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Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 1 Engaging Torontos Diverse Communities Through the Citys Literature Training and Development Workshop Toronto Public Library (Staff) Beeton Auditorium, Toronto Reference Library Thursday 2 June 2011
Sometimes when I was sitting on the third floor of the library, gazing down at the street, I would imagine what my friends at Mayaro Composite might think if they could see me now. […] This place, though, was different. There was an elevator with glass sides that went straight up to the fourth floor where a host of people sat before computers. It wasnt long before I would head straight for the third floor where I had discovered there were Caribbean storybooks, comics, movies, thick old books with mostly pictures, and, here, too, computers all over the place. I sampled all, moving from place to place, watching boys my age concentrating on their monitors. I wondered how many of them were here on a six-month visitors visa that would expire in twenty-one days. Rabindranath Maharaj, 2010. The Amazing Absorbing Boy. Knopf. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 2
Cultural Programming at the TPL Half of Torontos population was born outside Canada. Foreign-born Torontonians are more likely to use the library than those born here. Nearly half of all Toronto residents do not speak English as a cradle language. TPL offers resources in 67 + languages. Library Journal contributor Norman Oder noted in 2003 that among the most requested titles in the TPLs collection were English language training books by Bruce Rogers, requested by patrons hoping to pass the TOEFL test. TPL offers services ranging from language and literary programs to career planning to cultural community outreach. The TPL is highly regarded for its cultural programming and services. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 3
… But the heart of the TPLs mandate remains putting good, useful books into the hands of interested readers. And the TPLs biggest challenge is serving diverse patrons living in a city without a shared history or perhaps even a common cultural language. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 4
Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 5 She likes the mix on the streets here, the mixed skins. Chinatown has taken over mostly, though there are still some Jewish delicatessens, and, further up and off to the side, the Portuguese and West Indian shops of the Kensington Market. Rome in the second century, Constantinople in the tenth, Vienna in the nineteenth. A crossroads. Those from other countries look as if they're trying hard to forget something, those from here as if they're trying hard to remember. Or maybe it's the other way around." Margaret Atwood, 1993. The Robber Bride. McClelland & Stewart: 39.
But as at any crossroads there are permutations of existence. People turn into other people imperceptibly, unconsciously. …. Lives in this city are doubled, tripled, conjugated – women and men all trying to handle their own chain of events, trying to keep the story straight in their own heads. At times they catch themselves in sensational lies, embellishing or avoiding a nasty secret here and there, juggling the lines of causality, and before you know it, its impossible to tell one thread from another. Brand, Dionne, 2006. What We All Long For. Toronto: Knopf: 5 Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 6
They come from everywhere, from Argentina, Nigeria, Russia, Pakistan, but rarely because they have an explicit vision of the place; they arent drawn by mythic images of riches and glamour like the immigrants arriving at the airports and harbours of New York. They are exiles, for the most part, who have thrown darts at a map of the world. Arriving, astonished by the cold, bewildered by hockey and our Nordic reserve, they nonetheless build their cities within our city: Chinatown, Little India, Portugal Town. Our city becomes a new city surprised by itself, doubletaking at the profusion of culture: Brazilian dance clubs, Indian cricket matches, Polish delis, Chinese newspapers, Ecuadorian snack stands, somber Italian Easter parades. Patricia Pearson, 2003. Playing House. Toronto: Random House Canada: 43-44. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 7
[i]n this city there are Bulgarian mechanics, there are Eritrean accountants, Colombian cafe owners, Latvian book publishers, Welsh roofers, Afghani dancers, Iranian mathematicians, Tamil cooks in Thai restaurants, Calabrese boys with Jamaican accents, Fushen deejays, Filipina- Saudi beauticians; Russian doctors changing tires, there are Romanian bill collectors, Cape Croker fishmongers, Japanese grocery clerks, French gas meter readers, German bakers, Haitian and Bengali taxi drivers with Irish dispatchers. Dionne Brand, 2005. What We All Long For. Toronto, Knopf: 5. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 8
In Toronto, nothing stays for long. There is space enough here to fit us all in. No one remembers. A city for the fish who slipped through the parts of the net that are broken. The most anyone says in Toronto is, Look, here were Native, then English, then Jewish, Italian, Portuguese, Vietnamese, and other nations will take their place in a few generations. The most anyone says is, Look at the Muslims praying in the rush of Kennedy subway station. Look, we will lose even the idea of mother tongue or nation. ]…] We are pigeons, multicoloured, rustling against each other in all the public places, and the twenty-first century belongs to the colour smudge. Stephen Marche, Raymond and Hannah. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 9
