinew discusses:

  • How he got selected to be a Canada Reads 2014 panelist
  • What he brings to the role of Canada Reads 2015 moderator, and what he thinks the radio series should do for the country, and
  • His take on the spectre of Jian Ghomeshi over this year’s competition.

In part 2 of the show, you'll hear the brilliant writer of the Leo Desroches mysteries Fall From Grace and A Killing Winter, Wayne Arthurson. Arthurson is a Metis writer from Edmonton who’s been a small town newspaper reporter, advertising copy writer, ghost writer, editor, punk rock drummer, a contestant on the BOOK TV series The 3 Day Novel Contest, and the popular historian who crafted In the Shadow of Our Ancestors for Lone Pine Press.

  Arthurson was one of the featured speakers at Authorpalooza, a series of writers-on-writing live talk shows I run in my current work as Writer in Residence at the University of Alberta’s Department of English and Film Studies.

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Many of the fine folks who support MF GALAXY using Patreon are excellent writers! Check out The Komposit, the microfictionist web novel by the amazing Kristina Vyskocil.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Palestinian-American comedian, speaker, commentator, writer, and attorney Amer Zahr is the author of collection Being Palestinian Makes Me Smile and the blogger behind The Civil Arab. Zahr has produced and headlined the 1001 Laughs Comedy Tour, the We're Not White! tour, and the In 1948 tour, and he produces the annual 1001 Laughs Dearborn Comedy Festival in Michigan at the Arab American National Museum.

- See more at:

- See more at:

- See more at:

He’s recently wrapped production on his first documentary, We’re Not White, about the Arab-American struggle to get a box on the United States Census Form. He’s a regular commentator in American media, having appeared on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher and written for Time magazine. He’s performed across the United States and the Middle East.

Amer Zahr spoke with me via Skype on March 4, 2015, about the craft of stand-up comedy that has its own cultural and political gravity in an era of the oppression of his own people. We began by talking about how writing is the basis of his comedy creation.

Coming up in Edmonton on Saturday, March 14 is the third annual Palestinian Bazaar, a celebration of Palestinian culture, arts, and resilience, with films, displays, music, food, and an evening comedy show featuring acclaimed comics Dean Obeidallah and Amer Zahr. For tickets or more information, visit

Monday, March 02, 2015


Palestinian director Rashid Masharawi is a maverick filmmaker of documentaries and features presenting the heartbeat of a national liberation struggle and a people’s path to democracy.

Born in 1962 in Ash-Shati refugee camp in Gaza, Rashid Masharawi is the director of several documentaries and fiction films, including Love Season, Makloubeh, Haifa, Behind the Walls, Tension, Rabab, and Curfew.

He is also the winner of many international prizes, including the UNESCO Award at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival. That year, Masharawi founded the Cinema Production Centre in Ramallah, West Bank, which aims to improve and develop the Palestinian movie industry by encouraging and training young Palestinian movie-makers. An innovative artist, Masharawi created the Palestinian Mobile Cinema which has allowed thousands of children to enjoy local and international films.

This edition of MF GALAXY features Minister Faust's interview with Rashid Masharawi conducted in Edmonton in December, 2001, for the screening of Masharawi's documentary Voice of Palestine.

Rashid Masharawi's feature film Laila's Birthday will be screened at the HumanServe International Palestinian Bazaar in Edmonton on Saturday, March 14.

Electronic Intifada film reviews

Screen Daily: Letters from Al Yarmouk



IZZELDIN ABUELAISH - Fighting hate and occupation with peace and education (MF GALAXY 014)

In January 2009, then-53-year-old Palestinian infertility specialist and peace activist Izzeldin Abuelaish was employed at an Israeli hospital. He took pride in building the personal basis for trust and peace between Israelis and Palestinians. As he told the New York Times in 2009, “I wanted every Palestinian treated in [our hospital] to go back and say how well the Israelis treated them.”

But on January 16, the day after Martin Luther King’s birthday, and 22 days into the 2008 – 2009 Israel-Gaza war that killed 13 Israelis and 1400 Palestinians (during which time newly-elected US president Barack Obama was almost whisper-silent on Palestinian deaths), Israeli tanks twice shelled the house of Abuelaish. After having recently lost his wife to leukemia, in one moment he lost his niece and three of his daughters.

