Room’s website describes it as “Canada’s oldest literary journal by, for, and about women. Published quarterly by a group of volunteers based in Vancouver, Room showcases fiction, poetry, reviews, art work, interviews and profiles about the female experience. Many of our contributors are at the beginning of their writing careers, looking for an opportunity to get published for the first time.”
Flipping through the contributors bios of this issue, I didn’t recognize many names—which only made the experience of reading Room for the first time all the more delightful. This is a beautiful issue. From its wonderful cover art and design to the writing inside, it’s a well-put-together collection, and I felt I was discovering an entirely new literary scene.
The fiction in this issue is stunning. Each piece reflects a unique voice and perspective. Many of the stories are told in first person, allowing us to hear from a variety of women—from teenagers struggling with love for the first time to a young artist working in a coffee shop to a housewife trying to find their place in suburban life.
One of my favorites in the issue is Andrea Routley’s “Reflection Journal,” an essay in the voice of a teenage girl confused by a relationship with her male English teacher. We discover as we read, the girl is serving a detention for giving an inappropriate comic strip to the teacher, and her “journal” is a writing an assignment given to her by the guidance counselor. Within the snarky, sarcastic, sometimes outright mean comments of the teenage narrator, a relationship unfolds between her and the teacher—one that ends in confusion, regret, and innocence lost.
I also loved Rhonda Douglas’s “God Explains the Collapse of the Cod Fishery.” The story is a first person account of God’s own regret in not stopping a tragic event from occurring. “And the world no longer wants to hear about answers that can only be found in the slim moving shadows of the sea, or in the ragged bands of early morning light,” God says. “I want to tell you it will never happen again, I really do.” As can be expected, God has a way with words.
God also makes an appearance in Jane Redford’s heartbreakingly funny “God or Boys,” the story of a young, recent Pentecostal convert struggling to balance a crush on her older brother’s friend Cam with the fact that she’s been born again for two months and still hasn’t “led one lamb to Jesus.”
I do have to say that the fiction tends to be stronger than the poetry. Much of the verse in the issue leans toward the overtly narrative and sentimental—the exception being Linda King’s two poems which are both gems. My favorite is “approaching the terminal” which reflects upon a journey through a foreign city:
you fumble with your drag-along suitcase
filled with battered sentences
history is of no use to you now
your documents gone missing
snow into the ocean
As someone who doesn’t know a lot about Canadian literature, I found Room eye-opening. It was an interesting glimpse into a new landscape told through the eyes of the women who live there. I can’t wait to read the next issue.