Canadian Multiculturalism Act (1985) It is the policy of the Government of Canada to (a) recognize and promote the understanding that multiculturalism reflects the cultural and racial diversity of Canadian society and acknowledges the freedom of all members of Canadian society to preserve, enhance and share their cultural heritage; (b) recognize and promote the understanding that multiculturalism is a fundamental characteristic of the Canadian heritage and identity and that it provides an invaluable resource in the shaping of Canadas future; […] Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 10
The Myth of the Multicultural City The city as anthology. The World Within a City, Expect the World, Diversity our Strength. The most multicultural city in the world. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 11
Boutique Multiculturalism … the multiculturalism of ethnic restaurants, weekend festivals, and high profile flirtations with the other, a multiculturalism characterized by a superficial and cosmetic commitment to diversity. Cultural theorist Stanley Fish, 1997 Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 12
Some say that the only thing race is good for is to divide the population into work categories. Those who wash the dishes will be Sri Lankan, those who drive the cabs will be African, those who run the banks will be European, those who watch the kids will be Filipino, those who mind the store will be Korean and those upon whose bodies the good life is modelled will be, more and more, a hybridization of all of the above – on TV, on billboards, in magazines. But it would be a mistake to believe that these beautifully mixed people represent a race-free future – that people will stop their fixation on difference and settle down to enjoying similarities. Its just a smokescreen. Part of a dazzling performance. Darren ODonnell, Your Secrets Sleep With Me. Coach House, 2004. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 13
Multiculturalism? Is multiculturalism you say? What is so multiculturalistic about Toronto? Toronto is a collection of ghettos. Ethnic ghettos. Cultural ghettos. In other words, racial ghettos, and – Oh Christ, I never looked at it this way! Thats right! You got Rosedale: Anglo-Saxon people. Jane-Finch: black people and visible minorities. High Park: the Poles. Sin- Clair, all up there by Dufferin and Eglinton: the Eye-Talians... Dont leave-out the place up north, where the cheapest house cost a million. The rich Eye-talians... Austin Clarke, More. Thomas Allen, 2008. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 14
When you live here for three months, then you will really understand what racism is. I call the shots the way I see it. That is not racism. Over here racism is a sort of polite thing, not like in Trinidad. Nobody calling you nigger or coolie or names like that, but its always inside them. Deep down. You see it in the bus when they refuse to sit by you. In the park when they suddenly change direction if they see somebody black. In the bank, when the tellers smile suddenly disappear when she look up and see a brown face before her. Over the telephone, when they recognise the foreign accent and tell you that the position is no longer available or the apartment was just rented. That is how racism operate over here. Maharaj Rabindranath, Homer in Flight. Goose Lane Editions, 1997. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 15
Not Canadian, I assume? Yes, Canadian. Of course. I keep forgetting that any name may be Canadian. But quite recently, in your case, I should say. I was born here. But your parents were not, I should guess. Now where did they come from? From England. And before England? Robertson Davies, The Rebel Angels. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 16
I want to be able to walk down the street and feel like a citizen of this country! […] This is a Canadian passport in my hand! I said this to my Canadian passport. And this makes me a Canadian. I am not any damn visible minority; or immigrant!, Austin Clarke, More. Thomas Allen, 2008. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 17
Literature and Cultural Understanding Literature, given its unique capacity to confront the most pressing contemporary urban concernsbigotry, poverty and violence, as well as tolerance, asylum, desire and ambitioncan help Torontonians transcend difference in this most culturally diverse of cities. [Toronto is] a new kind of city, a city where identity emerges not from shared tradition or a long history but rather is forget out of a commitment to the virtues of diversity, tolerance and cultural understanding. Amy Lavender Harris, 2010. Imagining Toronto. Mansfield Press. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 18
Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 19 The city is the place of our meeting with the other. … The city is the privileged site where the other is and where we ourselves are other, as the place where we play the other. Roland Barthes, Semiology and the Urban. 1986.
The literature is catching up with the city, with the citys new stories. Dionne Brand, 2005. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 20
Why recommend Culturally Resonant Literature? To read about ourselves, especially when our lives and experiences are not well or positively represented in popular media. To learn about each other and explore similarities and differences across culture. As one part of making new homes and communities for ourselves in a new city or country. To expose and confront xenophobia, exclusion, discrimination and intolerance. To promote diversity, tolerance and cultural understanding. As a starting point to writing our own stories. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 21
