EMWF Presenter Profiles 2019

Anthony De Sa

“You must listen to my words. You must promise to tell my story.”

Anthony De Sa is an author well-known for his craft. His first published work, a collection of linked short stories about a Portuguese immigrant family called Barnacle Love, was shortlisted for the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize and 2009 Toronto Book Award. His next novel, Kicking the Sky, expanded on an existing true story about the murder of Emanuel Jacques and became a national bestseller. Set in Toronto’s Portuguese community in 1977, Kicking the Sky follows a trio of unforgettable young boys and captures the ever-shifting space between innocence and understanding. It was shortlisted for both the Toronto Book Award and the LIBRIS Award.

Now, Anthony is back with a compelling third novel: Children of the Moon. The story begins in 1956 Tanzania, where a Maasai woman gives birth to a child with albinism. Seen as a curse upon her tribe, Pó must navigate the world, fighting against violence and ostracism in order to take control of her life. Likewise, in Portuguese-controlled Mozambique, Ezequiel – a former child soldier – searches for acceptance and fights against the tragedy that continues to befall him. When a period of momentous change brings Pó and Zeca together, they quickly fall in love and briefly glimpse reprieve before they are forced to confront the devastating impact of colonialism and war.

Set against historical events and told through three unique perspectives, Children of the Moon quietly presents a story of struggle and resilience in the face of fractured humanity. Following his extensive research for the novel, Anthony told CityNews that he would never fully close the book on this tragic story: “It’s an artifact that lives and breathes.” Readers are sure to be drawn into this stunning and unforgettable exploration of the love of two people at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control.

You can hear Anthony De Sa talk about Children of the Moon on Festival Sunday (Sunday, September 8, 2019) at The Meadow, 12:30pm.

Cecil Foster

“We should always remember this was not a fight they were guaranteed to win. We should also not forget that Canada wasn’t originally intended to be a multicultural society… Against great odds, the sleeping car porters sacrificed themselves and all that they had to put a stick in the wheels, figuratively speaking, that were driving Canada toward a different destination.”

Cecil Foster wears many hats. He is known by most as a journalist whose work spans topics of the human condition, social justice and freedom, hybridity and the improvisation of peoples and cultures, and more. He has worked with major print and broadcast media in the Caribbean and in Canada – the latter credits including The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Financial Post, CBC Radio, CTV News, Chatelaine, Toronto Life, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

Public advocacy is very important to Cecil and operates as a thread throughout his work. In addition to his contributions as a journalist and academic, Cecil has authored more than 10 books; a mixture of award-winning literary nonfiction and fiction that focuses on issues of multiculturalism, politics, and race. His newest book, They Call Me George is a remarkable story, and one remarkably told. Canada’s black train porters were a familiar sight to the average passenger, but their minority status meant they were considered second class by, or entirely invisible to, those who determined who was, or was not, Canadian.

Drawing on the experiences of this group of resilient, unique, and influential black Canadians, They Call Me George demonstrates the power of individuals and minority groups in the fight for social justice. As articulated by Jennifer Yang in the Toronto Star, Cecil’s newest book “excavates a chapter of Canadian history that has been largely erased from the collective memory,” and shows how a country can change for the better. Cecil writes, once again, with gravitas, respect, historical accuracy, and a flair for storytelling.

Where you can see Cecil Foster:
Aspiring, emerging, and established writers can join Cecil Foster’s writing workshop on Saturday, September 7, 2019.

Readers and writers alike can attend the Festival on Sunday September 8 and hear Cecil Foster be interviewed by Judith Pereira, The Globe and Mail’s Book Editor (The Cottage, 1:45 pm).

Lee Maracle

“Hope lives inside the artist: instrument, brush, voice, pen, sculpture, body. Hope breathes life inside those shadowy crevices where doubt waits to feast on our weakened and dimmed inner light. Hope gives us strength to trudge through the muck and the mire to find solid ground.”

Lee Maracle, a member of the Stó:lō Nation, is one of the most prolific writers in Canada and has penned more than 15 books – including Celia’s Song, Memory Serves: Oratories, and My Conversations with Canadians. Whether she is writing poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or a hybrid, Lee has an inimitable gift for addressing racism, post-colonialism, female sexuality, and racial solitudes in ways that challenge and inspire readers. In addition to winning a number of literary awards, Lee is a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, is an Officer of the Order of Canada as was recently named a finalist for the prestigious 2020 Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

Throughout their youth, Lee’s daughters – Columpa Bobb and Tania Carter – wrote poetry with their mother, and the three always dreamed that one day they would write a book together. The result of this dream, Hope Matters, is a remarkable collection of shimmering new poetry. Written collaboratively by the three women, the wide-ranging poems take readers on two journeys: that of Indigenous peoples from colonial beginnings to reconciliation, as well as the personal journey of a mother and her two daughters.

Katherena Vermette, bestselling poet and author of The Break, describes the poems in Hope Matters as “dancing around each other, weaving rhythm and breathing love. The ancestors sing, babies laugh, and hope always wins.” In this status quo-busting collection, lifelong learners and lovers of poetry alike have an opportunity to bear witness to three distinct, deeply-felt voices coming together in a shared song of hope and reconciliation.

