Queer Between the Covers Brings Marginalized Voices to the Forefront

The Literature and Art Fair Has Been Going on for 12 Years

Andira Hernandez presented their zines and artworks at Queer Between the Covers. Photo Caitlin Yardley

On Aug. 18, as many were getting ready to participate in the Pride parade, some queer book enthusiasts had another rendezvous scheduled.

The collective Queer Between the Covers held their annual book fair of the same name for the twelth time, and invited community members to come and meet up with queer writers and artists.

“We want to prioritize the most marginalized voices within the queer community,” said Louca Lussier, a member of the collective. “We know that the voices of sex workers, queer people of colour, or the First Nations are still underrepresented and we want them to be present here.”

Lucie has been with the collective since 2013 and noticed that the fair’s success is ever-growing. “This year we even had to refuse some applications because we didn’t have room for everyone,” Lussier said.

Among the new participants this year, Lussier explained that the collective was particularly happy to receive Hannenorak, a First Nations publishing house and library. Based in Wendake, about three hours east of Montreal, they aim to offer a large selection of First Nations literature destined to readers of all ages.

Camille Toffoli, in charge of events for Hannenorak, said that they also translate English texts to French to make works available to more readers in Quebec.

Ojibway writer Drew Hayden Taylor’s book The Best Of Funny, You Don’t Look Like One is a “good start to deconstruct the stereotypes and ordinary racism faced by First Nations in their lives,” said Toffoli.

Hannenorak also offers many books for children, such as a series of illustrated children’s books by Sylvain Rivard.

“They are books on the history of traditional Indigenous clothing,” said Toffoli. “And a good way to approach topics like cultural appropriation by teaching children where these elements come from and what’s their legacy.”

“The fair feels good because no one here is trying to act as the gatekeeper of your queerness and tell you you don’t belong.” — Andira Hernandez

The fair welcomes writers as well as visual artists working with all sorts of materials. Among them, Awa Banmana was exposing their work at the fair for the first time. They presented the ongoing project Documenting My Queer Life, in which they create portraits connecting queer people of colour with their origins and heritage.

“It’s about centering the people who have been made invisible in mainstream and queer history,” said Banmana.

Their portraits are the fruit of a mash-up of different techniques. “I start with digital pictures that I edit specifically for printing on wood and then paint on top of it,” said Banmana.

“Both the artistic and technical aspects of the project try to connect ancient and newer elements into something cohesive.”

They are pursuing the project for a masters in communications at Université de Montréal and the fair was their first time displaying their work. “People are very curious and interested in the project,” said Banmana. “It makes me hopeful for what’s to come next for me as an artist.”

Other artists exposing their work found inspiration for their art in their own life stories. Andira Hernandez is a web designer and digital artist who makes prints, posters and zines. Their work ties in with their life story and mixes animal drawings and political statements with glitch art.

“I like drawing city animals—rats, raccoons or pigeons—because I have only ever lived in a city so I have a soft spot for them,” said Hernandez. “I like glitch art because it feels nostalgic to me and all of my work happens on a computer so it’s fun to experiment with it.”

Hernandez’s works feature city animals, such as pigeons, racoons, and rats.

Their work also tackles political issues such as gentrification and “brunch culture.” One of their works reads “Condo culture / is going to / $16 brunch / and / complaining / that the eggs / are too wet” on a grey background.

“I grew up in Toronto and moved to Montreal when I couldn’t afford to live in my neighborhood anymore,” said Hernandez. Their visuals marked by the city’s wildlife could symbolize this uneasiness some of us may feel in environments that we can’t seem to escape.

“Getting out of the city was a privilege where I’m from, so these are the animals that I’ve encountered the most in my life,” they said.

Although they had participated in similar fairs before, this edition of Queer Between the Covers was the first event they attended out as non-binary.

“I’ve been part of the community for a while, I had friends who are non-binary but it took me some time to find out what it meant for me, and to put words on it,” said Hernandez.

“The fair feels good because no one here is trying to act as the gatekeeper of your queerness and tell you you don’t belong.”

A previous version of this article featured a misspelling of collective member Louca Lussier’s name, in which they are referred to as Louca Lucie. The Link regrets this error.