Since author Brit Griffin began her Wintermen trilogy five years ago, it seemed the author had her finger on the pulse of what was to come to the world we live in. Setting her story on an earth devastated by climate change, mixed with the page-turning captivation of those old-time spaghetti westerns. Read an interview with Brit here.
A review from Alishya Weiland
I’ve always wondered why we don’t see many females in politics. Even before I started looking into it myself, I found it puzzling that often when it was time to vote I was stuck deciding between this man or that man. I was hopeful it wasn’t as bad as I thought, but when I picked up Elect Her written by Fred Groves, I was surely disappointed.
Out of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories only one of them has a female premier.
One out of 13. In total, there have only been twelve female premiers and one female prime minister. Out of 338 seats in the House of Commons only 98 are held by women. That’s not even 30 per cent. The numbers look just as grim for many municipalities around the country.
This means that whether women like it or not, often decisions about female reproductive rights, equality rights and more are decided by men. Only men.
Dustin Cole’s debut novel Notice puts the Vancouver housing crisis front and centre within the framework of the story. Set during the summer of 2017 in Vancouver, BC, economic imperatives are making space less and less accessible to low-income residents. The rental crisis is intensifying, ravenous real-estate development is thriving and there is a province-wide forest fire emergency blanketing the city in smoke.
Notice is the Kafkaesque story of a man under threat of renoviction, caught in the gears of bureaucracy in a city where economic inequality runs rampant; displacement and petty frustration abound. Dustin Cole writes with a documentarian sensibility from the unique perspective of Dylan Levett—a cynical dishwasher from Alberta whose greatest fantasy is a post-car world. With the spotlight turned to the down-and-out and the working-class, Notice seemingly holds a funhouse mirror up to the city of Vancouver—but the image reflected there might be as real as it gets.
Farzana Doctor is the author of Stealing Nasreen, All Inclusive, Six Metres of Pavement, and most recently, Seven. She has won the Lambda Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award. She lives in Toronto. This interview was conducted in conjunction with the Farzana’s upcoming reading on December 6th at 5:00pm. RSVP today.
Your involvement in Canadian literature and social issues is well-documented and varied, from curating reading series to working with the Writers Union of Canada, mentoring emerging and established writers with Citadel, Diaspora Dialogues, Mentorly, The Writers Union of Canada, and working with WeSpeakOut, a group that works towards the banning of female genital cutting, as well as a career as a social worker. The common thread here is humanity; you are involved with humanity. As a writer, this must impact your creative side (when you find the time!). Could you imagine it any other way, say if you were a dentist or a parking lot attendant, an architect or a crossing guard?
Musician Ani DiFranco is known for her quote, “Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.” I think most humans have a desire to improve our planet, and I do it through writing and social work and activism. But if I were a dentist or something else, I think I would do it through that labour. My parents modelled this. After I was called “Paki” in the playground, my mother complained to (then MP) Ed Broadbent. My father encouraged critical thinking about religious and state tyranny.
Writers often talk about style and voice, influence and storytelling, but for you, what is the one thing you find yourself comforted by with your writing – that makes it feel like it’s yours?
Every so often, I find myself in a state of flow in my writing, where the words just come, who knows from where (my subconscious, my higher self, spiritual guides?). In those moments, I am outside of my worries–about performance, the publishing industry–and just inside the writing. That’s very comforting.
Your first novel Stealing Nasreen came out in 2007 – how have you seen the Canadian small press publishing world evolve over the last 13 years?
There have been a couple of changes. Social media has helped authors to have a public voice, to find readers, and to make connections with other writers. I also have seen more BIPOC writers get published and win awards, and this feels like the beginning of change.
You likely finished Seven before the world changed forever a year ago with COVID-19. As the news spread, beyond your concern for the world around you, those you love, etc., how did you feel this would impact the release of your novel – I know a lot of authors panicked about releasing their books this past fall.
Yes, I panicked for about a day or so! There was uncertainty about the release date, and I’d already started working on my publicity plans and ARCS had already been sent out to reviewers and influencers. My publicist was laid off for a few months! In the end, the novel came out only one month later, and I’m grateful for that.
Junction Reads, along with a handful of other great reading series in Toronto are adapting to the new format in which Canadians must take in their live readings. Beyond the learning curve, Zoom, mute, barking dogs and children cameos, how has this changed altered your style of reading – has the pandemic made any major changes in the performance side of promoting?
In the spring I “attended” lots of readings, festivals and launches, hoping to pick up tips for my fall launch. By July, I’d accepted that all my events had to be virtual, and planned a variety of events. I still do readings, but generally organizers are limiting events to under an hour and asking authors to limit readings to under five minutes. So everything is shorter. I’ve been participating in more podcast interviews–which is different for me. In those podcasts the focus tends to be 30% on the book and 70% on the issues in the book, which is also different. I’m talking less about craft and more about political issues.
