I love community radio

Ok I really do. My last post was about Amita and Masala Mixx. But I have been really amazed at just how inviting folks from community radio have been to me. Here’s a list of my upcoming “appearances”. Tune in and support these hosts and stations! All listings are Toronto time.

 Thursday May 31st, 6pm, “Out on the Air” with Tamara Roy on 101.5 UMFM Winnipeg  http://www.umfm.com/listen_online.shtml

Saturday June 2nd, 11am, “Resistance on the Sound Dial” with Syrus Ware, CIUT 89.5 Toronto http://www.ciut.fm/listenlive.php

Saturday June 2nd, 5pm, “Sex City” with Louise Bak, CIUT 89.5 Toronto http://www.ciut.fm/listenlive.php

Thursday June 14th, 5:30-6:30, “Afrotransit” with Nik Red, CKLN, 88.1 Toronto  http://www.ckln.fm/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=150&Itemid=205

and one more thing…not about radio…but I will be in Nick Davis’ Toronto Sun Column on June 4th, journalist worth checking out!  http://www.torontosun.com/News/Columnists/Davis_Nicholas/2007/05/28/4214140-sun.html

On the radio with Amita

I did my very first radio interview for Stealing Nasreen with Amita Handa (Masala Mixx, CLKN 88.1). Amidst the mela of the crowds at Dundas Square and the competing sounds of crying babies, bhangra, dhol players and the MC yelling from the main stage, Amita and I talked about the novel, being kids of immigrants trying to do creative pursuits and being one of the (very) few queer south asian women writing stories about queer south asian women.

My girlfriend recorded it, and back at home, we celebrated with smoothies and listened to the show. I love Masala Mix, and was so excited to be on the air with Amita, who has, with much dedication, been the host of the show for many years. You could hear it in my voice (I get high pitched when I am excited, and sound like a twelve year old).

Listen to her show sometime– www.ckln.fm  Saturdays 4-6pm. 


Reviewing “Comfort Food for Breakups”

It’s been a really long time since I’ve written a book review, and this is my first memoir review ever. I’m writing it for Herizons and it is almost done. It’s really hard to put all my thoughts into the 350 word limit the magazine requires, so the overflow is going here.

Marusya Bociurkiw’s Comfort Food For Breakups: The Memoir of a Hungry Girl is a wonderful read by a very accomplished writer. This is her 4th book–she’s written a novel, a book of short stories, a book of poetry. She’s made 9 films. And check out her amazing blog (as a new blogger, I am in awe www.recipesfortrouble.com  )

Bociurkiw got my own memories of food and relationships stirring: the big, beefy hamburger that ended a four-year period of vegetarianism and soothed me after a terrible break-up; the aroma of my grandmother’s kitchen--a strange mixture of kerosene and cumin—that feels like home despite it being thousands of miles away; and the pang of longing for my mother when I can’t get my daal tasting just like her’s.

OK, the rest is going into the actual review.  Go read the book!


This week, I was asked to read at Converge, an annual event about creativity and queerness held at Ursula Franklin Academy in Toronto. The audience is mostly queer and queer positive high school students, a few teachers, and the 45 or so invited adult presenters. It was a terrific day, just like going to queer art camp, a day that made me wish that such a school and conference had existed in the ’70’s Whitby suburb where I grew up.  

The main question posed to the invited artists was about the connections between queerness and creativity. I ruminated over the question all week, finding that it was a difficult one to answer. It’s hard to untangle one aspect of identity from another and to figure out its specific impact on writing. Here’s the answer I came up with for now:

For me, my identity path started with coming out as a feminist, then I acknowleded my South Asian-ness, then my queerness and then my Muslim identity (not that all of these aspects of identity are always settled, or completely clear to me–it’s a work in progress). And when I look back at my writing over the years, that’s what I was writing about, these various “coming out” journeys. Perhaps writing helped me stretch into those identities, to come to terms with them, and to begin the long process of unpacking the bags of internalized oppression that each brought, the sexism, the racism, the homophobia and islamophobia.. 

