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Jeal Richardson 6 Tokenism Vs. Inclusion Jen Sookfong Lee 10 Open Letters and Closed Doors Sanchari Sur 14 Interrogation of Canlit and Canadian Multiculturalism Through the Body of Colour Bänoo Zan 18 Islamophobia in a Muslim Country Honey Novick 22 Milton Acorn and the Free Speech Movement Kim Fahner 26 A Reflection On Mothering (and not being one) Leonarda Carranza 30 Othered Stories Preeti Dhaliwal 34 Love doesn’t trump hate. Empathy, Education and care trump hate. Al Donato 40 How Writers of Colour are Reimagining the Speculative Fiction Industry


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From the Artistic Director

We are grateful to be back for a second year of the Festival of Literary Diversity. In some ways, it feels easier to do it again. There are models in place, templates to follow or modify. But in many ways, this year feels harder. So much has happened. So much is happening. I have felt weighed down. I have wondered: How should we, as an organization, respond—to the the gaps, the cracks, the fractures? This year marks Canada’s sesquicentennial anniversary, commemorating 150 years of Canada as a nation. For some, the celebrations evoke a sense of nostalgia and pride. But for many, particularly those from Indigenous communities, Canada’s 150th year measures a legacy of colonization and systemic erasure—a history built on partial truths, broken promises, and harsh realities. At a recent event, author Lee Maracle said, “If you want to understand the heart of a country, read the women”. As Canada reflects on the past 150 years on this land, our planning team thought it fitting to follow Maracle’s advice this year at the FOLD—to delve into the heart of this nation by framing the conversation, and the festival as a whole, in women’s stories.

The festival will open with stories of racialized, immigrant women who arrived on this land full of curiosity and hope, women who have faced oppression and opposition, women whose stories started elsewhere and who now call Canada home—­ women who have documented their stories in an anthology aptly titled Resilience and Triumph. And after a weekend of panels, discussions, workshops, and events, the festival will close with a lecture from Eden Robinson, one of Canada’s most electric storytellers – an Indigenous woman whose history on this land extends far beyond a sesquicentennial marker, whose fictional stories defy boundaries and reinvent genres. This weekend, we explore our heart. We consider what it means to read, write, create, and tell stories HERE and NOW.

JAEL RICHARDSON, Artistic Director The Festival of Literary Diversity


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Previously published on the blog of the ONTARIO BOOK PUBLISHERS’ ORGANIZATION


Last month, I wrote a piece about my frustrations with the lack of diversity in Canada’s publishing industry. In the comments, it was mentioned that while some folks are trying to make improvements, many people don’t know the difference between tokenism and inclusion. It got me thinking. So I put this list together comparing tokenism to inclusion—which should be the goal when it comes to diversity.


Tokenism is an after-thought. Tokenism is driven by a desire to cover up or minimize a systemic problem. As a result, tokenism often involves looking for a solution that’s quick or easy. Inclusion starts at the core of an organization. It is a long-term, forward-thinking approach that starts at the top and forms the core and involves all aspects of the organization. It takes work. It is almost never easy. But it is always for good.


Tokenism involves mandates and check boxes. It is often ignited by a mandate for diversity that’s driven by an outside source, like a competitor or a funding body. As a result, it tends to be driven by a desire to check off boxes or cover a “trend” or “popular issue” without acknowledging personal bias and without reflecting on problematic structural or systemic issues. Are there no diverse folks on your planning team because they don’t exist or because you don’t have friends who fall into this category?

...while some folks are trying to make improvements, many people don’t know the difference between tokenism and inclusion.

Inclusion involves recognizing how your experience and comfort levels might shape your relationships and programming. It involves actively setting out not only to improve your program or list but but to improve yourself, your reading list, and your core team members.


Tokenism turns diverse writers into diversity experts, exclusively. When organizers or marketers promote their diversity but fail to emphasize their expertise as writers, it devalues the writer’s skill and insight. This also happens when diverse authors are brought to panels to talk about diversity, but they are not promoted in the marketing and promotional push. Inclusion recognizes that there are great, unknown authors from marginalized communities who can teach others about writing. Inclusion acknowledges that while they may not be known yet, they deserve to be

known. Inclusion takes the position that promoting those voices and elevating their recognition is an important effort to engage in that benefits the writer and the readers.


Tokenism occurs when writers are “colonized”. It happens when personal preferences for voice and narrative, for example, are based on a colonial approach to how stories are told (ie.- a linear narrative or narrative/dialogue that avoids dialects like patois or demands all “foreign” terms be translated into English). It’s based on the belief that writing should be easier for an exclusive, “mainstream” reader. Inclusion celebrates writers from marginalized communities by allowing stories to unfold in new and different ways. It challenges readers to consider what’s familiar and unfamiliar, to learn new things about themselves and others.



Tokenism also occurs when one writer becomes the voice of an entire group. Instead of relying on multiple writers from a particular community, one writer is used to represent everyone. This becomes particularly dangers when that one writer becomes the dominant representative over a long period of time. Inclusion recognizes that in marginalized communities there are many ways of seeing a particular topic or issue. Inclusion sets out to introduce readers to multiple voices from marginalized communities on a continual basis. How do you make the transition?


Have more diverse staff/interns/programmers. Invite a greater range of perspectives to the planning table. If it’s a formal position, consider lived experience as an important quality in an applicant/candidate/team member and include that in the application. Don’t compromise talent, but if you’re not getting the talent, ask why. Consider how to develop 8

a more diverse and skilled base to pool future talent from. Who can you partner with to help you achieve that?


When it comes to programming, start with the hardest voices to find, not the easiest. Look at who you’ve missed in the past, and make them a priority.


Ask hard and awkward questions of yourself and allow people you trust to help you through them. What are you reading that may limit your own knowledge? What magazines could you read and what events could you attend to grow that knowledge? Don’t just email a diverse person and say help me find people. Do the research. Follow people on social media and engage with organizations that will provide on-going information that can help minimize your blindspots.


Do not do nothing. Start small or go big but don’t do nothing.

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Previously published in THE HUMBER LITERARY REVIEW [Fall+Winter, 2016/17]

OPEN LETTERS AND CLOSED DOORS: How the Steven Galloway open letter dumpster fire forced me to acknowledge the racism and entitlement at the heart of CanLit


Stress rashes. Insomnia. Blind rage. This is how I spent a good portion of 2016. It’s a funny thing: last year, in most ways that were personal and intimate, was a good one for me. My latest novel, The Conjoined, was published by the wonderful ECW Press and reviewed well. I finished writing two non-fiction books. I started writing a poetry collection. I became the Fiction Mentor at The Writers’ Studio Online. My son and I marked our first full year in a new home. But when the UBC Accountable open letter was published, my entire professional world disintegrated. In brief, 91 Canadian authors have signed an open letter, published on a website called “Open Letter to UBC: Fairness for Writer Steven Galloway.” The letter, which was organized by some of Galloway’s famous friends, called for an independent investigation into the process through which UBC fired Galloway from his po-

sition as Chair of the Creative Writing program. The letter was criticized by many, including other authors who felt the letter ignored the women who initially made allegations against Galloway and pitted the powerful (prize-winning, established authors) against the less-powerful (students, emerging authors). In the interests of disclosure (and, dare I say, accountability), my connections to the Steven Galloway case are the following:

...I felt like the world was finally seeing what I already knew, which is that CanLit has always been heavily weighted to a certain kind of author writing a certain kind of narrative.

I did my undergraduate degree with Steven at UBC. He and I, along with other now-published authors, were in the same 200-level introduction workshop in Creative Writing from 1994 to 1995. (We were never friends, although modestly friendly over the years as our paths crossed professionally many times.)

• I have never taught in the Creative Writing program at UBC, only through the Continuing Studies department. • One of the complainants is a friend of mine. That open letter, which many have already written about, put me in a very strange position. It was signed by many of my literary heroes, writers I have loved since I was 14 years old. It was also signed by writers I would call my peers—mid-career authors who are working very hard to build on their successes. And yet, it ignored the voices of my friends and students,

people I care about in my real life. I knew where my sympathies and politics and ethics lay, but why did I feel so shitty? This represents a very serious and public fracture in CanLit’s persona. For a long time, we laboured under the assumption that most Canadian authors are left-leaning and progressive, or whatever you want to call people who typically advocate for social change and inclusion. The Galloway open letter, which used fame to recruit signatories and then used that same fame to call for a skewed version of justice (or due process) at the expense of the women who made complaints, finally revealed that this really isn’t the case, that CanLit has never been about the diversity of voices or even fairness. Which is something that I’ve known for over a decade, but had denied to other people and, mostly, to myself. My first taste of this was when my agent was showing the manuscript of my first novel to publishers. One of the most prominent editors



in Canada, one who is continually and publicly lauded for her career, told us that she just couldn’t justify taking on “one more Asian woman writing about her dead grandfather.” This was 2004, when the number of Asian women publishing fiction in Canada could be counted on one hand. As the years went on, I was constantly placed in white-dominated literary spaces (readings, writers festivals, etc.), which made me feel both visible and invisible, as well as profoundly uncomfortable. For a long time, I thought this was my failure, that I should just believe that I belonged and not be so neurotic. But in these spaces, I was often mistaken for Madeleine Thien or Evelyn Lau, or asked questions like, “Why can’t we get the Chinese Canadian community to engage more in culture?” Once, I was scheduled for an event and, upon opening a local newspaper, found that it had advertised door prizes for anyone who attended wearing an “Oriental costume.” And, of course, there was that time a very famous male author touched me without consent at an industry party and paraphrased a well-known line from Full Metal Jacket, often used by men with Asian fetishes. The blow that hurt the most? When I was told by one of my former editors that the novel I was writing didn’t “build on my existing audience”, I asked if it was because that particular novel wasn’t centered on the Chinese Canadian experience. She paused and had to admit that was what she meant. I abandoned that novel, too demoralized to look at it again. I still haven’t reread it, 10 years later. So, when the privilege that some authors enjoy became so nakedly obvious during the open letter chaos, I felt like the world was finally seeing what I already knew, which is that CanLit has always been heavily weighted to a certain kind of author writing a certain kind of narrative. That I, as a woman of colour who writes novels that often explore the backyard oppres-

sions in our Canadian cities (not always a popular topic with those who would rather blindly believe there are no such oppressions), had never felt belonging. However, this disclosure made me feel not at all better, as you might expect, but worse. I couldn’t deny it to myself anymore. I had to finally admit that I had been working in an industry that had never held a space open for me. I had to bash that space open for myself, until my fists were bloody and raw. I did it, because I truly believed this was just the way it was and I’m a scrappy East Van girl. It wasn’t fun. This is not the CanLit experience I want for new writers. Now, months later, Men’s Rights Activists, who often post cruel and threatening messages on social media, have come for the complainants and, once in a while, for me. I’ve tweeted some things in anger, but I stand by them. I understand that people will take sides with any controversial issue, especially one as intimate and painful as the Steven Galloway case. That’s just human. What’s not acceptable is the wielding of power—conferred upon these authors at least partially by a publishing industry that has never been woke to much of anything—in a way that silences women who make allegations of abuse and assault and leaves them open to harassment. While I didn’t expect this from CanLit, perhaps I should have, given my experiences. That is the most upsetting thing of all. UBC Accountable has shown me and everyone else that we have a lot of work to do still. Which is most certainly not a gift, but is, at the very least, honest, and maybe all the accountability we’re going to get. My new publisher, ECW Press, has been so great in all ways and my relationship with everyone there has been overwhelmingly positive. My goal, as a teacher and as an author, is to channel that positivity and make sure no other new writer feels unwelcome or undervalued or unheard. Which is as it should be.




Interrogation of Canlit and Canadian Multiculturalism Through the Body of Colour BY SANCHARI SUR 14

How, then, to begin, to begin?

