EMWF Panel: The Writing Life

Thursday October 7, 8:00 - 9:00 p.m. EST (online)

Presenters:  Omar El Akkad (What Strange Paradise), Jael Richardson (Gutter Child), Nicholas Ruddock (Last Hummingbird West of Chile) and Kim Thúy (Em)

As a booklover, you’ve probably wondered about the authors who transform ideas into novels. What inspires them? Who reads their first drafts? Where do they find the voices of their characters? In the final adult event of EMWF’s 2021 series, join Omar El Akkad, Jael Richardson, Nicholas Ruddock and Kim Thúy as they provide a peek behind the curtain, giving us the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the writing life.

This event includes closed captioning.



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What Strange Paradise
By Omar El Akkad
Published by McClelland & Stewart

From the widely acclaimed author of American War: a new novel--beautifully written, unrelentingly dramatic, and profoundly moving--that brings the global refugee crisis down to the level of a child's eyes.

More bodies have washed up on the shores of a small island. Another over-filled, ill-equipped, dilapidated ship has sunk under the weight of its too many passengers: Syrians, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Lebanese, Palestinians, all of them desperate to escape untenable lives in their homelands. And only one has made the passage: nine-year-old Amir, a Syrian boy who has the good fortune to fall into the hands not of the officials but of Vanna: a teenage girl, native to the island, who lives inside her own sense of homelessness in a place and among people she has come to disdain. And though she and the boy are complete strangers, though they don't speak a common language, she determines to do whatever it takes to save him.

In alternating chapters, we learn the story of the boy's life and how he came to be on the boat; and we follow the girl and boy as they make their way toward a vision of safety. But as the novel unfurls, we begin to understand that this is not merely the story of two children finding their way through a hostile world, it is the story of our collective moment in this time: of empathy and indifference, of hope and despair--and of the way each of those things can blind us to reality, or guide us to a better one.

Omar El Akkad is an author and a journalist. He has reported from Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, and many other locations around the world. His work earned Canada's National Newspaper Award for Investigative Journalism and the Goff Penny Award for young journalists. His writing has appeared in The GuardianLe MondeGuernicaGQ, and many other newspapers and magazines. His debut novel, American War, is an international bestseller and has been translated into thirteen languages. It won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award, the Oregon Book Award for fiction, and the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, and has been nominated for more than ten other awards. It was listed as one of the best books of the year by The New York TimesThe Washington PostGQ, NPR, and Esquire, and was selected by the BBC as one of 100 Novels That Shaped Our World.

Gutter Child
By Jael Richardson
Published by HarperCollins Canada

A fierce and illuminating debut from FOLD founder Jael Richardson about a young woman who must find the courage to determine her own future and secure her freedom.

Set in an imagined world in which the most vulnerable are forced to buy their freedom by working off their debt to society, Gutter Child uncovers a nation divided into the privileged Mainland and the policed Gutter. In this world, Elimina Dubois is one of only 100 babies taken from the Gutter and raised in the land of opportunity as part of a social experiment led by the Mainland government. 

But when her Mainland mother dies, Elimina finds herself all alone, a teenager forced into an unfamiliar life of servitude, unsure of who she is and where she belongs. Elimina is sent to an academy with new rules and expectations where she befriends Gutter children who are making their own way through the Gutter System in whatever ways they know how. When Elimina’s life takes another unexpected turn, she will discover that what she needs more than anything may not be the freedom she longs for after all.

Richardson’s Gutter Child reveals one young woman’s journey through a fractured world of heartbreaking disadvantages and shocking injustices. Elimina is a modern heroine in an altered but all too recognizable reality who must find the strength within herself to forge her future and defy a system that tries to shape her destiny.

