8 min read

Yelena, Toem, Carol

Stone Soup Digest 1.19.2024
Yelena, Toem, Carol

Welcome to the Stone Soup Weekly Digest! This is where I share what I'm up to and some of my favorite things from around the internet. Subscribe to Stone Soup to get this in your inbox every week.

In case you missed it, the Personal Canons Cookbook ebook is live and free for Supper Club members! If you’d like to own the Personal Canons Cookbook ebook, which collects the 2023 Personal Canons Cookbook essays and recipes in easy-to-reference, clickable format—plus loads of bonus recipes from me!—join the Stone Soup Supper Club

Starting in February, I’ll be running a new interview series here at Stone Soup! Stories About Stories will present a deep dive into the way books are made – from concept to execution. Each entry will explore a single book and feature interviews from every step of production, including insights from authors, editors, art directors, cover designers, and sales & marketing experts. I’ve got some really incredible books lined up from some of my favorite authors, and I can’t wait to celebrate the teams that make those books happen.

How To Help: Palestine

Resources for others 

  • This informational Google doc is updated almost daily with information and direct actions Canadians can take to pressure the Canadian government into withdrawing its support for genocide by demanding a permanent ceasefire.
  • Learn what it actually takes to escape Gaza, then donate money to help get families out of danger. If you are currently wondering why people don’t “just leave,” this reading may help you develop a new understanding of the situation.
  • Donate to the Red Cross. As a dear friend told me when I expressed a feeling of helplessness, this is almost always a good move when you’re not sure how to help.
  • Donate to Doctors Without Borders, who are working to facilitate the movement of medical supplies and staff.
  • Get involved with PCRF, an organization that provides quality medical care to children throughout the Middle East regardless of nationality, religious or political affiliation.
  • Connect with Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization committed to the liberation of all people. They continue creating opportunities for you to turn your rage and grief into meaningful, strategic action.
  • Check out and share these resources, curated by Room Magazine, including ways to call on governments to demand a ceasefire, how you can donate and support the relief efforts, ways to fight disinformation, and a reading list to educate yourself. This list includes resources for Canadian citizens looking to take action.
  • Check out and share additional resources, curated by Autostraddle, including international legal and humanitarian aid resources, and organizations that are currently on the ground in Gaza providing medical aid and support.
  • Use Resistbot to message all of your representatives at one time, demanding a ceasefire, immediate humanitarian aid, and an end to occupation.

Resources for you

  • Those who bear witness are not at the center of destruction, but that doesn't change the fact that bearing witness is painful and can be scarring. If you need help managing your reaction to exposure to this subject and subjects like it, especially on social media, here’s a helpful image-free resource based on Trust & Safety best practices. This resource is oriented toward people who must engage with violent and traumatizing content as part of their work. If you can’t cope with bearing witness, then you can’t help people who are truly hurting when they need you. Taking the time to attend to this isn’t self-centering or weak—it’s a matter of making yourself more useful, and it’s a skill that will serve you in the long term. Here’s that link again.
  • Strengthen your media literacy. If you are consuming a huge amount of new, emotionally intense information, you need skills to parse that information into understanding. This isn’t a matter of simply being smart—it takes active critical engagement. Click here to download a pdf of some media literacy basics, dive into some deeper questions here, and continue learning fundamental skills of media literacy here.
  • Attend to your nervous system. You’re not meant to be able to handle situations like this one well. That’s the whole point of war. Take care of yourself so you can take care of others. Here’s an old Stone Soup post that rounds up some tips for taking care of yourself when your nervous system is screaming at you. This is a starting point, not the finish line—self-care is the foundation you build on.

White Widow No. 3 is in stores now!

In issue #3 of White Widow, Yelena finally gets to do what she does best. Armament Industries is about to meet its match – and Yelena is about to learn what kind of threat is truly facing the world of assassins. Pick up your copy of issue #3 at your friendly local comic shop or your digital store of choice. And if you’re on the fence about whether to give it a read, check out this incredible review from Multiversity’s Kate Kosturi!