— Roy Miki

I did not consider myself “South Asian” before my migration to Canada (from India via United Arab Emirates) in mid 2004. While it allowed me to gain a sense of belonging and kinship in a foreign land by positioning me within the South Asian community, the term also stripped me of certain parts of my identity as an individual by placing me under a homogeneizing term. I realized—eventually—that my South Asianness was linked to the brownness of my skin, and it was my visible otherness as a person of colour that alienated me as a newcomer. I could never just become Canadian, as thanks to the 1988 Canadian Multiculturalism Act, I would always occupy a hyphenated space. Unlike the United States, multiculturalism in Canada is a state initiated enterprise. The Multicultural Policy initiated in 1971, and then changed into the 1988 Canadian Multiculturalism Act, was meant to be a way to unify the rift

between Francophone and Anglophone Canadians. With the changing immigration policies, this unification became extended to the multitudes of immigrants (a.k.a. visibly different people of colour) as a way to assimilate difference into one homogenous Canadian identity. Yet, the problem in such an endeavour lay in the possible erasure of differences, where people of colour automatically came to occupy a hyphenated position. In my case, it was South Asian-Canadian. kind of freedom then exists in the current nation state, leading to the questions, which bodies are free? And, are some bodies freer than others?

Roy Miki, a Canadian writer and a CanLit theorist, points to this dissonance between the simultaneous desire to belong, and the desire to reclaim one’s identity. Using the Japanese Canadian writer or artist of colour as an example, he interrogates the problems as well as possibilities facing Asian Canadian writers and other writers of colour. He states that speechlessness rises due to the tension of the inside and/or outside; one of the problems that writers of colour in Canada confront. The “inside,” according to Miki, refers to the familiarity of our lived experiences; the social structures that govern our childhood, for example. In my case, it would be my upbringing as a Hindu upper middle class Bengali Indian. In Canada, it would be my South Asianness. The “outside” refers to the larger Canadian space, where Canadianness equates whiteness, and this whiteness whites out our inside, giving rise to speechlessness. Miki believes this process of whiting out is part of multicultural policies in Canada; that these policies aid and

abate in such whiting out. He then asks, if the subject—here, the writer of colour—is unaware of the absence of speech, then where does he/ she begin? Or, as Miki asks, “How, then, to begin, to begin?” How then, do we begin to speak? Yet, the dissonance that eventually rises between the inside and the outside causes a sense of unrest; an unrest that Miki believes can be a generative space for a writer/artist of colour. Rinaldo Walcott, an Afro Canadian critic, notes the ways in which Afro Canadians have been written out of the Canadian nation. An assertion he goes back to in the Writing Thru Race conference, he describes this process of whiting out Black Canadians in the context of post-9/11 multiculturalism. Contextualizing post-9/11 multiculturalism within the Western global expansion over the last five hundred years, Walcott suggests that Europe’s global power and its history of colonialism have cemented a single version of freedom. He differentiates state multiculturalism in Canada from multiculturalism,



where state multiculturalism redirects multiculturalism as a weapon of the state. He finds state multiculturalism as troubling as it wields power to erase differences that may challenge the state’s authorizing power. In other words, state multiculturalism allows the state (here, Canada) to retain its power at any cost. While differences between proponents and critics of Canadian multiculturalism point to the ongoing debate of usefulness and dangers of employing multicultural policies, Walcott takes a middling position in this debate. He calls it – in the words of David Scott – as a problem space from where new kinds of questions can emerge that can then point to new kinds of answers to the ongoing debate. And even though contemporary multicultural policy is in no way a challenge to the national myth of Canada as a white nation-space, Walcott argues that the current multicultural policies are an implicit contract that binds the state to this former arrangement of erasure of differences, maintaining hegemonic freedom; one kind of freedom then exists in the current nation state, leading to the questions, which bodies are free? And, are some bodies freer than others? Walcott points to the necessity to address these questions. These notions of freedom and unfreedom, that act as both Miki’s “generative space” and Walcott’s “problem space,” point to the space of productivity that exists in the contention over the success and failure of the discourse surrounding state multiculturalism in Canada; a discussion on this space of productivity informed the Writing Thru Race conference in early 2015. Organized by Smaro Kamboureli, Larissa Lai and Miki, the conference titled, “Twenty Years of Writing thru ‘Race’: Then and Now” held on March 7th 2015 at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, points to the necessity for the discussion of race in emancipatory practices in both creative and critical writing. I was in attendance with several others who wanted to be a part of the “race” conversation. However, as the conference progressed, it became clear the discomfort that this topic of race was causing amongst

certain non-racialized, visibly white members of the audience. The dichotomy between racialized bodies in agreement with the speakers on the importance of race and discomfort of some non-racialized bodies on the insistence of Canada being post-race brought to surface the dissonance between (some of) those who enjoy the privilege of hegemonic freedom mentioned earlier, and those who are constantly trying to vocalise their speechlessness. Lai pointed out how the freedom of speech comes with a caveat; that this “freedom” can only exist in its passivity; that the act or desire to use this freedom to speak is seen as an abuse of such freedom. Sherene Razack added to this conversation by highlighting how speaking about race can potentially activate state apparatus (Bill C-51) to evict one from justice. Freedom then is really unfreedom in disguise. And, this unfreedom bodes true for indigenous bodies as well. Lee Maracle, an indigenous scholar, suggests that there exist colonialist tendencies to position immigrants (of colour) as the Other to, and separate from, colonial white settlers. These tendencies point to the power structures that govern the ways in which Canadian literature is approached by academia. Maracle aims to separate indigeneity from white settlers, by aligning white settlers as migrants into Canada, an important distinction that undermines state power, as well as its state sanctioned single version of freedom. However, Maracle does not address where writers of colour fall into the equation, giving rise to the question, how

I am reminded that I can never be from here, as I will always be asked, “No, where are you really from?”

can emancipatory writing practices occur for indigenous writers without erasing the colonial trauma of other writers of colour? As an aspiring writer who is constantly negotiating these questions of race, gender and class within my academic and creative writing, the conference was a grim reminder of how little has changed over twenty years. My body that has been racialized and marked as South Asian from the moment I landed onto Canadian soil a little more than twelve years ago still stands just as marked. Even today, I am asked questions like, “Where are you from?” If I insist that I am from here, “here” signifying Canada, the land I have adopted as my own, I am reminded that I can never be from here, as I will always be asked, “No, where are you really from?” Yet, these discussions of race that cause discomfort allow the space of discomfort to function as a space of productive discussion. These productive discussions can continue on social media with other writers of colour. In the case of the conference that raised more questions than answering them, I was fortunate enough to make connections with similar minded individuals both at the conference on site, and on Twitter via the following hashtag, “#writingthrurace”. The possibilities of social media as a tool for emancipation renew my faith in engaging in productive discourses more than just as an academic. Moreover, conferences such as Writing thru Race within Canada brings “race” back into the discussion of Canadian literature and criticism. I believe the answer to responsibly reclaiming one’s identity without overstepping on the freedoms of other bodies within the Canadian state is to be aware of one’s privileges at all times. It is much easier to focus on one’s marginalities without conscious effort to accommodate those who exist even lower on the social/ political/economic pyramid of privileges. Yet, reclaiming freedom of one’s identity at the cost of others’ freedom makes us complicit in this state apparatus; makes us complicit in practising anti-blackness and erasing indigenous

voices; makes us complicit in the process of whiting out. In closing, I want to refer to Sara Ahmed and her mobilizing unhappiness. The day I migrated to Canada with my family, I had signed my life away to always negotiating my positionality (or, place) in the larger Canadian narrative as a minority, both in my creative writing and academic work. I had crossed over to a space where I was neither at home in India, or here in Canada. Nor was I in the in-between world, as some would say. To me, home was (and is) redefined to the people I love, and who love me back in return. To the comfort of books, and Sara Ahmed’s Promise of Happiness, a promise that doesn’t coincide with the mainstream idea of happiness, but is a mobilizing unhappiness, where one can come to terms with being a feminist killjoy. Instead, I recreate my map to a door of no return, aware of the implications, aware that a return—any kind of return—is not a possibility, and it’s okay. It’s okay to just be, since doors are metaphors anyway. And sometimes, you get to choose the ones you really want to open. The onus then, lies with the writer who creates, either as an academic or a creative writer. The onus lies with the reader who reads. The onus lies with the publisher who publishes, the reviewer who reviews. It is not only up to the reader and writer to engage in emancipatory practices, but the onus also lies with the gatekeepers to mobilize the discomfort, instead of basking in the privilege of one’s position.


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My mother was a social worker before and after the Islamic revolution in Iran. After the revolution, the orphanage where she used to work changed into a centre for disabled kids whose parents couldn’t afford to take care of them. Some of them were more advanced in age. They were fed and changed by contract staff (mostly women) on a regular basis, because they couldn’t take care of themselves. One day, one of these women came to my mother in tears. She said she was about to be fired. My mother went into the manager’s office. The manager was a revolutionary guard feared by the employees. My mother is not known for bravery, but her sense of sympathy for the woman overcame her fear. She asked him why he had decided to terminate this woman’s contract. He said that she was a woman of ill reputation. My mother said that if that was true, she would be able to earn much higher through selling her body and wouldn’t need to apply for this backbreaking job. The manager

wasn’t convinced. Then my mom said, “Sir, if you persist in policies like this, there will come a time when we Muslims will have to hide in our basements to perform our daily prayers!” The vein on the manager’s throat bulged, he went red in the face, stood up and shouted, “Who are you, speaking to me like that?” For a few days after that conversation, my mother was thinking that she would also lose her job. Until she ran into the manager in the

And so it happened that I got a sense of the Canadian publishing scene, the editors’ tastes, the industry’s lack of response to the current issues on the ground, etc.

corridors. He addressed her, “Ms. Mazaheri, I have learned that your husband is a volunteer fighter in the [Iran-Iraq] war1.” Both my mother and the woman in our story kept their jobs. Now, you might think my mother was an iconoclast. Not at all! She was and has always been a staunch supporter of traditional values. She was the first person who detected my love for another woman and openly talked about it hoping others would pressure me into conformity. She disregarded the fact that this kind of personal information could seriously harm me if it reached the wrong ears. And it did. Then the contested presidential elections happened in 2009. Arrests and interrogations followed. It got so bad that academics, teachers, and public figures, people who were not political activists, such as myself, also came under pressure. 1. 1980-1988

In 2010, I landed in Canada as an immigrant and became involved in the writing and poetry communities. And so it happened that I got a sense of the Canadian publishing scene, the editors’ tastes, the industry’s lack of response to the current issues on the ground, etc. I am a poet. What that means is that I use language to critique language. I use language to go beyond language. I have been a poet for such a long time that this is almost my default approach to everything, including issues of identity and art. For instance, I call myself a Muslim. My faith, however, is a faith that critiques itself. It doesn’t put itself at the centre of the world, doesn’t expect the world to “respect” it out of fear, and enjoys conversations with other faiths and forms of disbelief. I am also an immigrant. The immigrant position is that of the outsider. I have left my culture, and that implies that I am one of its critics. My protest is not only against the regime or


government, it is also against the people who isolated and cornered me so much that I found myself a stranger in my homeland. These people include academics, artists, intellectuals, students, colleagues, friends, and family members as well as “official” enemies! If I did not feel so excluded and misunderstood, I would not have left. At the same time, the immigrant position means that I will always remain an outsider in Canadian society. It is a very cold culture. Maintaining this distance from the culture while involving myself in it brought me to a greater appreciation of my homeland culture: where poetry flows in the air, where people kill you with kindness and you have to fight hard to have a moment to yourself.


