Tag Archives: Toronto

Giveaway: A ticket to hear Rohinton Mistry, Wayne Johnston, James Bartleman in Toronto

I am SO THRILLED to offer readers of this blog a chance to witness three literary superheroes in action. In association with World Literacy Canada, I’m giving one person a $60 ticket to see Rohinton Mistry, Wayne Johnston, and James Bartleman read at the Kama Benefit Reading Series.

World Literacy Canada is a Toronto-based NGO supporting women and children’s literacy through non-formal education programs in South Asia.  Their initiatives include adult literacy programs, community libraries, skills training (such as tailoring), and much more.  The Kama Reading Series is WLC’s flagship fundraising event. The first Kama reading featured writers such as Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Atwood; 2012 marks the twentieth anniversary of this  event. This giveaway is for the last event in the series, and will be held at 6:30 at the Park Hyatt Toronto on May 30.

(You may remember that I’d done a blog giveaway earlier this year for the January event. )

TO ENTER THIS GIVEAWAY:

Please leave a comment letting me know you’d like to win a ticket, along with your email address.

This giveaway is about promoting WLC’s work, so we’ll all be very happy if you like WLC on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/worldlit ) and  follow them on Twitter (@worldlit). And if you’d share news about this event and giveaway on your blogs and on social media, well, more good karma will flow your way.

Earlier this year, WLC announced to widespread dismay that their CIDA funding had been cut. So, please do check out how you can help WLC continue their important work–you can donate, volunteer, or choose to help in some other way. (Contact them here.)

Small print:

1.  This giveaway closes on May 18, 2012.

2. One winner will be picked by random number generator. If you have left a comment but are not in the Toronto area, or do not wish to enter the draw for any other reason,  please mention this information in your comment.

3. World Literacy will mail the winner’s ticket to a Canadian mailing address, or will hand it over at the venue, depending on the winner’s preference.

4. I have no professional or personal involvement with World Literacy, and am running this giveaway in order to promote a cause I support.  For all legalese, please contact World Literacy Canada.

Here’s a  brief note about each of the featured authors

Rohinton Mistry: India-born, Canada-based Mistry is the author of Tales from Firozsha Baag (1987), Such a Long Journey (1991), A Fine Balance (1995), Family Matters (2002), and The Scream (2006). He’s received too many honors to note here.

Wayne Johnston is the author of eight celebrated novels. Johnston’s fiction deals primarily with the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, often in a historical setting. His breakthrough novel, 1998’s The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, was acclaimed for its historical portrayal of Newfoundland politician Joey Smallwood, and was chosen for the 2003 edition of CBC Radio’s Canada Reads competition.

James Bartleman is a Canadian diplomat and author who was Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario from 2002 to 2007. He initiated the Lieutenant-Governor’s Book Program in 2004, and has collected over 1.2 million books, donated from all corners of the province from both institutions and individuals, to stock school libraries in First Nations communities.

(All writer bios from Wikipedia.)

Thank you for reading, and thank you for helping.

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Update: The winner is entrant #5, Mayank Bhatt, chosen by http://www.random.org/ Congratulations, Mayank! And thanks to all those who entered!

Giveaway: A ticket for the Kama Benefit Reading Series, to help literacy efforts in South Asia

Update: This giveaway is now closed. If I don’t hear back from the winner by Jan. 7, I’ll pick a new person.

Would you like to attend a reading in Toronto featuring three celebrated authors? And even if you’re not in the Toronto area, could you please take a minute to read this post to see how you can further literacy programs in South Asia?

World Literacy Canada is a Toronto-based NGO supporting women and children’s literacy through non-formal education programs in South Asia (their Indian operations are based in Varanasi).  Their initiatives include adult literacy programs, community libraries, skills training (such as tailoring), and much more. Please do click through to their site. And here’s a video.

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In the 1990s World Literacy Canada’s fundraising efforts were concerned with “linking a love of literature to the cause of literacy”, and the Kama Reading Series was born.  The first Kama series featured writers such as Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Atwood; 2012 marks the twentieth anniversary of this  event.

In association with World Literacy Canada, I’m giving away a ticket (worth $60) for a Kama Reading to be held at The Park Hyatt Toronto on January 25, 2012. The reading features Marina Nemat (Prisoner of Tehran), Ava Homa (Echoes from the Other Land), and James Loney (Captivity). 

“Marina Nemat was born in 1965 in Tehran, Iran. After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, she was arrested at the age of sixteen and spent more than two years in Evin, a political prison in Tehran, where she was tortured and came very close to execution. She came to Canada in 1991 and has called it home ever since. Her memoir of her life in Iran,  Prisoner of Tehran, was published in Canada by Penguin Canada in April 2007, has been published in 28 other countries, and has been an international bestseller. MacLean’s Magazine has called it “…one of the finest (memoirs) ever written by a Canadian.” Prisoner of Tehran has been short listed for many literary awards, including the Young Minds Award in the UK and the Borders Original Voices Award in the US.”

