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APRIL 25—MAY 4, 2020

F L D >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>







The Festival of Literary Diversity








Jael Richardson Mayor Patrick Brown

3 5


erica hiroko


For the Dreamers

Eden Robinson


The Salmon Eaters

Michelle Poirier Brown




Shane Neilson 18

Love Triumphs: The Invisible Archive and You May Not Take the Sad and Angry Consolations as They Meet in Rural New Brunswick

Shane Neilson



Ivan Coyote


Dear Ms. Endicott

Grace Lau


The Thing with Asian Women Drumming

Terese Mason Pierre


On Seeking External Validation

francesca ekwuyasi


Finding Safety

Manahil Bandukwala


In Bloom

Alicia Elliott 40

How 94 calls to action finally allowed Indigenous artists the space to cultivate a renaissance

Linda Trinh


The Space In Between

Jamaal Jackson Rogers



Dorothy Ellen Palmer


Kept Out is Kept Down: Writing Retreats and the Indefensible Retreat of Canlit

Khashayar Mohammadi


A Djinneology o Rumi

Jo Jefferson


Writing to My Brother









CELA opens books no matter how you read Diverse voices deserve to be heard. Diverse stories deserve to be read. The Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) is pleased to partner with the FOLD to make accessible versions of the FOLD’s featured books available through public libraries to the estimated 3 million Canadians with print disabilities.





Louisa Atto Cat Belshaw David Burga Toni Duval Calyssa Erb Emmy Nordstrom Higdon Nadia L. Hohn Kristen Johnston Shoilee Khan Chelsea LaVecchia Amanda Leduc Ricky Lima Karen Richardson Mason Alex Platt Natasha Ramoutar Jael Richardson Fiona Ross Natasha Shaikh Lamoi Simmonds Monika Trzeciakowski Léonicka Valcius Meg Wheeler C.J. Zvanitajs


ACCESSIBILITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE Bronwyn Berg Rhonda-Lee Dynes Amie Gaudet Dorothy Ellen Palmer Adam Pottle Rasiqra Revulva Fiona Ross Rahma Shere

Brampton Library congratulates the

Festival of Literary

Proudly offering books to borrow in all formats in 8 branches and on our website under Digital Library.

905.793.4636 Follow us:

CHAIR Ishta Mercurio TREASURER Teri Vlassopoulos SECRETARY Ashish Seth DIRECTOR, Children’s Programming Karen Richardson Mason DIRECTOR, Adult Programming David Burga DIRECTOR, Sponsorship & Prizes Felicia Quon DIRECTOR, Human Resources Cynthia Innes DIRECTOR, Board Governance Mark Richardson

Program Cover: Downtown Brampton photo provided by Andre von Nickisch-Rosenegk, VNR Photography.


on its 5th Anniversary!


From the Artistic Director

The year 2020 will forever be marked as the year of

The FOLD is a place of relief—in particular, it is

the COVID-19 pandemic. It is unprecedented—

a place of relief for those who have faced systemic

a word that’s entrenched in political speeches

challenges as writers. In trying times, these chal-

and commercials. And it’s fair to say that the word

lenges increase. They disrupt our lives even further.

applies to the fifth anniversary of the Festival of

We feel more alone and more isolated than ever. It

Literary Diversity—FOLD 2020.

affects our work and our writing. But the art that

2020 will mark the year we went digital, and the

we make and create as storytellers is so import-

year we offered our most accessible festival yet.

ant—not just for us, but for the readers and writers

It will mark the year we saw our largest audiences

who will find our stories and, hopefully, find peace

ever, including audiences from across Canada and

in those words. Art allows us to connect with one

around the world.

another in crucial, necessary ways. Which is why

When I imagined the festival seven years ago, and as the Board and the Planning Team prepared

FOLD felt more necessary this year than ever. To be able to pay authors, to be able to promote

for our first festival, we talked about our hopes for

their work—and to allow the public to participate in

the festival’s fifth year: where we would like to be,

the festival free of charge—offers a unique opportu-

what we saw the FOLD doing. I imagined great audi-

nity to show that stories can and will always bring us

ences and online workshops, but I never imagined a

together, even and perhaps especially during times

completely virtual festival that sold out sessions of

of great trial. That will always be the way I remember

500 tickets two weeks before the events.

2020—the year a pandemic helped me understand

Journalists have asked me when we knew we

that the work we do truly is essential.

would move to an online format, and why we made that decision. And the one thing I remember about that crazy time when the idea of a virtual festival was out there but the extent of the pandemic and the length of the quarantine was still unknown, was that there seemed to be no alternative. We had to go on.

JAEL RICHARDSON, Artistic Director The Festival of Literary Diversity



the FOLD lives here and so should you

April 2020 Greetings from Mayor Patrick Brown Dear Friends, On behalf of the Members of Brampton City Council I would like to welcome you to the 5th Annual Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) which celebrates diversity in literature by promoting diverse authors and stories in Brampton– one of Canada’s most culturally diverse cities. I am so pleased that this festival is happening despite the pandemic. It is great to see Jael Richardson and her team organize this festival during such a challenging and uncertain time. This 4-day festival will take place virtually — featuring free online events. Panels, discussions and workshops will allow guests from across Canada and around the world to participate in the festival via Zoom. All virtual events will be close-captioned. This festival will bring established and emerging writers, educators, and literary professionals together with readers from all walks of life to celebrate and expand Canada’s body of diverse literature. The festival will also provide aspiring writers with the opportunity to develop their skills and improve their writing by connecting them with other writers and by providing them with professional development opportunities that allow them to learn. I want to thank the sponsors and the Board of Directors for their ongoing efforts in promoting literacy and making this festival a success. Enjoy the festival! Sincerely,

Patrick Brown Mayor


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In the studio with artists Matt James, Thao Lam, and Kellen Hatanaka



M A R C H 2 016


In the studio with artists Matt James, Thao Lam, and Kellen Hatanaka PAGE 18

Jael Richardson



Can this author-turned-activist change the face of Canadian books? P A G E 1 4

$7.95 Display until March 14, 2016

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Can this author-turned-activist change the face of Canadian books? P A G E 1 4

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Previously published in Briarpatch March/April 2019.


I come from the dreams of my ancestors. —An affirmation for queer people of colour

* Today, I will start building a sculpture out of hundreds of replicated registration cards from WWII.

In the palm of my hand, I delicately finger a pair of un-

The sculpture will represent over 8,000 Japanese

familiar ID cards printed on worn pieces of coloured

Canadian people, including my oba-chan and her

paper, yellow and salmon pink. The faded type re-

family, who were taken from their homes in coastal

veals they were issued in the spring of 1941 with ap-

BC and detained in the stables and exhibition build-

proval from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The

ings at Hastings Park in East Vancouver. I grew up

yellow marks my great-grandmother as a Japanese

eating mini donuts at the PNE Fair at Hastings Park

National and the pink indicates my great-grandfather was a naturalized Canadian. Between my thumb and index finger, I clasp these rare and coveted discoveries: names, addresses, height, weight, occupations, and marks of identification on their bodies. I practice saying my ancestors’ names aloud, slowly, so I do not forget, but I have never learned to speak Japanese and am self-conscious about my pronunciation. I realize there is a third colour of these cards—white— which I am missing. White was only assigned to those who were born in Canada.

If we only see one piece, we can forget how others are needed to see the entire collection as a whole.

during my childhood summers, but nobody in my

Tashme, New Denver, and Greenwood. Tourists now

family spoke about this history.

find these remote small towns charming and lovely.

* I have made copies of the real ones my oba-chan

It’s just a different pace of life, you know? I hear the

left behind after she died. These registration cards

mountains epitomize Canadian winter. In photos,

identified her parents, my great-grandparents, who

the misty fog descends like a veil, nearly masking

were 49 and 59 years old respectively when the war

the violence. It must have been cold to live there in

broke out. I found the cards in a box of her things in

a tarpaper shack.

a closet at my parent’s house: tucked in among her fake snakeskin wallet, my grandpa’s funeral papers,

* The U.S. government instituted a Muslim registry on

and an album filled with fading Fujifilm photos from

September 12, 2002. Even though it was suspended

the 80’s when my grandparents returned to British

in 2011, President Trump tweeted about bringing

Columbia. They were not allowed to return to the

it back. His supporters are keen to use Japanese

West Coast after the war ended.

American internment camps as a “precedent” for

* In 1942, my family was given 24 hours notice to

immigrant registry.

skiing is great in the Kootenays. The snow-capped

pack a suitcase and leave their homes. Perceived as

* Canadians talk shit about Americans as if we have

an ethnic threat, they were displaced from the “se-

no blood on our hands, as if we don’t shop on Ama-

curity zone,” a 100-mile radius along the West Coast

zon, as if we didn’t massacre Indigenous people, as

to isolated internment camps or towns such as

if we don’t have an epidemic of type 2 diabetes, as


if we didn’t elect Doug Ford, as if we didn’t jail over

groups and convince their members to “join” ours.

80,000 migrants without charge (including children)

We would do this by using “fun stereotypes” about

between 2006 and 2014.

our culture as a persuasion tactic. The example

* Did you know that migrants in Canada can be

she offers us is something like,“come be British with

detained without criminal offence? Each time I visit

face beaming as students disseminate and begin

the public library in downtown Vancouver, I climb

the activity.

the escalator, rising higher and higher above where


me. We drink lots of beer!” The professor smiles, her

I think about stereotypes. I think about the

migrant holding cells are rumoured to be hidden

“stinky” lunches I brought from home to school,

below. Such secrets are often concealed in plain

the ching chong noises, how I was never all that

sight—places where we do not ask questions.

good at math. The stereotypes I have had flung

* In university, I learn climate change is increasingly

at me are not quite as fun as I imagine it might be

one of many contributing factors to why migrants

nalized racism. I leave the classroom; face flushed,

are forced to flee their homelands and cross

cheeks damp, chest tight. A redheaded classmate

borders into other countries. In the Philippines,

follows me, knocks on the door of the bathroom

Typhoon Haiyan is one of the strongest tropical

stall. She invites me to join her and the others

cyclones ever recorded. In Bangladesh, rising sea

in the Dutch group. I decline. Playing a game of

levels are displacing coastal people from their

assimilation–even if only for pretend–just doesn’t

homes. Our professors will acknowledge that on

seem all that fun.

a global scale, western countries are disproportionately causing climate change, but mostly, we

* I wake up one day to breaking news on CBC: Hur-

learn about ways to make change as individuals.

ricane Maria has devastated Puerto Rico. So far

We try and lead “sustainable” lifestyles. We learn

at least 15 people are dead. The electricity is out.

how to meditate. We convince one another to eat

President Trump is planning a visit.

less meat. We ride our bikes. We compost. We plant community gardens. We are against climate change.

* “I repeat, Hurricane Maria has hit Puerto Rico. The

We are united. We turn off the lights, save energy,

hurricane has made its way to the Caribbean. President

and do not see race.

Trump still has not made an appearance.”

* I am only one of a couple people of colour in my

* President Trump tweets about how hard hit

environmental studies program. In an intensive field

Puerto Rico is. How much debt they still “owe” the

course on Indigenous land management practices,

United States of America. He makes no mention

a white woman professor leads an “icebreaker” ac-

of America’s occupation and theft of Taíno lands

tivity on the first day of class. We follow her instruc-

since 1898.

tions as she asks us to stand in groups representing

* A week after the hurricane, I lie in bed, sheets cast

an ancestry or culture we come from. Four or five large groups form around the classroom: Dutch, Irish, British, French, Scottish.

if you’re white and British and have far less inter-

aside. It’s too warm of a night for blankets. In a groggy haze, my limbs sprawl out, lying in a starfish

I stand alone.

float-position. From the edge of my pillow, I cau-

She instructs us to circulate among other

tiously peer towards my lover who is lightly snoring.

We U-Hauled after a flamingly gay summer ro-

against climate change. Why we need to be united.

mance and my body is still getting used to sharing a

Why we need to turn off the lights to save power.

bed. By the time the clock ticks its way to 3:30AM, I

There was nothing else about race.

finally fall asleep and dream.

* I can’t recall when I stopped calling myself an envi-

In my dream, I find myself in a body movement workshop. The studio has large windows through


which you can see out to a lake. It reminds me of the community centre where I attended dance

* “…the Angelenos who are disproportionately feeling

classes as a kid—the kinds of classes where we

that intense heat, they live in urban areas with substan-

spent most of the time running in circles waving

dard housing, fewer trees. They’re surrounded by free-

colourful scarves. I sit on the floor in a circle with

ways… majority Black and brown. […] Mother Nature

the other participants while a brown woman with

may not discriminate, but people do.” 1

long dark hair discusses the impacts of climate change on Indigenous and people of colour

* As I construct this sculpture of registration cards

around the world. I begin to cry and this woman

to mark the 75th anniversary of Japanese Canadian

and I make eye contact.

internment, it seems like the world is still asleep.

I wake up in my bed beside my lover. I feel safe

I don’t believe I’m a self-serving millennial, but is

and somehow less anxious.

it terrible to admit I would rather watch Ariana

* Nobody talked about my family history while I was

Grande’s instagram stories than the news? I can’t seem to follow the news anymore without crying.

growing up, so I’ve worked towards uncovering it

When I wake up, will the climate justice move-

on my own. Sometimes I get so immersed that I

ment finally be led by frontline Indigenous women,

forget how heavy-hearted it all is. When I am able to

peasant farmers, or migrant workers?

pause and pull away, see it through someone else’s

* On grey days, flowers still bloom.

eyes, or relate it to the present-day, my heart gets whomped. I wonder, how can I feel such heartache while

The news reports the sakura trees in Japan are blooming months early this year. On account

simultaneously falling in love for the first time?

of the typhoons and the extreme weather and all

* When I first began writing, I submitted an article to

that. The cherry blossoms don’t know any better. I think they’re just trying to survive.

the environmental studies student newspaper at my school. The article explored food deserts and


race inequities in access to healthy and culturally appropriate foods in the American south. My article was printed on the last page of the newspaper, beneath two pieces on animal rights. Most of the other articles were about individual


“It’s getting (Dangerously) Hot in Herre.”

change. About how we can lead more sustainable

Podcast. NPR Codeswitch, September 13, 2017.

lifestyles. Learn how to meditate. Why we should

eat less meat, ride our bikes, compost, or plant


more community gardens. Why we need to stand


Previously published in Luminous Ink [Cormorant 2018].


Salt-water grasses shushed in a slough deep

south along the shoreline. Seagulls complained as

enough at high tide that a VW Bug-sized baby

they hovered over the beach. A bald eagle land-

humpback swam up, chasing a silver school of tiny

ed on a giant stump that had washed ashore. He

herring. The baby bubbled the water like a toddler

flapped at an entourage of crows that circled him

in a bathtub. His bumpy dark skin glistened like

like dark thoughts.

the wet suit of a scuba diver. His mother called a

We haven’t seen whales like this since the

long, mournful sound in the deeper waters of the

whalers killed off our resident pod back when whale

Douglas Channel. The baby spouted, the mist shot

oil was a big thing. The Douglas Channel is ninety

through with a rainbow and a slightly rotten fish

kilometres long from the head to the mouth, where

smell. He zipped back to her as I stood in my parent’s backyard by their smokehouse. The lowering sun shone molten gold on the calm water so I saw the whales as dark shadows as they swam away, flukes and fins with the occasional geyser of breath. I walked down to the soccer field, a few minutes away. The Douglas Channel is rimmed with mountains. Evergreens blanket their sides like dark green velvet, shot through with brown seams of logging roads and the new industrial road that leads to Bish Creek. The humpbacks steamed

What I love most about humpbacks is how steadfastly they hold a grudge. This is a lost art. In an era of saccharine Hallmark forgiveness, people have forgotten what a real grudge looks like.

the Inside Passage begins. I live near the head, on a

What I love most about humpbacks is how

reserve that faces the ocean, a small plot of alluvial

steadfastly they hold a grudge. This is a lost art. In

flatness in a landscape dominated by granite moun-

an era of saccharine Hallmark forgiveness, people

tains and surging tides. Nearby, eleven kilometres

have forgotten what a real grudge looks like. When

away by a twisting, steeply graded road, is the town

you see YouTube videos of humpbacks charging in

of Kitimat, built by Alcan Aluminum Smelters in the

to save seals or other species of whales from Orca

Sixties to house their workers. Our population on

attacks, you know that rivalry runs generations

the rez is about 600 to 800 people. Town has about

upon generations deep. As a coastal potlatcher, I’m

8,000, which fluctuates according the rise and fall of

holding grudges as old as Turtle Island. I didn’t start

commodity prices.

them; I won’t end them. I stick to my pod. If they fall,

Down the channel, near Coste Island, is a whale rock. Close to shore, yet deep enough for whales,

I fall. I rise with them or not at all. •

the rock towers up through the water like a spike.

Early missionaries tried to turn the Haisla into civi-

Whales scratch themselves against it to scrape off

lized farmers. Given that the soil is poor, the grow-

their barnacles and assorted hitchhiking ocean-

ing season is short and the sun is a sporadic visitor

ic crud. When they’re in a group, they take turns

in our rainforest, our farming efforts were doomed

according to their hierarchy. They have clans like

and we were deemed lazy. We farmed the ocean.

us. They fight and make alliances, snub and favour.

We had clam gardens and fishing beds. Our canoes

Some of them are gentle giants and some of them

were our horses. We lived and died by the salmon

are snarky asshats.

runs, like the bears and the seals and the eagles


and the wolves. We revered nature and we ate na-

than Springs, easier to lift and tote. When you slice

ture because we were a part of the living landscape,

into them, their flesh is ruby-red. They fry well.

not apart from it, not above it, not dominating it.