I had always felt lonely, even in Iran. But the loneliness I experienced in Canada was beyond anything I have ever gone through. My father was a devout Muslim. Before I left, he told me, “You will be closer to God where you are going.” I tried to be polite and not to laugh in his face. I did come closer to God, though, in Canada. Whereas I identified as an Iranian in the early months after I landed, I gradually came to identify more and more as a Muslim. And knowing what beauty and spirituality I had left behind made me feel more deprived than ever. If anyone told me one day I would be writing more and more about religion, God and Islam, I would think they had gone out of their mind. But the truth is that I do. My approach is both critical and caring. I love the beauty and poetry of religion, and I protest against suppression in its name. I believe it is such a strong tradition that it doesn’t need frantic defence or protection: a position that neither Islamists nor dissidents agree with. Not only the agents and affiliates of the Islamic regime, but also those who think they are opposing it are rejectionists. Both rule out the possibility of any reform from within. In opposition to the regime that imposes its reading of Islam on the nation, there are those who detest any mention of Islam and

reject any works of art that approach the subject, regardless of the content. Recently, I had a bizarre exchange on social media with a young man from Iran who accused me of cozying up to Muslims, just because I had written the poem, “Azän on a Toronto Streetcar,” inspired by my experience of hearing the Muslim call to prayer on public transit. I was involved in a poetry and music collaboration and my poem had been set to music and performed at a concert. It was obvious he had not read the poem. It was even obvious he had not read the short paragraph posted on social media in which the composer explained: “…Her poem…brings memories of the past, both horrific, yet nostalgic…“ When I asked why he critiqued a poem he obviously hadn’t read, he replied: “But I can guess!” He added that any reference to Islam makes his blood boil. As it turns out, my mother did not have to wait long to see her prediction come true, of the emergence of intolerant Islamophobes in Iran. This attitude is quite common there, especially among the generations born after the Islamic Republic. They have no patience to study their own culture or religion, and naively believe the Islamic Republic when it claims that it is implementing the “pure Mohammedan Islam.” They have an overblown sense of Iranian superiority over the neighbouring nations, and their lack of knowledge is alienating them from an important

If anyone told me one day I would be writing more and more about religion, God and Islam, I would think they had gone out of their mind. But the truth is that I do.

aspect of their identity. They are the greatest Islamophobes I have known. Now, again, the immigrant position is the most alienating one. On the one hand, I am not allowed to approach certain subjects, if I pay any heed to the opposition. On the other hand, Canadian editors and publishers usually ignore pieces in which the writer critiques the minority culture they come from. If I write a poem affirming my ethnic or religious identity, I am guaranteed publication. But if I critique patriarchy in Islam in a poem, I have to look for publishers and magazines outside Canada. So, here is my message to three groups: To those Iranians who detest Islam and think it is the cause of our so-called misery, As long as we refuse to come to terms with all aspects of our identity —religious, national, ethnic, etc.— we cannot come to a consensus. And unless we come to a consensus, we will be defeated by history. Unless we respect everyone’s freedom of choice and expression, there is no hope for democracy in Iran. And to the Canadian publishers, editors, literary circles, You are not serving the ethnic/religious communities if you only support uncritical expressions of minority identities. Art is critique. Uncritical art is not art. Art rooted within its culture

has the right to critique and to praise it. If you find yourself publishing one-sided pieces with no critical perspective, you are not serving the freedom of expression: You are serving your own fears. Islamophobia, literally the fear of Islam, to me means the rejection of any values associated with Islam, stereotyping of Muslims, scapegoating and marginalizing them by other groups. It also means refusing to engage with Islam critically and thoughtfully for fear of backlash from some Muslims. To the communities that feel they are misrepresented, A culture that is not critiqued is a dead culture. Cultures are nourished by critique. Cultures are nourished through encounters and dialogues with other cultures. Get out of your isolated communities and get involved in the mainstream art and culture. You are not preserving your culture and heritage by isolating yourself. You are condemning your culture to death. A culture/identity that does not evolve and cannot survive any exchange with other cultures/ identities is already dead. If you truly believe in the beauty of your heritage, let others see it. For that, you need to appreciate other cultures as well as expressing yourself with confidence. You cannot survive isolation through monologue, you need a dialogue.


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2017-02-22 4:40 PM


Previously published in DURHAM ARTS in “Sanguine Encounters with Greatness”


Did you know it was illegal to read poetry out loud on a Sunday in a public park in the City of Toronto before 1962? This is the story of Milton Acorn and how that all changed. “I shout love at petals peeled open…” (M. Acorn) Maybe this was a bellow and maybe it was a lilt, but it definitely was the missile that broke through a silence so loud, it left all of us a legacy, invaluable, incalculable and precious.

The Setting For This Epic Tale: Downtown Toronto. The saga begins in Allan Gardens. The protagonist, described by Robert Priest, was “a burly fellow with a face that might’ve been carved by a woodcutter’s axe from a particularly grainy tree stump.” Date and Place: It was 1962, July 12, at the foot of the statue of Robbie Burns, off Sherbourne

What it really was, was an act of civil disobedience. This whole story had to do with the ORANGE ORDER, the battle between Catholics and Presbyterians/Protestants brought over from Ireland, begetting a battle for “Morality” expected of all of Ontario’s population of that time. Because the dominant population was Irish, this code of moral behaviour was foisted on each and every citizen in Ontario, Canada. definitely was the missile that broke through a silence so loud, it left all of us a legacy, invaluable, incalculable and precious.

Street, south of Carleton. There were laws in place, and Toronto, trying to abide by the laws, was Toronto the Good. For reciting poetry, out loud, repeat after me, for reciting poetry out loud, Milton, I knew him, I could call him familiarly Milton, was ticketed and fined. The crime was “SPEAKING WITHOUT A PERMIT IN A PUBLIC PARK”. Preachers could preach, but not poets. Imagine being fined, in 1962, $30.00 to $100.00 for reading poetry out loud in a public park!!! (Whispers anyone?) Then he did it again and was fined. Then he read from the Song of Solomon and made headlines and changed the world as it was. Milton carried on, he occupied the park, he was “IDLE NEVER WAS”. He kept on reading and reciting and the crowd, maybe a few eye-witness-

es, didn’t disperse and they kept listening and they changed history. MAYBE you and I take for granted what Milton Acorn did with just the power of his voice, the passion of his beliefs, the brilliance of his vision, but this was no mean feat. If, as is said, the pen is mightier than the sword, then Milton’s voice was rapier sharp. Toronto and this aspect of history became IDLE NO MORE. 50 years and counting. July 12, 1962. Canadian-born poet, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, the Maritimes-bred, Marxist-informed, Milton Acorn poet, became “the people’s poet” named by his peers Margaret Atwood, Irving Layton, Joe Rosenblatt and more. The ceremony was held in legendary Grossman’s Tavern. Some who walk or drive or bike past the statue of Robbie Burns, erected 1902, don’t know or care or take for granted what a historical event took place with one live and another bronzed poet. Truly “Should Auld Acquaintance Never



Be Forgotten?” where the original reading took place? I heard that thousands attended these readings of resistance in 1962. Was it the reading that was of resistance or the activism? I wonder.

“No Dogs or Jews Allowed”. I drank with Milton and the crew of Toronto Workshop Productions and never understood this dishevelled man and what he did for me, for us. I didn’t thank him then. I thank him always now.

I shout love he maybe brayed…I shout love is the ultimate act of activism. Do you shout love and then stand your ground when you are admonished and charged by incomprehensible laws? I take this for granted. People come from far and wide for this privilege, to shout love and show love and shame love in a public park. Milton showed us what kind of a society we created. We, the people, collectively created this and we the people must not just resist but change the laws of the land and so they/we did.

Robert Priest says, “A clearly tormented man, Acorn, who railed against war and inequality and would have loved Occupy, was sometimes inarticulate with rage. He told me once, in one of his moments of clarity and connection, about the sonic impact of a shell blast he experienced aboard a ship in the Second World War, an injury that affected his brain health ever after and no doubt contributed to his early demise in his hometown of Charlottetown in 1986, aged 43.”

Back then, Acorn continued his poesy, his verses, his love of life and all that lives. The fines nevertheless continued, Sunday after Sunday. The people kept coming, like a moccasin trail beating in the hearts of the citizenry who were longing for a more than a just society but a society of integrity, integration, inevitability. Milton’s shouts and genius drew larger crowds and more media. The mantra started with a shout of love and grew to a crescendo of FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Other poets joined in. This became a protest, pre-hippy, on-the-cusp happening, eventually being covered by the media, read about in newspapers, talked about everywhere, coast to coast, before Facebook and Twitter. Like any great, irreversible revolution, officials of The City of Toronto saw the significance of this bad publicity and the unflinching, tenacity of Milton and his call to arms poetry, and the by-laws of the city of Toronto were changed. The pen, the thought, the passion, the person, is mightier than the sword. One person, can change the course of history. The people, together, can and will. Clearly, I owe Milton a debt of gratitude. I was a young teenager navigating my way to adulthood in a society that still posted signs on the beach,

Karma, the law of cause and effect, is redolent and absolute. In the year 2012, on July 12, 50 years to the day of Milton’s act of civil disobedience, police were summoned to the same statue of Robbie Burns at a time when a tribute to Milton was going on in Allan Gardens. Three poems into Milton’s book, a “contretemps”, with no relation to the reading, developed, interrupting the reading. Some Allan Garden regulars and a resident of nearby Seaton House got into a violent altercation. There was head-kicking, bottles being thrown and used as weapons. One bloody man walked right into the middle of Sherbourne St. traffic, blood pouring from his nose, and sat down.

I was a young teenager navigating my way to adulthood in a society that still posted signs on the beach, “No Dogs or Jews Allowed”.

The proximity of the poetry, the living spirit of Milton Acorn and drama and history still unfolding, roused the poets to express their humanity, compassion and sense of peacekeeping until the ambulance arrived.

of the rights of those wanting to bash someone else’s head in, as a human right. As musician/ poet Kent Bowman said, “I think Milton would have been pleased with the outcome and the chaos.” I hope so. It’s funny in hindsight.

Ironically, this time it was the poets who called the police. I know, I have a cell phone and was the first to notice and draw stubborn attention to this fracas and couldn’t concentrate on the poetry until this skirmish was dealt with. I don’t like fist fighting. I’m a warrior of words and ideas and will fight for my rights as a human being. Soon the police arrived. This fracas wasn’t an act of civil disobedience, unless one thinks

Acorn said: “I shout love even though it might deafen you / and never say that love’s a mild thing / for it’s hard, a violation / of all laws for the shrinking of people.” Terry Barker, thank you, for teaching me about the history of my homeland, my poemland, my city, my people, and the onus of my responsibility.



Previously published on the author’s personal blog, THE REPUBLIC OF POETRY


(and not being one) BY KIM FAHNER 26

During my term as poet laureate for the City of Greater Sudbury, I wanted to focus on getting into the local schools, to work on breaking down barriers surrounding poetry for both students and teachers. I have a sense, as a senior high school English teacher, that a lot of kids come to me without having had a very rich diet of poetry in their time in the school system. It used to make me angry, but now I just find it makes me sad. So, based on both of these emotions, I made it part of my portfolio, my goal, to do outreach into schools, especially at the elementary level. To be honest, I wasn’t comfortable at first. I teach secondary level students and they are a different breed of people entirely. I have the greatest respect for elementary school teachers because they are delivering all sorts of curriculum each day, rather than what I do, which is to just teach straight English. I’m also single, without a partner, or children, so little kids have—historically speaking—often freaked me out.

The first time I visited an elementary school, last April, I was a mess. I was visiting five classes of Grade 2s and 3s in one morning. I would focus on the haiku form, given the short bits of time I had to work with, but I was more worried that the kids would sense my fear. They were an unknown variable to me. I knew how to interact and connect with teenagers, but not people who were younger. I thought, by the end of that morning at Walden Public School last spring, that I had failed miserably. Then, as

One thing that I find interesting, but equally painful, is the underlying stigma of being a single woman in your mid-forties.

I was leaving the school, I had a whole slew of little people throwing themselves at my knees, wrapping their arms around me and telling me they loved me. It was, to say the least, a bit overwhelming. It was, too, a bit of sensory overload because, as a single person, you aren’t often physically touched, so having a whole crew of small people swarm you for hugs, all at once, well, you can figure out that it might be a bit too much. At first I wanted to pull away, because I was confused by why they were all so drawn to me, and then I just thought ‘oh, my goodness…they don’t mind me!’ It was a huge relief. I hadn’t bombed in my haiku writing classes. I had, it seemed, done a good job. In through the spring last year, I visited classes at various secondary schools and one or two elementary ones for good measure. I’m amazing with secondary level kids, but I always get nervous with smaller kids. Today, too, out in Markstay, I wasn’t sure I was doing the best job of trying to get them all talking about poems.

