You Care Too Much is a bold new book from Toronto-based publishers With/out Pretend that brings together seventeen female creators to explore the theme of self-care through poetry, short stories, illustration and photography.
Fed up with the surface-level conversations around the concept of self-care she was seeing in listicles and Instagram hashtags, Erin Klassen set out to dig a little deeper. Through her publishing company, With/out Pretend, writer and editor Klassen commissioned a group of women as diverse in their artistic disciplines as they are in their personal backgrounds to explore the idea of healing and self-care in an authentic and meaningful way. And the results are beautiful.
You Care Too Much is a startling book that readers will find equal parts heart-rending and joyful. Work ranges from poetry by Leah Horlick (winner of the 2016 Writers’ Trust Dayne Ogilvie Prize) to writing from Fieldguided’s own Anabela Piersol to illustration by the endlessly talented Tallulah Fontaine.
The scope of artwork is broad—photo essays crash against confessional writing, which nestles in beside poetry and visual art—but the intention is always clear. Each piece explores healing, self-care—a journey from vulnerability to strength—in deeply personal and entirely authentic ways.
“What was most important to me was the personal experience component,” says Klassen. “I knew [the contributors] had stories to tell about their own journeys into healing and self-love, so I wanted to give them carte blanche to explore that.”
The book is breathtaking in its rawness and tackles grief, shame and loss—the full gamut of human powerlessness. There is a strength that can only be found in vulnerability. In You Care Too Much, Klassen has created a safe space in which these women can explore that, and in those explorations, the artists become powerful.
This ethos permeates both the book and Klassen’s publishing company. She founded With/out Pretend in 2015 in a bid to produce, promote and distribute work by emerging female-identified writers and visual artists and has put out three books to date.
“I really want With/out Pretend to be a vehicle for others,” she says. “I think there’s such a need for the voices that don’t have a chance to be heard.”
Klassen also works at Etsy and was inspired by the collective-minded culture of many of the creators (or “makers” in Etsy parlance) who sell their work on the platform.
“We’re talking about a market that’s ninety-six per cent women,” says Klassen. “The way they interact with each other—with a community perspective, sharing tips and tricks and advice—made me think, ‘Okay, here’s the secret: maybe we can spend more time actually helping each other.’”
Comprising stunning double-page spread colour photography, beautiful typography and whimsical accents throughout, You Care Too Much is a beautiful object in its own right. This is no doubt thanks to the book’s art director Jen Spinner and to photographer Angela Lewis whose photo series frames the work.
Klassen set out to create something fresh and honest and, along with the many talented contributors, she has achieved just that.
You Care Too Much is available online and in select shops across Canada including Likely General (Toronto), Drawn & Quarterly (Montreal), and Pulp Fiction (Vancouver). A launch party for the book will be held at The Steady on November 23.