Steamed, baked, barbequed—all good. But they are

We ate and were eaten.

most perfect as a canning fish. I don’t like working

We did like potatoes, though. Spuds aren’t

with them in the smokehouse because they turn

high maintenance plants which was great because

mushy quickly and you need a large crew to work

we traveled over our territory all summer for our

with them. Once they’re mushy, the only thing to do

salmon catches. We had potato plots by our fishing

is half-smoke the skins and freeze or jar them. You

camps, rows of potatoes that we fed fish blood.

can cold smoke them after a good brining, but you

Carbs are not a big part of traditional coastal diets.

lose the Sockeye flavour in the marinades. I prefer

Our version of rice is the Chocolate Lily root, which

Coho for a traditional smoke. They arrive in August

we only ate if we were starving. It’s icky. It looks like

and are commercially valued less than sockeye,

white rice, but it tastes like dead dreams, bitter and

and aren’t as ruby red, but they’re easier to slice

cloying. Glik’sam, on the other hand, was our pre-

thin and hold their shape well. We have a word for

ferred root, soft and yellow buttercup roots, with

the virus that forms bubbles their flesh and lique-

the texture and flavour of sweet potatoes. Glik’sam

fies it. It’s harmless to humans, but it makes Coho

loves the mud and you dig for it with the bears, who

inedible. Two years ago, we had a season where

were our guides. What they ate, we tried. We have

eight out of every ten Coho taken from the nets was

similar tastes.

badly diseased and had to be thrown away. This has

I live in an apartment two blocks from my


never happened before. It hasn’t happened again,

parent’s house. My father is an elder, and when

but it was worrisome. Those are the top salmon,

the salmon are running he’s gripped by a chronic

the ones we prefer but we also eat chum and pink.

and incurable condition that my sister calls ‘Haisla

Dog salmon is fantastic for smoking, but the pin

Fish Fever.’ My father has fished all his life and is

bones are tough and need to be picked out if you’re

frustrated by his lack of energy and strength, which

going to feed them to children or elders. They can

prevent him from keeping a boat and a fishing net.

puncture the soft cheek flesh and if they get stuck

We always relied on salmon. We couldn’t afford

in your throat, you’ll need surgery.

meat, so I grew up eating salmon for breakfast,

Sometimes, when a run is bad in your territory,

lunch and supper. We eat everything right down to

you can buy or trade fish with other First Nations,

the heads and tails—fish head soup is a delicacy

but salmon from different rivers have slightly

and I remember my mother and my great-aunt fighting over the eyeballs. The salmon season starts here in May. Winter spring arrive first. Their flesh is pale like halibut flesh and the meat is oily and dense. They barbeque well, dripping hissing fat in to the fire. Spring salmon are also oily, but pink, also perfect for barbeques. They taste more like Atlantic salmon than any of the other BC species. They don’t can well or smoke well. Sockeye arrive in June and go through July, sometimes into August. They’re smaller fish

When we’re protesting things like pipelines or fish farms, what we’re protesting is a threat to not just to our food security but to our identity. Imagine France without cheese.

different flavours. Some fish swim in rivers with

testing things like pipelines or fish farms, what we’re

more tannin so they have a bitter kick, especially

protesting is a threat not just to our food security

when canned or frozen. Some fish swim further

but to our identity. Imagine France without cheese.

up river to get to their spawning ground, so they’re

Greece without olives. Germany without beer. •

older, tougher. When I was writer-in-residence in Whitehorse, I ran into people who fed their fish to

Dad used to set his net near the point. He had a

their sled dogs. By the time the salmon had swum

small boat, a fishing net lined with corks at the top

that far, they were falling apart with age and stress.

and weights at the bottom and an anchor. One

I can’t tell the difference between wines to save my

end of the net was tied to shore and the rest of the

life, but I can tell you which salmon species it is and

net stretched into the ocean, held up by the corks

where they were swimming and how far they had to

and a large buoy. Each species of salmon requires

swim simply by taste.

a different size netting to catch their gills. Nets can

This is Salmon 101 if you’ve grown up on the

cost up to $1,000. Food fishing means you fish for

coast. My grandmother put away hundreds of salm-

your family and your extended family. Some families

on by herself in one smokehouse my dad constant-

chip in for the fisherman’s gas and boat expenses.

ly reminds me when I whine about preparing more

Others don’t.

than forty.

Traditionally, the chief of a clan would decide

“She didn’t have deadlines,” I usually grumble.

when the Haisla could fish. A certain amount of fish

The coastal First Nations were like the ants

had to swim by before he’d allow fishing. We used

in the children’s story, working all summer so we

to set at the mouth of rivers, but a series of laws

could eat all winter. When the snow fell, our sacred

after Contact meant we had to set in the ocean,

season began. We held feasts to pass our culture

which was less effective. Usually, fishermen watch

to the younger generation through dance, song

for signs or troll around with fish finders. Once a

and story. These potlatches went for days and

salmon run starts, people stake out their spot and

sometimes weeks, a celebration, a reaffirmation of

a certain amount of clearance is given between

our cultural bonds, a legal case for the chief’s and

nets. This isn’t as much of an issue, because food

clan’s rights. We had dedicated writers, musicians,

fishing is labour-intensive. You need to check your

weavers and carvers who were commissioned

net every 3-5 hours. Dad would start checking his

to make high-status treasures for the chiefs who

net at sunrise and end at sunset. When the fish

hired them. The chiefs gifted their guests with

were running, sometimes it would be hourly. If you

these treasures or threw their treasures in the

have a regular job, you need to take days off or va-

fire to show their contempt for hoarding wealth.

cation time. You need a boat and gas money. If you

Everyone was fed. If we all worked hard, our life

set in the wrong place, you have to re-set, or risk

was good.

getting skunked. There’s nothing more discourag-

The First Nations on the coast of British Columbia have built our cultures around salmon. Our sacred season is in the winter and our ceremonies

ing that going through all the work to set a net and then pulling up seaweeds and logs. When I first moved home, I helped Dad check

are only possible with the food wealth that salmon

his net in the mornings. As your boat nears the net,

brought us. To say that we like salmon is such an

you can usually tell if you’ve been skunked if all the

understatement, it would be like saying the Arctic

corks are floating. If they’re sunk down, you hope

can be chilly or Toronto has traffic. When we’re pro-

it’s not a log, which you have to untangle leaning


over the side of the boat. You pull the net up and

we could change our skins, we inter-married and

then pull yourself along the net to the shore. Your

we still consider each other kin. People from the

arms get very buff. The net is heavy, even without

killer whale clan call them ancestors. Orcas visit us,

fish. You pick seaweed and jellyfish off as you go.

and sometimes they warn us of coming storms by

If you have caught fish, you pull them onboard

acting strangely, by beaching themselves or hauling

and untangle them. If they’re alive, you club them

themselves up on docks. They can hear things that

to death first or fight them as they thrash around

we can’t.

your speedboat. Sometimes all that’s left is salmon


When I write, I’m interpreting a Haisla world

heads and tails. Harbour seals cruise along the nets

through English words. Sometimes the fit is

and pick the bellies clean. Their dark heads poke

awkward and I can’t get the words to match the

above the water and they watch you with shiny

concepts. Not that my grasp of Xaislakala is phe-

black eyes. You can’t really stop them, even if you

nomenal. But the lens shifts, and the context of

wait in your boat with a gun.

culture means that, for instance, when I say ‘family’

Dad’s not a big fan of seals. He mimes shoot-

in English, what I mean is usually a nuclear family.

ing them when he sees them sunning themselves

When I say family in Haisla, you need a good solid

on the log booms in Minette Bay. He cheers when

grasp of coastal genealogy to make it through the

he sees them being run down by Orcas. When he

first cousins and their marriages, much less going

used to fish in the Kitlope River, the seals would

back into the generations. The concept of time in-

follow the spawning salmon. The river is wide

volves my potential great-grandchildren and all the

and shallow, deeper with the high tide, but clear

ancestors, down to when we shared our skins with

enough that you could see down to the bottom.

the animals, the other beings who share our planet.

Orcas would follow the seals, their dorsal fins cut-

And then there are moments that defy the

ting the surface as they ripped past Dad’s boat. Kill-

human tongue, no matter what language you use.

er whales are aggressive hunters, and he watched

I remember sitting in our speedboat, the outboard

them twist their bodies up the rock and drag the

motor tipped up so it wouldn’t tangle in the net. We

seals into the lake.

were close to the buoy, just starting to pull the net

There are different kinds of killer whales. Some

up. With the slosh of waves against the boat and my

orcas are primarily salmon eaters. They have

concentration on the net, I didn’t notice them until

rounder, gentler features. They live on the North-

the surfaced around us, bodies longer than the run-

west coast most of the year. Orcas with pointed

about, dorsal fins cutting the surface as they rose,

fins and more angular features are more likely to

studied us and then moved on. The terrified won-

swat a seal out of the water with their tails, sending

der of a small mammal alarmed by the presence of

the seal tumbling through the air like a badminton

a hunter met the absolute and unqualified certainty

birdie. Orcas that live far out in the ocean tend to

that they wouldn’t eat us. They had just popped up

be rammers. They gather speed and then ram into

to say hi. They were still a part of our world, even if

other species of whales and then rip into them

we’d forgotten their names as they spoke them.

while they’re stunned. The Haisla had the closest relationship with the salmon eaters. When the world was young and


Wake BY MICHELLE POIRIER BROWN You dream me still. Racialized, de-racialized, de-colonized. You ask if I have or use a “precolonial mind.” You suggest edits to my biography, tell me my stated identity doesn’t exist, and that you know this because you are getting a phd in indigenous lit. You ask me flat out if I’m queer, if you can tick off another box on the grant application. You dream we are friends, and I become someone you get to say you met for tea in the village. You dream we are friends, and you tell me you’ve taken oranges to the tent city because, of course, that is something I would want to know. In your dreams, I am often too much, more often not enough. Because of your dreams, you find me repellant, take a prurient interest in my childhood. Your dreams make it hard for me to wake up. I dream I am drowning. I have this dream while I’m awake. I remember the time we met on the phone, your rude awakening when I showed up at your door. I was still asleep. I checked my shoes to make sure they were clean. As if that had to be the problem. There was the year you told me it would be best if I chose a different week to rent a cabin, that my daughters were two children too many. You stood beside me on the river bank as I watched the children float by in inner tubes, one of mine vibrant with excitement, the other grinning with fear. I think you dreamed I would never tell. The grief from that one dreamed me for a long while. The past is a dream that streams around me, my voice rising through it like bubbles void of vibra-tion, their only sound an almost inaudible pop when they reach the surface. What you cannot see of me fills my lungs. Always I am waking. I turn up in strange clothes, new words in my mouth, people I no longer know smile as if I remember. I look for others, also awake. Mostly go home alone. Always I am swimming, cold and asleep, upstream. Bear dips a paw into the stream, flips me breathless against the sky. Wake, he says. Wake.

Previously published in PRISM International [57.1], Fall 2018.


A Voices from the FOLD: Year 5 original essay.


The Invisible Archive and You May Not Take The Sad and Angry Consolations as They Meet In Rural New Brunswick BY SHANE NEILSON 18

The visible archive comprises mundane horrors

relationship with events. The invisible archive is in-

that occurred to me as a child, things which were

formed by the visible one, but it is also much larger,

and are to me now that have an undeniable fact in

containing the shade cast by the visible and all the

my consciousness. I need not consult these events

things that grow strange in that shade. You see, what

often, for they inform who I am and what I do to

happened to me has come to mean so much more

such an extent, I fear the visible archive’s incredible

than the simple fact of its pain. The invisible archive

influence on my present. How much of me and my

is a figuring-out, a decoding, a strange composite

actions are foreordained? Larkin put it best in “Au-

knowledge that makes the actual events so much

bade,” his late-career masterpiece, “An only life can

stranger, sadder, and less known than they once

take so long to climb / Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never.” I’m resolutely a may-never, and I even unabashedly endorse Larkin’s moral tone with the use of “wrong.” For no one could look back on the neurodivergent little boy I was and not want to rescue him from that place and that time. No one could witness the look in my father’s face at certain moments and not understand, viscerally, that there is no escape. But then there is also the invisible archive, an alternate store of knowledge that has a shadow

The invisible archive is informed by the visible one, but it is also much larger, containing the shade cast by the visible and all the things that grow strange in that shade.

were. Consider my favorite mad poet, Robert Lowell,

his second wife. I was his firstborn son, someone

who wrote in “Epilogue” near the end of his life:

too slow and strange to understand his commands or develop strategies to mitigate his abuse. A long

Those blessed structures, plot and rhyme—

list supplements this short summary, things I’ve

why are they no help to me now

already written about in memoirs like Gunmetal Blue

I want to make

(Palimpsest Press, 2011) and Constructive Negativity

something imagined, not recalled?

(Palimpsest Press, 2019). I needn’t trouble you with that long story because the visible archive — as

I too know the concrete plot and rhyme of the

powerful and voluminous as it is — is merely a first

visible archive. But they are no help to me either

draft of history, the account that sets most of life

as I reconstruct how much I never knew of what I

in action but which is bound to be revised over the

formerly considered I knew best — my own expe-

course of time into a more compassionate version

rience. Only through a few decades more of lived

of events.

experience of ableism did I begin to see what can truly be imagined and not recalled.

The strangeness of the invisible archive comes into view like this: my father, considered by many

Here are the bare bones of the visible: Once

as a bad man was, in fact, neurodivergent him-

upon a time, a boy was born in rural New Bruns-

self. He was taken to psychiatrists when he was

wick during the Second World War. He became a

quite young, but no help could be given to control

binge drinker and was often violent — especially

his behaviour. His mother, my grandmother, was

towards the women in his life, including my mother,

neurodivergent too, and intolerant of his difference.


Late in his middle-age, after sustaining a severe closed head injury that left him unable to work, my father developed epilepsy. The drugs he needed to control the seizures also managed his mood to the point of relative calmness. The violence stopped. Rather than the fearsomely unpredictable figure of the past, he seemed a lonely, sad man who, in time, would apologize to his son for a life both father and son shared and yet couldn’t mutually comprehend. Coincidently, further strangenesses unfolded: the son enters the medical profession and witnesses how medicine is epistemologically oriented against people like him; he jumps from atop a building out of despair of ever being seen for what and who he is, someone deserving of love and not shame; he is finally given a diagnosis that seems to make sense of his past, and medications for treatment that, like the ones given his father, make him feel somewhat better but no less chronically affected; he has children, too, and one of them falls ill like he has. These experiences comprise but a fraction of the shade thrown from the visible archive. They no longer allow the visible archive to


exist unchallenged. Though the visible archive’s white-hot events can’t be contested for their primacy — I’ll never forget what happened in affective terms that are always unfolding in an eternal moment of trauma — they also don’t make sense just as themselves. For didn’t my father live through an even more intense ableism in a poorer, less educated environment? More strangeness: I have self-identified as dis-

Just by submitting, you will:

abled for four years. But that’s four more years than

• Enter for a chance to win the top prize of $1000

he ever had, for he lived during a time when doing

• Receive a FREE one-year subscription to The New Quarterly

so was inconceivable both to him and others. My

• Have your submission considered for regular paid publication in The New Quarterly

and especially so by those in his family who should

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father was only permitted to be bad, not to be ill, have been inclined to know better but whom were understandably affected by society’s prevailing ideology of ableism. On October 26, 2017, William Douglas Neilson died.

My sister and I faced vigorous resistance from other members of my family. They let me know, explicitly, that broadcasting the presence of “mental illness” would make their own lives more difficult — that they, not me, would have to endure the summoning of stigma. Nevermind that there is nothing to be ashamed about in the first place; how can anyone get better when such illnesses have people racing to bolt the closets? To be neurodivergent does not entail a I insisted on including in his obituary — initially

moral problematic, but a lack of compassion shown

plotted and rhymed by my sister from his first mar-

to the neurodivergent certainly does. Therefore

riage — a few lines about the incredible difficulty

I considered the resistance to my brief insertion

he constituted to himself and others, a chasm of

proof of its necessity, though I took no satisfaction

pain that made him restless, irritable, and combus-

in this small resistance, for the entire episode rein-

tibly insane. In the name of truth, healing, and as a

forced the shade thrown by the visible events from

destigmatizing gesture for other ill persons in my

long ago. Based on the reaction, what it would been

home province who endure the same marginaliza-

like for my father in rural New Brunswick in the

tion both he and I experienced, I wrote:

1940s and 50s leaped into my imagination. Moreso than any other moment in my life, the visible archive

Doug suffered from mental illness at points

transmuted to make something Lowell preferred, a

throughout his life. He experienced this illness

vivid poetry that is something “not recalled.”

during a period in our history in which such

Because my mother had already died a few

illnesses are misunderstood and stigmatized.

years prior, I no longer had anyone to refresh my

That prevented him from seeking and receiv-

memory of the visible archive, no living archivist to

ing the help that could have made his life a

compare and contrast my memories with the ac-

more comfortable one. His life was industri-

count of an adult. Equipped with childhood’s com-

ous and Doug helped a great many people.

pass seen in the refracting mirror of middle age,

But he also lost relationships and opportu-

my recollections enstranged further as I became

nities because of his illness, and his family

increasingly conscious of ableism and stigma as an

hopes that anyone reading this obituary will

activist in the disability poetics movement. What

be kind today to someone who is suffering.

happened can’t be disputed, but what happened didn’t seem to be only that, either. Lacking someone to talk out the dissonance with, someone to extend compassion to and to receive compassion in return in order to better calibrate a richer truth, I realized I had to write out exactly what happened in an imagined and not recalled form. For the benefit of my children, I had to write out an account of disability to function as an archive for them when I am gone, something they can calibrate their own memories with. I had to create a document they interro-


gate, learn from, dispute, something that could care


for them. Especially, I had to explain what shame

ought a poem to be? Answer, a sad

and stigma are, how they work, how they affected

and angry consolation. What is

me, and how they can be resisted.

the poem? What figures? Say,

A poem from this collection titled You May Not

a sad and angry consolation. That’s

Take the Sad and Angry Consolations, due out in 2022

beautiful. Once more? A sad and angry

from Goose Lane Editions, appears after this essay.


