Inanna Publications of Toronto produces consistently excellent titles– fiction, poetry and non-fiction written with “perspectives that have the potential not just to educate or entertain, but to excite, enhance and motivate your passion for change”. The following two titles are no exception. First is the novella What Happened to Tom, the second is All My Fallen Angelas, a collection of short fiction. Both were published in 2016.
What Happened to Tom by Peg Tittle
You’ll notice that the title is not a question, but a statement. Inspired by a philosophical thought experiment, Ms. Tittle has written a novella that poses the “what if” questions: What if men got pregnant? More to the point, What if they found themselves pregnant against their wishes? Well, that’s what happened to Tom Wagner. Out for a few drinks with friends after work, he next wakes up in a type of hospital room, but it’s not a hospital, it’s a clinic run by Dr. Anders, the woman who approached Tom the night before and had one drink with him.
One day he was living his life. He was a bright, young thing, one of many, with a loft in the city.
And the next day, he woke up—in a bed that wasn’t his own. Feeling… heavy. As if gravity had not just doubled, but tripled. And groggy. Not hungover exactly. It was more like a drugged fog. But that didn’t make sense….
When he came to the second time, he was conscious just long enough to realize his mouth was dry and the room was white. Very white…
But Tom is not pregnant in the female sense, he is though, physically attached to another human by a cord. A cord that is saving another man’s life, and one that must remain attached to the two men for – you guessed it – nine months. It is a variation on the pro-choice/pro-life debate from a different angle, one that is thought-provoking, educating, and at times, humorous since there are some traditional role-reversals playing out, such as Tom’s girlfriend Beth telling him “He’s no fun anymore” since the ‘connection’ and his best friend and co-worker Steve brushing him off saying “he has a life too”. Tom’s whole life is falling apart, but he’s saving a life, isn’t he? It’s only for nine months, right? Or is it?
All My Fallen Angelas by Gianna Patriarca
Having spent a number of years living near and working with Italians, I especially appreciated the stories here. They take place in neighbourhoods where I lived, so I can picture the homes, the business and the flavour of Little Italy. While most of my dealings were with second or third generation Italians, and this little book covers Italian women who moved here as adults, those who came as children, and those who were born here in Canada (the “other America” as some referred to it).
Here’s an excerpt from the story entitled “My Grandmother is Normal”:
“Ma perché, why, why, you no get marry? You such a nice girla, nobody wants marry to you?” That’s the standard greeting I get from my grandmother every time I appear at her front door, steel-gray and decorated with an assortment of sticker type pictures of angels and saints, courtesy of her local church, and a Canadian flag, courtesy of the neighbourhood city councillor. They are all carefully pasted to the solid, impenetrable, intruder-proof door of her modest semi-detached, two-storey house on a one-way street just east of Ossington Avenue south of Dupont.
My favourite in this collection is “Anna at the Window” about a widow who does not want to give up her College Street residence even though very few Italians remain in the area. One day she encounters Angelina, a half-Irish, half-Italian girl who has escaped the boring confines of Petrolia, ON to find a better life in Toronto. The story ends all too soon (as all good stories do), it would have made for a good novella. Indeed, several of these short stories could well make for a full-fledged novel, and with the evident talent of Ms. Patriarca, I hope to see more from her soon.