Across the Page: May 2011

Winter’s prose is stunning whether describing Wayne’s confusing struggle toward understanding his body (“The skin was so sensitive Wayne was scared it might break. Flowers were bursting open between his legs, but the flowers were ugly flowers that he did not like”) or the wide-open and wild landscape of Labrador (“A swoop and whisper of wings, then the gun crack”).

Winter captures the humanity of all of her characters. Each has a story and a clear stake in Wayne’s journey, especially as Wayne begins to challenge society’s demand that he identify as solely a woman or a man — “To Thomasina people were rivers, always ready to move from one state of being into another. It was not fair, she felt, to treat people as if they were finished beings. Everyone was always becoming and unbecoming.”

A finalist for three of Canada’s most prestigious literary awards — The Scotiabank Giller Prize, The Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and The Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction — Annabel is a beautifully rich and engaging novel. Highly recommended.

Who is Ana Mendieta? by Christine Redfern and Caro Caron (Feminist Press)

I have to confess that did not know anything about Ana Mendieta, the most prominent Cuban American artist of her generation. In fact, I’d never heard her name before reading Christine Redfern and Caro Caron’s original and fascinating biography Who is Ana Mendieta?

Through a combination of essays, personal accounts and graphics, Who is Ana Mendieta? explores Mendieta’s background and influences as an artist. It also tells the story of Mendieta’s volatile marriage to minimalist sculptor Carl Andre, who was accused of pushing her out the window of their loft apartment in New York City and to her death in the mid-eighties.

Redfern and Caron, both artists living in Canada, recreate the art world of the sixties. It was a complicated time and violence against women was prevalent — from Norman Mailer stabbing his wife to Jackson Pollock killing a woman in a drinking and driving car crash. Ironically, Mendieta’s work focused on women and she often used her body as part of her art.

Who is Ana Mendieta? is part of a new series of graphic books called the Blind Spot published by the Feminist Press, which tell the stories of radicals and revolutionaries “who have changed the culture, and who lost their lives or place in history in the process.”

An absorbing look at an important (now I know!) figure in the women’s art movement, you’ll read Who is Ana Mendieta? in one sitting—then go back and read it again.

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