Like the rest of the poems from the collection, it reflects my wish that my children — including my

I can’t soothe the invisibly disabled boy from forty

son, who is disabled as I am disabled, as my father

years ago, the past me; nor do I subscribe to poet-

was — understand that they were loved. The worst

ry as a form of therapy for the present, for what is

lesson any child can receive is that they are not

there to fix? To rectify? Instead, I write a testimony

worthy of love. Society told me that, but the path

that is imagined more than it can ever be recalled;

was beaten first at home in the words and actions

I write out an attempt at wisdom that possesses

of my father, who internalized the message society

wisdom only in its wounded growl that my children

and home gave him. And what better title for the

are as they ought to be — loved, and thus more

archive than one taken from Geoffrey Hill’s The

likely to escape the terrible oppression designed

Triumph of Love:

for people like us. >>


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Obligation-Trick BY SHANE NEILSON Oh, you must love. You Must. Programmed into your first cry is that first obligation — You Must. Systematic. Trying to resist was your first and best No. This No transformed into shame. You didn’t want to love them, but you had to. To not love is bad, so bad, bad, every good thing crushed under a crowd of feet fleeing in relays– Every cry directed outward, every need — satisfied and unsatisfied — is participation. Remember, shame is not your fault. The best of us is dust rearranged into foreordained shapes, love’s perfect body. * The laughter here is a husk. Enough of that sound! Our laughs must not exaggerate, must state that we hurt — and hurt enough. We dream in forms of wonder (meant for others). The sound of wonder grinds against astonishment. A head comes off-its-head. What I have held in my hand was first withheld. Laugh at answers, because we are now beyond framing questions. * Need is systematic, need in anticipation of correction, need arrayed into love and love’s obligation — The best of us transformed into chalk, silt after fire — so sing with chalk in your throat / burn nobly / varnish desire with the silt and the best of us will no longer be dust and our obligation will only be to sing, to sting —

Previously published in The Fiddlehead [276], Summer 2018. Forthcoming in You May Not Take the Sad and Angry Consolations [Goose Lane Editions].


Excerpted from Rebent Sinner [Arsenal Pulp Press, 2019].


Rebent Sinner BY IVAN COYOTE 24

Hello Ivan: I am a teacher in Coquitlam. This Septem-

Dear Ms Endicott: Thank you so much for your

ber, I am going to use your “Dear Lady in the Women’s

email, and thank you for including some of my work

Washroom” in my class. I have some questions. Do

in your curriculum. I think discussing important

you mind if I ask you? I am struggling to find resources

social issues in the classroom is an important tool

to back this experience up.

to teach critical thinking, which is a cornerstone

First of all, would you classify this piece as an

of a healthy democracy. And as a queer and trans

open letter? Also, do you recommend any charts or

person who grew up in the Yukon in the seventies

evidence-based statistical reports that I can have on

and eighties, I know I suffered as a kid from a com-

hand in case I have some students that bring fear-

plete lack of any kind of positive representation or

based rhetoric to the discussion? Or any online videos of your performance work that would support this piece (or “Saturdays and Cowboy Hats,” which I will also be using). Also, I would like to say thank you for your writing. It is very moving and important work. Regards, Ms Endicott

...discussing important social issues in the classroom is an important tool to teach critical thinking, which is a cornerstone of a healthy democracy.

role models that even vaguely resembled me. I am

temperature through sweating and respiration,

more than happy that you are using my work as a

and helps to flush waste. We lose water when we

tool to bring both of these vital elements into your

sweat, go to the bathroom, and even exhale. If that

students’ lives.

lost water is not replaced, the total volume of body

Let’s begin with the first story of mine, “Dear

fluid can fall quickly, and most dangerously, blood

Lady in the Women’s Washroom.” I am very aware

volume may drop. Serious dehydration is a medical

that the issue of trans people accessing public

emergency, and if not reversed, will lead to death.

washrooms is a hot-button topic, and I think it is

I am a travelling performer and storyteller. This

wise to anticipate that some of your students will

involves a lot of public speaking and airplane rides,

bring in some of the fear and misinformation that

both of which are known to contribute to dehydra-

currently circulates in our courtrooms, political

tion. It’s a thirsty business, this. I drink a lot of water.

arenas, and media. It is, as you suggest, important

Urinary frequency is vital to health. A healthy

to counter this with evidence and the real statistics.

person may urinate four to ten times a day. I’m

I have taken some time to gather some numbers

turning fifty this August, so let’s go with ten times

for you. Bear with me here, as I am about to get

a day, shall we?—for the sake of easy math, not

mathematical. Up to sixty percent of the human

including the four times I have to get up during the

adult body is made up of water, and every living cell

night now, amirite?

in the body needs water to keep functioning. Water acts as a lubricant for our joints, regulates our body

My work schedule the last few years involves me being away from home an average of 220 days


out of the calendar year, so, excluding the four

age of these incidents include me being struck by

times I go in the night, because those happen most-

a purse or shopping bag or cardboard poster tube,

ly in private hotel bathrooms, let’s estimate that

or, once at the beach, a hot-pink Styrofoam pool

when travelling for work, I need to access public

noodle (true story), which didn’t hurt physically but

bathrooms an average of ten times a day, multiplied

felt personally humiliating for reasons I find difficult

by 220 days out of the year, which is 2,200 times an-

to document statistically. Only once have I ever

nually that I will need to pee in a theatre, university,

been bruised by a particularly heavy handbag, and

library, airport, ferry, cultural centre, or, most terri-

only three times have I been physically hauled out

fying, public school bathroom. I try to stay hydrated

of the ladies’ room by security guards, and only

when not travelling as well, and I try to do things

during one of those three forcible removals did I

like go to the gym and buy groceries and go to the

not have my pants pulled up all the way. Sadly, this

movies, so let’s say I use a public bathroom twice

was the one time it happened in a major thor-

a day on the remaining 145 days I am home, for a

oughfare of the Minneapolis airport. One hundred

combined total of 2,490 public bathroom breaks

percent of the security guards who have forcibly

per calendar year, give or take.

removed me from women’s bathrooms have been

According to a 2013 research paper entitled “Gendered Restrooms and Minority Stress,” fif-


decidedly male. One hundred percent of the time I decide to go

ty-four percent or trans people who responded

to the men’s room I also feel nervous, though for

reported adverse health effects from trying to

different reasons, even though I estimate that 99.9

avoid public washrooms, such as kidney and urinary

percent of the time no men even make eye contact

tract infections, and fifty-eight percent reported

with me in there, and 100 percent of the time I use

that they have at times avoided going out in public

a stall. In the interest of solid research, though, I

because of a lack of safe facilities. As a full-time

should mention that I can’t actually be assured that

travelling artist, I don’t have the option of avoiding

100 percent of the people who use the men’s room

public places.

are, in fact, men, as, in order to not draw unneces-

One hundred percent of the time I enter a

sary attention to myself in there, I also do not make

“ladies’” room, I get nervous about being confront-

eye contact with anyone. Only three times have I

ed by a woman who feels I do not belong there. I

been aware of possibly being cruised by someone

would estimate this happens, to varying degrees,

who may or may not have been a man—hard to

about thirty percent of the time I choose to brave

tell, because I wasn’t really looking. Only once has a

the ladies’ room, which I only do now about twenty percent of my total bathroom visits, because of fifty years of hassles in there. Of this thirty percent when I am confronted or questioned, I would say the vast majority of interactions are relatively harmless: stares, second looks, elbowing of companions, passive-aggressive throat clearing, or emphatic door-sign checking. Only about ten percent of these negative exchanges involve gasping, screaming, or other visual fear responses; running out the door; or calling security on me. Only a very small percent-

Seventy-five percent of the times I am invited to speak about trans issues in a public building, there are no gender-neutral facilities on site for me to use.

man spoken to me in the men’s room. I was initially

tive to connect the reader to their own memories

so terrified by this interaction that the elderly gen-

of childhood loneliness and alienation, and, to use a

tleman who addressed me was forced to repeat his

term popular with the right wing, recruit.

words, which were, and I quote: “Son, do up your shoelace or you will trip and break your neck.” I estimate that I can only find and access a gen-

This story I am finding a little harder to quantify. I can find no data to support the need for positive representation and support for queer and/or trans

der-neutral public washroom about fifteen percent

or gender-nonconforming youth that doesn’t lead

of the time, and I am questioned about using the

me directly to statistics on suicide or self-harm.

wheelchair-accessible washroom while not appear-

As I am still alive, and relatively sound in body

ing to require it about two percent of the time I am

and mind, I will tell you that my methodology seems

entering or leaving one.

to have worked for me so far.

Seventy-five percent of the times I am invited

I’m pretty sure I spent the first eighteen years

to speak about trans issues in a public building,

of my life convinced I was the only person like me

there are no gender-neutral facilities on site for

in the whole world. I am 100 percent certain that

me to use. I find this ironic 100 percent of the

having access to any story, song, movie, or sonnet

time. As of very recently, about half the time I am

that mentioned the possibility of anything resem-

invited to speak about bathrooms in a venue with

bling a healthy and happy queer or trans person

no bathrooms for me, someone has printed up a

would have made my childhood easier to navigate,

new sign on a piece of paper and taped it over the

and I come from a very supportive family, especially

gendered signs on the gendered bathrooms, de-

relatively speaking, no pun intended.

claring them both now absolutely welcome to all.

My quality of life improved by 100 percent

Only about five percent of these times have these

immediately after I came out and met other

temporary signs been torn down, by what I can

queer people, whether they resembled me in

only hope is a very small percentage of the pub-

any tangible way outside of their sexuality or

lic that simply cannot tolerate a bathroom being

not. Things got significantly better after I first

temporarily gender neutral for the two hours I am

picked up a book called Stone Butch Blues by

on campus.

Leslie Feinberg. Even though the story was set

All of this tends to make me a little nervous, which, of course, makes me have to pee. Let’s move on to support materials and evi-

in the fifties on the blue-collar side of a very urban American city, I found echoes of myself and much comfort there. I remain convinced that

dence-based data for the second story you asked

book saved my life. I went on to scour libraries

about, “Saturdays and Cowboy Hats.” This story is

and movie theatres and the streets for positive

essentially about me meeting a young tomboy who

depictions of butch and trans people and their

reminds me of my younger self, or more important-

stories. I then began to write my own. Many of

ly, her meeting me, someone she could imagine

the stories I have encountered that truly repre-

being one day. She is full of questions, such as

sented people I could identify with that weren’t

where did I get my wallet chain, haircut, workboots

built on stereotypes or depict two-dimensional

in my correct size, and that cowboy hat? I like to

butches aping toxic masculinity appeared in

think this story shines a light on issues of queer

books that I found necessary to write myself. And

and gender-nonconforming representation in an

some of my books need a good solid update to

accessible way, using the power of personal narra-

remain with the times. I continue to write myself


down to find myself, and so that others like me

my frustration and anger are not the perfect tools

may find themselves a little, too, and be followed.

for teaching, and my patience and humour are. I

I never struggled with math in school. It has always come easily to me. I always got pretty

have always found the heart to be more powerful than any pie chart.

much straight As. Schoolwork was never the problem. School was.

I remain 100 percent convinced that the ten percent of your students who are now or will

I am 100 percent grateful that you will be

one day identify in some way as queer or trans

bringing my voice and some of my life into your

or Two-Spirit need both of us to bring our best

classroom this September. Ninety-five percent of

selves to this discussion, because all of those kids

me is honoured that out of the now-blossoming

really need to leave this world’s fear-based rheto-

and ever-increasing body of works by queer and

ric at the door and truly listen.

trans artists and performers out there these days,

I hope these statistics are of some assistance,

you have chosen to include two of my stories.

and I hope my stories help even more. I remain

The other five percent of me allows myself to feel

always grateful for good teachers and the work

frustrated that my life and experience are not con-

you do to change the world, every day. Well, ex-

sidered enough evidence of my right to thrive and

cept those glorious days in July and August, which

be welcome in public places, and that the very fact

you totally deserve off.

of my existence is still considered a topic open to

Thank you for writing.

debate. But I know that it is 100 percent true that //


Every story deserves to be told.

Only 7 of every 100 books published are available

in accessible formats for the 1 in 10 Canadians with print disabilities. The Centre for Equitable library Access is working to make sure every story can also be read, heard or felt. Find out more at Funding for CELA generously provided by The Government of Canada, Canadian Urban Libraries Council, the provincial and territorial governments of Alberta, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Yukon and our member libraries.

The Thing with Asian Women Drumming BY GRACE LAU

on the taiko is it has to be seen to be believed: an unquiet Asian woman shedding her silence by taking out her anger on the taut skin of a dead animal. It is as if I am listening to one of women’s oldest secrets: how to coax pain into rage and rage into ecstasy, a frantic alchemy.

29 It is as if I am being shaken loose from my own small life, reaching through the tender tendrils of the earth to the mother of the sister of the aunt of the— It is as if I am hearing my own power for the first time on the drum— drum—


A Voices from the FOLD: Year 5 original poem.

Previously published on Invisiblog [Invisible Publishing], January 2020.


In 2003, my parents moved us from our relatively

When I turned thirteen, I got more serious

comfortable lives in Mississauga to Grenada for

about writing and realized that it was something I

my father’s job with the Caribbean bank. It was a

was good at because my teachers and friends told

world that was supposed to be familiar (my par-

me so. I abandoned my other hobbies of drawing

ents are Grenadian), but wasn’t. It was here that

and, to some extent, reading, to write more. While

I started writing, at the age of eight. My stories

I did care about what I wrote, and wanted to make

were handwritten in a spiral-bound notebook with

my work engaging, I also wanted, more than any-

ever-decreasing pages. They were somewhat auto-

thing, for other people to enjoy my writing.

biographical: I would write about little girls moving

I have always written for others. I hold the

to new countries and trying to fit in at new schools.

audience as a nebulous entity in my brain and think

However, these were always heavily fictionalized. The little girls moved from places like Paris and Romania, to the USA, or Western Canada, places I’d never been. There were also no Black characters, and other people of colour made brief appearances to give directions or guide the white lead. At the back of my mind, even before I knew it, I felt like no one would really want to read about me. I had to think about what the audience would want, even though I had no audience, and write that.

...I felt like no one would really want to read about me. I had to think about what the audience would want, even though I had no audience, and write that.

about what it would find funny, insightful, or moving.

conduct myself in public. How do I become a per-

I learned at a young age to distance myself from

son that others, writers, would find funny, insight-

my writing. I don’t write about anything personal

ful, moving? I attend many literary events around

because I believed that should be for my eyes only,

Toronto, where I live, in an effort to support up-and-

never to share, or publicize—what would I show

coming writers I don’t know, cheer on my friends

others? Nobody cared about my personal life. It was

whom I love, and see those I admire. I also go out—

boring, so I didn’t write about it. I have no qualms

sometimes five nights a week, or even two events

about others heavily editing my work, and I experi-

in a night—in order to cultivate an outward image

ence no deep cuts about rejections from magazines.

around being involved with the literary community.

My work has never been tethered to my spirit

This doesn’t mean my involvement, or the care and

in any way—it’s like it was mass-produced, cut off

energy I devote insincere, but I do consider it work.

from me at the outset. But with writing for others,

If I am involved, and involved in a positive way,

I developed a strong and persistent desire for

maybe I will be liked. Maybe I will be good (or good

external validation. I needed and still need others

enough). Maybe people will validate me. If they like

to tell me if my work is good (or good enough), or

me, maybe they will like my work.

how else would I know? Because I never wrote for

If I’m being honest, I can ask myself: when will

myself, I’d never developed an internal locus of

I feel validated enough to become confident? But

appreciation for my writing.

because I have a background in philosophy, I busy

These days, this need for external validation has extended further from my writing to the way I

myself with picking apart the question to avoid answering it. I am comfortable enough to admit


that I constantly place barriers in front of my work and worth to prevent them from being good (or

rely on this kind of validation because I feel I might

good enough) to me. I won’t be good enough until

learn to see it as something to depend on when I

I’m published in a well-known CanLit magazine. I

am too wrapped up in my own anxiety to see that

won’t be good enough until I have a chapbook. I

I have done something excellent, that I have made

won’t be good enough until I have two chapbooks,

some positive change within myself and the com-

or a full-length book of poetry, or a novel, or win an

munity. If I have other people’s validation saved up

award. I won’t be good enough until I make money

in the bank—especially those of experts—I can pull

from my writing, until my family is proud of me, and

this out once in a while to remind myself that I have

on, and on. I tell myself that this narrative will keep

done a good thing. I believe this is wishful thinking,

me striving, to never get comfortable to mediocrity,

but this idea persists.

but, in reality, this has developed an inability to take

Who am I trying to impress? Other writers, I

time to congratulate myself on my achievements.

suppose. Those who have things I do not have,

My first chapbook, “Surface Area”, was released last

those whose lives I want to emulate, those who I

month, and already I am thinking about the second

believe can help me, as I already make myself avail-

one, where I will send it, whom I might owe. It sinks

able to others—people who I think are special, who

in deep and spreads out like a fungus.

are “above me.” There is a contradiction in believing

Another question I ask myself is why I rely


But that doesn’t really answer the question. I

in the idea of the established writer, though. I know

on external validation at all. Perhaps it’s because

these people, these authors I laud, are regular peo-

having been steeped in academia, I believe in the

ple with regular lives and jobs. I know this because

epistemic authority of experts. When it comes to

I follow a lot of them on social media, and I see the

writing, there are those whose expressions and

anxieties, anger, pettiness and joy that makes them

opinions I will accept, established writers who have

human, interesting, and normal. They are like me.

consistently proven their knowledge when it comes

But they are not like me.

to writing, industry and the cultures therein, who

Everyone speaks about impostor syndrome,

are celebrated as experts from within and outside

all the time, over and over. I have created a strange

the writing community. Despite all this, I know—

rationale to explain why it is necessary that I have

having been steeped in academia—that there are

impostor syndrome, why I should feel like an im-

those who rely a little too much on their authority,

postor traipsing about with established writers. I

who lounge on the pedestal, who sometimes use

compare myself to the experts, even though I know

their power to harm, to unfairly shuffle the deck.