Recommending Culturally Resonant Literature to Readers: Some thematic Suggestions Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 22
Culture and Identity Brand, Dionne, 2005. What We All Long For. Knopf. Doctor, Farzana, Stealing Nasreen. Inanna. Maharaj, Rabindranath, 1997. Homer in Flight. Goose Lane Editions. Maharaj, Rabindranath, 2010. The Amazing Absorbing Boy. Vassanji, M.G., 1991. No New Land. McClelland & Stewart. Bhaggiyadatta, Krisantha Sri, 1981. Domestic Bliss. Toronto: Is Five Press. Hill, Lawrence, 1997. Any Known Blood. Harper Collins (see also Hills memoir, Black Berry Sweet Juice.) Qureshi, Mobashir, 2006. R.A.C.E. Toronto: Mercury. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 23
Aboriginal Identity in Toronto There are more First Nations people currently living in Toronto than at any other time in the regions history. Recommended reading: Boyden, Joseph, 1997 [reissued 2003]. Born With a Tooth. Cormorant. Boyden, Joseph, 2008. Through Black Spruce. Penguin. Dimaline, Cherie, 2007. Red Rooms. Theytus Books. Macdonald, Bruce, 2007. Coureurs De Bois. Cormorant. Moses, Daniel David, 2000. Coyote City and City of Shadows. Imago. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 24
Asian Experience Chao, Lien, 2008. The Chinese Knot and Other Stories. Tsar Books. Lam, Vincent, 2006. Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures. Doubleday Canada. Moritsugu, Kim, 1996. Looks Perfect. Goose Lane Editions. Quan, Betty, 1998. Mother Tongue. Sirocco Drama. Woo, Terry,  2005, 2010. Banana Boys. Cormorant. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 25
Black Experience Brand, Dionne, 2002. Thirsty. McClelland & Stewart. Chariandy, David, 2007. Soucouyant. Anvil. Clarke, Austin, 1967. The Meeting Point. Vintage Canada. See also Storm of Fortune (1973) and The Bigger Light (1975), the second and third volumes of Clarkes Toronto Trilogy. Clarke, Austin, 2008. More. Thomas Allen. Hill, Lawrence, 1997. Any Known Blood. Harper Collins. Hopkinson, Nalo, 1998. Brown Girl in the Ring. Warner/Aspect. Kwamdela, Odimumba, 1971; revised 1986. Niggers This is Canada. Kibo Books. Prince, Althea, 2001. Loving This Man. Insomniac Press. Richardson, Karen and Steven Green, eds., 2004. T Dot Griots: An Anthology of Torontos Black Storytellers. Trafford. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 26
Italian Experience Chiocca, Olindo Romeo, 2005. College Street. Guernica. Digiovanni, Caroline Morgan, 2005. Italian Canadian Voices: A Literary Anthology, 1946-2005. Mosaic Press. Paci, F.C., 2002. Italian Shoes. Guernica. Paina, Corrado, 2000. Hoarse Legend. Mansfield Press. Patriarca, Gianna, 1994. Italian Women and Other Tragedies. Guernica. (see also Daughters for Sale, Ciao, Baby and What My Arms Can Carry.) Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 27
Jewish Experience Faessler, Shirley, 1988. A Basket of Apples and other Stories. McClelland & Stewart. Fagan, Cary, 1990. History Lessons. Hounslow. Hayward, Steven, 2005. T he Secret Mitzvah of Lucio Burke. Alfred A. Knopf. Kreisel, Henry, 1948. The Rich Man. McClelland & Stewart. Miller, John, 2006. A Sharp Intake of Breath. Simon & Pierre / Dundurn. Rakoff, Alvin, 2007. Baldwin Street. Bunim & Bannigan. Ross, Stuart, 2011. Snowball Dragonfly Jew. ECW. Taylor, Kate, 2003. Mme. Proust and the Kosher Kitchen. Doubleday Canada. Tulchinsky, Karen X., 2003. The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky. Polestar / Raincoast. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 28
Muslim Experience Hyate, Wasela, 2008. Mo. In TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 3 (ed. Helen Walsh). Zephyr Press. Saujani, Sheyfali, 2006. The Fast Lane. In TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 1 (ed. Helen Walsh). Zephyr Press. Thawar, Tasleem, 2007. Packaging Parathas. In TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 2 (ed. Helen Walsh). Zephyr Press. Walters, Eric and Deborah Ellis, 2007. Bifocal. Fitzhenry & Whiteside. Vassanji, M.G., 1991. No New Land. McClelland & Stewart. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 29
Portuguese Experience De Sa, Anthony, 2008. Barnacle Love. Doubleday Canada. De Vasconcelos, Erika, 1997. My Darling Dead Ones. Knopf. Repo, Satu, 1978. Whats a Friend. Lorimer. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 30
Polish Experience Borkowski, Andrew J., 2011. Copernicus Avenue. Cormorant. Heffron, Dorris, 1996. A Shark In The House. Key Porter. Szado, Ania, 2004. Beginning of Was. Penguin Canada. Weinzweig, Helen, 1980. Basic Black With Pearls. Anansi. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 31
Queer Anderson, Gordon Stewart, 2006. The Toronto You are Leaving. Untroubled Heart. Bartley, Jim, 1999. Stephen and Mr. Wilde. Blizzard. [play about Oscar Wilde's famous 1882 visit to Toronto ] Grube, John, 1997. Im Supposed to Be Crazy and Other Stories. Dartington Press. Kramer, Greg, 1999. Hogtown Bonbons. Riverbank Press. Symons, Scott, 1969. Civic Square. McClelland & Stewart. Whittall, Zoe, 2009. Holding Still for as Long as Possible. Anansi. Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 32
South Asian Disapora Bissoondath, Neil, 1988. A Casual Brutality. Toronto: Macmillan of Canada. Doctor, Farzana, 2007. Stealing Nasreen. Toronto: Inanna. Ganeshananthan, V.V., 2008. Love Marriage. New York: Random House. Jailall, Peter, 1997. Yet Another Home. Poems. Natural Heritage. Maharaj, Rabindranath, 1997. Homer in Flight. Fredericton, N.B.: Goose Lane Editions. Persaud, Sasenarine, 1998. Canada Geese and Apple Chatney. Toronto: TSAR Books. [stories] Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 33
Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 34
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