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Shut Up You're Pretty

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  323 ratings  ·  57 reviews
In Téa Mutonji's disarming debut story collection, a woman contemplates her Congolese traditions during a family wedding, a teenage girl looks for happiness inside a pack of cigarettes, a mother reconnects with her daughter through their shared interest in fish, and a young woman decides to shave her head in the waiting room of an abortion clinic. These punchy, sharply obs ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published April 1st 2019 by VS. Books
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  323 ratings  ·  57 reviews

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Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is the first book from the VS. Books Imprint at Arsenal Pulp, headed up by Vivek Shraya, who created the imprint to "create more inter­generational dialogue and support for artists of colour. Each year, Vivek offers a mentorship opportunity for a young writer who is Indigenous, Black, or a person of colour, as well as a publishing contract with Arsenal Pulp Press under the VS. Books imprint." I didn't know that when I requested the review copy, just thought the title was funny.

All the stori
Nov 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Taking place in Scarborough, Ontario, this is a series of vignettes about Loli, a Congolese girl who accompanies her mother and brother and meets up with her father in Canada. The stories are the coming of age of a young woman who is confronted with many different sexual encounters and relationships in her neighborhood.

One thing I shared at bookclub was that as I perused different interviews with the author and critical reviews, I couldn't relate to the suggestion that Loli was a character read
Catherine Hernandez
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book asks us to witness the journey of a girl into womanhood, holding in her arms the fragile understandings of femininity as a commodity, femininity as a caretaker, femininity as a storyteller. Dulled by the residue of trauma and sharpened by the expectations of the streets, Téa’s characters are painfully and beautifully rendered in this gritty must-read novel.
Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Told in first person by a single female narrator common to each story, this collection speaks to the experiences of women in a post-coming-of-age setting... capturing the spaces imposed on women as they settle into their own identity. This was a refreshingly honest read, tinged with gritty realities (abortion and rape, to name just a few) that made for a compulsive and immersive read. I look forward to more works from this author and releases from this imprint!

Thanks to the publisher for an e-AR
Sheharzad ⚘
the author read one of her stories on my campus and hearing it, i felt like i knew the place, setting, and atmosphere. i was hearing my little corner of toronto in the story and i felt it encapsulated perfectly! i can't wait to read the rest of it!
May 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Every woman’s journey to figuring out who she is, and how she deserves to be loved, is different. There’s no right or wrong way to get to those points, but if the starting point is littered with traumatic experiences and overwhelming confusion, as to what love is supposed to look like, then it can be messy.

This collection represents a microcosm, of sorts, of the ways in which the messiness can hinder the process of a woman “becoming” something more than a source of pleasure—sexual or otherwise—f
Oct 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
« I tried not to make everything about sex, every act of kindness, every well-wish, every hello. But you go through life being touched, you go through life being looked at, you go through life with an uncle commenting on your breasts, or your brother’s friend giving you a condom for your birthday then denying it, you go through life being called a cunt on public transportation, you go through life being followed at midnight, you go through life being told you’re pretty, you’re pretty, you’re so ...more
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
-Olivia had gotten into these sober parties as a new way to meet "normal women". You know the kind—broken but not finished, down on their knees but not yet weeping. Pretty but not pretty enough to be feared-.
Tea Mutonji has written a collection of short stories that centres girlhood, womanhood and femininity in Shut Up You're Pretty. Loli comes of age in these stories and explores sexual expressions, friendships, romantic entanglements, complex familial ties and the power of being a woman a
Maria Zuppardi
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
Read my full review on my blog, ReadingMaria.

All of the stories tie in well with each other, and the characters we meet along the way are all vital in their own way. I really admire how resourceful our narrator is; we see her go from one fall back to the next, and it was inspiring seeing her growth (despite her bad decisions).

Any Canadian Literature supporter would enjoy this book – especially those who have been interested in authors from Scarborough, like Carrianne Leung, Adrian De Leon, Cathe
i liked that the stories were all about the same character and were in chronological order. they weren't all super captivating but it was a quick read and i had a good time.
This is one of those rare moments when I don't know how I feel about a book. I neither loved nor hated "Shut Up You're Pretty." I agree with other reviewers who said it reads really easily; Mutonji's writing grabs your attention and carries it, although I think it would've worked a bit better if it was framed more as an experimental novel than as a series of short stories BECAUSE of how interconnected each of the pieces was. Similarly, the content of this book can be hard to stomach at times and ...more
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-reads
I loved this book for its bold and brassy writing. Téa Mutoni uses simple prose when writing about difficult topics:

' go through life being touched, you go through life being looked at, you go through life with an uncle commenting on your breasts, or your brother's friend giving you a condom for your birthday then denying it, you go through life being called a cunt on public transportation, you go through life being followed at midnight, you go through life being told you're pretty, you'r
Apr 26, 2019 added it
Yay! (Also, man is it nice to read in English again, I should get so good at French 😥)
Alanna Why
Apr 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a great collection of short stories that all have the same protagonist and progresses in a linear way similar to a novel. The collection starts with the narrator as a young girl immigrating to Canada as a Congolese refugee and follows her growing up in low-income housing in the Galloway area of Scarborough. I really liked the early stories that focused on the relationship between the protagonist Loli and her best friend Jolie, they had a My-Brilliant-Friend-But-In-Scarborough energy that ...more
Polo Lonergan
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I didn't love this but it was beautifully written.