I shouldn’t, and I know that if I should compare,

Are they still experts? Do I still care about what these kinds of people think? A good question. I think it’s sort of my responsibility to better spend my energy with good people, who truly care about the wellbeing of others, and of the community. Nonetheless, a part of me believed that if experts gave me positive feedback on my work— especially if they told me my work is good (or good enough)—then this is a great thing, and, therefore, something to be sought.

I can’t be too satisfied at this point, I remind myself. I don’t have a book. I don’t deserve to glide around with a light in my chest.



talking back! Covering issues that matter to young women and trans youth in-print and online since 2004!

it would not only be to people at my stage, but to

importance of mentorship, of established people

myself. I think about how much confidence I should

telling emerging writers that we don’t need to

have relative to where I am on my writing journey,

freak out about everything. But knowing all of this

how I should carry myself, how I should let others

doesn’t fix the roiling in my stomach, the feeling

see and speak about me. Exactly three people

that at any moment it could all vanish, and I would

have called me ‘inspirational,’ and I swiftly cut them

never be satisfied because it was never for myself

down. I cannot be a source of inspiration—not yet.

anyway. A question here could be: Well, why do I

I can’t be too satisfied at this point, I remind myself.

write at all? Another good question.

I don’t have a book. I don’t deserve to glide around with a light in my chest. I know very well what the solutions are, as told

I try very hard to view myself the way I view other writers around me. I try to show up to support myself, to cheer myself on with love. If I start

to me by experts: there is no rush, people will wait,

thinking, “I hope I get to a stage where I…” I let that

I should take my time as I want my writing to be

thought go. No stages. Just here, just now.

good. None of this extra stuff, like prize culture or

I tell myself, with some element of the fantas-

grant collecting, or invitations to awards and galas,

tic, that one day I’ll go back to Grenada and sit at

really matters; it’s better to be a good person, to

Grand Anse and write. Maybe, in the writing, I will

help others, to make space. But I tend to view this

add more I’s, and it will all reset like waking from a

advice as rich people saying that money doesn’t

dream. Maybe then I will be good enough. Maybe,

buy happiness. At the same time, I promote the

then, I will be good. //


Previously published in The Puritan [47], Fall 2019.


When my friend Frank, a member of the organizing

this ‘straight passing’ has a lot more to do with oth-

team of this year’s Halifax Dyke and Trans Rally, hit

er people’s judgements and perceptions, it still co-

up my DMs to ask if I would be interested in speak-

lours the way I move in the world in comparison to

ing at the Rally, I scoffed and wrote, Lol absolutely

my more visibly queer, trans, and gender non-con-

fucking not.

forming counterparts. It affords me some measure

Then I deleted the message, though they’d

of safety in Heteroland and a measure of invisibility

likely already seen it, and instead I wrote, I’m so

in Queerland. I am a cis-gender femme-presenting

honoured that you asked. What would that entail?

woman who detests categories but must categorize

The initial fuck no came because public speak-

myself I am to be honest. So perhaps it is in part

ing, for me, requires the type of vulnerability that I had no desire to practice at that moment. And because, honestly speaking, I wasn’t sure that I qualified as a dyke. So I asked my friends, Am I a dyke? Am I dyke-y enough to have anything of value to say at the Rally? • Reader, I want to explain why such a basic question is loaded for me. Reason One: despite my penchant for manrepelling aesthetics, I tend to pass as straight; while

...while this ‘straight passing’ has a lot more to do with other people’s judgements and perceptions, it still colours the way I move in the world...

because of this that my queerness has never quite

ness or simply as a generic term for all lesbians.” So,

been the most visible or significant aspect of my

I suppose, by virtue of being a queer woman, I am a

identity. For me, my queerness is not dissimilar to

dyke, and therein lies the rub.

my birthmarks; you’d have to be close enough to

This brings us to Reason Two: Fear and Shame.

me to see them—or you’d have to read my work,

I hope there is a version of me in the future

which, again, is not dissimilar to seeing some of the

who reads this essay and feels only tenderness

most intimate parts of me.

and understanding for the version of myself that is

But, back to the question, Am I a dyke? Am I dyke-y enough? While the term is, contemporarily, generally

preoccupied with Fear and Shame about the fact of my queerness. Let us begin with the Shame.

used in neutral reference to lesbians and queer

For the last few years, much of my fiction and

femmes, its origins are grim: a homophobic slur

nonfiction writing and, more recently, filmmaking,

against lesbians, masculine-of-centre, and androg-

has centred the theme of reconciling queerness

ynous women. As with all words, meanings change

and faith. “Queerness and faith” have been a work-

depending on the tongue that speaks them; words

able oversimplification of the heart of the matter:

are malleable, and from the mouth of a homo-

overcoming the Shame that I’ve come to internalize

phobe “dyke” is still an insult. As with many words,

around my queerness. This Shame is a problem;

“dyke” has, according to Susan Krantz, been re-ap-

it relentlessly attempts to convince me that I must

propriated as “a positive signifier to be used within

put up with casual carelessness (sometimes cruelty)

the community to signify toughness and assertive-

because I deserve it on account of my queerness—


which renders me a fundamentally bad person.

raging fires in the Amazon rainforest and the violent

Now let us introduce Fear: I am afraid the more I

wave of xenophobic attacks against immigrants

speak on my experiences as a queer person, the

in South Africa. Surely many other catastrophes

more I welcome a “deserved” mistreatment. Here,

were occurring simultaneously, but these are the

my Fear coincides with my Shame to nurture this

two that crowded my screens, and it felt impossible

emotional consequence.

to ignore or carry on unchanged or unbothered.

Reader, listen, I know this may seem like a simple case of internalized shit. I know, but where I’m

a general end to oppression for myself as a black,

from, there are real harsh consequences to being

queer, African immigrant, and because I recognize

out. Real harsh. I no longer live where I’m from, I live

myself to be no better or worse than anyone else

in a different place, yet, in this place, my blackness

(questionable, I’m likely worse than many), I must

is a strike against me; it just seems like a tad too

want the same for others.

much, to be black, queer, and a woman in a racist,

My politics are not separate from but rooted in

queerphobic, and sexist place. My homegirl Portia

my queerness. Before I dared to name my desires

calls it the “Queer African Struggle Bus,” as in “Do

or even knew that there existed such a name that

I really want to hop on this queer African struggle

I could touch and to which I could belong, I read,

bus? In this political climate?”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice every-

I am afraid, so I shirk the labels. I am afraid,


Because I want safety, care, justice, peace, and just

where. We are caught in an inescapable network of

so I nurse the fantasy that I will meet and fall for

mutuality [. . .] whatever affects one directly, affects

a cis/het Nigerian man who will marry me, and I

all indirectly.” I learned to situate myself in that

will move back home, and I will be safe. I am afraid

mutuality, to implicate myself. “My self” includes my

that the fascism will rise and rise and eat us all


up. I won’t be able to hide, because I’ve already

It feels reckless to desire so much from the

named myself as Other (or, more accurately, I’ve

world, to want a better world. I want to be free, I

already been named as Other). I suppose that’s the

want others to be free. The personal is political, and

point, having nowhere to hide, standing proud in

vice versa. So many wants, such audacity. And yet,

the truth of one’s shape in the world. But, I’m not

here I am writing this essay, confessing that I want

looking for Pride; I’m looking for a more honest

it all.

opposite to Shame—an opposite of Loneliness, of Fear. I’m looking for safety. •

And so, with instructions from Frank to imagine queer futures, I wrote this for the Dyke and Trans Rally:

A few weeks after the Dyke and Trans Rally, I went home for a month. Home is a place where the ability to parse out one’s identity—to negotiate and ponder the nuances of queer visibility—seems like a luxury that few can afford. I was back in the proverbial closet, but that was the least of my worries (a privilege of being cis and straight passing). My queer sexuality lay dormant, but the world kept turning. My social media feed became inundated by two geographically distinct nightmares: the increasing rates of

It feels reckless to desire so much from the world, to want a better world. I want to be free, I want others to be free.

Halifax Dyke and Trans Rally, July 28, 2019.

of inclusion into homonormativity; therefore, if it

Halifax, Nova Scotia.

doesn’t speak truth to power, it is empty. I believe in Frederick Douglass’s words on power:

I imagine a future in which this rally is a site for celebration, for joy. I want to start with an excerpt from the Com-

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will. Find out just

bahee River Collective Statement, a queer black

what any people will quietly submit to, and

feminist organization that was active in Boston,

you have found out the exact measure of

Massachusetts from 1974 to 1980.

injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they

This focusing upon our own oppression is

are resisted with either words or blows or

embodied in the concept of identity politics.

with both. The limits of tyrants are pre-

scribed by the endurance of those whom

We believe that the most profound and

potentially most radical politics come directly

they oppress.

out of our own identity. [. . .] We realize that the liberation of all oppressed peoples neces-

And I believe in Charlene A. Carruther’s amendment

sitates the destruction of the political-eco-

to Douglass’s statement: “Power concedes nothing

nomic systems of capitalism and imperialism

without organized demand.”

as well as patriarchy. [. . .] If Black women

The thing about power is that it’s insidious; like

were free, it would mean that everyone else

Voldemort’s Horcruxes it takes different shapes.

would have to be free since our freedom

Just as identities intersect, power and privilege

would necessitate the destruction of all the

fit into the spaces between these intersections.

systems of oppression.

There are the powers and privileges that white queer people can have over QTBIPOC as a result

Within that lens, queerness, for me, is very much

of western imperialism. The power and privilege

about desire. A desire for safety when I chose to

that cis-gender people of any race can have over

love, fuck, and build community with other queer

trans people of colour—particularly Trans Women,

people. It is also, equally, a desire for equity. Owing

Trans Femmes, and Two-Spirit individuals—is a

to the space that I occupy in the world, which is that

result of rampant transphobia and colonization.

I am a non-disabled person, somewhat educated,

There is anti-Blackness that non-Black queer

documented immigrant/settler. Also owing to the

people can harness, anti-Indigenous racism that

privilege of relative safety I acquired by immigrating

non-Indigenous people can leverage. There is

here—a safety that isn’t and hasn’t been available

Femme-phobia, fetishization, erasure of undoc-

to the Indigenous peoples of this place—my queer-

umented queer folk, disregard/indifference for

ness must be radical. Radical as a choice that takes

refugees and asylum seekers—a plethora of ways

work, a decision to resist.

that we harm each other.

My queerness has no interest in being assimi-

So if I am to make demands of the powers

lated into what bell hooks describes as “imperialist

in and among our various intersecting identities,

white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy,” or Laverne

then I demand that we imagine and work to create

Cox’s expanded “cisnormative heteronormative

a future where queer people get to live without

imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.”

fear of violence. Imagine futures where all of us get

My queerness is not content with a status quo

to live without the harshness of having to choose


between our cultures/families and our queer iden-

I invite us to imagine a future, a movement

tities—a world where we can exist without fear of

towards ending oppression amongst ourselves and

horrendous violence or utter rejection by our faith

cleaning our side of the street as queer people,


wherein we hold ourselves and each other account-

The reality is that there will always be ho-

able. Imagine a queer future where we treat each

mophobic, transphobic, racist, and misogynistic

other with dignity and care regardless of class or

institutions, communities, and people that will pri-

desirability politics. Where we do the difficult and

oritize profit over human beings. The reality is that

potentially lifelong work of unlearning our preju-

we have willingly or unconsciously benefitted from

dices, without demanding the labour of those we

these institutions, communities, and people.

harm. Imagine a future where we extend grace to

So here I borrow from Martine Syms’s Mun-

each other with healthy boundaries. A world where

dane Afrofuturism Manifesto, which demands

we can make amends, reconcile, and heal. A world

that in our imaginings of a new world there can be

where community means more than shared sorrow

“[n]o inexplicable end to racism—as dismantling

or grievances. Where we help each other find safety

white supremacy would be complex, violent, and

and thrive. Because none of us can get free unless all of us

have global impact.” Similarly, there can be no explicable end to a vast and intricate network of

get free.

oppressions that we enact and that have been enacted upon us.



In Bloom BY MANAHIL BANDUKWALA After Shailja Patel Urdu grows in mama’s garden coriander curried with brinjal and okra. The r’s elude my tongue, Nimra’s name butchered like goats on Eid Hindi in the next flowerpot cumin pods roost in soil dhana zeera go together you say Namaste I reply walaikum asalam Gujarati mint crushed by bare feet. Words strung together by my novice lips, mama says maari dikri, maari jaan Arabic a simple face adorned in makeup, decked with jewels peel away façade, find curvatures of meem and noon Quranic melody on Qari Sahib’s tongue Persian fountain fresh spring of water: Manahil

Previously published in Soliloquies Anthology [22.2], 2018.


Previously published on CBC Arts in “The 2010s,” 2019.

How 94 calls to action finally allowed Indigenous artists the


You are in the midst of an Indigenous renais-

Benaway became not only the first trans woman

sance. Are you ready to hear the truth that needs

but also the first Indigenous trans woman to win a

to be told?

Governor General’s Literary Award. Since I wrote a piece examining the Indigenous renaissance Dutch-

These words became iconic the moment they

er identified, even more Indigenous artists have

were spoken by Wolastoqiyik musicologist, vocalist

been given the national attention they deserve.

and composer Jeremy Dutcher. He was accepting

While it would be romantic to say that all of

the 2018 Polaris Music Prize for his debut album

these brilliant Indigenous artists coincidentally

Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, sung entirely in the

emerged in the art scene at the same time — and

Wolastoq language — a language that is severely endangered due to Canada’s policies of Indigenous assimilation and cultural genocide. His win marked the fourth Polaris Prize win by an Indigenous artist in five years, following Lido Pimienta, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Tanya Tagaq. This coincided with Indigenous artists dominating both literature and visual art awards: the Sobey Art Award has been awarded to three Indigenous artists since 2013, and the Griffin Poetry Prize had three consecutive Indigenous winners from 2016 to 2018. This year, Gwen

...there wasn’t a national push to both recognize and, more importantly, fund Indigenous artists until the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) released its final report...

Photo of Jeremy Dutcher by Matt Barnes

that Canadians and Canadian arts institutions just

didn’t fit colonial ideas of what constituted “art,”

so happened to recognize that brilliance at the

they were labeled either “crafts” or anthropological

same time — it wouldn’t exactly be accurate. The

artifacts for centuries — not art worthy of exam-

reality is that, despite the success of Indigenous

ining, studying and displaying in art museums.

artists prior to 2015, there wasn’t a national push

This extended to the literary realm as well. In her

to both recognize and, more importantly, fund

seminal book Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadi-

Indigenous artists until the Truth and Reconcilia-

an Literature, Margaret Atwood theorized that the

tion Commission of Canada (TRC) released its final

central symbol in Canada, and therefore Canadian

report in December of that year. The TRC’s final

literature, was survival. This was based on early

report — titled “Honouring the Truth, Reconciling

settlers’ experiences of “bare survival in the face of

for the Future” — marked not only the birth of

‘hostile’ elements and/or Natives.” Though they did

“reconciliation” as a political catchphrase, but also

exist, Indigenous writers were not considered; we

a cultural shift in how Indigenous art and artists

only ever appear in the book as “hostile Natives”

were perceived and engaged with.

that white Canadians must survive.

Indigenous artists have always created in-

In her pivotal 1991 paper “The Politics of Inclu-

credible work, from the blankets Salish weavers

sion and Exclusion: Contemporary Native Art and

constructed from goat hair and woolly dog hair

Public Art Museums in Canada,” Mohawk curator

to the intricate carvings made by Inuit sculptors

Lee-Ann Martin named the ultimate effect of this

from bones and antlers to Haudenosaunee raised

erasure: “The exclusion of the arts of Native peo-

beadwork. Unfortunately, because these works

ples implies that the artistic and cultural contribu-


tions to Canadian history by Canada’s First Nations

collaborative arts projects between Indigenous and

[Inuit, and Métis] are non-existent.” Because our

non-Indigenous artists and communities. They also

art and literature were not acknowledged, as far as

announced in their 2016-2021 Strategic Plan that

the Canadian public was concerned, it didn’t exist.

supporting Indigenous arts would be a key priority.

