People You Know, Places You’ve Been by Hana Shafi

Hana Shafi’s People You Know, Places You’ve Been, is a wonderful collection of sharp observations on the everyday broken into chapters covering everything from Chapter 1’s “Antiheroes” to the “Wizards and Crones” of Chapter 8.

Nearly every poem had me nodding along and thinking, “Yes! It’s exactly like that!” All the moments, people, places—and the internal thoughts that go with them—are written about here with a very frank honesty and humour that is as refreshing as it is delightful.

Within these entertaining observations, Shafi doesn’t hesitate to drop some stark truths about the world we live in, and always in the favour of the have-nots (along with some fairly scathing observations about the privileged).

Among my favourites of these were, “Chatty Cathy” where any would-be Karens are warned against dialling 911 on someone who is merely trying to live and connect with others.

I also loved “suburban doors”, a look at the ugliness and violence that exists even behind the manicured lawns in the higher tax bracket areas of town.

Interspersed with her poetry, are Shafi’s own illustrations. Each one is expressive, colourful, and unique. Shafi draws in the same way that she writes: there’s no looking away, no shyness, and no lack of detail.

One of the illustrations that made me laugh was for Shafi’s poem “occupation: musician” because I know that guy: his eyelids at half-mast, trying to look mysterious and cool. Even if you don’t read the work that goes with this illustration, you know this guy, too; you’ve definitely run into him at a bar or club or, like me, dated him for a few months before you got wise that both he and his music were mediocre at best.

The book ends with the “Wizards and Crones” of Chapter 8, and as someone who is now firmly middle-aged and childfree by choice, I could relate to the wondering line, “who will hear me scream when the time comes?” of “everybody ages”.

I also have hope for myself being the first old lady depicted in “the dichotomy of grannies”; I’d be delighted to become the kind elderly lady who chats with folks at the bus stop while knitting.

Shafi also wrote a beautiful tribute to her nana with “a nana like mine”, which I won’t spoil here as it really should be read in its entirety.

This is a terrific collection, sure to resonate with anyone who picks it up (and you should pick it up!).

About the Author

HANA SHAFI is a writer and illustrator (Frizz Kid). Her work frequently explores themes of feminism, body politics, racism, and pop culture. She’s published articles in publications such as The WalrusHazlittThis Magazine, and more. She received the Women Who Inspire Award from the Canadian Council for Muslim Women in 2017. She is the author of People You Know, Places You’ve BeenSmall, Broke, and Kind of Dirty: Affirmations for the Real World; and It Begins With The Body, which was selected by CBC Books as one of the best poetry titles of 2018. Hana and her family immigrated to Mississauga from Dubai in 1996. She now lives in Toronto with her two cute, but sometimes annoying, cats.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Book*hug Press (Oct. 12 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 132 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1771668539
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1771668538