Toronto is so much more than condos, Bay Street high-rises, and gentrification, but too many of the city’s stories are erased or forgotten. These books will show you a rarer but no less important side of Toronto: one that centres BIPOC, immigrants, queer and trans communities, women, and the working class, and pushes the boundaries of what it means to be Torontonian.
Jeannie’s Demise shines a light on 1870s Toronto, when abortion was illegal, criminal proceedings were a spectator sport, and coded advertisements for back-alley procedures ran in the margins of newspapers. Part gripping procedural, part meticulous autopsy, the book revolves around the death of Jeannie Gilmour—whose independent spirit can only be glimpsed through secondhand accounts—and examines over a dozen case studies of similar trials in Victorian-era Canada.
“Ian Radforth’s reclamation of Jeannie Gilmour provides a moving reminder of women’s long-standing efforts to command their own bodies and destinies,” writes history professor Veronica Strong-Boag. “The history of this unnecessary death may be Victorian, but the message is right up to date.”
Radical Ambition is the first book to explore the history of the New Left in Toronto, including the social change Toronto’s New Leftists accomplished in the city. Like all leftists, the New Left sought to transcend capitalism, but its focus on global solidarity set it apart from its predecessors. Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge call Radical Ambition “history otherwise,” making it a vital addition to this reading list.
Queer of Colour Formations in Toronto
Marvellous Grounds is a celebration of the activism, art, and writing of QTBIPOC in Toronto, who are frequently erased from the history of the city. As the collection demonstrates, Toronto has long been a gathering place—albeit a complicated one—for queer and trans Black, Indigenous, and racialized people. Marvellous Grounds is a living archive, one dedicated to some of Toronto’s most underserved but vital communities.
Toronto’s Poor reveals the long, often-forgotten history of poor people’s resistance in Toronto. The book is an almost two-hundred-year-old story of the city’s poor population—people without housing, people living in poverty, and under- and unemployed people—and their struggle to thrive within an uncaring system. That said, the book is also a story of their refusal to be defeated.
From Homophobia to Homonationalism
Queer Progress both examines and critiques forty years of queer politics in Toronto. The book traces the socioeconomic development of Toronto’s queer communities—for example, their growth into economic drivers under late capitalism, which did little to address or resolve inequality—and tries to make sense of their transformation.
The Toronto G20 and the Challenges of Summit Protest
In June 2010, activists opposed to the G20 summit gathered in Toronto to protest; they were greeted with state violence. Featuring the voices of activists on the front lines as well asscholarlyanalysis, Whose Streets? is a critical account of a defining moment in Toronto’s history.
Recent years have seen a wave of Torontonians make the move to nearby Hamilton in search of affordable real estate. Is this what’s driving up Hamilton housing prices and accelerating gentrification, or is there more at play? And is it possible to lift a downtrodden, post-industrial city out of poverty in a way that benefits people across the social spectrum, not just a wealthy elite? Shift Change answers these essential questions, imagining a world in which Hamilton becomes an economically diverse and inclusive urban centre for all.
Leslie Kern wants your city to be feminist, whether you live in Toronto or another urban centre. In Feminist City, Kern maps the city from new vantage points, looking at urban histories through a feminist lens and paving a road for feminist urban futures. Kern navigates the experience of new motherhood in West Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood, and also touches down in cities such as Vancouver, London, New York, and more.