One little boy said that poetry was like art and that it didn’t have to rhyme. He also told me that Markstay was a ‘village’ and not a ‘town.’ I had been ‘schooled’ in village terminology. They were all so proud to show me the tanka poems they had written at Thanksgiving, going over to the wall to pull down their writing portfolios. I had them read out some of them, which was really quite lovely. I loved seeing how they took pride in their work. We talked about what makes poetry work, and the various poetic forms, but we also talked about how we can use art as a way to make poems. I love ekphrastic poetry, as you know if you read this blog. Heck, if anyone comes into my house, they know I love art. I think, sometimes, I would die without art. I love buying original art when I travel, and I schedule trips around art galleries so that I can see exhibits I have a hankering for. It’s an odd passion, and one that’s only cropped up in the last seven years with a greater fervour. So, I used the laptop and Smartboard,



and pulled up one of my favourite Canadian artists, David Blackwood, a wonderful Newfoundland artist who etches out black, white and grey scenes of outport and fishing life. Whales play a key role in his work, along with fishing boats, and the lovely little clapboard houses that were towed across the bays when the resettlement of Newfoundland took place after the fish went. We brainstormed words and phrases that described the painting and then we talked about how we could use the painting to help guide us to structure a poem. After I was done, we took a class picture, but there was a little girl who hung back and then came over quickly and said, quietly and without fanfare, “You are amazing.” That was a little zap to my heart. I just shook my head and said, “Um, no, I sort of think that you’re the amazing one.” Then, she went away and her friend came back with her a bit later. Her friend said, “Kim, she wants to have a photo with you.” Again, I was a bit shocked. I guess, I thought, I did not bomb the poetry lesson with the Gr 7s and 8s! So, we took a photo, I gave her a hug, and I told her to keep writing, because I remember when I was her age and wrote and wrote and never said anything to anyone about it. I kept it a secret, hidden in my room, reading books and writing long stories and gloomy poems. I will say that I have learned to love elementary kids for their honesty and genuine nature. I think I get along with them easily because I’m a lot like them. I don’t mince words, I’m honest, and I say what I think and feel. Most people my age don’t understand me. I get it. Most people my age seem to create layers and layers of something that stops a real self from coming out. Deceit, maybe. Protection, perhaps. Me, well, I’m a mid-forties person with no filter. People either find it amusing, offensive, or endearing. Kids, though, seem to recognize that I’m like them, always looking for something amazing or filled with wonder when I go walking. In November, I was going into a building with an acquaintance and a little girl was coming out. She

looked up at me and beamed, a great and glorious little smile. I smiled back and said hello. My friend noticed it and said “Did you know her? Did you see her smile at you? It looked like she knew you. It looked like you knew her.” Yeah. I knew what he meant, but what are you going to say? How can you explain it, that notion that you can recognize similar souls in the world is a gift that not everyone understands. The little girl that day was a unicorn, someone who could see that I wasn’t about to put on layers of deception. She knew, somehow, that I was who I was, and that might have been one of the more powerful encounters I’ve had in my whole life. It was two minutes at the front door of a building, but it let me know that I was more connected to people than I’d ever thought possible. Driving home from Markstay this afternoon, about thirty minutes outside the city proper, I found myself looking out into the woods, into the thick pines of northern bush, and thinking, “I would have been a good mum.” It’s not something I think about a lot, to be honest. I just know that I would have been, had my life been different. It wasn’t, though, so I’ve missed out on some things: a great love, a husband, a child. What I’ve had in return, though, is the time it takes to write three books of poems, a novel, and a couple of plays-in-progress. The time I lost in my thirties, to my own battle with mental illness and with care taking duties for my parents, well, that time also gave me some time to read when my head wasn’t too bogged down by anti-depressants or grief. The life experiences I’ve had, while not very

...I think about how I’m mothering in a different way. I have created beautiful pieces of writing, pieces that have moved people...

light and airy, have formed my character. I value things differently now, I’m compassionate, and I’m aware of time passing. One thing that I find interesting, but equally painful, is the underlying stigma of being a single woman in your mid-forties. People assume, sometimes, that there must be a ‘reason’ for your having been single for such a long time. Here’s the thing, though: sometimes your life brings you experiences that aren’t ones you’d expected or ever imagined; sometimes your life isn’t linear or lined up like a string of joined construction paper snowflake cut outs; sometimes, what you thought you most wanted just isn’t in the cards. You need to, as my late father used to say to me, “play the hand you’re given, whether you want to or not.” You can’t rage against your life. Well, I guess you could, but I can’t see how being bitter would be helpful or foster creativity. For me, as a writer, I can see now that the struggles I had in my thirties, which was a lost decade for me, have fashioned me into a different woman than I’d ever envisioned while I was in my late twenties and early thirties, before everything started to fall apart. It’s just now, about five years after my dad’s death, that I’m finally coming into myself. I’m embracing my feminine side, speaking my mind, and telling people how I feel about them, even if it means risking rejection and breaking my own heart in the process. I wondered, driving back into town, whether I’d lost something, by not being a wife and mother, but then I thought, well, what can I do to change anything that’s happened in my life up to now? I know that I’ve done my best, maybe even better than a lot of other people might do if given the same situation. I know I did what I needed to do for my parents as they fell ill and began to fade from this world, so I don’t have regrets there, and that is freeing on many levels. I do, though, get sad to think I might’ve missed out on the love of my life, or the possibility of a child. This all takes about ten minutes of “I wonder…” and then I think about how I’m mothering

in a different way. I have created beautiful pieces of writing, pieces that have moved people in different ways, based on what I hear after a book is released, or after a play is workshopped. I have been creative in a different way. I have taught thousands of kids in sixteen years in a classroom, and I think of them all as ‘my kids,’ so maybe I’ve been a mother of sorts after all. Some of the kids I’ve taught are now actually friends and colleagues, which is a gift. I also have friends whose kids are part of my life, so I don’t feel I’ve missed out on that. Still, there are times when I think about how my life might have been different—if only—but then “if only” hurts too much and I just have to put it into a beautiful metaphorical box and store it in the back of my mind and heart. For now. Just for now. In the meantime, I just focus on the beauty that the world offers me every single day, in each walk I take, or in each conversation I have, with friends and with ‘strangers.’ I focus on how I write, how I craft a piece of poetry and let it marinate in my heart and mind until it emerges, brilliant and bright, and I am more mindful of how each moment of every day is steeped in the sacred, if you let it light up your world. Being mindful has been such a grand teacher over the last twelve months. Reiki, yoga, Zumba and walking, along with singing, writing and reading, have allowed me to blossom into myself. I used to think too often of the people I had lost, either to death, or break ups, or just from drifting apart. There are a lot of people who have left my life, and I miss them. But, I know, too, that they are fine. In the meantime, I’ll read, write, travel, sing, dance, and teach, opening my heart as wide as it needs to be to let the light out, and in, and to breathe into the presences and absences in my heart. I’ll feel any love, grief, or pain, I’ll breathe through it, and then I’ll thank God/Creator/Universe for letting me feel it so intensely because it means that I’m still here—alive and learning, growing and blooming, moving forward in a new way—and finally learning to mother and honour myself.




In 2016 The New Quarterly embarked on a two-year project to identify new, diverse literary voices they could support, and to build genuine and lasting diversity into the structure of the arts organization as a whole. Beginning in February, 2016, Pamela Mulloy and Susan Scott began meeting once a month with three emerging nonfiction writers, all former students of Ayelet Tsabari. Leonarda Carranza was one of the members of this focus group and continues to take part in this project. The New Quarterly asked each writer to blog about her experience of trying to break into the literary world. Here is Leonarda Carranza’s story.


I spend a weekend with TNQ, the summer 2014 issue which I recently received as a gift. I gravitate towards the only author I know. It’s a hot spring day and I spend the morning sitting in my backyard hearing Ayelet Tsabari’s voice as

she tells me of her journey towards writing in English. The next day I venture further inwards. Spend the morning with Two Poems, Kristine Tortora, and feel I found something about the familiar and the faraway, something I still can’t language.


In my day job and work with the Pages on Fire Collective, I facilitate writing workshops for newcomers and youth. These terms are

...we move through parts of the city people outside of these neighbourhoods rarely see. These are not the spaces imagined as the future of Canada’s literary scene but these are spaces filled with writers.

not mutually exclusive—some youth are also newcomers. The people that participate in my workshops are predominantly people of colour, mostly women and young girls. They arrive at community centres, elementary public schools and libraries, reluctantly. Some come with an interest in writing, but most come out of loneliness, in an attempt to meet others facing the same isolation and disorientation that comes with leaving cultures, communities, parents and grandparents behind. Together we move through parts of the city people outside of these neighbourhoods rarely see. These are not the spaces imagined as the future of Canada’s literary scene but these are spaces filled with writers. They are spaces in Mississauga and Brampton, deep inside low income neighbourhoods, surrounded by low-rise buildings, and suburban homes. At first, room after room of participants will introduce themselves as non-writers. As people who do not like to write, who do not enjoy

writing, who can’t write, and sometimes, who fear writing. What brings them to these spaces is sometimes a hidden love of writing, a love of storytelling, and sometimes a curiosity about the possibility of writing in English. In my workshops I tell participants to suspend their knowledge of grammar, spelling and punctuation and their valorization of these rules. If they don’t know the rules, I say, even better. I tell them we are going to write and share our stories. They do not have to write in English, but they can if they want to, and most of them do. I have grown used to the hesitation to write, the fear of putting parts of ourselves on paper, and the fear of opening up and sharing our work with others. I understand it more as a fear of being shamed and mostly of being humiliated. Often I’ve heard from my writing instructors that fear is part of the DNA of writing, and while I agree, I know there is something different, sometimes more menacing about learning to


write in English as a person of colour. Writing is especially terrifying when you have felt rejected or humiliated because of your race, accent or skin colour. The experience of racism and white supremacy has a way of impacting the body and often there is a deep feeling of fear associated with writing. I know this from my own experience as a writer, as someone who came to Canada as a refugee, as someone who didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t speak a word of English. Some of my first experiences of learning to speak in English are experiences of ridicule. The way I communicate in English is affected by the communities of colour that surrounded me throughout my childhood. My language practices, the way I stitch words together also reflects the variety of ways of communicating across languages.

3. 32

Often co-workers, colleagues, brilliant women of colour will approach me and tell me they are also afraid of writing. Often, they speak of painful experiences of feeling shamed and silenced in classrooms. Often, they say they feel like they will never know enough or feel safe enough to write in English. Sometimes, these are people of colour who learned English as a second language. They are often people who speak with accents of lesser value, accents connected to Third World spaces and brown and black bodies. In workshops, the writers are the most surprised to find electrifying pieces of writing hidden deep inside of them, pieces that cut through the space, into our bodies, pieces that often leave us breathless.


A few weeks ago my co-worker produces one of the most beautiful pieces of poetry that I have ever read. The piece is so evocative that when we read it to people in our department, one woman nodded and held the emotion tightly in her jaw. Later, she tells me she had to force herself not to cry. The piece surprises my co-worker who has been writing for years and working on a memoir but who hesitates to see herself as a writer.

The ability to produce work with meaning that moves through and between bodies is powerful. It is a gift some of these women hold but have felt silenced from. And we are all poorer as a result of this silencing.


In a recent meeting with Pamela Mulloy editor of TNQ, I am not surprised to find she describes the writing published by TNQ as elevated and polished. I write these two words down in my notebook and spend the next two weeks thinking about them and how they produce and exclude the boundaries that determine what writing goes into TNQ and what is left out. I find the definition of polished particularly significant: naturally smooth and glossy as well as flawless; skillful; excellent. I know it would be almost impossible for the participants in my workshops to describe their work as either polished or elevated. Most times, the work is peppered with creative spelling and missing prepositions, but it is in this work and with these stories of migration and loss that I feel most at home. The work is flawed in the same way that language is flawed, and always almost out of reach.


