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Week 11 14 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 1 Week 11 City Limits GEOG 4280 3.0 | Imagining Toronto Department.

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Presentation on theme: "Week 11 14 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 1 Week 11 City Limits GEOG 4280 3.0 | Imagining Toronto Department."— Presentation transcript:

1 Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 1 Week 11 City Limits GEOG | Imagining Toronto Department of Geography Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies York University Winter Term

2 Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 2 “Eighty percent of everything ever built in America has been built in the last fifty years, and most of it is depressing, brutal, ugly, unhealthy, and spiritually degrading – the jive-plastic commuter tract home wastelands, the Potemkin village shopping plazas with their vast parking lagoons, the Lego-block hotel complexes, the “gourmet mansardic” junk-food joints, the Orwellian office “parks” featuring buildings sheathed in the same reflective glass as the sunglasses worn by chain-gang guards, the particle-board garden apartments rising up in every meadow and cornfield, the freeway loops around every big and little city with their clusters of discount merchandise marts, the whole destructive, wasteful, toxic, agoraphobia-inducing spectacle that politicians proudly call “growth.” James Howard Kunstler, The Geography of Nowhere.

3 Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 3 “The suburban is seen, if at all and at best, as a consequence, an excrescence, a cancerous fungus, leaching the energy of the city, dependent and inert and ultimately self-destructive.” Silverstone, Visions of Suburbia. London; New York: Routledge: 4.

4 “When you stood next to Willow Creek, held your breath, and listened to the sounds of the shallow waters flowing by, you could almost imagine you weren’t a few hundred yards from a soulless subdivision. [...] What had this entire area looked like before the developers took over? What had the land where our house now stood been before the surveyors marked out where the streets would go, and the bulldozers came in and levelled everything? Had it been woodlands? Had it been farmland? Did corn used to come out of the ground where we now parked the cars? How many birds and groundhogs and squirrels had to relocate once the builders broke ground on Valley Forest Estates?” Linwood Barclay, Bad Move. New York: Bantam: Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 4

5 In Joyland (ECW Press, 2006), Emily Schultz describes suburbia as the kind of place where “nothing changed except the television commercials” (34) and where “parents were without history, without future.” (53) Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 5

6 “They come down in the morning and stay all day, season after season, catching, climbing, growing—creating worlds where they make the rules. You three know what I’m talking about. Except that you’re almost too old for the ravine, aren’t you? You’ve already left your own part— the part you know. The creek is your childhood, and you are following it to where it ends.” Richard Scrimger, Into The Ravine. Tundra, Week March 2012 Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 6

7 “He and mum made out alright. A split-level ranch- style prefab in a freshly bulldozed subdivision with a winterized garage equipped with a colour TV and beer fridge for him, wall-to-wall everything inside the house for her (pink hand towels you don’t dare dirty proudly on display on the bathroom counter, a rock garden out back just like the one she saw on Home and Garden Television ), they got the stuff they wanted. Ray Robertson, Gently Down the Stream. Toronto: Cormorant: Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 7

8 “They pulled into the driveway of the house James had grown up in and James saw his father in a circle of light on the front law. He was kneeling, his head close to the grass and his bum in the air. He wore shorts, and his legs were white. His bald patch glowed; the spotlight was over the garage door. James called to him as he opened the car door, but his father only grunted. He seemed to be scrabbling at something in the grass. […] Mr. Willing hauled himself up, patting his grass-imprinted knees. His face was red with exertion. He held a small ruler in his hand. “Just measuring. I tell Georg to keep it exactly two point five centimetres, but there are patches where it varies. I’ll have to speak to him.” He waved at the far edge of the lawn. “Burnt patches over there, too, I think it’s some kind of fungus, from having leaves on it too long. I told him.” Russell Smith, Noise. Erin, ON: Porcupine’s Quill: 159. Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 8

9 “This was the historic community of Port Junction, you see. It was considered one of the last remaining ‘good’ parts of Scarborough, meaning distant from the growing ethnic neighbourhoods to the west. There were no highrises here, and the homes were almost all new and fully detached. […] There was also a large sign farther down the main road, originally put up by a property developer but maintained by the community thereafter. The sign read ‘Old Port Junction: The Traditional Community by the Lake.’” David Chariandy, Soucouyant. Arsenal Pulp Press, 2007: 60. Week March 2012 Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 9