Jael Richardson is the executive director of the FOLD literary festival, the books columnist on CBC Radio’s q and an outspoken advocate on issues of diversity. She is the author of The Stone Thrower: A Daughter’s Lesson, a Father’s Life, a memoir based on her relationship with her father, CFL quarterback Chuck Ealey. The memoir received a CBC Bookie Award, an Arts Acclaim Award and a My People Award. A children’s edition was published by Groundwood Books. Her essay “Conception” is part of Room’s first Women of Colour edition, and excerpts from her first play, my upside down black face, appear in the anthology T-Dot Griots: An Anthology of Toronto’s Black Storytellers. Jael Richardson received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Guelph. She lives in Brampton, Ontario.

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Last Hummingbird West of Chile
By Nicholas Ruddock
Published by Breakwater Books

An audacious tale of murder, privilege, and servitude – of both humans and nature.

A stunning work of imaginative fiction, Last Hummingbird West of Chile spins a tale of adventure that is in turn comedic, violent, poignant and thoughtful. Through the exploits of a young sailor born in questionable circumstance and a pair of murderous servants, as well as an assortment of other 19th century regulars, the vital subjects of today—race, religion, sexuality, environment—are framed in history and human culture.

Through narration by human protagonists, a tree, a hummingbird, various beasts, and the landscape itself, Ruddock tells a story of colonialism and environment, brutality and privilege, and the best and worst of human nature.

Nicholas Ruddock is a Canadian physician and writer. His first novel, The Parabolist (2010), was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award and the Arthur Ellis Award. His second novel, Night Ambulance (2016), was a Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist. He has won numerous international prizes for his short fiction, including the Bridport Prize (UK) twice, the Sheldon Currie Fiction Prize, and the Carter V. Cooper Prize. He was shortlisted for the Moth International Poetry Award (Ireland) in 2020 and the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award (UK) in 2016. One of his stories (“How Eunice Got Her Baby”) has been filmed by the Canadian Film Centre, directed by Ana Valine and narrated by Gordon Pinsent. He lives in Guelph, Ontario.

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Em 
By Kim Thúy

Published by Random House Canada

Kim Thúy's Em is a virtuosic novel of profound power and sen­sitivity, and an enduring affirmation of the greatest act of resistance: love.

In the midst of war, an ordinary miracle: an abandoned baby tenderly cared for by a young boy living on the streets of Saigon. The boy is Louis, the child of a long-gone American soldier. Louis calls the baby em Hồng, em meaning "little sister," or "beloved." Even though her cradle is nothing more than a cardboard box, em Hồng's life holds every possibility.

Through the linked destinies of a family of characters, the novel takes its inspiration from historical events, including Operation Babylift, which evacuated thousands of biracial orphans from Saigon in April 1975, and the remarkable growth of the nail salon industry, dominated by Vietnamese expatriates all over the world. From the rubber plantations of Indochina to the massacre at My Lai, Kim Thúy sifts through the layers of pain and trauma in stories we thought we knew, revealing transcendent moments of grace, and the invincibility of the human spirit.

Born in Saigon in 1968, Kim Thúy left Vietnam with the boat people at the age of ten and settled with her family in Quebec. A graduate in translation and law, she has worked as a seamstress, interpreter, lawyer, restaurant owner, media personality and television host. She lives in Montreal and devotes herself to writing.
 
Kim Thúy has received many awards, including the Governor General’s Literary Award in 2010, and was one of the top 4 finalists of the Alternative Nobel Prize in 2018. Her books have sold more than 850,000 copies around the world and have been translated into 29 languages and distributed across 40 countries and territories.

Need the book? Buy from one of our bookselling partners or your local independent bookstore:

ONTARIO
Almonte: Mill Street Books, 613-256-9090
Guelph: The Bookshelf, 519-821-3311 x1
Kingston: Novel Idea, 613-546-9799
Toronto: Another Story Bookshop, 416-462-1104
Uxbridge: Blue Heron Books, 905-852-4282

BRITISH COLUMBIA
Lower Mainland: Black Bond Books, [email protected]
Vancouver: Massy Books, 604-721-4405

QUEBEC
Montreal: Paragraphe Books, 514-845-5811