EMWF Panel: The Creative Response

Thursday September 3, 8:00-9:00 p.m. EST (online)

Presenters: Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies, Catherine Bush, Blaze Island, and Farzana Doctor, Seven 

Host: Nana aba Duncan, CBC

The motivation to write a book is often deeply personal. These three startling new works of fiction have all been written in response to real-life subjects close to the hearts of the authors: decolonization and degentrification, the climate emergency, and the tension between modern and traditional customs. This panel will explore the stories behind the stories – the social, cultural, and environmental issues that inspired the books.

This event includes closed captioning.

Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies
By Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
Published by House of Anansi Press

“You can make fun of Bougie Kwe all you want, but they are just doing what every other NDN in the city is trying to do, which is not end it all, by bringing a little bit of real right into the city. Pumpkin seeds in “repurposed” Styrofoam coffee cups. Trilliums in the garden. Fires in the backyard. Hyacinths in a plastic wading pool. Semaa at the base of street lights. Duck soup Under the Gardiner.”

Award-winning Nishnaabeg storyteller and writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson returns with a bold reimagination of the novel, one that combines narrative and poetic fragments through a careful and fierce reclamation of Anishinaabe aesthetics. Mashkawaji (they/them) lies frozen in the ice, remembering a long-ago time of hopeless connection and now finding freedom and solace in isolated suspension. They introduce us to the seven main characters: Akiwenzii, the old man who represents the narrator’s will; Ninaatig, the maple tree who represents their lungs; Mindimooyenh, the old woman who represents their conscience; Sabe, the giant who represents their marrow; Adik, the caribou who represents their nervous system; Asin, the human who represents their eyes and ears; and Lucy, the human who represents their brain. Each attempts to commune with the unnatural urban-settler world, a world of SpongeBob Band-Aids, Ziploc baggies, Fjällräven Kånken backpacks, and coffee mugs emblazoned with institutional logos. And each searches out the natural world, only to discover those pockets that still exist are owned, contained, counted, and consumed. Cut off from nature, the characters are cut off from their natural selves.

Noopiming is Anishinaabemowin for “in the bush,” and the title is a response to English Canadian settler and author Susanna Moodie’s 1852 memoir Roughing It in the Bush. To read Simpson’s work is an act of decolonization, degentrification, and willful resistance to the perpetuation and dissemination of centuries-old colonial myth-making. It is a lived experience. It is a breaking open of the self to a world alive with people, animals, ancestors, and spirits, who are all busy with the daily labours of healing — healing not only themselves, but their individual pieces of the network, of the web that connects them all together. Enter and be changed.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg writer, scholar, and musician, and a member of Alderville First Nation. She is the author of five books; This Accident of Being Lost (MacEwan Book of the Year, Peterborough Arts Award for Outstanding Achievement by an Indigenous Author, finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Trillium Book Award, longlisted for CBC Canada Reads, a best book of the year by the Globe & Mail, National Post, and Quill & Quire,) As We Have Always Done, This Accident of Being Lost, Islands of Decolonial Love, The Gift Is In The Making, and Dancing on Our Turtle's Back. She has released two albums, including f(l)ight, which is a companion piece to This Accident of Being Lost.

Blaze Island
By Catherine Bush
Published by Goose Lane Editions

Set on a fictionalized version of Fogo Island moments after a mammoth Category Five hurricane sweeps up the eastern seaboard, Blaze Island, the new novel by acclaimed and internationally bestselling novelist Catherine Bush, is an urgent and compelling story that weaves together the urgency and drama of climate change, grounded with mystery, love, family and Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Blaze Island asks how far a parent will go to create a safe world for a child. And what the children of today will need to do in order to imagine a future for themselves. How do you imagine a tomorrow when the present seems, whichever way you look, to be hovering on the brink of catastrophe? Dramatizing the complex emotions that arise in the face of the climate crisis and intensifying ecological loss, Blaze Island enfolds a gripping human story within the larger presence of the constantly shifting elements: wild winds that grow wilder, the haunting parade of icebergs that float past Miranda’s door, melting as they travel ever-farther south.

For readers who loved Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior and Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time comes this new climate-themed, Shakespeare-inspired novel.

Catherine Bush is the author of five novels, including the Canada Reads long-listed Accusation, the Trillium Award short-listed Claire’s Head, and the bestselling The Rules of Engagement, which was also a New York Times Notable Book and a Globe & Mail Book of the Year. Her essays and reviews have appeared in numerous publications, including the Globe and Mail and New York Times Magazine.

Catherine Bush’s climate change novel, Blaze Island, is written with the authority of science and the complexity of fiction. She is an Associate Professor at the University of Guelph and Coordinator of the Guelph Creative Writing MFA. She lives in Toronto.


By Farzana Doctor
Published by Dundurn Press

A rich, soulfully written novel about inheritance and resistance that tests the balance between modern and traditional customs.

When Sharifa accompanies her husband on a marriage-saving trip to India, she thinks that she's going to research her great-great-grandfather, a wealthy business leader and philanthropist. What captures her imagination is not his rags-to-riches story, but the mystery of his four wives, missing from the family lore. She ends up excavating much more than she had imagined.

Sharifa's trip coincides with a time of unrest within her insular and conservative religious community, and there is no escaping its politics. A group of feminists is speaking out against khatna, an age-old ritual they insist is female genital cutting. Sharifa’s two favourite cousins are on opposite sides of the debate, and she seeks a middle ground. As the issue heats up, Sharifa discovers an unexpected truth and is forced to take a position.

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

Nana aba Duncan is an award-winning broadcaster, and an advocate of underrepresented perspectives in journalism. She currently hosts CBC Radio One’s Podcast Playlist as well as Fresh Air, Ontario’s top-rated weekend morning show. In 2015, Nana aba launched Media Girlfriends, a podcast that features women in media discussing bad-ass accomplishments, intersectionality, and Beyoncé. Media Girlfriends has grown to include events, student scholarships and a peer network supporting racialized and LGBTQ2+ women/non-binary people working in media. Previously, Nana aba was country director with Journalists For Human Rights in Ghana. She won the Influencer Award at the 2020 International Women of Diversity Awards. Nana aba holds a Master’s degree in Journalism from University of Western Ontario. Nana aba has been laughing loudly for a very long time.

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, League of Canadian Poets, Open Book, The Ontario Arts Council, The Pollock Family Fund and Wellington County.