Alasdair Stuart Reviews: Toem

The incredibly insightful Alasdair Stuart is going to be joining the Stone Soup Digest as a regular contributor! Be sure to subscribe to The Full Lid for more brilliant pop culture analysis. 

Toem is a photographic adventure. You play a young photographer who, living with their Nan, sets off to photograph a phenomenon called a Toem. You pay for your travel by doing philanthropic works in the various locations, so the bus drops you off, you do tasks, collect stamps, and earn a bus ticket to the next destination. In the big city, that includes shooting pictures of a fashion show and helping a stunt driving granny right her car. On the mountain in the final level, you’ll do things like help a yeti find a pet and reunite a goat choir by honking at them so they run back down the mountain.

If I didn’t mention before, Toem is ADORABLE and the very first screen you see proves it. The game won the Best Debut category at the 2022 British Academy Game Awards and, in the opening room, there is a tiny animated BAFTA on a shelf. The gentlest, and most earned, of flexes.

Developed by Swedish company Something We Made, Toem shifts from a top down perspective on a wonderfully pseudo-2D world to first person perspective when you’re lining up shots. The world is richly detailed, pleasingly open and brimming with subtle jokes. Everyone in the city level is rushing around being terribly important and there’s a newspaper editor who would probably for pictures of Spider-Man on a different day. The mountain area includes a mountaineer reminiscing about the best snowball he ever rolled (that you can find!) and a balloon family whose concept of child endangerment is not remotely in line with their status as small, lighter than air spheres with no limbs. It’s all gently weird, frequently delightful and feels a little like if Wes Anderson directed Super Mario RPG, just with added shy sewer monsters and occasional asteroids. Or if Tove Jansson and Simon Stalenhag created Bluey.

It's also, much like a lot of the games I’ve played this year, kind-hearted. Your journey is powered and defined by helping people. The more people you help, the more you understand, and the better the world becomes. We really are all in it together, whether we’re an overworked ghost or the staff of a restaurant based in an elevator. No one is the same aside from everyone needing your help, even as you need their help. This is that One Weird Game that the right wing would hate if they understood the concepts of ‘game’ and ‘fun’. 

This all culminates in that mountain level and in witnessing just what Toem itself is. That payoff was the last thing I expected and it’s got a surprising emotional weight that embodies Something We Made’s description of the game as ‘wholesome.’  It’s a moment that rings every bell the game has rung previously at once, giving you a harmonious conclusion to your journey that is also the start of what comes after it. It’s not remotely manipulative, or especially emotional, and that’s exactly why it made me emotional. Like the world it portrays, it’s open, pragmatic, kind and beautiful. Like the world it portrays, you’ll be glad to visit it.

Toem is out now for Windows, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and Playstation.

The lovely soundtrack by Jamal Green and Launchable Socks is also out now.

I’m Reading: The Price of Salt, or Carol by Patricia Highsmith

Based on a true story plucked from Highsmith's own life, The Price of Salt, or Carol, tells the riveting drama of Therese Belivet, a stage designer trapped in a department-store day job, whose routine is forever shattered by a gorgeous epiphany―the appearance of Carol Aird, a customer who comes in to buy her daughter a Christmas toy. Therese begins to gravitate toward the alluring suburban housewife, who is trapped in a marriage as stultifying as Therese's job. They fall in love and set out across the United States, ensnared by society's confines and the imminent disapproval of others, yet propelled by their infatuation. The Price of Salt is a brilliantly written story that may surprise Highsmith fans and will delight those discovering her work.

Barnes & Noble | Bad River Website | Local Library | Find an Indie Bookstore

Madigan Purdy is stuck in her home town library.

When tens of thousands of owls descend on the building, rending and tearing at anyone foolish enough to step outside, Mad is tasked with keeping her students safe, and distracted, while they seek a solution to their dilemma.

Perhaps they’ll find the inspiration they seek in her favorite childhood book, The Silent Queen….

With food and fresh water in low supply, the denizens of the library will have to find a way out, and soon, but the owls don’t seem to be in a hurry to leave…

The Parliament is a story of grief and missed opportunities, but also of courage and hope.

And of extremely sharp beaks.

Barnes & Noble | Bad River Website | Local Library | Find an Indie Bookstore

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