“Ava Homa is the author of Echoes from the Other Land  which was nominated for the the world’s largest short story award: 2011 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Echoes from the Other Land was also placed 6th in the top ten winners of the CBC Reader’s Choice Contest for Giller Prize. Ava is a Kurdish-Canadian writer-in-exile, with two Masters’ degrees one in English and Creative Writing, another in English Language and Literature. Echoes from the Other Land has a running theme of resistance by modern Iranian women under an oppressive regime.”

“James Loney  is a Canadian peace activist who has worked for several years with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq and Palestine. On November 26, 2005, he was kidnapped in Baghdad along with three others: Harmeet Singh Sooden (Canadian) and Norman Kember (British), both members of the delegation he was leading; and Tom Fox (American), a full-time member of CPT who had been working in Iraq since September 2004. The widely publicized hostage crisis (see 2005-2006 Christian Peacemaker hostage crisis) ended on March 23, 2006 when Loney, Kember and Sooden were rescued in a clandestine military operation led by British Special Forces.  Tom Fox was killed on March 9, two weeks before the release of other men. Captivity is the story of what Jim described upon his return to Toronto and reunion with his partner Dan Hunt as ‘a terrifying, profound, transformative and excruciatingly boring experience’.”

Here’s the full line-up for the series, which also features one of my favorite authors ever–Rohinton Mistry!  I may do giveaways for other readings too–please come back and check this blog if you are interested.

It’s a truly wonderful line-up of authors, isn’t it? And there are cocktails…

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HOW TO ENTER:

Please leave a comment letting me know you’d like to win a ticket, along with your email address.  That’s it!

But seeing as it’s a charitable cause, could you please spread the word about this event and this organization? For instance, you might:

1. Like World Literacy Canada on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/worldlit  (you’ll find Kama in the events section), and follow them on Twitter @worldlit.

2. Share news about the Kama Reading Series on social media venues (please use #WLCKama) or on your blog.

3. Blog about this giveaway, post it on social media venues of your choice, and let friends and family in the Toronto area know about the event.

4. And you could donate directly to World Literacy Canada here: https://www.dollarsatwork.org/Donation.aspx  90 cents of every dollar directly funds the programs, and all donations are tax-deductible.

Small print:

1.  This giveaway closes on Dec 31, 2011

2. One winner will be picked by random number generator. If you have left a comment but are not in the Toronto area, or do not wish to enter the draw for any other reason,  please mention this in your comment.

3. World Literacy will mail the winner’s ticket to a Canadian mailing address, or will hand it over at the venue, depending on the winner’s preference.

4. I have no professional or personal involvement with World Literacy, and am running this giveaway in order to promote a cause I support.  For all legalese, please contact World Literacy Canada.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for helping!

 

 

When Maharajasaurs Walked the Earth

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto is currently running an exhibition called “Maharaja: The Splendor of India’s Royal Courts”. The museum recently hosted a tour for journalists and bloggers, which I attended. The AGO earned my eternal wow by allowing my three-year-old son to tag along, and no, it wasn’t a disaster. My husband, who accompanied me, introduced my son to the security guard with the warning that the nice man would give him a time-out if he touched the exhibits. It was a very necessary manoeuver, for the exhibition included a car, a carriage, and life-size wire models of an elephant and a horse, all of which begged little boys to climb right up and ride away.  But the threat worked, and the Maharaja items  survived unscathed.

Maharaja consists of over 200 objects, most of which were loaned by the V&A Museum in London. The exhibition takes you through the many trappings of Indian kingship,  from sceptres to spittoons, and several items  had been  painstakingly restored for this event–a king’s costume on display had been re-lined with silk. The crowd-pleasers included a silver carriage adorned with bulldogs and hounds, a Rolls-Royce, and a howdah on a mock elephant. And of course, bucketfuls of bling, including a belt with diamonds the size of new potatoes.

Carriage pic. from here

“These magnificent objects chronicle the many aspects of royal life and celebrate a legacy of cultural patronage by generations of maharajas, both in India and in Europe,” says the website. Maharaja essentially aims to present a glimpse of the lifestyle and splendors of the Indian kings in the eighteenth and nineteenth century,  and I think it succeeds in its mandate. As a collection of  royal objects, Maharaja is quite spectacular, and well-worth a visit.

The  loaded political questions such treasures pose regarding their acquisition and ownership were, however, mostly side-stepped. One of the items on display is Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s golden throne, and an elderly Indian gentleman could not quite contain his shock or ire upon seeing it.  (The throne, along with several other precious objects, was  “taken” by the British when they annexed Punjab in 1849.) Understandably, the AGO downplayed the knotty historical context, but in my opinion, such erasure did tip the exhibition in the direction of Orientalism.

Ranjit Singh's throne (wikipedia)

Soooo…I have mixed feeling about the issues herein. On the one hand, many of the kings were corrupt, good-for-nothing layabouts who were utterly divorced from reality and who cared little for the welfare of their subjects–the average Indian peasant’s lot probably didn’t change much when the British Empire took over. But equally, the deliberate humiliation of the kings of India at the hands of the British isn’t comfortable history. The  rights and responsibilities of the Maharajas were systematically diminished by the British until their power was reduced to material wealth and little else, and I was both aghast and saddened by the excesses they subsequently embraced–there was an air of desperation about it all. Yes, these maharajasaurs mostly had extinction coming, but oh, it must have been quite a show when they ruled their earth.