Seven touches on issues that are close to home for you – obviously drawn from your own interest. Was it a challenge to infuse humour into this story – or was that more organic, a necessity or something completely different?
It was pretty organic because humans are funny! My community and family are funny. So it wasn’t hard to find the jokes. But there was some intentionality. I prefer novels about serious subjects to reflect the fullness of life, and that includes the lighter bits.
Family is an endless theme in creativity. From film to television, poetry, memoir and fiction. The fourteen dollar question (this is publishing after all) is what does your family think of your fiction – do they ask you if this is supposed to be so and so, is this really how you see me? How do you deal with those queries – I’m sure aspiring writers would love to know.
My immediate family is supportive of my writing. They attend events, buy books, repost my stuff on Instagram. I think because this is my fourth novel, I no longer get those kinds of questions (with the first novel I did, a bit). I answered those questions in the same way I now answer “is this autobiographical?”–a question that comes way too frequently, given that all my books are fiction. I let people know that all my characters are composites of all the people I’ve ever met or eavesdropped on!
You are an expert of social media and community building. What do you think the best advice to an author struggling with self-promotion burnout?
I actually don’t think that most authors get to burn-out. Rather, they’re too shy to self-promote or too afraid to pitch their ideas to media. I learned a long time ago that authors have to be as or more active than their publicists if they’d like people to take notice of their books. I’ve done over 45 interviews or events in the last 2.5 months–two-thirds of which I pitched myself. I’ve learned to keep asking for help and to take breaks periodically.
Seven is a novel about how the world is changing and how it can also remain stagnant. Early in the story, the narrator explains: “I wouldn’t have imagined I’d marry someone from our community; I’d heard too many stories from my Bohra girlfriends about men who started out as good boyfriends and transformed into fifties husbands after the wedding. Dinner on the table when I get home, keep the baby quiet, all that nonsense.”
Unlike gun, traffic, health and taxes, the inner-workings of a marriage (non-criminal) are not regulated by law (I could be totally wrong here). In your experience, both as a social worker and as a human being on earth, to what degrees are women afraid of marrying the wrong partner?
You know, a few readers have told me that they find Sharifa’s husband, Murtuza, to be “too good to be true”. I intentionally wrote him as a good (and flawed) partner and father. He’s attentive, sometimes anxious and overbearing, but he’s meant to be a counterpoint to Sharifa’s most closed up and avoidant style. I also wanted to point the way to how cis male partners can be allies in sexual trauma healing. I know these kinds of cis male partners exist, and I’d like more cis men to emulate Murtuza.
This reading happens during key Holiday book shopping season. You’re in line at a fantastic indie bookstore like Another Story, Queen Books or Type and a customer points you out to their friend and holds up your new novel. The friend says, “You wrote this? Cool. What’s it about? I have a few people on my list soon.” Her friend turns to their friend and says, “She could sign it for you too!” In the frenzy that is December (social distancing frenzy), how do you explain what your book is about and why it would be perfect for two people you’ve never met in your life?
This book is about women’s relationships. How we move through personal disagreements and conflicts and change. It’s also about how we move those larger societal issues connected to patriarchy, those disagreements and conflict and change. Most people have told me it’s a page-turner, that they read it in two days, and can’t get the story out of their head.
You know that the issues you uncover in Seven are important. Why do you think that readers who are completely in the dark about the treatment of women in India should learn about these inhumane injustices?
Khatna is a form of female genital mutilation/cutting that happens in India. But it also happens in 92 countries (and counting) across the globe. In recent years we’ve heard reports from women in Russia, Colombia, and white Christian women in the USA who are speaking out. FGM/C survivors are having our #MeToo moment. We estimate that over 100,000 women in Canada are survivors. So it’s our issue too, and we need to break the culture of silence that allows it to continue.
For more information on Farzana Doctor and her books, please visit her website.
Most Canadian writers wear many hats. In addition to being authors, they are their own researchers, editors, publicists, marketers and salespeople. Getting their books into your hands is hard work, usually for little pay. Reading series like Junction Reads are important, which is why we try our very best to bring you the best of new prose from Canadian writers, most of hum represent the small presses we love so much, and promote the heck out of them!!
That’s where you come in. We don’t expect followers and friends to attend every reading. We’re all busy balancing our own creative lives with the other strange life we’re trying to live right now.
Share our events on Facebook. We have our event for December 6 up. Although we hope you can come, if you could show you’re interested, friends and family will see it on your newsfeed.
