EMWF Panel: Looking Backward, Looking Forward

Thursday July 9, 8:00 p.m EST (online)

Presenters: Shani Mootoo, Polar Vortex, John Elizabeth Stintzi, Vanishing Monuments, and Souvankham Thammavongsa, How to Pronounce Knife
Host: Farzana Doctor, author of the upcoming novel, Seven

Navigating the present with one foot in the past, these three new works of fiction explore the dizzying and transformative effect of memory, time, and past experiences on identity and relationships. Join Shani Mootoo, John Elizabeth Stintzi, and Souvankham Thammavongsa as they explore the ways in which their characters build their lives anew, yet are unable to  outrun their histories.

This event includes closed captioning.
 

Polar Vortex
By Shani Mootoo
Published by Book*Hug Press

Priya and Alexandra have moved from the city to a picturesque Countryside town. What Alex doesn’t know is that, in moving, Priya is running from her past—from a fraught relationship with an old friend, Prakash, who pursued her for many years, both online and off. Time has passed, however, and Priya, confident that her ties to Prakash have been successfully severed, decides it’s once more safe to establish an online presence. In no time, Prakash finds Priya and contacts her. Impulsively, inexplicably, Priya invites him to visit her and Alex in the country, without ever having come clean with Alex about their relationship—or its tumultuous end. Prakash’s reentry into Priya’s life reveals cracks in her and Alex’s relationship and brings into question Priya’s true intentions.

Are we ever free from our pasts? Can we ever truly know the people we are closest to? Seductive and tension-filled, Polar Vortex is a story of secrets, deceptions, and revenge.

Shani Mootoo was born in Ireland, grew up in Trinidad, and lives in Canada. She holds an MA in English from the University of Guelph, writes fiction and poetry, and is a visual artist whose work has been exhibited locally and internationally. Mootoo’s critically acclaimed novels include Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab, Valmiki’s Daughter, He Drown She in the Sea, and Cereus Blooms at Night. She is a recipient of the K.M. Hunter Artist Award, a Chalmers Arts Fellowship, and the James Duggins Mid-Career Novelist Award from the Lambda Literary Awards. Her work has been long- and shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the International DUBLIN Literary Award, and the Booker Prize. She lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario.

Vanishing Monuments
By John Elizabeth Stintzi
Published by Arsenal Pulp Press

Alani Baum, a non-binary photographer and teacher, hasn't seen their mother since they ran away with their girlfriend when they were seventeen - almost thirty years ago. But when Alani gets a call from a doctor at the assisted living facility where their mother has been for the last five years, they learn that their mother's dementia has worsened and appears to have taken away her ability to speak. As a result, Alani suddenly find themselves running away again - only this time, they're running back to their mother.

Staying at their mother's empty home, Alani attempts to tie up the loose ends of their mother's life while grappling with the painful memories that - in the face of their mother's disease - they're terrified to lose. Meanwhile, the memories inhabiting the house slowly grow animate, and the longer Alani is there, the longer they're forced to confront the fact that any closure they hope to get from this homecoming will have to be manufactured.

This beautiful, tenderly written debut novel by Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers winner John Elizabeth Stintzi explores what haunts us most, bearing witness to grief over not only what is lost, but also what remains.

John Elizabeth Stintzi is a non-binary writer who grew up on a cattle farm in northwestern Ontario. They are the 2019 recipient of the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award, and their work has appeared in The Malahat Review, Kenyon Review Online, Ploughshares, and in their forthcoming poetry collection Junebat (House of Anansi). They have an MFA in Creative Writing from Stony Brook University in Southampton, NY and currently teach critical and creative writing at the Kansas City Art Institute.

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How to Pronounce Knife
by Souvankham Thammavongsa
Published by McClelland & Stewart

Named one of the best books of April by The New York Times, Salon, The Millions, and Vogue, and featuring stories that have appeared in Harper's, Granta, The Atlantic, and The Paris Review, this revelatory book of fiction from O. Henry Award winner Souvankham Thammavongsa establishes her as an essential new voice in Canadian and world literature. Told with compassion and wry humour, these stories honour characters struggling to find their bearings far from home, even as they do the necessary "grunt work of the world."

A young man painting nails at the local salon. A woman plucking feathers at a chicken processing plant. A father who packs furniture to move into homes he'll never afford. A housewife learning English from daytime soap operas. In her stunning debut book of fiction, O. Henry Award winner Souvankham Thammavongsa focuses on characters struggling to make a living, illuminating their hopes, disappointments, love affairs, acts of defiance, and above all their pursuit of a place to belong. In spare, intimate prose charged with emotional power and a sly wit, she paints an indelible portrait of watchful children, wounded men, and restless women caught between cultures, languages, and values.

Souvankham Thammavongsa is the author of four poetry books, and the story collection How to Pronounce Knife (M&S, 2020). Her stories have won an O. Henry award and appeared in Harper's MagazineThe Paris ReviewThe Atlantic, and other places. The New York Times said of her "A talented new voice emerges." 

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Farzana Doctor is a Toronto-based author of four novels: Stealing NasreenSix Metres of PavementAll Inclusive, and Seven (Fall, 2020). Farzana was recently named one of CBC Books’ “100 Writers in Canada You Need To Know Now". She co-founded WeSpeakOut, a group that is working to ban female genital cutting in her Dawoodi Bohra community. She is also a part-time psychotherapist and amateur tarot card reader. www.farzanadoctor.com

Want a copy of the books featured on this panel?

The Bookshelf (Guelph) is our bookselling partner for this event. If you would like to purchase a copy of one of the books from this event, you can order online at bookshelf.ca or phone 519-821-3311 x1. Free shipping or curbside delivery in Guelph. $10.00 shipping cost outside of Guelph.

Thank you to our supporters:
The Angel Gabriel Foundation, The Canada Council for the Arts, The Department of Canadian Heritage, Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation, Open Book, The Ontario Arts Council, The Pollock Family Fund and Wellington County.