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Sunday, June 04, 2017

Festival of Literary Diversity-2017

From L to R: Mayank, Katherena, Naben and Jen
To those who respect status quo, diversity is a contentious concept that connotes the absence of merit, tokenism, arbitrary categorisation and even exclusion. On the other hand, to its advocates, an absence of diversity is a perennial dominance of majoritarian culture and an enforced opacity that prevents conversations about different identities that make up the Canadian mosaic. 

In a multiracial, multicultural society, diversity is necessary to ensure that different cultures and voices find adequate representation. In the world of writing and publishing, the absence of diversity is probably not as glaring as it was some years back, although opinions would differ. In the Canadian context, many small presses are aggressively putting out works of authors from diverse backgrounds. It doesn’t mean that it’s time now to sit back and rest; a lot more needs to be done and ceaselessly.

In this context, Jael Richardson’s The Festival of Literary Diversity is a breakthrough event that has suddenly created space for Canadian authors from a diverse background.  I interviewed Jael prior to the first FOLD for TAG TV (watch the interview here: Jael Richardson).  Her dedication and commitment come through in the interview. I attended the first edition of the festival in 2016 and was enthralled by the level of participation – both by authors and readers – at the festival’s main venue, the PAMA.

See post about the first FOLD here: Faith and Fiction.

Thanks to my publishers Mawenzi House, I was invited to the second edition of FOLD as a panellist. It was my first-ever participation in a literary festival as a published author, and it was undoubtedly a privilege to be on the same panel with Canada’s latest literary phenomenon Katherena Vermette, whose The Break has won many accolades; and Jen Sookfong Lee (Shelter).  The subject of the discussion was What a Crime, and the moderator Naben Ruthnum, a journalist-author, who had read all the three works and asked pertinent questions. Of course, Katherena and Jen were far more evocative and interesting in their responses as compared to me. 

I also participated in several other panel discussions and was able to meet and interact with many authors such as Amanda Leduc, Eden Robinson, Kamal Al-Solaylee, Gary Barwin, and my friends Farzana and Sheniz. 

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