I tell participants, there is no one that can write like you. No one has your particular voice and experience, and this matters. The immediacy of their experiences with migration, loss and displacement comes alive in their pieces, and I know I am the one that is most indebted for having the opportunity to hear

In workshops, the writers are the most surprised to find electrifying pieces of writing hidden deep inside of them, pieces that cut through the space, into our bodies...

these stories. These pieces would not exist had we not arrived in these places and met week after week to write our stories. That these stories are not being represented in our national literature is not surprising. How they come to be excluded is much more nuanced and confusing. Don’t we wake up every morning and consciously or unconsciously construct and maintain white heteronormative spaces? Granted some of us have more power in these decisions than others. And yet does the realization that stories from newcomers are out there, that Other stories are being written, does it lead publishers and editors to question and think about the multitude of ways that these stories come to be left out of their literary spaces? That part of the ways we participate in constructing exclusionary white literary spaces is through self-censorship is surprising. Some of us are assuming that there is no place for us in TNQ and Canadian literature. Literature is elevated and the writing we produce is not above us but flows within us. We fear our syntax and writing practices will reveal our outsiderness and will exclude us from these spaces. A Canadian literary magazine should be representative of Canada’s diversity yet, through often subtle practices, we not only learn to keep our stories out of these spaces, but also to identify as non-writers, to associate writing with elevation and privilege and power and to feel ourselves as not belonging to these spaces.



Recently, I trained participants to facilitate their own writing workshops. As we gathered to prepare for eight sessions of writing this piece emerged. It is now hanging on our writing board.

We are the most confused generation

And we are always wondering why did we come here We came for him and he doesn’t care about us anymore Respect is different here Bond between parents and grandparent is loose here And old stories have lost their meaning And we are always wondering Why did we come here? 1


<< 1. Collectively written piece, produced in collaboration with Jyotichhanda Dey, Moona Khan and Leonarda Carranza


NOV 10-12

Naked Heart is the largest LGBTQ literary festival in the world featuring workshops, panel discussions and dynamic readings.

Previously published on the author’s personal blog [January 25, 2017]

Love doesn’t trump hate. Empathy, education and care trump hate. BY PREETI DHALIWAL 34

White supremacy not only takes lives, it breaks hearts. We know white supremacy takes lives with its buddy capitalism and through its old cronies colonialism and imperialism. You see this through media captures of singular events such as police brutality and hate crimes. You might also think about or feel its endemic violence against Indigenous peoples and lands, especially if you’ve been following social media regarding #NoDAPL (to stop the North Dakota Pipeline) and #StopKM (to stop the Kinder Morgan Pipeline). But what about violence that doesn’t involve bullets, physical death or landbased conquest, but hearts, feelings and the end of relationships? (Don’t worry, this isn’t an academic essay and you don’t need a background in the complexity and historical reach of white supremacy in order to read it. You just need to be feel a little bit, once in a while—preferably right now.)

I went to the Women’s March in Vancouver this year and saw a plethora of beautiful signs, many of which said ‘Love trumps hate’ and I want to believe it’s that simple but I know that love is not enough. White supremacy is heartbreaking and it’s heartbreaking precisely because (contrary to the signs) love alone cannot trump hate—not without education, the development of empathy and a desire, willingness and ability to care.

...what about violence that doesn’t involve bullets, physical death or land-based conquest, but hearts, feelings and the end of relationships?

White supremacy exists in loving inter-racial relationships (romantic or platonic), and it can be heartbreaking for people of colour and white folks too. Whether its friendship or you’re in love, its reach is tenuous, insidious and deep, often causing or exacerbating pre-existing racial trauma in the midst of love. It’s not that someone who loves us intends to hurt us (if they do, then I’d recommend reading All About Love by bell hooks) but that causing hurt is inevitable in relationships, and more frequent when someone has no point of empathy due to lack of lived experience and exposure. Combined with the lack of initiative or emotional skills to do the political work of caring—of taking the time and heart space to develop empathy beyond what’s handed to us—white supremacy hurts all parties involved, those who are struggling to love better and those who are already hurting from a lifetime of being subject to its violence.

Empathy is a complex process, a political one and a personal one. I dated a white man for a year (and then continued to see him on and off for a second year). At our one year break up, he said he carried immense guilt about his whiteness, maleness and wealth in ways that barred him from witnessing me in the ways I needed to be witnessed. I’m not sure I needed to be witnessed differently but that I needed to be responded to with care, self-awareness and a willingness to self-educate alongside the lessons I offered. Amongst all the reasons to be devastated at the end of a relationship, I was can’t-get-out-of-bed-and-put-on-my-pants-devastated because understanding the break-up meant realizing the ways that larger oppressive systems were at play in our relationship and our love’s inability to ‘transcend’ or ‘overcome’ them. Coming to terms with the break up meant understanding that love alone is not enough to overcome systems of white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy.


Let me break it down into some simple events for you, small ones that you can hopefully draw larger meaning from. This partner took me to a beautiful, expensive outdoor spa for our one year. When we emerged from the change rooms, I mentioned being excited and also feeling out-of-place and uncomfortable because I hadn’t been to a space like this before: I was also the only brown person there. He responded by turning away and walking ahead of me, silent in a multi-faceted frustration that heard, ‘You are bad’ and ‘I don’t appreciate this.’ He didn’t hear a need for comfort—something as simple as holding my hand and saying, “I’m here with you”—a kindness and gesture he was incredibly capable of in situations that didn’t implicate any aspect of his identity.


I followed up with multiple appreciations, even reaching for his hand at times, and then shared a story that had been sitting in me for a week, an anecdote I had recently heard an Indigenous woman share on stage at a conference about race. The woman said she was sitting in the backseat of a van with her 11-year-old grandson and he said, “Grandma, I hate white people.” This boy’s father or grandfather was white. The woman teared up as she told the story. So did I as I retold it. She didn’t want a world of hate. She especially didn’t want her grandson to hate part of who he was. My partner looked away, said nothing for a minute and then changed the topic. He was quite involved with Indigenous communities and politics, as was his sibling, so I thought this story might speak to him more than my own. I was trying to talk about whiteness as a system, to share a story that we could enter in a way that might be safer and easier than broaching the topic directly. It felt important to be able to talk about, especially if we were ever to have the children we sometimes talked about, children that I would birth from my brown body. But he remained silent, stopped looking at me and then changed the topic. Again, there was no space for this

particular pain—my pain, my race-related pain—and consequently, no deeper care, empathy or understanding. When talking about race in our relationship, this partner usually became silent. When talking about class in our relationship, he threw money down and paid for things. I recall a night where I wanted to sleep on the other side of the bed, untouched, after a day of misunderstandings. I still wanted to be close but needed space to collect myself. He wanted physical closeness and pulled my body on top of his with one arm (for a cuddle and nothing more but with clear lack of consent). More than a foot taller than me, he had no problem getting what he wanted until I said, “Stop it.” He stopped immediately, turned over and went to bed. I felt helpless in that moment. He broke up with me soon after that night, listing the encounter as one in a string of things he felt guilty and ashamed about. Whether he couldn’t or simply didn’t do the work of understanding, of educating himself beyond our interactions, of returning to me with a renewed or altered sense of care for the position I occupy in this world, I don’t know. I do know we loved one another until we couldn’t recognize who we had become, him retreating further and further into silence and shame, me becoming increasingly agitated and feeling increasingly isolated, trying to articulate my pain through different stories, different explanations, different requests for support. There was love but no change in his action or empathy,

Coming to terms with the break up meant understanding that love alone is not enough to overcome systems of white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy.

no verbal or physical offering of self-awareness, no shift in the type of care he was offering me. The responding silence was not only painful but oppressive, causing me to do the things that people do when they are oppressed and want their power back. We were unable to create a collective container for our personal and systemic pain, in part because love was not enough. We had to end the relationship because of how our personal pains manifested and interacted. This partner did, however, recognize his lack of change and the pain it caused me, whether he named it that or not. He had dated a number of brown women before me so I imagine this pattern replayed itself even before me (having spoken to one of these women, I know that it did in some ways). He knew his limits and I give him credit for that, for breaking up with me when I asked him to. I spent much of the next year trying to improve myself: the ways that I framed things, said things, could have been ‘lighter,’ could have held more for both of us, could have lived in silence and said nothing at all. A lot of brown women in my life told me I’m ‘too strong’ sometimes or should try things with him again. They don’t want me to be alone but silence is not my friend, nor can it be my partner. You know, the confusing part—because there always is one (at least one)—is that this man witnessed me more beautifully than anyone ever had in the first six months of our relationship but eventually grew tired as the witnessing began requiring work, the work of loving me in all my complexities, including my brownness and what that means for me as a woman in a white supremacist, patriarchal world that he lives in as a wealthy, white, able-bodied man. This exhaustion combined with guilt, over time, turned into shame rather than empathy, care or lessons. So when I see signs that say love trumps hate, I don’t believe them. I think: I loved a white man but love was not enough. A white

man loved me but love was not enough. Love is simply not enough. I know that love alone cannot overcome the deeply embedded oppressive systems that we are raised in. I know that the complexities some of us live in every day are overwhelming for people who haven’t had to navigate them daily their entire lives, people who prefer something ‘simple.’ I told this man that he should probably start dating white women and after our unofficial two year break-up, he now is. Some of you will read this and think my advice was harsh. One of these white men actually said to me, “It’s exhausting, it was too exhausting,” when we sat down and tried to understand what had transpired in both of our relationships. It’s not that these particular men or well-intentioned people want to cause pain or don’t want to care and love better—hell, some of them stay in or initiate such relationships precisely because they want to develop empathy and learn new ways of being. However, if someone doesn’t understand, honour and supplement the sacrificial work their partner does for them, instead transforming lessons into guilt and shame, they leave that work unacknowledged while further isolating someone they love in a world and system that already isolates them. These two men—that partner and my friend —are both dating white women now, having said to some extent that they wanted something simple. Simple and easy is what a lot of people choose—when you pick someone from the same culture, race, socio-economic background, there can be less to explain and more to come home to. Still, I hope these men at some point unpack some of those lessons. They certainly don’t have to. Not in the world we live in. But if we really do want to resist and defeat systems of oppression, we have to work through them, visit them daily, understand how we are implicated—how we fuck up. Fuck up, try to change, fuck up, try to change, fuck up


and try to change. Yes, it can be exhausting. So you also need to play, have fun, commune and celebrate but after that, or perhaps through that, I hope these men will revisit lessons they were offered, in a way that they feel supported that doesn’t draw on the labour and resources of those who are already exhausted. When lessons are learned at the expense of another’s pain or hardship, we need to honour that but also not take too much. I think with age, I’m learning that we also have to acknowledge our limits. Sometimes the way one loves is enough to use privilege in a politically and socially responsible way but not enough to love intimately because that requires educating oneself in intimate, implicated, personal ways so that they can build a safe, caring home. Love was enough to keep us going back to one another but not enough to overcome the systemic issues emerging in the microcosm of our relationship.


Neither of the men I’ve mentioned above would ever vote for or support Trump, but this essay isn’t about Trump. It’s about the ways that white supremacy stops us from developing meaningful, engaged, hard-working love for one another. In a world that allows a man like Trump to prosper not only economically but politically, we need to examine and change the insidious ways that white supremacy allows people to live life without examining their whiteness and without developing their capacity for empathy or deep care beyond race, and this work goes beyond whiteness as a colour. I, as a brown-skinned South Asian woman for example, have work to do in understanding anti-black racism, amongst the many other privileges I possess that make me unaware of the lived oppression others experience daily. Loving someone won’t eliminate white supremacy’s presence and violence in a relationship but listening deeply (to what a person of colour

is saying or not saying, because silences also speak), doing your own research (reading articles about race, racism and whiteness) and reading books by authors of colour who write about people of colour are helpful starting points. Our formal education generally doesn’t offer or encourage this sort of learning and listening—the kind that fosters understanding of multiple, diverse and painful experiences that involve historical exclusion, intergenerational trauma, emotional violence. We aren’t taught that loving through white supremacy requires responsive, active love that listens and works daily to be better. We aren’t taught that love requires care which acknowledges and examines love’s flaws. We aren’t told that the ways of being, loving and seeing we inherit from our families or oppressive systems are not immutable but require a willingness, commitment and deep desire to change—something I believe we are all capable of doing if we so choose.


...doing your own research (reading articles about race, racism and whiteness) and reading books by authors of colour who write about people of colour are helpful starting points.


C H E R I E D I M A L I N E / / CO R I N N A C H O N G / / K ATH RY N PAUL S E N / / E VA H.D / / SA D I M UK TA D I R / / E M I LY S C H ULTZ / / M I C H A E L F R A S E R / / A MY B OY E S / / J E N S O O K F O N G L E E / / K ATE B E ATO N // EDEN ROBINSON // SARAH NIND


d e pa r t m e n t of english

Hu m b e r L i t e r a ry R e v i e w. c o m


Always short. Rarely sweet.