Our Events have been added to EventBrite, which can all be accessed at the top of our Upcoming Schedule page.
Junction Reads and moorehype publicity have joined forces to bring irregular but exciting content featuring members of Canada’s impressive literary community. While moorehype’s client base will be featured from time to time, other authors, publishers and literary factions will also make their way into these pages over the coming months as this experiment in literary enthusiasm continues to grow. So follow this blog for updates and links to new work!
More importantly, check out the small presses and the independent bookstores in your community! This season’s authors represent only a smattering of the great independent publishers in Canada. Dundurn Press, Douglas & McIntyre, Book*hug Press, Inanna Publications, Simon and Schuster, Orca Books, Buckrider Books, New Star Books and Invisible Publishing.
This has been a year! While we all have our personal challenges to deal with and the hurdles (sometimes self-placed) to writing and finding time to read, this pandemic has piled on an emotional layer to our every-days that I am sure we can all agree was totally, um, unnecessary!
I have, like many, the usual problems with procrastination: the built-in ‘busyness’ of life; the avoidance causes (housework, sunshine, rain, ‘why are those two squirrels fighting?’); self-doubt, and your basic, yet regularly debilitating, bouts of depression and insomnia.
COVID made things better for some. I am in awe of the tweets and posts I’ve read about people just getting’ shit done! The problem for me is that I can’t say COVID made things worse or better. What it’s highlighted, more than anything, is I have no process. I didn’t have a writing or reading schedule to be interrupted. So, I’m just here. Unable to whine or wheeeee about the alternative life presented to me.
What I do know, and this is why I started Junction Reads in 2014 and why I made it a prose reading series, is that reading makes my writing better.
I was reading the STILL series by Amy Stuart this summer and her prose style and her character Clare’s voice inspired me to change perspectives of the narrative voice. While I’m not sure it will stay this way, I got a few thousand words down that day.
Jess Taylor’s JUST PERVS was a thrilling collection of stories that got me thinking about how inauthentic my writing can sound. Trying too hard is a big problem for me and it feels like Jess just so easily found a way to arouse the senses with each and every one of the stories in this collection.
Then GIRL, WOMAN, OTHER by Bernardine Evaristo punched me in the gut with its structure, personality and its powerful feminine voices.
There are more summer reads, but I don’t want to turn this into a review. I am also terrible at reviewing books. I’ve tried it so many times, and I can never evoke accurately all that a book makes me feel or think, or what you should feel or think when you read it. I also appreciate, even when a book doesn’t work for me, the heart and hard work that went into just finishing it, so honesty would also be a big challenge.
I am now reading all the Giller shortlist. Not because I think awards make books worthier, but because this year, the jury really killed it with the nominations.
But the book I think everyone needs to read right now is Farzana Doctor’s SEVEN. It is a powerful book and I am going to do my very best to review it in my next post. But hold the date for the relaunch of Junction Reads’ 2020 season. Farzana will join us on December 6 at 5:00pm!
We will be streaming on YouTube (hopefully) with a live chat. You can purchase SEVEN now at Another Story Bookshop, TYPE Books, Book City, your favourite indie bookseller, and also at Indigo and Amazon.
Follow us and share some must-reads for 2020-21.
The sun is shining, the clocks have jumped ahead and it kind of sort of smells like Spring out there!
Feels like it’s time for some Spring Readings! Please join us on March 29 at 5:00pm at the Anansi Book Shop, 128 Sterling Road. We’re so happy to introduce you to 4 new books to add to your shelves and the talented writers who penned them. This month, we welcome J.R. McConvey, Jess Taylor, Hannah Brown and Nur Abdi! There will be refreshments and a raffle. PWYC ($5-$10 suggestion).
FEBRUARY 23, 2020
Join us for some readings at the Anansi Book Shop.
We are excited to return to the Anansi Book Shop at 128 Sterling Road for some new #Canlit prose! Our readings are a Pay What You Can event with all proceeds going to our readers. Support these great Canadian voices and we will share our cookies and brownies! There will be books for sale and you can even browse the shelves for some fantabulous Anansi reads.
Louise Ells will share extracts from her debut collection of short stories, NOTES TOWARDS RECOVERY from Latitude 46 Publishing. This collection “explores loss and the spaces around loss. At the centre of these stories are everyday women who must navigate these spaces and their shifting boundaries, often redefining themselves in the process.”
Carolyn Bennett brings her debut novel to Junction Reads. Published by Now or Never Publishing, PLEASE STAND BY takes us to a fictional radio station in Alberta with a protagonist on the brink of losing everything. This book promises to be a funny take on “CanCon, the east-west divide, and secrets that can kill.”