And since Indigenous peoples’ supposed lack of


Many provincial arts councils have done the

history, art, politics, science, medicine and culture

same: the arts councils in Ontario, British Columbia,

was often used to excuse Canada’s systematic at-

Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova

tempts to wipe out our nations, this sort of erasure

Scotia and Quebec all made funding Indigenous

had concrete effects on our lives.

arts one of their key priorities. What this means, in

This colonial mentality — that Indigenous

practical terms, is that arts organizations, publish-

people are “backward” or “uncivilized” or a “prob-

ers, literary journals and other arts institutions are

lem” that needs to be solved — directly resulted

not only encouraged to include Indigenous artists

in the creation of government-mandated residen-

and our work but financially incentivized to do so.

tial schools, drastically interrupting our nations’

John Barton, former editor of The Malahat Review,

cultural and artistic development. For what artistic

described the impact this had in the afterword

culture can thrive when its peoples’ children have

of the magazine’s first all-Indigenous issue, called

been stolen from their arms? When their com-

“Indigenous Perspectives.” Barton wrote that the

munity no longer has the medicine of children’s

issue was “in part inspired by a letter the British

laughter to inspire them? When their children

Columbia Arts Council sent to literary magazines in

come home unable to speak to them, their bodies

2015, exhorting us not only to better represent In-

covered with evidence of abuse they can’t escape,

digenous writers in our pages, but to involve them

their minds and spirits forever changed by abuse

in our decision-making.” (Basically, the B.C. govern-

they dare not name? While there are artists who

ment was telling the arts community they wouldn’t

emerged from the wreckage of these schools, I

get as much funding if they didn’t try harder to

mourn the loss of the artists who may have been if

include us.) Instead of relying on non-Indigenous

they’d had the support, and the Indigenous artistic

editors, Barton made the smart decision to invite

movements that could have flourished if only Can-

Philip Kevin Paul, Richard Van Camp and Leanne

ada hadn’t marked our nations for destruction.

Betasamosake Simpson to edit the issue.

With the release of the TRC’s final report in 2015, Canadians finally had to look at the effects

This had a remarkable impact: once Indigenous artists were in charge of curating and editing

of their country’s actions. The commission gave 94 calls to action that would help Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada move toward reconciliation for these atrocities, and number 83 called on the Canada Council for the Arts “to establish, as a funding priority, a strategy for Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to undertake collaborative projects and produce works that contribute to the reconciliation process.” The Canada Council for the Arts responded by creating the {Re}conciliation Initiative in 2015, which funded

...these same institutions that shut us out changed their tunes and got on board once they realized we could not only get them awards recognition but also make them money.

Indigenous pieces — once Indigenous art was al-

and galleries continue to treat it as niche. There

lowed to be truly Indigenous — the issue sold out

will never be a large audience for marginalized

completely and went into a second pressing. This is

art if arts institutions, publishers and galleries

nearly unheard of in the literary world. It’s particu-

don’t financially back that art, exposing our work

larly impressive when you consider that, even five

to Canadians on a large scale and thus creating

years ago, many non-Indigenous editors, taste-

an audience. And, of course, now that Indigenous

makers and gatekeepers in the literary community

artists have the chance to prove our work is both

referred to Indigenous work as “niche,” claiming

brilliant and marketable — that we can sell out arts

there was no audience for it.

shows and end up on bestseller lists — more arts institutions, publishers and galleries have support-

To look at the contributors list of this issue now is a bit surreal. It included the first excerpt

ed us. It’s incredible how quickly these same insti-

of Joshua Whitehead’s Jonny Appleseed. It included

tutions that shut us out changed their tunes and

Lindsay Nixon’s essay “Windigo,” which eventu-

got on board once they realized we could not only

ally ended up in their book nîtisânak. Billy-Ray

get them awards recognition but also make them

Belcourt’s poem “L ove is a Moontime Teaching”

money. It’s also incredible how hungry Canadians

appeared here before it ended up in his Griffin

have been for Indigenous art and stories once

Poetry Prize-winning book This Wound is a World.

the government actually started to write us back

Darlene Naponse’s short story “She is Water”

into our collective history and institutions actually

became a finalist for the 2017 Journey Prize after

featured our work. While the official politics of reconciliation has

appearing in this issue. Darrel J. McLeod’s piece “Maci Manitowi (Devils)” was a precursor to his

left much to be desired, with the government ul-

Governor General’s Literary Award-winning book

timately enacting few of the 94 calls to action, the

Mamaskatch. My essay “A Mind Spread Out on the

cultural and artistic impact of the TRC’s final report

Ground” won a Gold medal at the National Mag-

cannot be understated. Throughout the second

azine Awards that year, which helped me land an

half of the decade since its release, its influence

agent, and that piece eventually became the title

has been undeniable — and will no doubt continue

essay of my essay collection.

to reverberate in the years to come as the Indige-

This is the capitalistic reality behind all art:

nous renaissance stretches far into the future.

marginalized artists’ work will always be considered “niche” when arts institutions, publishers





Previously published on The Nasiona, December 2019.


I took part in my first Canadian Thanksgiving over

garlicky fish sauce and chilies. The incense ash col-

15 years ago. Ryan, my university boyfriend then,

lected on my late dad’s altar next to the table, the

my husband now, invited me to his parents’ house.

drone of Buddhist chanting from the stereo always

Stepping over the threshold, I landed in a fantasy world I had only ever spied on by way of TV fam-

in the background. Ryan’s mom placed a slice of pumpkin pie in

ily sitcoms. We had cocktails from the bar station.

front of me after we cleared the dinner dishes.

Ryan’s dad said grace before dinner, his head bent

The crust was the colour of beach sand and it

and hands in front of him, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

bore the scars of wrinkles and ridges as an im-

I fixed my gaze on one spot on the hardwood floor

print from the aluminum pie pan. The filling was a

and was silent. Laid out in front of me was a buffet of carved up turkey, homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, glazed carrots and tomato aspic. I almost reached my hand out to test if there was a pane of glass separating me from this perfectly set scene, the edges of my peripheral vision shimmering as if I was in a dream state. At my family parties growing up, I raced my cousins to the food line to fill our plates with rice vermicelli and fragrant herbs, pickled lotus root salad, barbeque crispy-skin pork, accompanied by

I nodded. It was the polite thing to do. “I’ve never had it before.” “You’ve never had pumpkin pie?” Grandma asked, disbelief behind her eyes.

deeper shade of beach sand, perhaps wet sand,

from the top of my head to my toes, suffocating like

with flecks of black suspended within. The pie glis-

a humid breeze in July, which was quickly replaced

tened with smooth beads of moisture skimming

by the icy embrace of annoyance, which finally set-

the surface.

tled into tepid resignation. Sigh. I didn’t know how

I picked up the dessert fork and took a bite.

to point out that my mother never bought it at the

It tasted sweet, hints of exotic spices hitting my

local Superstore in Winnipeg’s west end, that my

tongue. The texture was creamy and thick, filling up

mother, growing up in Vietnam, did not learn how to

my mouth, but not in a completely pleasant way,

make it from her mother who did not learn how to

like I was swishing around paper pulp. The more

make it from her mother. I did not feel like explain-

I chewed, the more it seemed to expand in my

ing myself, not here, not as I always had to do.

mouth, hitting the back of my throat. “Good, right?” Ryan’s grandma asked me as she pushed another forkful into her own mouth. I nodded. It was the polite thing to do. “I’ve never had it before.”

“No, never,” I said to Grandma and I ate another bite, followed quickly by some black Red Rose tea to wash away the taste. I looked around the table. It had been beautifully set. A perfectly ironed white tablecloth glittered

“You’ve never had pumpkin pie?” Grandma

under the lights, bouquets of freshly cut flowers in

asked, disbelief behind her eyes. It was something

autumnal colours ran down the middle of the table,

she could not imagine, that something so normal

dinner fork, dessert fork, white china plates rimmed

was something I had never experienced.

in silver, and crystal glasses placed flawlessly.

A gust of embarrassment blew through me

Growing up, at family parties, I ate off Styrofoam


plates balanced on my lap as I sat cross-legged on

cop cars cruising the streets, and always on alert as

the floor. No one owned fine china. We wrote our

I waited at a bus stop where a girl had been jumped

names on plastic cups with a black marker that left

and assaulted.

stains on the inside of our palms. We always ran out of plastic chopsticks and plastic forks. Ryan sat beside me. I blinked and he seemed

back to Vietnam. It was the first time being there since we emigrated. My mother had tears in her

to shift for a moment, a stranger far in the distance,

eyes as we walked off the plane – she was home.

unapproachable. Or perhaps I was the inaccessible

I, on the other hand, was visiting a foreign coun-

one. Gazing at him and his family around the table,

try. Everything was different from what I knew. I

they almost glowed with contentment, so tightly

couldn’t read the signage around me. The buildings

connected in their shared traditions. I knew I was

were four or five storeys tall and jammed up against

the only one here who just had pumpkin pie for the

one another like building blocks. A sea of Hondas

first time, who was experiencing anything for the

and bikes, never-ending waves of traffic merging

first time. Everyone else was secure in their rituals

and weaving together, flooded the streets.

repeated over the years, through the generations. I

And the strangest part—there were Vietnam-

felt a chasm deep within near my naval and I knew

ese people everywhere. Everyone looked the same.

that all the rich Thanksgiving food would not be

Everyone had black hair and yellow-hued skin. I may

enough to fill it, to fill my otherness.

have had similar features from those around me,

Pumpkin pie is not something I enjoy. I will eat


When I was nine years old, my family took me

but that didn’t mean I belonged. I was a constant

it at family gatherings. I can’t bring myself to like it. I

curiosity. People stared at me wherever I went,

am outside this love of pumpkin pie. I am an outsid-

one person whispered “Viet kieu.” They all nodded.

er of this communal Canadian experience. As food

Ahhh…overseas Vietnamese. As eyes followed

is tied to cultural identity, I wonder what this means

me as I walked through the marketplace, I felt an

for me. I want to say I belong, but I don’t quite.

ache deep inside, an emptiness of otherness, and I

As someone not born in Canada, I want to love it, to love all that it represents, but I can’t. My family and I immigrated to Canada when I

clenched my fists at my sides. My big sister Jen and I were staying at my paternal grandfather’s house, my Ong Noi’s house, in

was three, in the early eighties, after my parents

Trang Bang, a town near Saigon. We were lounging

re-built their lives in Saigon after the American War

in the front room after breakfast watching street

in Vietnam. My dad dreamed of much more for

traffic. Co Chin, my aunt, squatted on the floor

his two daughters than he ever had. Sadly, after a

and took a machete to a large fruit I had never

few years in Canada, he passed away sixteen days

seen before.

before he could realize his dream of becoming a

It was sau rieng—durian. It was the size of a

Canadian citizen, when I was seven years old. My

human head. It was not symmetrically oblong but

mom became a single mother raising two children

misshapen and dried out, in shades of brown and

in a country not her own. Educated as a teacher

green, covered in hard spikes like rows of shark

in the land of my ancestors, she operated a sew-

teeth. After she split it open, inside the thick skin

ing machine for years and years to provide for us.

were distinct chambers. It was like looking at the

Growing up in Winnipeg’s West End, the neighbour-

cross-section of a heart. The flesh was pale yel-

hood was diverse and vibrant, yet I was aware of

low, creamy and delicate. Each segment wrapped

around a stone pit; the segments coiled around

I want to love it, to love all that it represents, but

each other tightly like organs fitted inside the body.

I can’t.

The aroma was pungent and overpowering, like cut

Now when I peer into my fridge on the hunt for

onions or worn socks. I leaned further back in my

a late-night snack, I move around containers of feta

chair, trying to escape the aroma.

cheese and parmesan petals, olives, pickles, oyster

Jen was the first one to cup her hands out after Co Chin offered up a piece. I watched her savour

sauce and red vinegar to reach for red salsa and green salsa to eat with corn tortilla chips.

each bite, drawing the segment to her mouth, and

Now in the fruit compartment of the fridge, I

pulling the stone pit away when she was done.

usually have apples and oranges. Sometimes I have

Yellow threads like sinew dangled from her lips. She

plums or cherries or mangoes, whatever is on sale

had waited years to taste durian again.

that week. But I usually have apples and oranges.

Co Chin held up a piece to my mouth. I instinctively turned away, the smell so off-putting. “Don’t know how to eat,” I said in my broken Vietnamese. “Never eaten.” She looked surprised, like she could never imagine such a reality. “Eat it.” I shook my head.

When the bag of apples butts up against the bag of oranges, it seems like they are touching, seamless, almost overlapping. If I look closer, with a strong magnifying glass or a microscope, I would see there is a space between the two different fruit. It would be the space between where one distinctively ends and the other distinctively begins. That’s where I exist. It’s a small space, maybe

“Eat it.” She said more firmly. She must have been thinking, how was it possible I had never eat-

razor-thin where one culture rubs against the other,

en it or didn’t want to have it?

but if I look closely, the space is real, it is there. I am

I don’t remember if I felt embarrassed or an-

defined by what I am and I am defined by what I am

noyed at nine years old. I think I wanted so des-

not. Comparing myself to each of the cultures like

perately to convey what I was thinking but I lacked

trying to compare apples to oranges. Food is tied to the cultural memory of the land

the Vietnamese words to do so. How would I know durian? How could this be expected of me? It was

of my ancestors. Cultural memory is what I con-

not sold at the local Superstore in Winnipeg.

sume along with the actual dishes and delicacies of

To this day, I have never eaten durian. I imagine the taste to be creamy and custard-like,

Vietnam. Cultural memory is also what I have lost crossing the ocean to my new home. Food is tied to the cultural identity of my home

smooth yet holding together well, luscious and rich, like a sinful indulgence. And yet, I can’t bring

now. Cultural identity is the nourishment I seek

myself to try it.

along with the actual products and crops of Can-

I envy my sister’s enjoyment, the sensation, the craving for this product from the country where

ada. Cultural identity is also what eludes me as I attempt to immerse myself in traditions and rituals.

I was born, my ancestral land. I am outside this

There is still an ache deep within me, an oth-

love of durian. I am an outsider from this common

erness born by existing in the space in between.

Vietnamese experience. As food is tied to cultural

This ache is not fulfilled by any amount of food, no

identity, I wonder what this means for me. I want to

matter its origins.

say I belong, but I don’t quite. As someone who claims Vietnamese heritage,



Medicine BY JAMAAL JACKSON ROGERS She said, “Our diversity is our medicine.” She said, “Our diversity is our medicine.” Gathering all the beauty in the world in one unifying sentence And how could I challenge her? When I have sampled a taste of utopian togetherness; trading in a lens of ignorance for a culture of multiple expressions, narratives and languages When I was younger, I never spoke about how intense I studied the human condition My earliest memories begin with my father’s Guyanese shoulders embracing my mother in moonlight shuffle As if they had memorized a legendary routine from a champion figure skating couple When he would halt his waltz kneel to the ground and tuck us in under blankets that warmed our bodies from the cold floor Hoping to make sense of complex emotions shown by world travelers and globetrotters that would eventually settle on Canadian soil Watching moments of contemplation flash like brainstorms only to transform into revolutionary actions Actions that would ultimately alter my understanding of what it feels to


know when one is home Those were days when we first arrived to Ottawa Shelters becoming natural habitats Until this glowing city of growing capital helped us back on our feet In these days of decades past I would meet faces attached to stories that carried history from all across earth’s marvelous landscapes It was on Elmira Drive and Iris Street where I crossed cultures from everywhere I found lodging in the communities that shared the same longing as me Spoken in a language of triumph and resiliency Witnessed in the silent pride of a Cambodian man’s smile Who hides the pain of all that he and his wife left behind to find new hope in a country that promises a better life He shows no teeth but his grin is chin high and his eyes beam with glory as if the future told him that eventually it would all be worth the journey A language that reflects the ancient family lineage recited from a Somali mothers call for her children playing chase in the twilight of August’s eve As if tribe and siblings had the same meaning

she sings out names from the corner of her mouth like I’ve never heard before Samatar, Abdi Fatah, Muhammad, Nasra And all at once I can taste the camel milk flow from the horn of Africa Sweeping peninsulas to exotic islands in the Caribbean Where Haitian diasporic doorsteps play zouk and kompa And elders hands fry fish and chicken drumsticks Sizzling stoves blowing smoke through windows that would invite the auditory senses into a euphoria of nostalgia and hospitality When the Creole escapes their throats You can hear the resistance still chanting freedom songs from the motherland mixed with the chance to start a new renaissance on the frontiers of a liberated land It didn’t take much for us to celebrate the everyday And when special occasions came Ceremonies to honour joyous commemorations We danced the Lebanese Dabke as if it was taught to us through breathe and lung rituals that match the rhythm of the sacred loud and tabla Or at least watched in awe as men with frames the size of goal posts dipped low then leaped beyond whatever struggles their fellow countrymen faced back home All that I was searching for From subtle sunrise, midday sunshine and moving well beyond shimmering sunset Could be captured in these intense interactions of harmonious rapture A place where my heart could be embedded in the art of solidarity And my understanding of our collective Canadian identity unraveled in that single moment of affinity When she said to me, “Our diversity is our medicine.” I will never know what memories she carried beneath her skin that would lead her to share such welcoming empathy An indigenous woman who spoke truth beyond her own history of genocide that has robbed her of her rightful claim to reconcile home Maybe it was her native traditions that reminded her that we are one once we defeat the walls of ignorance and isolation But in one unifying sentence With wisdom beyond my experience She showed me That if we ever want to know how deep our beauty and empathy resides we shall see it in the hope, the healing, the stories, that lie In a newcomer’s eyes.

Previously published in Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership, 2018.


Previously published on All Lit Up, March 2020.

KEPT OUT IS KEPT DOWN: Writing Retreats and the Indefensible Retreat of Canlit BY DOROTHY ELLEN PALMER 50

Would you patronize a bakery with this sign in the

But first, let’s acknowledge the dream. For

window: “No wedding cakes for same sex cou-

many writers, being invited to a live-in writing

ples.”? Would you like, share and retweet any artist

retreat crowns the bucket list. It’s an opportunity

who participated in and praised an event adver-

to reflect, re-energize and rejoice in nature. To

tised as “TERF Proud”? Would you support arts

learn and share. To leave behind the grind and

councils using tax-payer money to fund literary

the people who cause it. To escape on a working

events openly advertised as, “For and By White

holiday with like-minded travellers. To celebrate

Men Only?”

the nurturing solitude and the electric company

If your answer to these questions is an of-

of other writers. To be recognized and pampered.

fended, “Of course not,” if these scenarios seem

To build community and your resume. To build the

outrageously unlikely, please riddle me this: Why

network that can make a career.

is all of CanLit liking, sharing, retweeting, run-

After my second book, after a decade of

ning, attending, working at, funding and praising,

publication in fiction and non-fiction, as a dis-

writing retreats with websites openly advertising

abled, senior writer who alternately uses a walker,

this: “Ableds only. No disabled readers or writers

wheelchair and mobility scooter, how many live-in

need apply.”?

writing retreats are accessible to me? After thirty

That’s not a rhetorical question. I’m actually going to try and answer it.

soul-destroying hours researching retreats right across the country, here’s the answer: Zero. Zilch. Nada. None.