Fiction and nonfiction stories that arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t afraid to break your heart.

Previously published in BROKEN PENCIL [Fall, 2016]

How Writers of Colour are Reimagining the Speculative Fiction Industry BY AL DONATO 40

Silvia Moreno-Garcia will destroy us all. Moreno-Garcia lives in Vancouver, but she’s unleashing her terrifying brood across the world in the upcoming People of Colo(u)r Destroy Horror!, a special issue she’s edited for Lightspeed Magazine. This edition is just one of several offshoots of Lightspeed’s successfully crowdfunded issues devoted to speculative fiction writers of colour. Through initiatives like these, today’s writers who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) are including themselves in a narrative landscape that has long been an ethnic snowstorm. Speculative fiction does as it suggests. Genres that fall under this mantle, such as fantasy, horror, and science fiction, ask “what if?” of powerful institutions and universally-held truths. These narratives refuse to accept situations as they are, be it post-apocalyptic wastelands or oppressive intergalactic dictatorships. Similarly, spec-fic writers of colour resist oppression by virtue of their existence. They’re

told book covers with faces like theirs won’t sell; their readership can learn Tolkien’s Elvish, but will balk at patois. The message is clear: give up, this isn’t a craft for people like you. But now more than ever, emerging BIPOC storytellers are striking back and terraforming the literary scene so that it’s habitable for all. Unafraid of reimagining realities for brown bodies and queer love, a new wave of spec-fic writers are building on the work of past generations; in do-

Speculative fiction does as it suggests. Genres that fall under this mantle, such as fantasy, horror, and science fiction, ask “what if?”

ing so, they’re smashing through the publishing industry’s status quo.

History From the get-go, Canada’s speculative fiction scene has been racially charged. An “electric Chinaman” started it all in Tsab Ting, the first documented Canadian sci-fi story, written by white female writer Ida Ferguson under the male psuedonym Dyjan Fergus in 1896. It was harder to find people of colour behind the bylines; there’s no way of knowing a definitive early history of BIPOC speculative fiction writers, since marginalized writers often find safety in aliases (much as Ferguson did with her male alias.) When Nalo Hopkinson first started writing, she scoured the shelves for Black writers working in science fiction and fantasy. She found five living ones in Samuel R. Delany, Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, Charles Saunders, and Octavia Butler. Hopkinson and Butler were Clarion

writing workshop students while Delany was teaching, each becoming writerly titans in their own right. Delany mentions the duo in an essay detailing racism he encountered from the industry. He describes fighting the urge to roll his eyes after winning a 1967 Nebula Award for Aye, and Gomorrah, when I, Robot author Isaac Asimov jokingly told him: “...we only voted you those awards because you were Negro.” Although untrue for the established Delany, tokenism is a real fear for many writers of colour. Hiromi Goto, who bears the mantle of Canada’s first published Japanese speculative writer, remembers getting Highlander vibes early in her career. “I’d say that in the ‘90s there was a sense that ‘there could only be one,’” Goto says, referring to the idea that there could be only one successful writer of colour from each culture. “Professionally published speculative fiction in Canada at that time felt predominantly white. I



felt a strong desire to bust that open.” Beyond themes, heritage for Goto influences her format- ting. The Japanese pronoun system is a web of inference, honorifics, gender, and region, reflected in Goto’s liberal use of sentence fragments in her work. “This is literally how I think and is deeply a part of my writerly voice,” Goto says. “Some people may say: write in the way that most people will understand most easily. I don’t agree with that thinking. Instead of re-inscribing what has been expected—heteronormative white culture—we actually need to write and read from a broader range of voices, aesthetics, knowledges. Many readers are dying to read stories like this.” Hopkinson is a testament to that demand. “I believe it was a revelation to the science fiction community when I used some Anglo-Caribbean languages and vernaculars in my writing,” she writes in an email interview, where she later notes that some sci-fi readers found her usage of Caribbean Creole too difficult to understand. “This in a field where some fans will happily learn Klingon,” she adds. “Science fiction and fantasy are, in many ways, about cul- ture, and about what happens when cultures meet and one has more devastating firepower.”

Who Are Spec Writers of Colour Now? In present day and present time, writer, educator and activist Whitney French is creating queer Black women at the end of the world. A daughter of the African diaspora with Jamaican parents, she savours creators of colour when she can: Maori folk tales by her bedside table, shadism discussions with Chinese friends, and listening to Caribean field recordings while working on her sci-fi verse novel. Among other things, the novel, whose working title is O, examines cyber technology, queer love as a radical act, and Black and Indigenous solidarity. French is reverent of those who came before her, writing her into existence. At a Mon-

treal pitstop of her “Writing While Black” tour, French and participants mulled over how to achieve a “Delany feeling of Blackness,” one that went beyond caramel mocha frappuccino skin colour descriptions. These generational contributions have coaxed a hivemind for Black writers, where they can delve into shared experiences that are informed by schools of thought and storytelling traditions. “Black imagination to me is what makes me wake up in the morning. In this insidious, racist, capitalistic, colonial, ableist, homophobic [world] …activating the potential for imagination is vital for the liberation of people of colour and Black and Indigenous folks in particular. I cannot stress that enough,” French says. “Imagination without an ends or product or result can be freeing in a way that leads to actualizing futures. It’s breath. It’s past-present-future in a singular moment. It’s our greatgrand-children, it’s survival, it’s all of that.” Black imagination has contributed whole new genres to speculative fiction, including Afrofuturism, which ties in themes of Black liberation, feminism, and sci-fi. “Visionary fiction,” a term created by activist Walidah Imarisha, refers to trauma-borne works that visualize futures that overturn existing social inequalities, like police brutality. Between clacking on her typewriter and perching on Toronto tree branches, French has contributed to both these genres. But she finds publishing opportunities have been rough. “It’s one of those industries that is stub-

“It is also imperative that we write ourselves into existence. People are still shocked that we are here in the present, never mind in a future or in space.”

born as hell and won’t take risks on new voices. Ontario is interesting because we have Black writers killing it, both in sales and with awards. Still, there is mad resistance to take risks on writers of colour,” French says. The resistance is backed up by dire numbers. A 2016 report conducted by the short story magazine Fireside Fiction found that less than two per cent of speculative fiction short stories published in 2015 were written by Black writers. Relying mainly on self-reported data from 63 magazines, the study acknowledges its shortcomings and suggests that the submission rate is higher, possibly around eight per cent. Moreno-Garcia is proof of the difficulties lying in wait for those who go through the traditional publishing route. As the author of Signal to Noise, a supernatural romance set in Mexico City with ‘80s music on heavy rotation, she’s garnered acclaim. But too often she finds herself being pigeon-holed. “I don’t mind being called [a person of colour], but I mind when that’s the only thing about me,” Moreno-Garcia says. Breaking even for the Mexican writer is a struggle she’s dealt with for anthologies and unknown small presses. “When you’re writing speculative fiction, and you’re in Canada, it’s like a no man’s land. You can’t turn to the government for funding and there’s virtually no commercial companies,” she says. “The people who fund grants…they want to fund the ‘real’ Canadian experience.” Something like that even happens to writers whose home and native land is right here. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been met with disappointment when my stories aren’t ‘Indian’ enough, whatever that is,” says Métis and Ojibway writer Cherie Dimaline. In spite of barriers, speculative fiction writers of colour are reaching higher profiles. This is thanks to old-er writers setting precedent. Delany, Goto and Hopkinson are queer pioneers in speculative fiction and featured diverse gender expression and sexuality in their works long before diversity was a buzzword. The Carl

Brandon Society was created in response to Delany’s scathing Asimov-referencing essay almost 20 years ago, and continues to award scholarships to writers of colour. The web is also a conduit for allyship. Readers searching online for writers of colour could gush about their favourites openly, while taking to task systems that don’t prioritize their interests. We Need Diverse Books, which started as a hashtag and is now a fully-fledged organization, pro-vides opportunities and grants for writers from various backgrounds. But not everyone is happy about the new faces. The success of marginalized authors on both bestseller lists and awards ceremonies has ignited a civil war between speculative fiction writers. In 2014 John Chu’s sci-fi short story about a closeted Chinese man won the Hugo Award. The win inflamed the notorious Sad Puppies voting bloc, a Gamergate-affiliated campaign led by a cluster of conservative science fiction and fantasy writers. They were similarly enraged by other wins by diverse writers, believing that storytelling should take place over progressive themes. Since then, they’ve made it their mission to vote those stories out of the Hugos; one that’s been thwarted and ridiculed by supporters of diverse writers.

What’s Next Moreno-Garcia, French, and other working writers are already comfortable in their own skin, partially by choosing to work with publishing houses that work to centralize their identities. Cherie Dimaline has written for two Indigenous publishing houses in the past, and specifically commends Cormorant Books for learning how to properly edit Indigenous work. As a kid, Dimaline moved around a lot. The constant up- heaval made her draw comfort in her grandmother’s lively stories. When she encountered speculative fiction, she was reminded of her family’s folklore. “I have a pretty Indigenous approach to


story, which is to say that not everything is as it seems and sometimes if you go walking in the woods, the woods will walk with you,” she says. She cites a method that Indigenous storytellers adhere to: representing a culture that honours ancestors from seven generations ago, with forethought for what impact will occur for those seven generations ahead. “This is where a lot of the importance of Indigenous work lays, in that worldview that is different and careful,” she says. “It is also imperative that we write ourselves into existence. People are still shocked that we are here in the present, never mind in a future or in space.” She’s doing her part for generations ahead, by getting involved with a Humber College program that teaches editors how to work with Indigenous text. With more BIPOC writers at the helm, speculative fiction’s future is promising. Without writers of colour, empty Eurocentrism makes up the literary world’s darkest timeline—one

where the imaginative borders of speculative fiction don’t extend to the Albertan prairies, home to Goto’s roaming genderless frog demons from The Kappa Child. Toronto would likewise be barren of Hopkinson’s young seer mother from Brown Girl in the Ring, capable of summoning ancestral spirits. While difficulties remain for speculative writers, it can’t be denied that their work is valued. Consistently, writers of colour attribute each other for inspiration and heap love on understanding editors more often than they chew out bad ones. Hopkinson has a word of advice for new speculative writers of colour too discouraged to think they stand a chance: don’t stop. “Do not assume that. Do not do the work of the assholes for them. When you encounter obstacles, go to the next door,” she says. “The assholes do not absolutely own this genre. You may be surprised at how many allies you find.”


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Brampton welcomes writers, attendees, organizers, volunteers and residents to


Arts and culture plays an important role in any world-class cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s economic prosperity and social vitality.


supports this event via the Community Grant Program.

