& occasionally about other things, too...

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Fall book launches


For the last eleven years, I have not missed a single Mawenzi House’s fall launch event. It used to be held at the Gladstone hotel till a couple of years ago and now, for the last couple of years at the cozy, comfortable almost homely Centre for Social Innovation at Bathurst.

For the last four decades, Mawenzi (earlier known as TSAR) has become the authentic voice of multicultural Canada, by focusing on providing a platform to authors from different ethnicities who have made Canada their home.

Mawenzi House has introduced me to many contemporary authors, some of whom have supported me in different ways in my attempt to become an author. It has published some of the best books that I’ve read in the last decade.

An illustrative (not exhaustive) list would include Chelva Kanaganayakam’s translation of R. Cheran’s Tamil poems You Cannot Turn Away; Kwai-Yun Li’s The Palm Leaf Fan and Other Stories; Safia Fazlul’s The Harem; Saima Hussain edited The Muslimah Who Fell on Earth; Dawn Promislow’s Jewels and Other Stories; Ava Homa’s Echoes from Other Land; Loren Edizel’s Adrift; Sheniz Janmohamed’s Bleeding Light just to name a handful.

Earlier this month, at the fall launch, Mawenzi again unveiled some excellent titles. I was at the launch and based on the readings by authors, I bought Lamees Al Ethari’s Waiting for the Rains – An Iraqi Memoir and Sohan S. Koonar’s Paper Lions (fiction).

Here’s an extract from Al Ethari’s memoir:

We knew that the Americans intended to erase us; if they had wanted to remove Saddam Hussein, there were less violent ways of taking him out. No one was safe. In the first Gulf War, they had bombed Al-Amiriyah Shelter, which had housed hundreds of civilians, mostly women and children. Father and husbands had dropped off their families there, hoping they would have a better chance of surviving the air raids. Four hundred and eight civilians died that night. Three missiles that hit the shelter led to the doors locking from impact and imprisoning people within the burning walls. I had seen images of the shelter and went to the annual memoriam at the site; the remains of bodies were plastered on the walls of the shelter.

Shock and Awe, as George W. Bush called it, was exactly that. Everything was a target; we saw smoke rising from different parts of the city, until the smoke was all we could see.

You may buy the books here: Mawenzi House

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Also, in November, my friend Fraser Sutherland’s collection of poems Bad Habits (Mosaic Press) was launched at the Yorkville Library. Fraser has published nearly 20 books – mostly collections of poems, but also a short story collection and a number of nonfiction titles. He is great editor, who has contributed to turning unreadable and badly structured writing into scintillating and compellingly readable prose or poetry.

Bad Habits has a section titled An Introduction to Fraser Sutherland, which has a page-and-a-half of Fraser’s idiosyncratic observations that are pithy, epigrammatic and memorable. 

Here’s a sample:

“Poetry can’t defeat ongoing ignorance, repetitive wrong-doing, physical deterioration nor persona extinction. But to say a few meaningful words about being in the world in the face of infinity and eternity – well, that’s something.”

“The idea of poetry-writing as therapy is especially seductive; if you’re writing a poem and it’s going well, there’s no better feeling in the world.”

“Somehow a good writer has to work aslant to the existing order. For a writer to be popular, to win prizes, to be feted by the media – those to me are grounds for suspicion. If the trappings of public success, however welcome, began to descend on me, I’d start to suspect myself.”

And here’s a poem from the collection

You may buy the book here: Mosaic Press

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