I should also mention that we were guided by an exceptionally nice museum employee Rachel,  who probably  knew more Indian history than the rest of us put together.  And Piali, the Maharaja community blogger, was a fund of fascinating historical trivia–that sales of Rolls-Royces tapered off during the Great Depression except in India, where the kings continued to buy new toys with glee, starving subjects be damned. The exhibition runs till April 3; do visit if you have an hour or two to spare. And don’t forget to sedate the kids.

TOK5: Writing the New Toronto

(A slightly revised version of this review appears in the current print issue of This magazine).

Diaspora Dialogues, a Toronto organization dedicated to fostering diversity in literature, recently published the fifth book in their Writing the New Toronto series. TOK 5 consists of eighteen stories and poems by established writers such as M.G.Vassanji and Nalo Hopkinson, as well as first-timers. The pieces seek to capture the world of the immigrant, the double take at the banal that signals his newcomer status—and Toronto’s reaction to the same. The characters in this collection are never mouthpieces for their communities–their larger selves are reflected both in their will to make the new land home and in inconveniently seductive memories of their homeland.

Some of the pieces are less successful–Shyam Selvadurai’s novella excerpt doesn’t really work as a stand-alone piece, while Mayank Bhatt’s story of a South Asian Muslim youth’s involvement with terrorism, although well-written, has a predictable feel. But overall, TOK 5 offers a satisfying range of voices and narratives. In Anthony de Sa’s “Words, Dancing on My Skin”, a young girl from Little Portugal strikes up an unusual friendship with Miss Sweden 1951 who, despite having won the Miss Universe title, lives in a ratty apartment by a dumpster. And there’s Chang Liu’s realization, while reading a menu of coyly named vegetarian dishes in a posh Thai restaurant in Danforth, that he’d “give away his visa-studded passport /to see a drunk labourer/ from one of Thailand’s have–not provinces/” roar out an order with true hunger.  I was also glad to see Emma Donoghue in this collection; too often, immigrants are narrowly defined as visible minorities, while the truth of course is that they come in all shades and guises. The new Toronto, like the new immigrant, resists classification.

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TOK: Writing the New Toronto
by various
Zephyr Press
$19.95

You can buy the book online here.

The World’s Biggest Bookstore

Yes, the title is meaningless in the age of Amazon, but The World’s Biggest Bookstore in Toronto is an Experience. Twenty-seven kilometers of bookshelves under fluorescent lighting that makes every reader look like Adrian Mole–spotty and earnest, with no hope of getting laid–in a room that could host an Indian wedding. Canada does big like India does crowded. There. Is. No. Competition.

TWBB was born in 1978, when the Coles brothers converted a bowling alley  into a bookstore. Clever brand-namery there–some say TWBB is no longer the biggest, but the store still claims the right to the name, which it wears in pugnacious red letters. 

 

(Pic from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World's_Biggest_Bookstore.)

This picture is from 2005, but the cop car and delivery truck apparently haven’t moved since.

TWBB is owned by a mega-corporation (Chapters Indigo, Canada’s largest book retailer), so the titles are pretty much those at any big chain bookstore. Lots of shiny happy rows of genre fiction; I’d still go to Ms.  Internet to find that obscure title. There’s also a section peddling fake-scented candles and oversized teddy bears and gilt toilet paper and other frou-frous for People with Too Much Disposable Income, which has no business in a bookstore.

The good stuff: there’s a great children’s selection, and a really deep SF section. And a huge magazine section, with a heartening array of literary journals–I found not just Geist and Queen’s Quarterly but also their younger, funkier brethren. The lit. mags. are stacked on the very bottom of the shelf display, and I had to crawl on my hands and knees along the concrete floor to browse, so I couldn’t note down any new names where I could send my rejected work.

Lots of books on sale, yes, but prices are standard across all Chapters locations. Where TWBB scores is volume–if the Chapters website has the book, this location will probably have a copy. The store has hundreds of thousands of gazillions of books, making me feel a bit like a seventeen year old in the Playboy Mansion–not knowing where or how to begin. But look elsewhere for a bookshop that welcomes the reader;  TWBB does not encourage browsing. No squashy couches here–after much searching, I found an ass-numbing bench right next to the restroom, and I bet its location was deliberately chosen.   No places to plug your laptop. No sunlight, and Hades at the till. But TWBB is as solid and self-assured as a brick shithouse; go to the nearby Eaton Centre Indigo if you need macchiato and smiling staff with your reading. 

TWBB is unapologetic about its dourness–I hear the store ran an ad campaign some years ago which included the line “Like other bookstores, we have places to sit. But why aggravate your hemorrhoids?” TWBB’s attitude would sit a lot better if I didn’t believe some marketing podperson at HQ had figured out how striking an anti-commerical pose could make more profits. That said, I have never visited a bookstore without making a purchase, and in my last visit, I left with three books, including James Wood’s  How Fiction Works (on sale for $6.99, original price $24). Whether that was a bargain of course remains to be seen.