You can hear Lee Maracle discuss Hope Matters on Festival Sunday (Sunday September 8, 2019), as part of our In Verse set, 4:30-5:30 at The Mill.

Catherine Porter

“She was hard-baked, weary, and incredibly self-possessed. This crowd of adults was flocking around her because, to them, she represented the country’s fragility—a helpless human rescued from the rubble. But to me she seemed more to reflect the country’s weary resilience. She was a survivor.”

Catherine Porter is no stranger to storytelling. Currently the Toronto bureau chief for The New York Times and having worked as a city hall reporter, an environment writer, and a columnist for the Toronto Star, Catherine specializes in narrative journalism. She has received two National Newspaper Awards in Canada, the Landsberg Award for her feminist columns, and a Queen’s Jubliee Medal for grassroots community work. Likewise, she is well-known for her reportage on Haiti, to which she has travelled more than 20 times since 2010 and with which she’s developed a deeply personal connection.

Catherine’s new book, A Girl Named Lovely, is the story of her relationship to Haiti. Specifically, it is the story of her dedication to Lovely, a “miracle” child who was pulled from the rubble after six days, to Lovely’s family, and to other Haitian children whose futures Catherine became deeply invested in. The immensely readable book is also the story of Catherine’s relationship to journalism, objectivity and subjectivity, and her own privilege.

The power of this memoir is best articulated by fellow award-winning journalist and author Carol Off: “Catherine takes us into the heart of Haiti but also into her own conflicted heart, where her professionalism collides with her humanity. Ultimately, it’s a little Haitian girl who shows Catherine how she can be—at once—a compassionate person, a rigorous journalist, and a loving mother.” Employing her finely-sharpened storytelling skills, Catherine’s insightful and uplifting book will make you think deeply about hope, empathy, resilience, and the impact each of us can make in the lives of others.

You can hear Catherine Porter discuss A Girl Named Lovely on Festival Sunday (Sunday September 8, 2019), as part of our Before and After set, 1:45-2:45 at The Cottage.

Anakana Schofield

“All over this country, there are people waking up day by day beside people they are disappointed to discover aren’t dead.”

Anakana Schofield’s weighty debut novel, Malarky (2012), won the Amazon First Novel Award and the Debut-Litzer Prize for Fiction. Only three years later her sophomore effort, Martin John, was not only shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, but was also a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and the Goldsmiths Prize in the UK. Called “a beguiling triumph” by author Patrick deWitt, the darkly comic novel about a serial sex offender was named a best book of the year by the Wall Street Journal, The Globe and Mail, the National Post, and the Toronto Star, among others.

Now, Anakana offers another bold story that will stay with us long after we’ve turned the final page. Bina: A Novel in Warnings once again showcases Anakana’s innovative approach to form and style. From the backs of napkins and envelopes, readers will receive counsel from the titular character, a 74-year-old woman torn between grieving the loss of her best friend, defending herself against those who will do her harm, and keeping her fragile – and understandable – anger under control. The novel navigates narratives of violence, assisted suicide, death, friendship, and madness, all with Anakana’s signature wit and control.

Rachel Cusk, Giller Prize-shortlisted author of Outline and Transit, refers to Anakana as “the most compassionate of storytellers, wearing the guide of the blackest comedian.” Once again, her writing is simultaneously sharp and subtle, and her deadpan delivery makes Bina a story that can be consumed over and over again.

You can hear Anakana Schofield discuss Bina on Festival Sunday (Sunday September 8, 2019), as part of our Her Story set, 4:30-5:30 at The Meadow.

We also welcome aspiring writers to join her for a writing workshop on Saturday September 7 in Guelph.

Samra Zafar

“What survivors need – beyond shelters, police, and counselling – is a sense of belonging. A community of support.” 

At the age of sixteen, Samra Zafar was forced into an arranged marriage that brought her from her family home in Pakistan to Canada. Soon after her arrival, the bright future she had been promised by her husband and his family quickly dimmed to become something much more sinister. With only her own strength to rely on, Samra rebuilt that bright future from within the shadow of her painful and oppressive reality, graduating from high school and saving enough money from a child care business to attend university. In 2013, soon after leaving her volatile husband, she graduated from the top of her class. She has since become an international speaker and the founder of Brave Beginnings, a not-for-profit organization created to help abuse victims.

Written in collaboration with author and editor Meg Masters, A Good Wife: Escaping the Life I Never Chose, tells Zafar’s story of abuse, shame, and resilience. Expanding greatly on her widely-read article written for Toronto Life in 2017, the memoir follows her journey from childhood to adulthood and describes her experiences with unflinching honesty.

Samra’s story shines a light on important and sometimes uncomfortable truths about gender-based violence, social stigma, and generational trauma that cannot – and should not – be ignored. Simultaneously, A Good Wife offers readers a portrait of one exceptionally courageous woman who is living proof that systemic change can begin at home.

You can hear Samra discuss A Good Wife at Festival Sunday (Sunday, September 8, 2019), as part of our With Great Fortitude set, 3:15-4:15 at The Meadow.

View our 2018 Profiles here.