0 com

Alexander MacLeod: Mentor

Award-winning author Alexander MacLeod will be one of two mentors in the inaugural Mentorship Exchange Program between the Quebec Writers' Federation (QWF) and the Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia. The 2010 Giller Prize nominee will be coaching up-and-coming Quebec writer Josée Lafrenière, while Montreal Gazette Literary Critic and author Ian McGillis will go to Halifax to work with Nova Scotia writer Jessica Chisholm.

MacLeod believes that the exchange is a great idea and is pleased to be taking part. He will be mentoring Lafrenière on her work-in-progress. "I'm very impressed with her writing" said the bestselling author. "It's precise, careful and nuanced."

MacLeod's debut collection of short stories, Light Lifting, received rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to being shortlisted for the Frank O'Connor Award and the Commonwealth Prize, it received an Atlantic Canada Book Award. There's an emphasis on labour and physical exertion in this collection, but it also includes stories on parenting and boyhood friendships. The common thread throughout is the setting--Windsor, Ontario.

"My dad taught at the University of Windsor, so we spent most of our elementary and secondary school years there before heading back to our house in Cape Breton for the summers."

Photo by H. Crosby
The author's father, International IMPAC Dublin Award winner Alistair MacLeod, taught English and Creative Writing at the University of Windsor, which was a literary hub in Canada at the time. Alistair MacLeod taught alongside Joyce Carol Oates and her late husband Raymond Smith, the editors of the now legendary Ontario Review literary journal, which published work by such illustrious writers as John Updike, Margaret Atwood, Saul Bellow and Phillip Roth.

Did this have an influence on the young MacLeod?

"Yes, I think it certainly did," said the author, who is a proud graduate of the same university program. "The great Eugene McNamara recruited my dad to come to the school in the early seventies and then that excellent group... Joyce Carol Oates, Raymond Smith, W.0. Mitchell, John Ditsky, Adele Wiseman, Wanda Campbell, Ed Watson, Peter Stevens, and a whole host of year-long writers in residence came together to build this." The author said that he and his family knew what it was like to feel part of a vibrant literary community, attending readings and public events on both sides of the Canada-US border.

Alexander MacLeod will be in Montreal on Saturday, February 23, to give a one-day QWF  workshop on fiction's position between the poles of poetry and raw journalistic narrative, with a focus on the micro- and macro-levels of storytelling. Unfortunately for many, the workshop was full within hours of being posted.

However, you can still catch the author's reading this Saturday at 7:30 pm at the independent Argo Books (1915 St. Catherine Street West).

MacLeod will be reading from Light Lifting and possibly something new....

This has been cross-posted at Rover Arts.

Other reviews:

One Good Hustle by Billie Livingston
The World is Moving Around Me by Dany Laferrière
The Return by Dany Laferrière
5 Broken Cameras by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi
Detropia by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
The Goodtime Girl by Tess Fragoulis


Read more »
0 com

It's Not All Black and White

It's Not All Black and White: Multiracial Youth Speak Out
St. Stephen's Community House
Annick Press

I think we can all agree that adolescence can be difficult at the best of times. Now try to imagine what it is like for the adolescent who doesn't look like the majority of his/her peers. It's Not All Black and White addresses what it is "really" like to grow up biracial or multiracial.

The youth contributors in this slim resource describe their own experiences of growing up mixed-race through hard-hitting raps, poems, interviews and personal essays. They are all members of the Youth Arcade Program at the St. Stephen's Community House, a social service agency that has served West Toronto for a half century.

This is a great resource for parents, teachers, guidance counsellors and community leaders. There's a particularly insightful interview with Carol Camper, the editor of Miscegenation Blues: Voices of Mixed Race Women. Racial slurs are the most obvious form of racism, but it's the indirect comments, dirty looks and thoughtless behaviour that can be far more harmful. Camper says, "Often people of colour will feel the insult, but they might not be able to describe what the problem is. This can often be more damaging than more obvious forms of racism because it affects how you feel inside. It is also harder to challenge, and it becomes very difficult to believe your gut instinct if you have felt insulted but you can't even explain why."

Karen Arthurton, a mixed-race parent raising a mixed-race child, draws on her own experience as well as her work with multiracial youth to give parents and caregivers 13 helpful tips for raising biracial and multiracial children, helping them to develop healthy self-esteem and a strong sense of identity.

There is plenty of food for thought in this book, and you may think twice before you ask "So where are you really from?" or tell a young girl that she "looks so exotic."

Other related posts:
The Accumulative Advantage: Something To Consider for Your Children
The Girl Who Hated Books
The Trouble With Marlene by Billie Livingston
Dead Time by Christy Ann Conlin
Review of the Hunger Games


Read more »