Also, I'm baffled as to how it's a collection of short stories when it reads like an ordinary story with chapters.
Cookie Beltran
Jan 23, 2020 rated it liked it
God this chick lived a living hell. It's so sad how people will not to take you seriously just because of the color of your skin. 3.5 stars.
Definitely not what I expected. I knew this wasn't for me after three stories, therefore, no rating.
Guillaume Morissette
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Hell yeah
Nadia L. Hohn
Oh, the Scarborough stories. Tea Mutonji’s book emerges on the tale end of other successful Scarborough fiction by David Chariandy, Catherine Hernandez, and Carianne Leung. In Shut Up You’re Pretty, Mutonji takes you on a compelling raw gritty ride of a Black girl coming of age in the city. I had just finished Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams which is a coming of age/new adult novel featuring a Black young woman at its centre. Mutonji’s book is the same but each chapter is a vignette, a short s ...more
Enid Wray
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
These are less stories than they are vignettes… the sole exception being the title story. The collection is reminiscent of Ivan Coyote’s One in Every Crowd (which I’m being reminded was also published by Arsenal Pulp as I double check my memory of that title…)

Together the stories construct a portrait of Loli. Gritty, raw, sexual, disturbing… the ‘stories’ take us deep into Loli’s lived experience. We laugh and cry with Loli as she navigates her way through a life fraught with challenge, but also
Deirdre Kelly
Apr 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
Téa Mutonji’s debut collection of stories has that rare distinction of being one of only a handful of books I have wanted to chuck in the trash. I rarely hate a book but I do hate this one. I can offer only a cursory analysis as to why as I don’t want to waste more energy on Shut Up, You’re Pretty than I already have. I am disappointed in this writer whose obvious flare for characterization, setting, atmosphere and dialogue — most evident in the first story, Tits for Cigs, a tale about how two 1 ...more
Mar 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shut Up You're Pretty gives raw snapshots into the life of Loli, a young girl that immigrated from Congo with her mother and brother to join her father in Scarborough, Ontario. Loli's story, told through her first-person perspective, can be painful, punchy and familiar in it's Scarbrough/Toronto settings. You get a front row seat into Loli’s lived experiences of womanhood and identity. There’s hardship. There’s reconnection. There’s triumph. But I appreciated that this story collection didn’t at ...more
Jane Mulkewich
Oct 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
The first book in V.S. Books imprint, a series curated by Vivek Shraya to feature work by emerging young writers who are Indigenous, Black or a person of colour. I love the whole idea of V.S. Books (thank you Vivek Shraya!), and I love this particular collection of stories. I would like to read more by this writer. This is a set of linked stories, set mostly in Scarborough, Ontario; a series of vignettes in a young woman's life with memorable characters. There are many themes of interest in this ...more
Karissa Fast
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great little punchy read that has been on my radar for a while. It's a collection of raw short stories that follow one woman from childhood to adulthood. She grows up in subsidized housing in Scarborough, and she is one of the only black kids in her school.

There are a lot of sexual moments in the book, and none are described in much detail. Huge focus on relationships - friendships, family, and romantic. The main character is interested in both men and women and it isn't made into a big deal whi
Caitlin Jayne
Jan 25, 2020 rated it liked it
I really like how this book read, it's a collection of short stories that read like short chapters. Every "chapter" had a "gasp" moment that had me everytime some of this is relatable for myself and maybe that's why it read quickly. I will say though I am a tad disappointed with the editing there were more than a few grammar issues and a few writing cliches. That being said I still really enjoyed the book and would recommend it but do know this book does have some graphic and abusive scenes that ...more
lexi ✨
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5-4 a bit closer to 3.5

i loved the fact that this is based in toronto, i think that loli’s experiences in certain neighbourhoods & settings really helped me to understand her own physical connection to the place, & her sense of place, which i appreciated. téa’s writing in this piece of work blew me away, it’s very unique & it left a lasting impression on me.

it’s funny because i picked this one up because i heard another customer in the bookstore looking specifically for this book & it caught m
Jul 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
This is a great collection of interlinked stories about a young black woman from the Congo who grows up in an area of Toronto??? among rough circumstances. The writing flows well, and the stories blend together. I liked how the stories came together to form one narrative. I also liked how the main character's sexuality was addressed. She seemed to be a very sexual being and was attracted to both men and women. This aspect of the collection was very interesting to me.

I look forward to seeing more
df parizeau
Aug 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I remember picking up this book late at night, finishing the first story and saying to myself "I like this, I think I'll read one more." Suddenly, it was 1am and I was just finishing this book.

That, to me is the greatest strength of the book: it innocuously causes you to invest so whole-heartedly in the characters, that you can't imagine putting the book down. Mutonji also doesn't linger too long in each narrative, choosing instead to work with sharp, punchy stories that leave you with just enou
Sep 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lovely stories. Sharp and punchy to read. Each story is an incomplete portrait of the traumas and growing pains of a feminine body. Though this book isn't what I expected, I couldn't put it down. I wanted more, but perhaps the disjointed incompleteness is part of its beauty. Loli is such an interesting and complex character, too. I don't entirely understand her, but I feel for her. Little bits and pieces of her identity resonate hard though, and you know Mutonji had an intimate knowledge of what ...more
leaving aside I was most definitely queerbaited as I bought this in a queer bookshop and there’s not a lot of gay content in here, this was great. I’m always a slut for interlinking short stories (listen I grew up near alice munro, it’s in my blood) and in the hands of a less talented writer, a lot of the serious themes would have felt trivial where this was instead gut wrenching. it’s always fun to discover new canadian talent and this most certainly won’t be the last we hear from this author. ...more
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