10 “Also, there was the annual Heritage Day parade. Every year in spring, our neighbours would organize a march that would pass by the main road just beyond our cul-de-sca. The flyers explained that everyone was invited to participate, since the Heritage Day parade was being revamped these days to recognise ‘people of multicultural backgrounds’ and ‘not just Canadians.” Ibid.: 60. Week March 2012 Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 10

11 “Nothing [...] of any consequence ever really happens on a crescent. These are the sites of complacent banality, of the here and now, of everydayness. Art is about the there and then. Excitement takes place elsewhere. […] [M]any writers represent the suburbs as soulless and their families as dysfunctional. More often than not, the suburbs are represented as sites of everyday monotony leading to dissatisfaction or as the quiet backdrop against which gothic horror or absurdity takes place.” Milton, Paul, “Rewriting White Flight: Suburbia in Gerald Lynch’s Troutstream and Joan Barfoot’s Dancing in the Dark. In Downtown Canada: Writing Canadian Cities, eds. Justin D. Edwards and Douglas Ivison, Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 11

12 Suburban Gothic In Blind Crescent (2005), Michelle Berry’s unsettling novel set in an unnamed Ontario suburb, six houses on a cul-de- sac harbour residents separated by a common but unspoken crisis. A gunman stalks the metropolitan highways around Blind Crescent, and as the novel unfolds with deliberate DeLilloesque detail, it seems possible that the shooter could be any one of the people living on Blind Crescent. Even the unlikely suspects are marked by silent complicity, noticing disturbing patterns of neighbourhood behaviour but remaining too caught up in the minutiae of private misery even to protect themselves. Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 12

13 In Bad Move (Linwood Barclay, 2004), set in a thinly fictionalized version of Oakville, a downtown homeowner tires of the nightly accumulation of condoms and crack pipes in his Toronto neighbourhood and moves his family to a suburb where he quickly concludes boredom must be the leading cause of death. Shortly thereafter, troubling discoveries begin to tarnish his tranquility; among them the revelation that the neighbourhood accountant moonlights as a dominatrix and the landscaper living across the street uses his garage as a grow-op. Even more alarming is his growing suspicion that the subdivision’s land development corporation is controlled by the mob. Zack’s diminishing peace is shattered permanently when he stumbles across the bludgeoned corpse of a local environmental activist floating face down in a local creek. Caught up in an escalating cycle of extortion and murder, Zack realizes far too late that suburbia cannot provide an escape from the violent proclivities people carry with them. Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 13

14 Novels depicting cruelty and criminality in suburban settings may be traced to the origins of contemporary Canadian suburbia. One of the earliest, Hugh Garner’s Death in Don Mills, set in what urban analyst John Sewell calls “Canada’s first corporate suburb,” contrasts the bland, orderly reputation of 1970s-era Don Mills with the sordid reality of activities transacted behind the community’s closed doors. A married businessman, dropping off a neatly wrapped packet of waste before embarking on his precisely timed morning commute, discovers the naked body of his neighbour, stabbed and stuffed into the garbage chute of their otherwise immaculate Don Mills apartment building. police investigation exposes the dead woman’s private predilection for booze, boys and promiscuous sex and, more tellingly, uncovers a tangled network of drug dealers, sexual “deviants,” sociopaths and killers living at 1049 Don Mills Road and permeating the community at large. Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 14

15 The Suburban Mystique “If you had been a stranger from another planet, you might have wondered if Rowanwood was inhabited at all. You would not have understood the phenomenon of mid-morning doldrums. You had to live in Rowanwood to know that the men had all left the boxes in which they lived for other boxes in the business section downtown; to know that the women were either hidden inside cleaning the former, or had gone off in smaller mechanized boxes to the shopping plaza. These things explained to you, you, the stranger from another planet, would still fail to understand why the women should spend so much time shut up in their boxes. You would, if you had come equipped with any knowledge of the civilization you had invaded, wonder how on Earth women had allowed themselves to be hoodwinked into believing what the manufacturers wanted them to believe—that they had never had it so good.” Phyllis Brett Young, The Torontonians. Toronto: Collins: 55. Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 15

16 The Myth of the Monocultural Suburb In White Diaspora, literary scholar Catherine Jurca suggests that the eschatological quality present in so many suburban novels reflects their authors’ collective sense of cultural loss. Since the late nineteenth century middle and upper class North Americans have migrated to suburbs to escape conditions they feared or found distasteful about cities: overcrowding, pollution, poverty and (as the well- documented phenomenon of “white flight” indicates) immigration and ethnic diversity. Ultimately, Jurca argues, these fears have shown up in novels portraying their middle-class suburban protagonists as members of a diaspora driven from cities, seeking an Anglo-Saxon homeland but finding themselves perennially displaced at the urban fringe. Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 16