Retreat website states it is Wheelchair Accessible

Website has any accessibility info of any kind, if only a contact email

Photos of residence and workspace are barrier free

Photos of any visibly disabled facilitators or attendees

Makes any mention of any plan to improve accessibility


Hollyhock BC







Firefly ON







Loretto Maryholme ON







Pele Island Book House ON







Sage Hill SK







Doris McCarthy Centre ON







Porphyry Island ON







Pulp Lit BC







Writers Adventure Camp BC






10. Ochre House ND






11. Victoria Summer Writers BC






12. Wallace Stegner House BC






13. Spark Box Studio ON






14. Haig Brown House BC






15. Artscape Gibraltar Point ON






16. Al Purdy A-Frame ON






17. Kalamalka Press WIR BC






18. Berton House YK






19. Joy Kagawa House BC






20. Banff Centre for the Arts AB (approximately 12 writing retreats per year)







In the 2019 census, disabled people are 22% of

with inaccessible dirt roads and wooden sidewalks

Canada. So, what words do I give this chart?

without curb cuts or ramps.

Heartbreaking. Hurtful. Insulting. Bigoted. Discriminatory. Disgusting. Smug. Shameful. Daily. Typical. Incessant. Systemic. Exactly what I expected and entirely indefensible. If you hear nothing else I’m saying, please hear this: Kept out is kept down. These dream-punching retreats and residen-

website with an Accessibility tab, but is equally deterrent and cagey: “If you have mobility or other accessibility requirements, please inform Participant Resources as soon as possible upon your acceptance into a program…Once your information is received, we will be in contact to discuss how

cies are sponsored, partnered and funded from

(and if) we are able to support the accommodations

every heavyweight corner of CanLit: The Canada

required.” It states “some” bedrooms have “wheel-

Council, provincial and city arts councils, book

chair access,” but never says if rooms have wheel-

awards, writers’ guilds, the Writers’ Trust, publish-

chair accessible washrooms, or if work and meeting

ers, bookstores, libraries, banks, literary magazines,

spaces are accessible. Because they know many of

Heritage Organizations, universities and my writing

them are not.

colleagues. Smugly proud and guilt-free, all of abled

All three websites fall short of supplying all

CanLit unites to fund and celebrate the inaccessible

the information I need. I will have to phone and

retreats that keep seniors and disabled people like

beg. How many times in the last twenty-four hours

me out.

have you had to phone up a business, restaurant,

If you’re a younger, abled member of CanLit, I


The world-renowned Banff Centre has the only

movie theatre, or arts event, to ask if they will

bet you’re looking for some “hope” also known as

pretty please let you in? Are you willing to do that

wriggle room. Before we give any credit where it

every day of your life, knowing most places will say

isn’t due, let’s look at Berton House, Kogawa House

no? Welcome to my world. “Access-possibly-avail-

and Banff Centre, the only three retreats to make

able-but-only-after-polite-inquiry” is not access.

any mention at all of accessibility.

It does make sure there is no written record of

All three promise nothing and actively deter my application. Kogawa House openly lists all the physical barriers that confirm I can’t attend, as if advertising itself as inaccessible is commendable. For the last

inaccessibility. Agreeing to seek abled permission only ensures my continued oppression. No thanks. All disabled people know this: any event that is Wheelchair Accessible proudly advertises itself as

three years, their website states they are “undertaking plans” to improve accessibility. Run by the Writers’ Trust, completely oblivious to the fact the disabled community reviles the word special, under “Special Access and Medical Requirements,” Berton House states: “Special access requirements will not affect a writer’s application or chance of being selected, though we acknowledge a writer’s ability to accept a residency offer may be affected if their needs can’t be met.” It goes on to describe the six steps into the house on the isolated edge of a city

Smugly proud and guilt-free, all of abled CanLit unites to fund and celebrate the inaccessible retreats that keep seniors and disabled people like me out.

such. If there is no accessibility information, that’s

kind and polite, were weaponized against us to

because the event is inaccessible but knows better

make us compliant and silenced. Putting heart over

to put it in writing. In short, these three well-fund-

head, valuing the feelings of others before valuing

ed, prestigious retreats are no better than those

ourselves, became a self-perpetuating sexist trap

with no information. They’re “woke” enough to

women set for each other. It toned us down. Made

know inaccessibility is wrong, so they write adver-

us afraid to be direct, loud, or demanding. Afraid

tising copy that ensures none of us needing acces-

to offend even the offensive. It reinforced power

sibility feel welcome. It’s the code of abled privilege.

inequities and urged us to substitute the venting of

They effectively say, sure, disabled writers can go

“feels” for action.

to all the work of applying, then they’ll kindly let us

My disabled community has long rejected the

know “how (and if)” they deign to “accommodate”

very notion that we must seek, value, or labour to

us. What they really mean is this: we’re quite happy

earn, any kind of empathy or kindness from abled

keeping you out.

people. It only reinforces the lie that our human

Shut up and stay out.

rights should be the product of abled charity. Emo-

But I knew all of this before I began this survey.

tions do not produce Disability Justice. Two years

I forced myself to perform thirty weeping hours

ago, in January 2018, I wrote a companion article to

of labour documenting my own insult, exclusion

this one and CanLit responded with an outpouring

and erasure. Why? Because abled CanLit doesn’t

of kindness and empathy. Commissioned by All Lit

value or believe the collective lived experience of

Up, then republished in the FOLD 2018 program,

my disabled community. It wants to reduce inac-

it contained a similar survey documenting that the

cessibility to my individual, personal problem. I

total number of wheelchair accessible independent

needed to document this total erasure to prove

bookstores in all of Toronto is, you guessed it, zero.

to abled CanLit what senior and disabled writers

Today, some stores like Another Story hold some

already know: the inaccessibility of writing retreats

events off-site in accessible locations. But most

is only one tiny example of the systemic ageism and

organizers continue to hold events at inaccessible

ableism in the arts.

bookstores and inaccessible artsy venues for one

How do we work together to change that?

simple reason: because the kind and empathetic

In far fewer hours, with less cost to my men-

readers and writers of abled CanLit still feel fully

tal health, I could have written an artful personal essay describing my individual struggle with retreat inaccessibility. But I didn’t want to give this space to sadness and loss. I don’t want to poetically plumb

entitled to walk over my back to attend them. So much for abled kindness and empathy. They’re useless. They change nothing. Instead, we all need to openly challenge abled

my feelings, hoping younger, abled readers might

privilege. Young, abled writers benefit from the

kindly empathize. I’m not asking for kindness or

erasure of disabled and senior writers the way men

empathy. Quite the opposite, I reject them entirely.

benefit from the erasure of women, the way white

Anyone who asks for empathy and kindness

people benefit from the erasure of BIPOC. They get

from me needs to know that these words have a

to control the narrative. The abled 78% of the pop-

problematic history in both of my communities.

ulation get to seize 100% of space, resources, em-

Senior women are old enough to remember our

ployment, fame and funding for themselves. Then

1950’s girlhoods, a time when centering the feel-

they get to pretend they are not actively keeping us

ings of others, when being forced to be nice-girl

down, subservient, in our place, beneath them.


Refusing to change, abled people get to tell themselves ableism is unchangeable. I know exactly why abled writers continue to go to abled-only retreats and events and pretend they are not participating in the erasure of disabled

reinforces the great lie: that young, abled, white bodies are superior bodies. Plainly put, it’s racist, ageist, ableist social Darwinism. It’s also the gateway to eugenics. Given the

people. Back in 1987, I did the same thing. When

pressing climate crisis, expecting empathy and

I walked unassisted, when I was in the disabled

kindness from disabled and senior communities

closet, I attended what was then called the Banff

isn’t just a decadent and privileged waste of the

Writers Colony. Star-struck and grateful, desperate

little time left us. It’s flat out wrong. Unless we are

to belong, I climbed stairs and hiked the woods. I

heard and included, now, as recent forest fires

felt guilty, but said nothing, Because it was 1987.

and floods confirm, disabled people and seniors,

Because I was too ashamed to identify as disabled.

especially racialized and poor disabled people and

Because I had no allies. I noticed my group was

seniors, will be the first to die. The survival of my

mostly male, all abled and all white, but so sincerely

disabled and senior communities should never be

believed writing retreats were a such scarce prize,

dependent on how kind and empathetic we man-

I was quite happy to be any kind of collaborator to

age to make young, abled people feel.

get one. Today, in 2020, the openly advertised ban of

But reaching true diversity in the arts does depend on what we all do. Now. Today.

any other marginalized group would produce open


revolt. No other marginalized group would ever

Together, let’s move beyond performative emoji

be told: We’re keeping you out because it’s more

allyship into active solidarity:

important to preserve the beauty of old buildings. Why doesn’t “woke” CanLit see the extraordinary

1. The arts community must learn the preferred

hypocrisy of letting inaccessible old buildings enact

language of the disabled community. There is

the Ford-Kenney-Scheer exclusionary right-wing

no such thing as “fully accessible,” “semi-ac-

agenda, when they actively fight Ford-Kenney-

cessible, or “accessible except for the wash-

Scheer on every other issue? Why does the banning

room.” For arts events, a “wheelchair acces-

of my disabled and senior communities produce

sible” event must have ALL of the following:

nothing but a collective CanLit shrug?

a barrier-free entrance and floor space, with

Because they are quite happy to be any kind of

e-doors and an accessible washroom with

collaborators to keep their prizes. And because colonial capitalism is a wily beast. It offers crafty tethering rewards. Firstly, it tells abled people they’re the boss, that their charitable empathy and kindness is optional, that accessibility is theirs to grant (or not) as they see fit. Secondly, it tells these abled bosses that disabled people aren’t equal citizens with equal human rights, but “special” burdens. The ableist colonial capitalism that frames us as lesser beings, as childlike, as begging for abled charity to survive,

If you find these demands too extreme, if you dismiss them as too expensive, too utopian, congratulations, you’ve been successfully brainwashed by the colonial capitalism...

grab bars, and soap, sink, towel or blower

6. A coalition of disabled artists should bring a

that can all be accessed independently by a

class lawsuit under the Charter of Rights and

wheelchair user. A “wheelchair accessible”

then file a complaint under the UN Disability

retreat must add ALL of the following: barri-

Protocol, demanding that in restitution for our

er-free grounds, workspaces and bedrooms

decades of systemic exclusion, all arts retreats

with accessible plugs, light switches and roll-

must accept only disabled applicants for the

in showers.

next five years. That is still only some 2,500 spaces, nowhere near the full restitution for

2. Accessibility is everyone’s job. Upon seeing any

decades of exclusion.

retreat or arts event without accessibility information, everyone should ask for it to be posted.

7. As of 2025, when Ontario is supposed to be

No one should like, share, or retweet any event

“barrier-free,” in alignment with the new Acces-

that isn’t at least wheelchair accessible.

sible Canada Act, every arts event inviting and/ or hiring artists must maintain a fair, represen-

3. Just as they would never attend a retreat or

tative minimum of 22% of disabled participants

event that banned any other marginalized

or lose all governmental funding.

group, abled artists must check their privilege by publicly refusing to work at or attend inac-

If you find these demands too extreme, if you dis-

cessible arts events. Everyone should demand

miss them as too expensive, too utopian, congrat-

that all inaccessible events relocate in accessi-

ulations, you’ve been successfully brainwashed by

ble venues.

the colonial capitalism that wants you to believe that, like the poor, ableism and ageism will always

4. All artists should push for an ever-expand-

be with us. Here’s the uncomfortable truth: No group of

ing practice of accessibility, including but not limited to: ASL, CART, quiet rooms, scent-free

abled people under sixty is diverse. Here’s the good news: everyone benefits from

policies, large print and braille handouts, relaxed conferencing, and provisions for service

the inclusion of seniors and disabled people. The fair, representative inclusion of seniors


and disabled people in our numbers would actually 5. No inaccessible arts event, no one attending an

raise the representation of all marginalized groups,

inaccessible arts event, should get a penny of

because we come from all marginalized groups.

funding. The Canada Council, all arts councils,

When marginalized writers support the inclusion of

and all corporate and private donors must stop

senior and disabled members of their own commu-

funding inaccessible arts events. They already

nities, when young and old demand the inclusion

know why. Inaccessible events violate labour

of each other, we begin to approach true diversity.

legislation, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,

Then, in all the spaces and places of the arts, we

Canada’s recently-signed UN Disability Protocol,

can embrace the best practice of Disability Justice.

and their own funding guidelines which forbid

We can unite to ensure that nobody and no body

“discrimination on the basis of ability.”

be left behind. //


A Djinneology of Rumi BY KHASHAYAR MOHAMMADI for Christina Baillie he knew that he was contending against a Deev,

Rumi says to leave behind all earthly possessions

and he put forth all his strength, but the Deev

to become Divaneh,

was mightier than he, and overcame him, and

to act like a Deev

crushed him under his hands. —Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, translated by Helen Zimmern

Deev from Da’eva through Avestan but Da’eva makes Devil through the indo-european connection neurodiversity fallen into predicament at the hands of etymology Divaneh now translated as crazy from old Swedish Krasa


to crush, shatter jagged edges of a collective consciousness once prevalent


too sharp to fit into any rounded conversation but there’s a second etymology that says Deev through Deva Deva makes Divine Rumi says “Divaneh Sho” translated as “Become mad!” or is it to become Divine perhaps? to be touched transcendent gifted Deev now chiefly translated to Demon (through Greek Daemon) originally benevolent semi-holy dysphemised by history



when translated back to Persian


becomes Majnun

not functioning

Possessed by a Djinn

fragmented, but whole

connected to Genius

in eternal exile

the Roman appropriation of Daemon

prone to ventriloquy

e.g. Socrates had a Daemon Da Vinci had a Genius Djinns promised real by the Qur’an

{often called schizophrenia} wearing a thick layer of dusk as eye shadow and sailing the choppy waters of taxi window blinds staring at corporation names

have become B-movie tropes now

mowed into slanted, footlit grass


and into the mind

young girl moves to rural town her dorm room possessed by a Djinn a Djinn she can now carry like a venereal disease she can become Djinn-deh a “Prostitute” literally Djinn-giver but Majnun is synonymous with tragic obsession (Love) the Persian Romeo at the end of his wits driven to Poetry by love roaming the desert so long parents have given up hope

staring out the window the sheer effort of existence scratched onto the spine roaming the concrete deserts of indifference days dictated by pharmaceuticals now… ask me again about etymology: Deev <= Da’eva => Devil or Deev <= Deva => Divine

Previously published in T ​ he Temz Review [Issue 10], Winter 2020.


Previously published in Crush Zine, 2019.


I wish I had a copy of the letter I wrote to my broth-

one, it sounds like, is figur-ing out what to do

er in 1982. He was ten years older than me, gay,

about it.

living in Toronto, taking a break from his career as a journalist to work on a law degree. I idolized him.

On the next page, in his familiar, scrawly, slanted

I was 19, studying English Literature and trying to

handwriting, he offered some great advice:

write poetry in small town Nova Scotia. I can only imagine the earnest, confused,

Just keep a couple of things in mind. —going to bed with someone of the

younger-sibling outpouring that arrived at his Ger-

rard Street apartment that fall. What I still hold onto

same sex doesn’t mean you’re gay and it

(and read over and over) are the words he wrote

doesn’t make you gay,

back, on November 16. Your letter kind of amazed me; I’ve always thought of you as the one who kept personal matters pretty much to herself. (On the other hand, that’s not the sort of thing you can talk to a lot of people about, is it?)

If you’ve told your friend about your

feelings and it didn’t freak her out (as I gather) that’s great; it’s a big hurdle. The next

Whoever invented guilt over sex ruined it for a lot of people _ it’s supposed to be fun, whoever you’re doing it with.

—whatever the two of you do is your

Before closing out the advice section of his letter,

own business and no one has any right to

he said something that probably felt to him like a

tell you not to do it, or that there’s anything

funny aside and now, years later, feels like a pain-

wrong with it,

fully ironic stab.

—whether you are gay or straight or

somewhere in between (as lots of people are)

There’s one reason, actually, to be less ner-

is far less important than being able to enjoy

vous about gay sex than straight: you don’t

making love with the right person and not

have to worry about any of the disastrous

feeling guilty about it.

consequences. It’s quite a bonus.

