& occasionally about other things, too...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Echoes from the Other Land

Recently, I attended the launch of Ava Homa’s collection of stories Echoes from the Other Land. Ava is an immigrant to Canada and her collection of stories set post-Islamic revolution Iran are at once deeply personal and political.

has published the book.

Echoes from the Other Land
’s launch was at Beit Zatoun, a meeting place with a Palestine heart and a global soul. It was my second visit to this fascinating place, with a pronouncedly political milieu.

Homa read an excerpt from a story in her collection – A River of Milk and Honey.

It’s a story of Sharmin, a teenager with Down’s syndrome (although this is never explicitly stated) and her muted pain of growing up into a lonely woman without any hope of getting Azad, the boy she silently loves.
Launch event; Ava (author) in blue jacket

Sharmin is homebound and fantasises about a perfect world where she is without a blemish and emerges from a river of milk and honey.

“I close my eyes. It’s not hard to imagine myself emerging from the River of Milk and Honey, luminous wings open. Azad passes by and stares. Gathering my wings behind me, I walk elegantly in a white dress towards a garden of red roses, pretending not to see him. A breeze blows through my hair. When I get to the garden, I turn and beckon to him; he has a look of adoration in his eyes. He runs to me. We walk together through the garden, hand in hand.”

Azad loves Kazhal, Sharimn’s beautiful neighbour, who everyone desires – from teenagers like Azad, to grown men such as neighbour Shilan’s father.

Kazhal has “Rhythmical step, appealing makeup, large breasts, flat belly, big lips.” She’s everything that Sharmin wants to be but isn’t and can’t be. Sharmin’s aunt tells her that beauty is misery, but she’s unconvinced.

When Kazhal tells her that she has no friends with whom she can converse, Sharmin realises that a beautiful young woman can be as lonely as one with Down’s syndrome. They become friends. Later Kazhal gets married to someone who claims to be rich, but before the marriage is consummated, her family discovers that he isn't.

“Kazhal does not know what to do. She tells me that she actually hates him, and hates her mother for making all the decisions on her behalf and then blaming her. Sometimes she even hates herself for being so wretched and sometimes she hates all women for being such miserable creatures. I hold her hands in mine.”

Images: http://ava-homa.blogspot.com/

Monday, October 11, 2010

Brockton Writers Series

Brocktown Writers Series image

Farzana Doctor is a writer. Her Stealing Nasreen is a book I intend to read before the end of 2010. 

At the launch of Canadian Voices II she invited me to the first anniversary celebrations of Brockton Writers Series

Fraser Sutherland's book 
It was at St. Anne's Anglican church on Gladstone Ave. I went because Fraser Sutherland was to read his latest poems from his highly acclaimed book The Philosophy of As If...

The venue for the event – St. Annes Anglican church – is an absolute marvel. 

Fraser told me that among the artists who painted the murals on the church’s walls include artists from the famous Group of Seven. Reading about the architecture of the church on its website revealed its fascinating story. 
Vivek Sharya's book

This is serendipity, and I must thank Farzana for it.

St. Anne's Anglican Church
I must also thank her for introducing me to the work of Vivek Sharya, a young writer who has written a book of short stories – God Loves Hair. The stories are about growing up in a world where his sexual orientation is an issue that seemingly acquires a larger dimension than his being.

He cast a spell with his reading and singing. His reading was especially memorable because it was accompanied by a slideshow presentation of illustrations of his stories. The stories carry original illustrations by Juliana Neufeld.  

Fraser Sutherland is a friend, mentor, editor, and a lot more. He wears his fame lightly and is embarrassingly modest for someone who is quite simply brilliant. 

He read from his book The Philosophy of As If... A poem in the collection is called Replies To a Little Girl in the Back Seat of a Car That Draws Up Beside Me at a Bus Stop on Chilly Night in March Whose Smiling Mother Calls Out ‘She Thinks You're Santa Claus'. 

Other writers and poets who read included Catherine Paquette, Michael Erickson, Hema Vyas. 

Images from Internet