Laure Baudot’s debut collection of short stories is coming to Junction Reads! These stories are about the power of what goes unsaid – of the truths people keep hidden from each other, which guide their relationships and their decisions in unexpected ways. Published by Cormorant Books, we can’t wait to hear some of these “intelligent and perceptive” stories.
“Based on the true story of the Donnellys of Lucan Township, this epic novel is the iconic tale of the Old World and its sins visited upon the new.” We are looking forward to hearing Keith Ross Leckie read some extracts from this clever and enlightening take on a real life Irish Canadian family. Published by Douglas and McIntyre.
We are thrilled to get back to the microphone with readings scheduled for January 26, February 23 and March 29!!
On January 26, we are so excited to host our readings at the Anansi Book Shop, 128 Stirling Road (Lower Level). Accessibility information is available on their website. Come early and browse the bookshelves! We will have some refreshments, coffee and tea and we’d love for you to join us for drink at Henderson Brewery afterward!
This is a PWYC event, with a suggested donation of $5.00. Feel free to throw more into the pot. All proceeds go to the authors. January 26, we welcome Maria Meindl, Sally Cooper, Dean Serravalle and David Albertyn.
“When aspiring stage-manager Rebecca Weir falls for the married director of SenseInSound theatre company, she initiates a love triangle and working collaboration which go on for two decades. Set in Toronto at the start of the 1980s, the novelexplores the genesis of what its disciples call ‘The Work’. The director, Marlin, has the status of a Guru in SenseInSound, but is he pushing people’s limits or abusing his power? Is the ‘The Work’ a cutting-edge artistic practice, a road to personal healing, or a cult?”
Sally Cooper returns with her new novel, WITH MY BACK TO THE WORLD from Wolsak and Wynn. “In an ambitious, yet intimate novel set in Taos, New Mexico, and Hamilton, Ontario, Sally Cooper explores unexpected motherhood, creativity, race, love and faith. With My Back to the World tells the stories of three women: Rudie, who is editing a documentary in Hamilton in 2010; historical artist Agnes Martin, who decides in 1974 after seven years’ exile in New Mexico to begin painting again; and Ellen, a black woman burying her husband in 1870 on an Ontario homestead. Each of these women is waiting for the arrival of an unexpected child and their interconnected stories explore how society’s, and our own, ideas of what it means to be a woman, a mother and an artist change over time.”
Dean Serravalle brings his latest novel, WHERE I FALL WHERE SHE RISES from Inanna Publications. ” Where I Fall, Where She Rises is a novel that follows two women on opposite ends of a terrorist kidnapping. While one woman suffers and falls at the hands of her captors, the other exploits the fame of such a publicized event to secure a future for her unborn child. Lea Ironstone is a Canadian freelance journalist who recalls her time spent in the very dangerous red zone of Baghdad, after the 2003 U.S. invasion. A self-destructive addict, she refuses to relegate herself to the safer green zone, where most mainstream news journalists like Paul Shell are protected. Desperately seeking a more controversial story to re-establish his fame as a television journalist for GNN, Paul Shell contacts Lea and agrees to meet her in the red zone for a recent finding. They are kidnapped by an insurgent terrorist sect and tortured repeatedly. Carol Shell, Paul Shell’s wife lives in New York. Eight months pregnant, Carol is approached by Timothy Abel, her husband’s agent. Timothy wishes to represent her “victimhood,” which he sees as a very marketable and exploitable asset. Her appetite for fame and celebrity eclipses her familial priorities and she is coerced into a lifestyle that hinges on personal promotion. Lea and Paul find themselves incarcerated in a basement dungeon expecting their next “artistic” torture, while Carol makes her next public appearance to further her star. Lea and Paul’s relationship evolves into a mutual understanding of their united fate, while Carol, on the other side of the world, rises in public stature..”
David Albertyn brings us his novel, UNDERCARD published by Anansi. “When Tyron Shaw returns to his hometown of Las Vegas after eleven years in the Marines, he’s surprised to discover that two of his best friends from childhood are all anyone is talking about: Antoine Deco, three years out of prison, hasn’t lost a boxing match since his release, and tonight is fighting in the undercard to the fight of the decade; and Keenan Quinn, a police officer who killed an unarmed teenager and escaped punishment from the courts, is the subject of a protest tomorrow morning. Tyron has trouble reconciling either story with his memory of these men, and the situation escalates when he runs into the love of his life, Naomi Wilks, a retired WNBA player, basketball coach, and estranged wife of Keenan. As Tyron reconnects with his old community, he will learn over the next twenty-four hours that much has changed since he left Las Vegas . . . and there is much more that he never understood.”