FESTIVAL PARTICIPANTS AUTHORS AND PERFORMERS Silmy Abdullah is a Toronto based writer and lawyer. In 2016, she was selected as an emerging writer by Diaspora Dialogues, a Toronto-based program that supports the creation and development of new literature. Under the program, she completed a six-month mentorship with author Lawrence Hill and is currently working on her debut collection of short stories. Her short story, “A Good Family” recently received Honourable Mention at Glimmer Train magazine’s New Writer contest. Pramila Aggarwal is an educator and an activist. She works locally, nationally and internationally on immigrant workers’ rights, anti- racism, human rights and community development. She is a recipient of: Mahatama Gandhi Pravasi Samman Award for outstanding services, achievement and contribution. Kamal Al-Solaylee is the author of the national bestselling memoir Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes which won the 2013 Toronto Book Award and was a finalist for Canada Reads. His latest book, Brown, was hailed as “brilliant” by The Walrus magazine and “essential reading” by the Globe and Mail and made the shortlist of the Governor General Literary Awards in Nonfiction. He holds a PhD in English and is an associate professor of journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto. Adwoa Badoe has published 20 books on three continents. Her books include a collection of folktales, trade picturebooks, readers for educational markets and Young Adult novels which crossover easily as adult reading. “Between Sisters”, set in Ghana, explores the life of a teenager who strives to live her dreams in the city. Her novel ALUTA, a Junior Library League and CBC Best Books selection, follows a student leader in the aftermath of a coup d’état.  Gary Barwin is a writer, composer, and multidisciplinary artist and the author of 21 books of poetry, fiction and books for children. His bestselling novel Yiddish For Pirates was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Scotiabank Giller Prize.. His latest book is No TV for Woodpeckers. He is currently Art Forms Writer-in-residence for at-risk youth. Born in Northern Ireland to South African parents of Ashkenazi descent, Barwin now lives in Hamilton, Ontario and at Mayank Bhatt immigrated to Toronto from Bombay (Mumbai) in 2008. His debut novel Belief was published by Mawenzi House in 2016. The novel explores youth radicalisation and alienation, and the impact of terrorism on a family in the context of the failure of immigration and settlement framework in Canada.  His stories have been published in TOK 5: Writing the New Toronto and Canadian Voices II.  He lives in Toronto with his family. Danielle Daniel is the author and illustrator of Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox, winner of the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, a finalist for the First Nation Communities Read Award and the Blue Spruce Award. Her second children’s book Once in a Blue

Moon is forthcoming fall 2017. She is the author of The Dependent: A Memoir of Marriage & the Military. She writes and paints in Sudbury, Ontario. M-E Girard is a YA fiction writer, a pediatric nurse, a two-time Lambda Literary Fellow, and a proud feminist. Her debut novel is GIRL MANS UP (2016). Ikram Ahmed Jama is an educator, an activist, and an aspiring storyteller. Ikram has been an active member of the Ottawa community since 1992 working with immigrant communities and on violence against women issues. She is the co-founder of Sahan Literary Forum, a platform for writers about the Horn of Africa and the Somali diaspora to discuss creativity and resilience. Ikram is also a contributor and one of the editors of a recently published book titled Resilience and Triumph: Immigrant Women Tell Their Stories. Sheniz Janmohamed is an author, artist educator and spoken word artist. She has performed for over 10 years and has been featured at various venues including the Jaipur Literature Festival, TedxYouth@Toronto, and the Aga Khan Museum. She is also the author of two collections of poetry: Bleeding Light and Firesmoke. Denham Jolly, a Jamaican/Canadian, attended McGill University and after graduation worked as a scientific researcher, high school science teacher, nursing and retirement home owner/ operator, the publisher of CONTRAST newspaper, owner of Canada’s first black-owned radio station FLOW 93.5 and held interests in radio stations Edmonton and Calgary. He is a community and civil rights activist and a Queen’s Gold and Diamond Jubilee Recipient. Hayden King is an Anishinaabe writer, educator & activist. He has been teaching Indigenous politics since 2007 with positions at McMaster, Ryerson & Carleton. His writing on Indigenous nationhood is published widely and he is the co-founder of the language-arts collective, The Ogimaa Mikana Project. Scaachi Koul is a Culture Writer for BuzzFeed, based in Toronto. Her work has also appeared in The New Yorker, The Globe and Mail, The Guardian, Jezebel, and Toronto Life. Her debut collection of essays, One Day We’ll All Be Dead And None Of This Will Matter, will be out March 7, 2017. Jen Sookfong Lee was born and raised in Vancouver’s East Side, and she now lives with her son in North Burnaby. Her books include The Conjoined, The Better Mother (a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award), The End of East, and Shelter, a novel for young adults. She appears regularly on CBC Radio One as a contributor for The Next Chapter. Jen teaches writing at The Writers’ Studio Online with Simon Fraser University. Noyz represents the diversity at the heart of Brampton. Born in the city to immigrant parents, Noyz understands the feeling of being part of a society while at the same time standing out,


and due to his unique upbringing, wholeheartedly embraces his sense of otherness. His sound is the best of both worlds, equally representing the fun and energy of hip-hop park jams, as well as the socio-political commentary the genre was born out of. Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a queer disabled femme writer of Burgher/Tamil Sri Lankan and Irish Roma ascent. The Lambda Award winning author of Dirty River, Bodymap, Love Cake, Consensual Genocide and co-editor of The Revolution Starts At Home, her work has been widely anthologized. Monia Mazigh is an author, academic and human rights advocate. She has authored a book called Hope and Despair, which was published in 2008 by McClelland and Stewart. In 2014, her novel Mirrors and Mirages was published in English by the House of Anansi. Her second novel about the Arab Spring, Hope has Two Daughters, came out in French in the Fall 2015. It was published in January 2017 by the House of Anansi. Dimitri Nasrallah is the author of two novels. 2011’s Niko won the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction and was longlisted for Canada Reads and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. 2005’s Blackbodying won the McAuslan First Book Prize. He is currently translating Éric Plamondon’s 1984 Trilogy from French to English, the first volume of which (Hungary-Hollywood Express) was published in 2016. He is the editor for Esplanade Books, Véhicule Press’s fiction imprint. His third novel is expected in 2018. Saleema Nawaz is the author of Mother Superior and Bone and Bread, which won the 2013 Quebec Writers’ Federation Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction and was selected for CBC’s Canada Reads 2016. Her fiction has appeared in many Canadian literary journals and her short story “My Three Girls,” won the 2008 Writers’ Trust of Canada/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize. Born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, she currently lives and writes in Montreal, Quebec.


Banff Centre for the Arts, and her writing has been published widely online and in print in publications such as Buzzfeed, Asian American Literary Review, and Autostraddle. Her first novel, Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir was released by Metonymy Press in 2016, and her first collection of poetry, a place called No Homeland from Arsenal Pulp Press in April 2017. She loves lipstick, liars, and disturbing literature. Patrick Walters is a spoken word artist and arts educator who has spent over two years professionally using poetry to place emphasis on mental wellness and overall well being - a simple message, but one of paramount importance in today’s society. Through the execution of workshops and showcases, this message is passed on to the hearts and minds of his growing audience. Armed with an arsenal of passion, pain and a pen, Joshua “Scribe” Watkis is a vivid storyteller through the arts of HipHop & Spoken Word. His sharp lyricism and bold presence give his audience a clear picture of the world through his eyes when he takes the stage. The Toronto native is one third of the Spoken Word collective ‘The Uncharted’ and an innovative Arts Educator/Youth Mentor. Twitter: @thisisscribe

PUBLISHING PROFESSIONALS Although Max Arambulo has worked as a Book Publicist only since 2009, he’s been reading books since the early 80s. Naseem Hrab has worked in children’s publishing for over ten years. She is the Marketing Director at Kids Can Press, the largest Canadian-owned children’s publisher and home to Franklin the Turtle, Scaredy Squirrel and CitizenKid. Previously, she was the Librarian at the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.

Raised in a rural community in Alberta, Jen Powley now lives in Halifax. She relocated to the East coast to go to journalism school but found she loved Halifax and stayed. She pursued a planning degree, believing that politicians would listen more to a licensed planner than an activist.

Hazel Millar is the Co-publisher at BookThug, a Canadian independent literary press. A lifelong reader, Hazel can rarely be seen without a book in hand. She lives in Toronto with her husband Jay, the other half of BookThug, their two sons, and a diva princess cat named Tess.

Arushi Raina grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. So far, she’s also lived in Egypt, Nigeria, India, the US, UK, and most recently, Canada. Her debut novel, When Morning Comes, was released in July of 2016. She likes intricate plots, flawed characters, chases and sentences that make you wonder.

Synora Van Drine is Sales Manager at Dundurn. Before making her way to Toronto, she worked in a number of major markets around the world, including Mumbai, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, London, and Toronto. Her previous roles include journalist, public relations consultant, and marketing specialist.

Sarah Raughley grew up in Southern Ontario writing stories about freakish little girls with powers because she secretly wanted to be one. On top of being a YA writer, Sarah has a PhD in English, which makes her a doctor, so it turns out she didn’t have to go to medical school after all.

Janice Zawerbny has been an editor in the Canadian publishing industry for more than twenty-five years.

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 latest novel is Son of a Trickster. Lynx Sainte-Marie is a disabled/chronically ill, non-binary/genderfluid, Afro+Goth Poet, multimedium artist, activist and educator of the Jamaican diaspora with ancestral roots indigenous to Africa and the British Isles, living on stolen Anishinaabek, Haudenosaunee and Huron-Wendat land (GTA). Kai Cheng Thom is a writer, performer, and psychotherapist living and working in Montreal and Toronto, unceded Indigenous territories. She has performed in venues across the country, including Verses International Poetry Festival and the

MODERATORS AND HOSTS Farzana Doctor is a Toronto-based author of three novels: Stealing Nasreen, Six Metres of Pavement (which in 2012 won a Lambda Literary Award and was short-listed for the Toronto Book Award and was the One Book One Brampton 2017 winner) and the recently released All Inclusive which was a Kobo 2015 and National Post Best Book of the Year. Farzana was named one of CBC Books’ “Ten Canadian Women Writers You Need to Read Now” (2012), and was Voted Best Author in NOW Magazine’s 2015 Best of Toronto Readers’ Choice Poll. She curates the Brockton Writers Series. Alicia Elliott is a Tuscarora writer from Six Nations. Her writing has appeared in print in The Malahat Review, The New Quarterly, Grain and Briarpatch Magazine, and online for The Butter, CBC and Maisonneuve. She was part of The Banff Centre’s Emerging Indigenous Writers Program and is currently working on completing the book of short stories she started there.

Dalton Higgins is an author, publicist and live music presenter whose six books and 500+ concert presentations have taken him to Denmark, France, Curacao, Australia, Germany, Colombia, England, Spain, Cuba and throughout the United States. His biography of rapper Drake, Far From Over, is carried in Cleveland’s Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame & Museum collection, and his Hip Hop World title is carried in Harvard University’s hip hop archive. His latest book is Rap N’ Roll. Twitter: @daltonhiggins5 Adria Iwasutiak has dedicated her career to book publicity and marketing for over a decade. She has worked with a wide range of authors including Diana Gabaldon, Ann Y.K. Choi, Paula Hawkins, Vincent Lam and Elaine Lui. She is currenly the Director of Publicity at Simon & Schuster Canada. Shoilee Khan teaches English in the School of Communication and Literary Studies at Sheridan College. She received her MA in English Literature from the University of Toronto and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph. Her fiction has appeared in Adbusters, Room Magazine, The New Quarterly, and Other Voices. She is currently the host and curator of Bluegate Reading Collective, a reading series in Peel Region featuring emerging and established writers of poetry and prose. Nam Kiwanuka is a multi-platform journalist and the host of The Agenda in the Summer on TVO. She has hosted magazine shows for the NBA and CFL and was a MuchMusic VJ. She has worked with CNN and BET and was a columnist for the BBC’s Focus on Africa magazine. Amanda Leduc is the author of the novel The Miracles of Ordinary Men, published in 2013 with ECW Press, and The Centaur’s Wife, forthcoming in Summer 2018 with Random House Canada. Amanda is the Non-Fiction Editor of Big Truths, the essay companion site to Little Fiction. Amanda lives in Hamilton, Ontario, where she serves as the Communications and Development Coordinator for the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD). Karen Mason is a performance poet, event producer and journalist. She has delivered her words on stage since 1995, having entertained thousands in Toronto, Halifax, Ottawa, Montreal, and New York. She founded an interactive arts series in Toronto and co-edited the anthology T-Dot Griots: An Anthology of Toronto’s Black Storytellers. She serves on the Board of Directors and the Planning Committee for the Festival of Literary Diversity. Daniel Bezalel Richardsen is the founder and editor of Foment, the literary journal of the Ottawa International Writers Festival, Canada’s largest independent literary celebration. Daniel is a Global Shaper with the World Economic Forum’s Ottawa Hub, and is a Prize Advisor to The Ross and Mitchell Prize for Faith and Writing. Jael Richardson is the author of The Stone Thrower: A Daughter’s Lesson, a Father’s Life and The Stone Thrower children’s book, which was shortlisted for the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award. Richardson is a columnist on CBC’s q and is two-time TDSB Writer-in-Residence. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph and lives in Brampton, Ontario where she serves as the Artistic Director for the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD). Naben Ruthnum writes crime and literary fiction and criticism. He won the 2013 Journey Prize and is a former Crimewave columnist for the National Post. Lamoi is a Jamaican born published poet, spoken word artist, arts educator, mentor, performance coach and Founder of Reckless Arts Collective. An active artist since 2008, she was recognized as one of 100 Black Women to Watch in Canada for 2015. A change agent to art and culture in the GTA, Lamoi has performed on stages across the city, facilitating the growth, development and showcasing of poetry. You can follow her on twitter @LaLaArdor.

