TOK 3: Writing the New Toronto Launch

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TOK 3: Writing the New Toronto Launch

By Monique Mathew, a budding writer, curator and OCAD graduate. She lives in Toronto.

Diaspora Dialogues, in partnership with the Luminato Festival of Arts + Creativity, launched the third edition of their anthology series TOK: Writing the New Toronto last Wednesday at the Drake Underground. The launch was part of the literary program of this year’s Luminato Festival. The literary component of Luminato, curated by Canadian author Devyani Saltzman, also included a short story festival, an evening of discussion on the burgeoning graphic novel and a showcase of new South Asian writing.

An organization dedicated to fostering new literary voices from the diverse cultural communities of Toronto, Diaspora Dialogues has developed sound publishing programs such as the TOK series to showcase emerging writers and promote mentorship opportunities. For the past three years, Diaspora Dialogues has commissioned a team of mentor authors to work with a chosen shortlist of emerging writers from the GTA. A selection of these writers go on to be published in the annual TOK anthology and all of the shortlisted writers are invited to participate in the regular performances and readings that are held in conjunction with the publication.

The evening, billed as a literary cabaret, was hosted by lively Metro columnist, Jill Andrew. The multidisciplinary evening included readings, a spoken word performance, a theatrical skit and a salsa ensemble. The launch attracted a large crowd and both seating and standing room in the Underground were filled to capacity, with late arrivals turned away at the door. Giller Prize nominee Alissa York, Yvette Nolan and Judy Fong Bates, who participated as mentors in 2007, read from their works commissioned by Diaspora Dialogues for the third TOK. York’s poignant Rock Dove was followed by emerging author Wasela Hiyate’s short story Mo, a humorous account of a first date between a newly immigrated South Asian man and a Torontonian woman. Her character’s innocence regarding the budding tensions of both romantic attraction and racial violence serve as Hiyate’s foil to describe the painful, and often awkward, transitions between culture and place. Fong Bates read an excerpt from her novel If Only You Knew, following a paranoid and solitary schoolteacher through her daily life, overwrought by preventative measures and her fears of unseen dangers. Fong Bates’ writing is darkly funny, revealing the secret motivations and fears of her protagonist but tempering each observation with humour.

Stacey May Fowles, who, like Hiyate, was mentored through the program, read from The Only Detail, a taut account of a woman accompanying her friend as she flees a cycle of violent relationships. The relationship between the two women shifts between platonic friendship and a one-sided obsession as we follow the women on their road trip through Canadian motels and highways. Shauntay May Grant changed the pace of the pace for the evening, performing several spoken word pieces, accompanied by her djembe and keyboard. Grant has been commissioned for next year’s edition of the anthology, in addition to playwright Daniel David Moses. Grant’s high-octane performance was followed by the close of the evening’s literary program—a dramatic reading of Yvette Nolan’s play, Scattering Jake’s Ashes. The title aptly describes the plot of the play, which follows four characters on an offbeat mission to scatter the ashes of a man who, in life, played the varying roles of husband, teacher and friend to the group.
The night ended with a salsa performance by Lady Son and Articulo Veinte, who played to an enthusiastic crowd. Diaspora Dialogue’s mandate of reflecting the rich diversity of Toronto through its writers, poets and performers was well reflected in the evening’s events.

Lisa Myers was at this launch to cover the event for Open Book. You can check out her photos here.

More information on TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 3 can be found here http://www.diasporadialogues.c...

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