“Who is going to be killed [among] my children?” says Abuelaish via Skype from his office in Toronto, reflecting on his terror throughout the war that any of his children might die. “And then on that day … seconds after I left my daughters’ room, the awful tragedy happened. These were beautiful girls,” he says. “They became [body] parts, drowning in their blood.”

Explaining his immediate thoughts after the explosion, he says he asked himself, “Where is Bisan, my beloved, eldest daughter who took the responsibility of her mother when she passed away? She was only 20. She was my companion, my friend, my manager, my advisor, my teacher. She was supposed to get her BA a few months later. Where is Mayar, who was number one in Palestine in math, who planned to be a medical doctor, to follow my path? She was decapitated. Where is Aya, who planned to be a journalist and the voice of the voiceless, who was 14? Where is Nur, my niece, who came for her fate? She was 17 and planned to be a teacher. … Their pain is running in my ears. I [couldn’t] identify them. Their bodies were shot out everywhere. The human body, which is the most holy thing God created … shattered. Why [was I] saved? If I had stayed a few seconds I would be gone with them.”

As political analyst Noam Chomsky recently noted, while westerners routinely voice outrage about the “savagery” of ISIL (another name for ISIS) for beheading its victims, they’re usually silent about the state beheading by western ally Saudi Arabia, and countless western beheadings-and-dismemberments-by-bomb. Because the cemetery where his wife is interred was under Israeli occupation, Abuelaish couldn’t bury his daughters next to her.

Abuelaish explains how his family numbers among the hellish statistics of modern war: 80 percent of casualties are civilian women and children. He insists repeatedly that militaries cannot create peace, which depends on justice. And justice is his major concern, especially as created by the advancement of women and girls.

While he stayed in hospital with his surviving daughters, he reflected that after God, it’s his daughters to whom he’s accountable. “I will never give up,” he says. “I will never rest. I will never relax until I meet [Bisan, Mayar, Aya, and Nur] one day, with a big gift: justice and freedom for others.” He notes that his mother was his most important teacher: “The mother and the women in this world are the hero. … They make the change, and I believe in them.”

Abuelaish isn’t simply a speaker of easy platitudes. As the author of the acclaimed memoir I Shall Not Hate, and as a teacher at the University of Toronto and a campaigner for peace, he established the NGO Daughters for Life to provide scholarships for Middle Eastern girls and women, regardless of religion or ethnicity.

Such refusal to bend to hate or revenge, coupled with tireless work for the betterment of humanity, has earned Abuelaish numerous awards, including the Stavros Niarchos Prize for Survivorship, the Uncommon Courage Award, and the Mahatma Gandhi Peace Award of Canada. The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre named him among the world’s 500 most influential Muslims for 2009 and 2010. “Our enemies in this world are ignorance, arrogance, greed and fear,” he says. “We need the light.”

Abuelaish grew up without much of the light he now seeks. Born in Jabbalia Camp in Gaza in 1955, 12 years before the occupation of Gaza, he did not witness the expulsion of around 800 000 Palestinians from historical Palestine seven years earlier. “My life in the camp was a war,” he says. “And no one on earth was tested in his or her life as Palestinian people and refugees. I was fighting on a daily basis just to survive. I never tasted my childhood.”

His family home was a corrugated metal shack without electricity, running water or a bathroom. “I remember after 1970, when our house was demolished by [Israeli general at the time] Ariel Sharon,” he says. “We were 11 people living in one room. I was sleeping under their feet, and studying there on the ground.”

During winters, rain water often leaked through the roof, destroying the homework he painstakingly completed and forcing him to start all over. Hunger was the norm: “I remember if we had one banana, it could be divided among three or four.” Abuelaish currently helps his nieces and nephews just as he used to support his younger siblings. 

“You don’t leave Palestine. … My country lives inside me. It moves with me everywhere I go,” he adds. “I say to people, ‘[They] can oppress, can occupy, can imprison, can torture, can intimidate, can humiliate, can do every bad thing, but no one can prevent us from dreaming.'”


The Guardian


TEDxWaterloo: Izzeldin Abuelaish - Refusing to Hate

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight

Izzeldin Abuelaish - Oslo Freedom Forum 2011