Whoever invented guilt over sex ruined it

for a lot of people — it’s supposed to be fun,

Five years later, he would know he had AIDS. Ten

whoever you’re doing it with. The important

years later, he would be dead.

thing is to be able to explore your sexuality,

and go wherever it leads you, without panick-

In February I sent him a draft of a short story I

ing about it.

was working on. The narrator goes on a research

trip with her boyfriend and falls for a woman she

I still get mad when I think of how miser-

able I was for years, thinking I was a sicko. I

meets. The story was patchy, too full of clichés,

know better now but I wish I had back then.

and overly romantic, but the response my brother


sent back was gold. This time, his letter was type-

surprised to learn that sexual orientation was

written, just like my story.

still (or again) an open question for you. I remem-ber it coming up awhile ago, and then

I read it twice the day it arrived. Does that tell

when things fell into place with [your boy-

you anything? I really liked it. I was surprised

friend] I naively assumed that the whole mat-

by how much I liked it (don’t be insulted, even

ter had been settled. Now I learn that things

though you probably should be. I haven’t

are more complicated than ever, and on

read anything of yours since you were 10 or

several levels! I’m not sure whether I envy you

something.) To prove I’m not just saying it’s

more for the process you are going through,

good, I’ll tell you what I didn’t like about it.

which is clearly exciting and fascinating, or sympathize with the difficulties it presents,

He followed with three pages of detailed feedback,

because they are real and potentially painful.

most of it pointing out the parts of the story he

I get the impression that you are approach-

thought were strong. He called one sentence “first-

ing all of this with your usual, level-headed

rate short-story writing”. I’ll never get a review that

and open-minded attitude.

will feel as good, as important, as that one. At the end of his feedback, he wrote:

I’m not sure what I wrote to give him that impression. I remember that time in my life feeling


Have you sent a copy home? I got a letter

tumultuous and confusing. I probably needed the

from Mum asking whether I’d seen the story;

reminder, from someone who had known me my

that she hadn’t. I plan to write tonight. I shall

whole life, that I really was okay. Also, a reminder

be discreet.

that I was just beginning this work of discovering

Which brings me to the other point

about the story: it seems to reflect the stage

my own identity. At the end of a long paragraph he wrote:

your own explorations were at when you last wrote. That is, what was in your mind, as op-

We don’t choose our sexual orientation but

posed to what you might actually have done

we do have to figure it out for ourselves.

about it. Toying with the idea, so to speak —

almost as if the story was a continuation of

be out of breath by now.

If this were spoken instead of written I’d

the process of “trying it on” mentally. • By 1986, I was writing and editing for a grassroots feminist newspaper, getting politicized, organizing IWD marches, and going to Women’s Night at the gay bar in Halifax. My brother wrote to me in February. I’m not sure where you’re at right now, although the letter you sent just before Christmas provided a couple of clues. I was

He followed with three pages of detailed feedback, most of it pointing out the parts of the story he thought were strong.

The last letter I have is dated July 1991, five

I can picture him pausing, chewing on his thumbnail, then maybe lighting a smoke, before putting

months before he died, a breezy thank you note

his pen on the paper again.

for a gift I’d sent (a framed photo of him I’d taken during his last visit to Nova Scotia). There was

There is one thing I have no hesitation in say-

no mention of illness, only a complaint about the

ing. If you’re attracted to someone physically

dreadful Toronto heat.

or even just curious, and if the relationship

Thirty-plus years later, I’m living in Toronto,

is non-exploitive and has clearly established

complaining about the heat, working with queer

groundrules, by all means let it hap-pen.

elders, and still writing about bisexuality. My broth-

Maybe it already has. The biggest obstacle

er’s ghost seems close by, especially when I’m in

to sexual exploration of that kind is guilt;

the Village, near the AIDS memorial in Barbara Hall

it is also the least rational, since guilt and

Park where his name is neatly print-ed alongside so

morality are ir-relevant to the situation I’ve

many others.

just described. The risks are emotional ones

I know that his advice to me, written in those

— entanglements, confusion about people’s

letters, gave me the confidence I needed to keep ex-

feelings for each other. But you will know far

ploring my sexuality. Maybe I’m still writing letters to

more about yourself if you take such a step

my brother, looking to him for advice, reassurance,

than if you avoid it, because you will know

encouragement to keep on trying to figure it out.

whether it feels right. I have a crystal-clear recol-lection of how astounded I was the first


few times I had half-decent sexual encounters with men — it felt so right, like it was what I was made for sexually. •


“A place where I can be heard.” —Geoffrey Chang,

inkwell participant

Later that same year I produced an article called “Politics of Bisexuality” for the feminist newspaper. I wrote, for the first time in a public forum, “I think of myself as bisexual.” I went on to describe all the ways that disclosure felt risky, important, powerful, and how I thought bisexuals needed to be more visible. I don’t know if I sent my brother a copy of that article. Our correspondence had already begun to shift. In his next letter he wrote about a friend who was dying of AIDS and how this was probably the first of many in his circle. Then he began

Our voices are vital.

writing about his own treatments and prognosis.

Free, drop-in creative writing workshops every Wednesday in Toronto.

I don’t think I was a very good correspondent; too wrapped up in my own work and relationships, too afraid of facing his suffering.

InkWell Workshops instructors are award-winning writers who have lived experience of mental illness. Anyone over 18 with a mental health or addiction issue is welcome to attend.


Simon & Schuster Canada proudly presents

FOLD Writer in Residence

Lindsay Wong

Sandhya Menon

Jesse Thistle


Of Curses and Kisses

My Summer of Love and Misfortune

Crazy Rich Asians meets Love & Gelato in the first YA novel from Lindsay Wong, bestselling author of The Woo-Woo, a 2019 Canada Reads finalist.

A contemporary spin on Beauty and the Beast and start to a brand new series from the bestselling author of When Dimple Met Rishi.

From the Ashes A #1 national bestseller and 2020 Canada Reads finalist, this is a remarkable memoir of hope, resilience, and the life of a MĂŠtis-Cree man who refused to give up.

@simonschusterca @SimonSchusterCA @SimonTeenCA @SimonSchusterCA























































FESTIVAL PARTICIPANTS AUTHORS, POETS & PERFORMERS IDIL ABDILLAHI is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at Ryerson University. Twitter: @idilatweets MONA AWAD is the author of the novels Bunny and Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, which won the Amazon Best First Novel Award and was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Bunny was named a best book of 2019 by TIME Magazine, Vogue, CBC Books and Quill & Quire. It is a finalist for a Goodreads Choice Award for Best Horror and is being adapted for television by AMC. Twitter: @monaawadauthor


EDEM AWUMEY was born in Togo. His first novel, Port-Mélo (Gaillimard 2006), won the Grand prix littéraire d’Afrique noire. In 2009, Les pieds sales (Boréal, Seuil), was selected for the Prix Goncourt. Descent Into Night, the English translation of his novel Explication de la nuit, won the 2018 Governor General’s Award for French to English translation. Edem Awumey is a lecturer in French literature at McGill University. IMAM BAKSH is from Guyana, South America and writes tales of magic, monsters and heroes. His works feature Guyanese folklore and dialogue in his native Creole. Twitter: @ImamBaksh BILLY-RAY BELCOURT is from the Driftpile Cree Nation and lives in Vancouver. He is the author of THIS WOUND IS A WORLD (Frontenac 2017), NDN COPING MECHANISMS (House of Anansi 2019), and A HISTORY OF MY BRIEF BODY (Hamish Hamilton 2020). Twitter: @BillyRayB GWEN BENAWAY is a trans girl of Anishinaabe and Métis descent. She has published three collections of poetry, Ceremonies for the Dead, Passage, and Holy Wild, and was the editor for an anthology of fantasy short stories, Maiden Mother and Crone: Fantastical Trans Femmes. Her writing has been critically acclaimed and widely published in Canada. She was a finalist for the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ writers from the Writer’s Trust of Canada, the Lambda Literary Award for Trans Poetry, and the National Magazine Awards and Digital Publishing Awards for her personal essay, “A Body Like A Home.” Her fourth collection of poetry, Daybreak, is now out from Book*hug. She is also currently editing a book of creative non-fiction, trans girl in love, forthcoming from Strange Light in 2020. She lives in Toronto, Ontario and is a Ph.D student at the University of Toronto in the Women and Gender Studies Institute. Twitter: @GwenBenaway

ALI BLYTHE is author of two critically acclaimed books exploring trans-poetics: Twoism and Hymnswitch. A Quill & Quire starred review said “Blythe delivers taut yet expansive hymns from ‘the golden-throated era / of the hormone’” and the Puritan said it’s “exciting to see a writer so conscious of building a body of work within and across collections, pursuing not just a set of ideas and concerns but an artistic vision.” His poems and essays are published in Canada, England, Germany and Slovenia. Twitter: @AliBlyther SINCERELY SHYY (SHIANN CROFT) is an educator, spoken word artist, screenwriter and change agent to art and culture in the GTA.The Brampton based poetess has a powerful relationship with storytelling that is ancestral and thought-provoking. Using words such as storyteller, cultural custodial and prophet of the times to describe herself, Shiann is also a brilliant educator that uses creative writing as a tool to center the experiences of black folx. WAYNE GRADY is the author of a dozen works of nonfiction, two novels (Emancipation Day and Up From Freedom), and is also an award-winning translator of such writers as Antonine Maillet, Yves Beauchemin, and Yara El-Ghadban. SAMRA HABIB is a writer, photographer, and activist. As a journalist she’s covered topics ranging from fashion trends and Muslim dating apps to the rise of Islamophobia in the US. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Advocate, and her photo project, “Just Me and Allah,” has been featured in Nylon, i-D, Vanity Fair Italia, Vice, and The Washington Post. Twitter: @therealsamsam SHEENA KAMAL’s writing has been featured in The Guardian, Bustle, The Irish Times, Writer’s Digest and Entertainment Weekly. Her bestselling debut novel The Lost Ones won her a 2018 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, a Strand Magazine Critics Award and Macavity Award for Best First Novel. The sequel It All Falls Down was called “a stunning, emotionally resonant thriller” in its Kirkus starred review. In 2020, expect her next thriller No Going Back, and her first YA novel, Fight Like A Girl. Twitter: @SheenaKamalAuthor ADNAN KHAN has written for Maisonneuve, The Globe and Mail, Hazlitt, and others. There Has To Be a Knife is his first novel. Twitter: @whotookadnan HELEN KNOTT is a Dane Zaa, Cree, and mixed Euro-descent woman from Prophet River First Nations living in Fort St. John, B.C. She has engaged in activist and artistic events across Canada, including a poetry performance at the 2017 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Awards in Montreal. Her first book, In My Own Moccasins: A Story of Struggle & Resilience, was a national bestseller and was long listed for the RBC Taylor prize. Twitter: @helen_knott

SONYA LALLI is a Canadian writer of Indian heritage. She studied law in her hometown of Saskatoon and at Columbia University in New York, and later completed an MA in Creative Writing and Publishing at City, University of London. Sonya loves to cook, travel and practice yoga. She lives in Toronto with her husband. Twitter: @Sonya_Lalli AMANDA LEDUC is the author of the non-fiction book DISFIGURED: ON FAIRY TALES, DISABILITY, AND MAKING SPACE, out now with Coach House Books. She is also the author of the novel THE MIRACLES OF ORDINARY MEN, published in 2013 by ECW Press. Her new novel, THE CENTAUR’S WIFE, is forthcoming with Random House Canada in the spring of 2021. She makes her home in Hamilton, Ontario, where she lives with a very lovable, very destructive dog and serves as the Communications Coordinator for the FOLD. Twitter: @AmandaLeduc Teacher, editor, and critic, CANISIA LUBRIN has been published internationally, including translations into Spanish, Italian, and forthcoming in German and French. In 2019 she was Writer-In-Residence at Queen’s University and poetry faculty at Banff Centre. She’s received nominations for the Toronto Book Award, Journey Prize, Gerald Lampert, Pat Lowther, and others. Lubrin’s Voodoo Hypothesis was a CBC Best Book. The Dyzgraphxst (M&S) is her second book. She earned an MFA at the University of Guelph. Twitter: @CanisiaLu A proud Brampton kid at heart, DESIREE MCKENZIE has touched many stages around the GTA. She is the co-director of the Toronto BAM! Youth Slam and 2019 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word National Champion. Poetry turns her stories of relationships, growing up and struggles with self-love as an Indo-Caribbean (queen) into tales of perseverance. She has a passion for spreading poetry through her community hoping that others find strength through stanza, by way of the soul. RYAN MCMAHON is an Anishinaabe creative that talks, writes and yells for a living. McMahon’s work is squarely rooted at the intersection between the good, the bad and ugly between Indian Country and the mainstream. Twitter: @RMComedy SANDHYA MENON is the New York Times bestselling author of When Dimple Met Rishi, Of Curses and Kisses, and many other novels that also feature lots of kissing, girl power, and swoony boys. Her books have been included in several cool places, including the Today show, Teen Vogue, NPR, BuzzFeed, and Seventeen. A full-time dog servant and part-time writer, she makes her home in the foggy mountains of Colorado. Twitter: @SMenonBooks KAGISO LESEGO MOLOPE has won the 2019 Ottawa Book Award and the Inaugural Pius Adesanmi Memorial Award for Excellence in African writing. Her novels are Dancing in the Dust, The Mending Season, This Book Betrays My Brother and Such a Lonely, Lovely Road. Twitter: @KagisoBua RHONDA MULLINS is a Montreal-based translator who has translated many books from French into English, including Grégoire Courtois’ The Laws of the Skies and Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette’s Suzanne. She is a seven-time finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation, winning the award in 2015. Novels she has translated have been contenders for Canada Reads and one was a finalist for the 2018 Best Translated Book Award.

DOROTHY ELLEN PALMER is a disabled senior writer, accessibility advocate, retired English/Drama teacher, improv coach, and OSSTF union activist. Her work appears in: Refuse, Nothing Without Us, Wordgathering, Alt-Minds, All Lit Up, Herizons, Little Fiction Big Truths, 49th Shelf, and Open Book. Her novel, When Fenelon Falls, (Coach House, 2010), features a disabled protagonist in the Woodstock-Moonwalk summer of 1969. Her memoir, Falling for Myself, just appeared with Wolsak and Wynn. Twitter: @DEPalm CASEY PLETT wrote the novel Little Fish, the short story collection A Safe Girl to Love, and co-edited the anthology Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers. She is a winner of the Amazon First Novel Award, the ALA Stonewall Book Award Barbara Gittings Literature Prize, and a two-time winner of the Lambda Literary Award. She has written for The New York Times, The Walrus, McSweeney’s, Maclean’s, and Rookie, among other publications. Twitter: @CaseyPlett DANNY RAMADAN is a Syrian-Canadian author, public speaker and storyteller. His debut novel, The Clothesline Swing, continues to receive praise and awards and is translated to multiple languages. His children book, Salma the Syrian Chef, is out in March 2020. Twitter: @DannySeesIt JAMAAL JACKSON ROGERS is an award winning poet, arts educator, creative entrepreneur, and performance artist. As a poet, he was selected to be Ottawa’s first English Poet Laureate after 27 years in which the position had gone unfilled, while his career in arts education has earned him 2016’s Ontario Arts Educator Award. His defining moments are when he makes intimate connections with his participants during workshop exchanges and performance sets. Twitter: @JustJamaalPoet SAM ROSHANIE is a Brampton-based DJ that is known for her nostalgic and global song selections. She has shared stages with international acts and some of Canada’s most promising emerging artists. Beyond the DJ booth, Roshanie is a resident host on ISO Radio, a community radio station broadcasting live from Central Toronto. She is also the founder of feminist educational initiative, Solidarity in Sound, which works toward gender equity in music. D’SCRIBE (DENNIS SCHERLE) the poet is an Indigenous spoken word artist currently residing in Niagara. He has competed, cried, lost and won on many slam stages around Turtle Island. Currently working on his appearance in the play “Over to you” hitting the meridian center in Niagara falls in mid December as well as a video series that will be released early February 2020. D’Scribe is loud, angry and unapologetic on stage. Offstage, though he is a giant teddy bear. MAKAMBE K. SIMAMBA is a Dora Mavor Award winning playwright and actor, whose work includes Our Fathers, Sons, Lovers, and Little Brothers, A Chitenge Story, and The Drum Major Instinct. She works consistently in theatre, as well as in film/TV. Makambe is a proud Zambian, and she is thrilled to serve her community though her ability to tell stories. Twitter: @artingwmakambe JESSE THISTLE is Métis-Cree, from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. He is an assistant professor in Métis Studies at York University in Toronto. He won a Governor General’s Academic Medal in 2016, and is a Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation Scholar and a Vanier Scholar. Twitter: @michifman


KAI CHENG THOM is a writer, performer, healer, lasagna lover and wicked witch based in Toronto, the Dish With One Spoon Wampum territory. She is the author of four award-winning books, including Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir and the essay collection I HOPE WE CHOOSE LOVE. Kai Cheng is also a community worker and organizer whose practice is centred on Transformative Justice. Twitter: @razorfemme RINALDO WALCOTT is a writer, critic and Professor. His work is centrally concerned with Black life across the diaspora. Twitter: @blacklikewho JENNY HEIJUN WILLS has lived, studied, and worked in Toronto, Montreal, Boston, and Seoul. Her memoir, Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related won the 2019 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for non-fiction. She currently teaches at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba. Twitter: @jennyheijun LINDSAY WONG is the author of the bestselling, award-winning memoir The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, DrugRaids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family. She has a BFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia and MFA in literary nonfiction from Columbia University, and she is now based in Vancouver, Canada. My Summer of Love and Misfortune is her first YA novel. Twitter: @lindsaymwong

MODERATORS STEVEN W. BEATTIE is reviews editor at Quill & Quire magazine. He lives in Toronto. Twitter: @stevenwbeattie


ANN Y.K. CHOI’s novel, Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety, was a finalist for the Toronto Book Award. She is the co-founder of The Authors’ Book Club, an initiative that aims to connect readers with authors across Canada. She lives in Toronto. Twitter: @AnnYKChoi FARZANA DOCTOR is the Tkaronto-based author of four novels: Stealing Nasreen, Six Metres of Pavement (which was the One Book One Brampton 2017 winner), and All Inclusive. Seven, will be released in August, 2020. She is also an activist, part-time psychotherapist and amateur tarot card reader. Twitter: @FarzanaDoctor CATHERINE HERNANDEZ is the author of Scarborough (Arsenal Pulp Press). Scarborough won the 2015 Jim Wong-Chu Award, was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award, Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction, the Trillium Book Award, and longlisted for Canada Reads 2018. Scarborough is being adapted into a film by Compy Films, Reel Asian Film Festival and Telefilm, with Catherine authoring the screenplay. Her second book, Crosshairs will be published this September (HarperCollins Canada). Twitter: @TheLoudLady MAHAK JAIN is the author of the picture book Maya, which was a Kirkus Best Book of the Year, a CBC Best Book of the Year, and winner of the South Asia Book Award. Born in Delhi, Mahak came of age in four different countries. She currently resides in Toronto, where she teaches creative writing and edits books for young people. Twitter: @kveenly THEA LIM is the author of An Ocean of Minutes, which was shortlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Her writing has been published by Granta, The Paris Review, The Guardian and others. She grew up in Singapore and now lives with her family in Toronto, where she is a professor of creative writing. Twitter: @Thea_Lim