My family’s immigration journey also played a significant role in how my writing unfolded. I think the experience of immigration is a difficult and fearful one. Expectations turn to the future, to the success of children. It’s an insecure existence, learning how to live in a new country without roots, roots that eventually, after a generation or two, start to form a safety net. My family’s narrative for success goes something like this: get a good career, settle down have a family, buy a house, have a secure life. Security is important.  So, needless to say, a writing life was not encouraged in me at a young age. Writing isn’t what one would can an affluence-buidling career. It wasn’t until I’d played out most of my family’s immigrant and class narratives that I could get down to being more of a writer. By then, I had a career, I’d bought a condo, was in a committed relationship with my girlfriend (not exactly the settling down that was envisioned, perhaps), and I was firmly middle class.  I sometmes wonder if my writing path would have been different had my family not been immigrants, if they had been here for several generations, and if dreams and success didn’t fall so heavily on future generations.

I heard other Converge speakers talk about how difficult it is to talk about queerness and creativity separate from race, gender, and other aspects of identity. Perhaps one thing that that draws together these identitities and influences my writing is that I haven’t read enough novels that speak to who I am. And this is probably why I write characters like Nasreen, Salma and Shaffiq, characters of colour, who are queer, who are immigrants. Characters with identities that converge to create stories that are interesting to me. 

on mother’s day

Mother’s Day has been a non-event for me for the past 25 years. Not exactly a neutral day, it’s a day I barely acknowledge, and usually criticize as the Hallmark holiday it is (I mean really, we should be nice to mothers every day, right?).

This morning I read the Toronto Star’s  heteronormative comics page about dads and kids giving moms one day off. I moved on to the Life section and finally read something about Mother’s Day that made sense to me. By the second paragraph, I was split in two, my adult body sitting at my sunny breakfast table eating scrambled eggs with the newspaper, while my child’s mind was confused, in shock, just waking up to hear about my mother’s death the night before.  I couldn’t read past that second paragraph, Mother’s Day suddenly becoming real to me again, after 25 years.

The story was written by Thulasi Srikanthan, and is about women whose mothers died when they were small children,  the impact this loss has on them, and the way this holiday is a “sad reminder” for “women who are always grieving”. I am a therapist and someone who has done years of therapy about my mother’s death, but there was something in Srikanthan’s writing and reporting that thoroughly rocked me. This is what good writing does.

 I’ve often reflected on what impact mother-loss has had on my writing. Some of my earliest poems trace the raucous journey of coping without a mother and even today, strands of grief seem to enter my prose. Many of my characters are dealing with losses: of loved ones,  of home, of identity. Perhaps it is my own experiences with grief that make my characters’ tragedies believable, and perhaps their pain helps me to mourn my own; life and fiction interweaving in the ongoing process of mourning that Srikanthan describes.

Book promo a-go-go

Over the last couple of months, I have been experiencing the baby-step beginnings of the transition from “writer” to “author”. I have been writing dozens of e-mails every day, encouraging librarians and bookstores to order my novel, getting myself invited to book readings, spamming (well not really spamming, but some people might think so) PFLAGers, queer student groups around the country,  and working out a media plan.

I didn’t really know anything about book marketing until a couple of months ago, when I started borrowing library books on the topic. The whole thing seemed rather daunting. and a little cheezy (you should read some of the tips on branding yourself). What has been really amazing are the kind of replies I have been getting. Complete strangers are inviting me to their bookstores, to their Pride Events, and are telling me how much they are looking forward to  reading the novel. Friends are going out of their way to find new ways to get the word out. A couple of weeks ago, a friend’s boyfriend called up an old friend and colleague of his and now I have a pro-bono publicist working for me.  It’s lovely and suprising to be met with this kind of wonderfully positive, generous energy.

I think I might be starting to like book marketing now!