Léonicka Valcius is a Toronto-based publishing professional who advocates for inclusion and equity in Canadian literature. She is the chair of the FOLD Foundation and the founder of DiverseCanLit.

PROGRAM ESSAY CONTRIBUTORS * Leonarda Carranza lives in Brampton, Ontario by way of San Salvador, El Salvador. In her writing, she draws on the experience of migration, loss, and unbelonging. She holds a PhD. from the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education where her research focused on the experience of humiliation and shaming in schools. Preeti Dhaliwal is a critical race feminist, lawyer, writer, performer and facilitator. She’s currently completing her LLM thesis which explores trauma, race and the legal history of the Komagata Maru through autobiography, performance art and theatre. As a two-time writer-in-residence at Voices of Our Nation (VONA), she’s also editing the manuscript of her novella, Touch. Her featured essay first appeared on her blog (www. as part of a writing challenge initiated by Vanessa Mártir. Al Donato (@gollydrat) is a Toronto-based journalist, with bylines at Broken Pencil Magazine, Huffington Post Canada, CBC, and more. They’re currently Daily Xtra’s social media editor and Hand Eye Society’s community manager. Al’s hobbies include eating free food, making bad indie games, and complaining about the TTC. Kim Fahner lives and writes in Sudbury, Ontario. She is the fourth poet laureate for the City of Greater Sudbury (2016-18), and the first woman appointed to the role since its inception. Kim has published three books of poetry, and is currently working on a new play, as well as her first novel. She writes and posts regularly on her blog, The Republic of Poetry, at kimfahner. Kim is a member of the League of Canadian Poets and the Writers’ Union of Canada.   Honey Novick is a singer/songwriter/voice teacher/poet. She is a full member of the League of Canadian Poets and was 2015 Poet of the Year, Ontario Poetry Society. She is published in numerous magazines and anthologies. She has written 10 chapbooks, recorded 8 CDs, is the subject of the documentary “Honey”, was awarded a Gerstein Fund prize for creating “Voice Yoga”, and will be published by MCInternational “An Inspired Heart”. She is poet in the schools for Haileybury, Cobalt, New Liskeard, and Temisking.  Sanchari Sur is a feminist/anti-racist/sex-positive/genderqueer Canadian who was born in Calcutta, India. Her work has been published in Jaggery, The Feminist Wire, Matrix Magazine, and is forthcoming in Toronto Lit Up’s The Unpublished City anthology. She is a doctoral student of Canlit at Wilfrid Laurier University, the curator/founder of Balderdash Reading Series, Social Media Editor at The Rusty Toque, and blogs at http://sursanchari. Bänoo Zan has numerous published poems as well as three books. Songs of Exile, her first poetry collection, was released in 2016 by Guernica Editions. It has recently been shortlisted for Gerald Lampert Award by the League of Canadian Poets. Letters to My Father, her second poetry book, was released in 2017 by Piquant Press. She is the founder of Shab-e She’r (Poetry Night), Toronto’s most diverse poetry reading and open mic series. You can follow her on twitter @BanooZan * contributors Jael Richardson & Jen Sookfong Lee appear under “Authors and Performers”




6 5


1 3 VENUES 1.


Peel Art Gallery + Museum Archives (PAMA)

9 Wellington St E

Central Public School

24 Alexander St


St. Mary’s Elementary School

66 Main St




City Hall

2 Wellington St W St. Paul’s United Church

30 Main St S

Brampton Library

Four Corners Branch, 65 Queen St E



9:30 am

9:30 am


>> Why I Write




What happens when writers sit down to write? Do the ideas unravel and multiply? Or is it a process of discovery? How does a writer take an idea and transform it into a story readers can’t put down? Authors M-E Girard, Gary Barwin, and Sarah Raughley discuss their latest works, reflecting on writing challenges and offering ways to overcome the trials and pitfalls of writing.

War is enormous—it crashes down, dismantles, leaving cities, nations, and countries in ruin. But at the heart of every war are individuals, ordinary and extraordinary people, navigating everyday life. Authors Adwoa Badoe, Dimitri Nasrallah, and Arushi Raina discuss stories set during times of war, reflecting on the research and creative play involved in depicting characters wrestling with personal conflicts in the midst of civil unrest.

12:00 pm

>> The Spoken Word PERFORMANCE


Spoken word artists Patrick Walters and Scribe Watkis return to the FOLD stage for a powerful performance, integrating individual and collective pieces of performance poetry, followed by a Q and A.

6:00 pm

>> Teen Author Readings PERFORMANCE


Celebrate some of Brampton’s brightest young literary stars as hosts from the Brampton Library’s Teen Library Council present emerging writers reading from powerful and poignant original works at the Four Corners Branch.

>> In Times of War

12:00 pm

>> The Spoken Word PERFORMANCE


Poets who’ve been shaking the world over with their words and wit join the FOLD for the first time. Witness Shadiya Aidid, Sheniz Janmohamed, and Noyz deliver poetry that questions and challenges, followed by an interactive audience Q and A.

6:30 pm

>> Resilience and Triumph: Celebrating Voices of Immigrant Woman FEATURE EVENT


Facing adversity, isolation, marginalization, patriarchy, and racism, four compelling Canadian voices reveal the strength, inspiration, and resilience that helped them claim their place in a new homeland. This session is funded by ONTARIO 150 and in partnership with Second Story Press and the City of Brampton.



>> On My Mind


The mind is powerful and enigmatic – a complex mystery that informs every aspect of our lives. Three Canadian writers with experience in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and children’s literature, share how mental health has shaped their writing, and how their writing has shaped the way they view the world. Join moderator Farzana Doctor and authors Eden Robinson, Danielle Daniel, and Leah Piepzna-Samarasinha for a panel that celebrates the compelling lives and stories of authors on and off the page.


>> Publishing 101


How do you navigate the publishing industry? Should you get an agent? Is flying solo, or self-publishing, the better option? Join Simon and Schuster Director of Marketing and Publicity Adria Iwasutiak in an industry-based workshop designed for expectant and emerging writers. Join the conversation and map your way to publishing success.

11:00 am PANEL 56

>> Wonder Women


They fight injustice, obliterate boundaries, and/or defy expectations – bringing real and imagined worlds to life. Meet badass female characters and the writers who created them. Join Kai Cheng Thom, M-E Girard and Sarah Raughley in conversation with Sheridan College Professor and Bluegate Reading Series coordinator Shoilee Khan in a power-packed panel all about women warriors in literature.


>> What a Crime


What does it take to create fictional stories that centre around the wounded and broken, and the crimes that threaten or lead to an untimely end? Three authors discuss the creation of crime-based novels and the complex search for answers. Featuring Katherena Vermette, Mayank Bhatt, Jen Sookfong Lee in conversation with crime writer Naben Ruthnum, discover the truth behind criminally good works of fiction. This session is sponsored by ECW Press.


>> Writing Nonfiction


Award-winning author and acclaimed journalist Kamal Al Solaylee delivers a workshop on developing nonfiction stories, tackling the critical steps and important skills that are essential for creating a strong nonfiction piece.

1:30 pm PANEL

>> Fabulous Fiction


Great reads are rooted in incredible characters and stories. But fabulous reads carefully consider the way a story is told—the way the plot gets unpacked and revealed, the way characters and the lives they live are brought to life through narrative. Four authors—Adwoa Badoe, Moniz Mazigh, Saleema Nawaz, and Gary Barwin—discuss the voices behind their fabulous fiction with the editor of the literary journal Foment, Daniel Bezalel Richardsen.


>> Living Through MS


Jen Powley’s first memoir, Just Jen, reveals her personal story of living through Multiple Sclerosis, starting with a diagnosis at age 15. In a personal and critical interview, discover important truths, triumphs, and hardships as Powley explores the challenges of navigating ableism and intimate relationships, in a candid interview with author Amanda Leduc.


>> OAC Grants Now


The arts matter, and the Ontario Arts Council gives out millions of dollars of arts-based grants to artists and arts-based organizations to support writers of all backgrounds, abilities and experiences. Find out about the tips, tricks, and range of opportunities for for financial support through the OAC.

3:00 pm

>> In the Black with Denham Jolly INTERVIEW


Denham Jolly started Canada’s first black-owned radio station, the first place now multi-platinum rapper Drake’s music was heard on the airwaves. In his new memoir, In the Black: My Life, Jolly shares his personal and professional struggles as a Jamaican immigrant making a living in Canada, chronicling his journey as a businessman and social activist.

>> The Role of Writers in Times of Trouble PANEL


In these challenging times, the writer’s role is more important than ever – to document truth, to expose it, to question it. But is the writer’s role changing? Does writing make a difference? Canadian authors and journalists Scaachi Koul, Leah Lakshmi, Hayden King, and Kamal Al Solaylee discuss writing work that transforms social thought and the process of responding in the modern day of social media with Globe and Mail journalist Denise Balkissoon. Sponsored by Penguin Randomhouse.


>> Plotting Your Novel


Plot matters. But where do you start and where do you go and how do you know when to go there? Join acclaimed Vancouver author Jen Sookfong Lee in this action-centered workshop designed to help writers who are just starting out or who are midway through their careers move their story in the right direction.


>> The Writer’s Court


Watch as industry professionals listen to emerging authors read the first pages of unpublished manuscripts. Find out what it takes to catch the eye (and ear) of industry professionals in this live American-Idol-style event. Who has the “it” factor? Find out just what it takes to make a big impression in the must-see event of the festival with industry professional judges Max Arambulo, Dimitri Nasrallah, Adria Iwasutiuk, and Janice Zawerbny.


>> Get the Word Out


Publishing professionals in sales, marketing, and publicity roles discuss strategies for improving the visibility of diverse voices in the publishing industry, answering questions and providing helpful insight into on a must-see panel, discussing one of the most important aspects of the modern day writing world—how to get the word out in a crowded and competitive market. This FREE event is sponsored by the Ontario Book Publishers Organization.


>> Writers’ Hub


Talk one-on-one with publishing professionals at this fair-style event. Publishing professionals with open-submissions answer questions and discuss the types of books they publish and ways to submit query letters. Whether you are an emerging or established writer, this is an event you do not want to miss. This event is sponsored by the Ontario Book Publisher’s Organization.


>> The Poet’s Gallery


Witness powerful poets perform in an interactive showcase in PAMA’s art gallery. Discover the rich poetry of Noyz, Kai Cheng Thom, Lynx Sainte-Marie, and Shadiya Aidid and finish off with live music on the upper level of Brampton’s historic courthouse.


1:00 pm

>> Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox FAMILY EVENT


Children’s author Danielle Daniel reads from her award-winning book at the Four Corners Branch of the Brampton Library, teaching kids and parents about the traditions that inspired her first book and leading an interactive animal guide activity that kids of all ages are sure to love.

9:15 am

>> Breakfast with Katherena Vermette FEATURE EVENT


Her debut novel appeared on longlists and shortlists across the country, as well as Canada Reads, demonstrating Katherena Vermette’s voracity not only as a poet but as a powerful new voice in fiction. Enjoy a savoury and delicious breakfast catered by local indigenous chefs as Katherena Vermette discusses her latest novel, the power of poetry, and her future projects with journalist and professor Hayden King at an event that promises to be delightful and delicious.

3:00 pm

>> The Last Lecture with Eden Robinson FEATURE EVENT


A story not told is a dead story. Stories are told so that important ideas live and breathe and get passed to the next generation. Following the release of her much-anticipated novel Son of a Trickster, her first book in almost ten years, acclaimed author Eden Robinson closes out the second Festival of Literary Diversity with a discussion on the telling and re-telling of traditional stories, on the rights and responsibilities of story-telling, and the limits and joys of translating bits of culture to the page.




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The FESTIVAL OF LITERARY DIVERSITY (2017 Magazine/Schedule)  
The FESTIVAL OF LITERARY DIVERSITY (2017 Magazine/Schedule)  

Magazine and schedule for the 2017 Festival of Literary Diversity in Brampton, Ontario, Canada.