JIA QING WILSON-YANG is a Toronto based writer. Her work has appeared in Room Magazine, Carte Blanche, Maisonneuve, Ricepaper Magazine, and Poetry is Dead. Her novel, Small Beauty, won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Transgender Fiction and received an Honour of Distinction from the Writer’s Trust of Canada. Twitter: @KitJiaQing

PUBLISHING PROFESSIONALS Before joining the Transatlantic Agency, MARILYN BIDERMAN worked at her own literary agency and consultancy practice, and had previously worked at McClelland & Stewart for twelve years, most recently as VP. Director, Rights and Contracts. At M&S, she handled the international rights for many renowned authors, including André Alexis, Leonard Cohen, and Madeleine Thien. Marilyn is a member of the Law Society of Ontario, a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School, and also holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto in English Literature. Twitter: @marilynbiderma ANITA CHONG is a Senior Editor at McClelland & Stewart, where she edits literary fiction and narrative non-fiction. Recent titles include Sharon Bala’s #1 national bestseller, The Boat People, and Richard Wagamese’s final novel, Starlight. Writers she is current working with include Souvankham Thammavongsa, Saleema Nawaz, Lee Maracle, and debut novelist Reema Patel. Anita also manages the Journey Prize and its associated anthology, The Journey Prize Stories: The Best of Canada’s New Writers. Twitter: @achong9 A 23-year veteran of Canadian publishing, RON ECKEL is a literary agent at CookeMcDermid, co-owner of Cooke International, and the sitting president of PACLA (the Professional Association of Canadian Literary Agents). As an agent, Ron is particularly drawn to dark fiction in the areas of horror and psychological thriller. On the non-fiction side, Ron loves pop culture, pop science, and story-driven current affairs. His client list includes bestselling author Scaachi Koul, CBC Radio columnist and activist Jesse Wente, RUSH’s Geddy Lee, and horror writers Eric McCormack and David Nickle. Twitter: @roneckel Since 1990 SAM HIYATE has worked at literary magazines, small presses and with New York Times bestselling authors, editing and representing everything from debut fiction, memoir and narrative non-fiction to graphic novels. He has taught writing and publishing privately since 2000 and also at various universities. Twitter: @SamHiyate STEPHANIE SINCLAIR is a Senior Agent with Transatlantic Agency and oversees international rights sales for clients represented by Samantha Haywood and Page Two Strategies. Sinclair joined Transatlantic in 2012. Sinclair represents writers of award-winning fiction and nonfiction including Journey Prize winner Sharon Bala, Billy Ray Belcourt, Joshua Whitehead, Lee Maracle and Harriet Alida Lye. Writers on her roster have been nominated for the Governor General’s Award, Scotiabank Giller Prize, LAMBDA Awards, The Toronto Book Award and many others. SARAH ST. PIERRE joined Simon & Schuster Canada in 2014 and became Senior Editor in 2019. She has worked with bestselling authors of fiction and nonfiction including Beverley McLachlin, Roz Nay, Genevieve Graham, Ann Y.K. Choi, Leslie Howard, Glenn Dixon, Bob McKenzie, Jay Ingram, Jody Mitic, and Robert Bateman. Twitter: @sarahjanestp

DEBORAH SUN DE LA CRUZ is an Associate Editor at Penguin Canada. She is thrilled to have published the Booker-nominated dystopia The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh. Her focus is the next generation of writers and strong female and diverse voices. Forthcoming publications include Bestiary by K-Ming Chang, a bold and inventive debut about a Taiwanese immigrant family. She also works on upmarket titles and is excited about Clare Pooley’s heartwarming The Authenticity Project and the highly sought-after thriller Seven Lies by Elizabeth Kay. Twitter: @debsundelacruz SUZANNE SUTHERLAND is the Children’s and YA Editor at HarperCollins Publishers in Canada, where she has worked with acclaimed and bestselling authors such as Kenneth Oppel, Emma Donoghue, Brian Francis and Kit Pearson. She is also the author of several novels for young people. Twitter: @sutherlandsuz SAMANTHA SWENSON is a Senior Editor at Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers. She edits everything from board books up to young adult. She loves funny books, heartwarming books, books with a unique perspective and books with tapirs in them. Twitter: @twinkiethekidd

PROGRAM CONTRIBUTORS MANAHIL BANDUKWALA is a writer, editor, and visual artist. She is the author of two chapbooks, Paper Doll (2019) and Pipe Rose (2018). She is on the editorial team of Canthius, was longlisted for the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize, and won Room magazine’s Emerging Writer Award in 2019. Twitter: @manaaaahil MICHELLE POIRIER BROWN is a Cree Métis poet from Manitoba, currently living in Lekwungen territory (Victoria, BC). A long-time social activist and retired federal treaty negotiator, she now writes full-time, enjoys the produce of her permaculture garden, and is a novice birdwatcher. IVAN COYOTE is a writer and storyteller, the author of twelve books, the creator of four films, three albums, and an internationally touring performer. Coyote’s new book, Rebent Sinner, was released in 2019 by Arsenal Pulp Press. In 2017 Ivan was given an honorary PHD from Simon Fraser University for their writing and activism. Twitter: @ivancoyote FRANCESCA EKWUYASI’s work explores themes of faith, family, queerness, consumption, loneliness, and belonging. Her work has been published in Winter Tangerine Review, Brittle Paper, Transition Magazine, the Malahat Review, Visual Art News, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and GUTS magazine. Her story “Ọrun is Heaven” was longlisted for the 2019 Journey Prize. Her debut novel Butter Honey Pig Bread is forthcoming with Arsenal Pulp Press. Twitter: @franekwuyasi ALICIA ELLIOTT is an award-winning Tuscarora writer and editor living in Brantford, Ontario with her husband and child. Her work has been published in Hazlitt, The Malahat Review, Flare and Globe and Mail, among others. Tanya Talaga chose her as the 2018 recipient of the RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award. Her first essay collection is A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, from Doubleday Canada. Twitter: @Wordsandguitar ERICA HIROKO is a multi-ethnic and multi-genre writer who forgets to take multivitamins. Her essay “FOR THE DREAMERS” won Briarpatch Magazine’s Writing In The Margins contest. erica lives in Vancouver, BC, unceded Coast Salish territories. Twitter: @ericahiroko

JO JEFFERSON is a Toronto-based queer writer, originally from Nova Scotia. Their essay “The Swimsuit” appears in Big, a new anthology from Caitlin Press. When not writing or reading, Jo hangs out with their kids, works at a community centre, and facilitates workshops with creators of all ages. Twitter: @JoJefferson20 GRACE LAU is a Hong-Kong-born, Chinese-Canadian writer living in Toronto. Her debut collection of poetry is forthcoming in 2021 from Guernica Editions. Her work is published or forthcoming in Grain Magazine, Contemporary Verse 2, Arc Poetry, and elsewhere. Twitter: @thrillandgrace KHASHAYAR MOHAMMADI is an Iranian born, Toronto-based Poet, Writer, Translator and Photographer. He is the author of poetry Chapbooks Moe’s Skin by ZED press 2018, and Dear Kestrel by knife | fork | book 2019. His full length collection Me, You, Then Snow is forthcoming in 2021. Twitter: @DearKestrel SHANE NEILSON is a disabled poet, physician, and critic from New Brunswick. He recently won the Governor General’s Gold Medal for his academic work in disability studies from McMaster. He published Constructive Negativity: Prize Culture, Evaluation, and Dis/ability in Canadian Poetry with Palimpsest in 2019. Twitter: @Sneilsonwwh DOROTHY ELLEN PALMER (see author bio) DOMINIK PARISIEN is a writer, editor, and poet. His debut poetry collection Side Effects May Include Strangers is forthcoming from McGill-Queen’s University Press and his recent work has appeared in The Fiddlehead, This Magazine, Riddle Fence, The Puritan, and PRISM International. Dominik is a disabled, bisexual French Canadian. He lives in Toronto. Twitter: @domparisien TERESE MASON PIERRE is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in The Puritan, Quill and Quire and elsewhere in print and online. She is the current poetry editor of Augur Magazine, and has previously volunteered with local reading series. Terese lives and works in Toronto. Twitter: @teresempierre JAMAAL JACKSON ROGERS (see author bio) EDEN ROBINSON is a Haisla/Heiltsuk author who grew up in Haisla, British Columbia. Her first book, Traplines, a collection of short stories, won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 1998. Monkey Beach, her first novel, was shortlisted for both The Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction in 2000 and won the BC Book Prize’s Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. Her novel Son of a Trickster was shortlisted for The Giller Prize. Her latest novel is its sequel, Trickster Drift. LINDA TRINH explores the intersection of identity, cultural background, and spirituality through her writing. Her work has appeared in Prairie Fire, This Magazine, The Nasiona, and the Same magazine. She’s currently completing her memoir manuscript. She lives in Winnipeg. Twitter: @LindaYTrinh




THE POWER & POLITICS OF PRIZES Billy-Ray Belcourt, Samra Habib, Kagiso Molope and Casey Plett engage in a much-needed discussion on Canada’s literary prize culture. Moderated by Catherine Hernandez. [CC]

THURSDAY APRIL 30 12pm - 1:30pm



Poets Canisia Lubrin and Billy-Ray Belcourt guide teachers, readers, and skeptics alike through an interactive encounter with poetry — mixing readings, activities and lessons on how to break it all down to unleash the power of poetry. [CC]

THURSDAY APRIL 30 2pm - 3:30pm



Can books provide answers to life’s big problems — from world politics to personal triumphs and traumas? Authors from Canada, the USA, and Guyana discuss how books explore the way we see ourselves and the world around us. With books that tackle topics like school, boxing and travel in genres that cover everything from fantasy to fairy tales and romance, students will hear excerpts from new and established writers and enjoy a powerful discussion. [CC]

THURSDAY APRIL 30 8pm - 9:30pm



From the dark and obsessive fantastical world of female friendship, to a vibrant twist on Beauty and the Beast, to a de-masking of traditional fairy tales through the lens of disability, this panel of weird and wonderful writers — Mona Awad, Amanda Leduc, and Sandhya Menon — will discuss how they use the fairytale form as a playground for new and relevant ideas with moderator Thea Lim. [CC]

FRIDAY MAY 1 12pm - 1:30pm


TR ANSL ATION DUEL / DUEL DE TR ADUCTION French-to-English Language Translators Wayne Grady and Rhonda Mullins discuss their translations of an original work by Francophone author Edem Awumey in the ultimate battle of words. Audience members will receive a copy of the original work and the translations to follow along in the ultimate duel of duels. Moderated by Karen Richardson. [CC] Sponsored by the Governor General’s Award.

FRIDAY MAY 1 2pm - 3:30pm


PODCASTING MASTERCL ASS Ryan McMahon created Red Man Laughing — a podcast he hosts and produces. In this exclusive festival masterclass, the CEO of Makooks Media reveals the secrets and strategies involved in building a successful podcast. [CC]

FRIDAY MAY 1 4pm - 5:30pm


BET TER BRING THE BOOK CLUB The only thing better than finding a good book is sharing that good book with friends. Covering different genres and styles, novelists Sheena Kamal, Adnan Khan, Sonya Lalli and Mona Awad will leave you (and your book club) with plenty to talk about in a conversation with Ann Y K Choi — author and co-founder of the Authors Book Club. [CC]

FRIDAY MAY 1 8pm - 9:30pm


RECONCILIATION & RESISTANCE PART I How do marginalized writers reconcile with Canada’s past… and present? How do writers craft stories that resist systems of oppression? This two-part panel explores the onging work of writers who are writing and re-writing history through poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and comedy. Join us in this powerpacked evening of groundbreaking ideas with Helen Knott, Canisia Lubrin, Jesse Thistle and Jenny Heijun Wills, moderated by Billy-Ray Belcourt. [CC]

SATURDAY MAY 2 12pm - 1:30pm

SATURDAY MAY 2 8pm - 9:30pm



THE PROCESS OF PUBLISHING Penguin Random House Reps discuss the process of publishing for emerging writers and future publishing professionals, introducing their imprints and editors and providing insight on new internship opportunities in this meet and greet session that writers do not want to miss. [CC]

SATURDAY MAY 2 2pm - 3:30pm



The authors of four riveting memoirs discuss their conflicted and complex relationships to family and to themselves as they come to terms with addiction, disability, adoption, and community — as they reflect on the things they discovered through writing. Dorothy Ellen Palmer, Jesse Thistle, Jenny Heijun Wills, and Lindsay Wong join moderator Farzana Doctor in a discussion about writing stories that are both personal and profound. [CC]

SATURDAY MAY 2 4pm - 5:30pm


FICTION WITH K AGISO LESEGO MOLOPE Award-winning author Kagiso Molope shares secrets to great storytelling as she delves into the way voice, narration, and character work together to create powerful stories. [CC]

SATURDAY MAY 2 6pm - 7:30pm



RECONCILIATION & RESISTANCE PART II How do marginalized writers reconcile with Canada’s past… and present? How do writers craft stories that resist systems of oppression? This two-part panel explores the onging work of writers who are writing and re-writing history through poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and comedy. Join us in this powerpacked evening of groundbreaking ideas that features Dorothy Ellen Palmer, Rinaldo Walcott, Ryan McMahon, Samra Habib, and Idil Abdillahi. [CC]

SATURDAY MAY 2 10pm - 11:30pm


THE POET’S BLOCK PART Y Four poets present works that challenge culture, celebrate community and showcase the wonder of words in this annual must-see event. Join Spoken Word artists Des Mackenzie, Jamaal Rogers, D’Scribe, and Shyy in this high energy event.

SUNDAY MAY 3 12pm - 1:30pm


THE ART OF CR AFT: TR ANS BRILLIANCE EDITION This all-star panel showcases the technical brilliance of four award-winning trans writers at the top of their game: Ali Blythe, Gwen Benaway, Casey Plett, and Kai Cheng Thom share their wisdom on developing poetry and prose that shine with moderator Jia Qing Wilson-Yang. Aspiring and experienced writers, come prepared to take notes as these critically acclaimed authors show us how it’s done. [CC]

Writing nonfiction is never easy. Helen Knott shares tips on how to put life on the page, how to tug at memories and craft them into something that’s ready to be read. [CC]




SUNDAY MAY 3 2pm - 3:30pm

SUNDAY MAY 3 8pm - 9pm



What does it take to turn a book into an audiobook without the support of a publisher? In this workshop designed for self-published writers and writers moving about on their own, Audible ACX presents a new path to producing amazing audiobooks. [CC]

Registrants will receive a link to the play Our Fathers, Sons, Lovers and Little Brothers, followed by a conversation with Makambe K. Simamba. A 17-year-old Black boy wearing a hoodie in Florida leaves a 7/11 carrying a bag of Skittles and an iced tea. He never makes it home. Our Fathers, Sons, Lovers and Little Brothers invites us into the infamous world of one teen, into his last moments, and into his intricate dance to the afterlife. A bcurrent production developed with the support of Alberta Theatre Projects and Banff Playwrights Lab. [CC]


SUNDAY MAY 3 4pm - 5:30pm


How do you contend with the deepest grief and personal betrayal in the face of crimes rooted in injustice? How do authors turn difficult moments into powerful stories? Kagiso Molope, Adnan Khan, and Danny Ramadan discuss love, grief, and the pursuit of justice in their powerfully gripping novels with moderator Wayne Grady. [CC]


MONDAY MAY 4 8pm - 9:30pm


FIVE YEARS OF FOLD Join us for an epic birthday party to close out the fifth anniversary of the festival, including an interview with founder Jael Richardson and Communications Coordinator Amanda Leduc which reflects on the past five years of FOLD and a offers a peek inside the future of FOLD with Steven Beattie from Quill & Quire — the magazine that first profiled the festival back in 2016. [CC]


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Serving Brampton for over 30 years.

OCTOBER 3–4, 2020




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FICTION CONTEST 1st Prize: $1,000 + publication 2nd Prize: $250 + publication Deadline: March 8, 2020

CREATIVE NON-FICTION CONTEST 1st Prize: $500 + publication 2nd Prize: $250 + publication Deadline: June 1, 2020 Entry Fee: $35 CAD ($42 USD for International entries). Entry includes a one-year subscription to Room. Additional entries $7. Visit roommagazine. com/contests for more information on our contests and upcoming calls for submissions.

POETRY CONTEST 1st Prize: $1,000 + publication 2nd Prize: $250 + publication Deadline: August 15, 2020

SHORT FORMS CONTEST 1st Prize: $500 + publication (two awarded) Deadline: November 1, 2020

COVER ART CONTEST 1st Prize: $500 + publication on a cover of Room 2nd Prize: $50 + publication Deadline: January 15, 2021


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Ontario Creates proudly supports the Festival Of Literary Diversity and Ontario’s book publishing industry.


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COMING SOON The Rose Brampton presents enriching and entertaining experiences for audiences of all ages. Enjoy the best in theatre, music, comedy, and dance on the Mainstage or in intimate Studio II.

PATRON SERVICES Free parking, bar service, accessible features, complimentary coat check, and more!




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