17 Ironically invoking the language of dispossession, Jurca explains that “the term white diaspora is designed to emphasize and lay bare the role of the novel in promoting a fantasy of victimization that reinvents white flight as the persecution of those who flee, turns material advantage into artifacts of spiritual and cultural oppression, and sympathetically treats affluent house owners as the emotionally dispossessed.” Jurca, 2001:8-9. Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 17

18 The Long History of Suburbia In The Urban Experience, geographer David Harvey reminds us that a city—and its suburbs—should be understood as a process rather than a thing. In this light, it is important to remember that Toronto’s suburbs did not appear out of nowhere at mid-century, emerging all at once from the landscape like earthbound Leviathans. In his 1898 book, Toronto the Good, C.S. Clark wrote of the city’s diurnal migration of suburbanites who “come down every morning to [do] business in crowds between the hours of seven and nine, and literally pour out of it between the hours of four and seven in the evening.” The suburban commuters Clark refers to are mainly the wealthy inhabitants of Rosedale, Moore Park and the Annex, at the time still distinguished from the rest of the city by a combination of social class and legal jurisdiction. Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 18

19 At the same time, however, working class suburbs had also begun to make their muddy appearance in undeveloped areas west of the city. In Unplanned Suburbs, geographer Richard Harris traces the development of these communities, established through the subdivision of large landholdings into building lots purchased primarily by immigrants attracted to industrial jobs located along the Grand Trunk and Canadian Pacific rail lines. Some residents bought developer-built homes in rapidly growing industrial suburbs like the Town of West Toronto Junction but many others settled in an area known as “the Shackland,” a district of self-built homes and squatters’ shanties centred on St. Clair in the Earlscourt area around Dufferin Street and extending west into the Junction. Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 19

20 Working class suburbs were not only a phenomenon of the early part of the century. An acute housing shortage and a surge in European immigration following the Second World War spurred new growth on the city’s outskirts well before incorporated subdivisions like Don Mills, marketed to the middle class, came to dominate the suburban landscape. In The Suburban Society, a study of urban change in mid- century Toronto, Sociologist Samuel Clark described the bulk of suburban residents as “people in impoverished circumstances prepared to accept whatever the country had to offer them.” In many cases what these residents— many of whom were war veterans or refugees—were prepared to accept were unserviced, undeveloped building lots available for a few hundred dollars. Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 20

21 In Pioneering in North York, historian Patricia Hart refers to these suburbanites as “the New Pioneers,” writing that “many bought land and started to build their own houses. They dug basements, covered them over, then paused to regroup their finances, and as the idea became known, others followed suit. They were somewhat derisively called “cave dwellers.” Slowly, these houses have been finished, sometimes after a nudge from the municipal authorities, but for a number of years “cave dwellers” walked daily to a pump near the centre of the community for water. (Hart, 1968: 268.) Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 21

22 In Buying on Time (1997), a collection of linked stories, Antanas Sileika describes a family from Lithuania, displaced by the ravages of the Second World War, who buy a building lot in an undeveloped corner of Weston: “Our street had half a dozen other houses on it, but none of them were finished. People dug the foundations and laid the basement blocks. Then they waited and saved. When a little money came in, they bought beams and joists and studs. Then they waited some more. The Taylors stood out because a contractor had built their house from start to finish. We stood out too. We moved in before the above-ground walls went up. “You want us to live underground?” my mother had asked. “Like moles? Like worms?” “No,” my father said, “like foxes.” Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 22

23 “It was true that others lived in houses that were already built, while we lived in the basement as the house was being raised above us. But normal houses belonged to that other race of people, Canadians, who wore suits to work. Before the basement, we had lived in a rented wooden shack on the edge of a farm. Before that there had been the DP camp in Germany, which I couldn’t remember much, except for all the bomb craters filled with water where the children fished hopelessly all day.” Their sense of arrival grows nearly complete when a Canadian family moves into a tar-paper shack down the street, cramming nine children into a tattered dwelling with an outhouse and rutted yard. “Now that our outhouse was gone,” Sileika’s narrator reflects, “we had someone we could look down on.” Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 23

24 The New Torontonians Postcolonial scholars, chief among them Homi Bhabha ( The Location of Culture, 1994) and Gayatri Spivak (“Can the Subaltern Speak,” 1988), use the language of subalternity to account for self-narratives in which cultural minorities, having absorbed negative images embedded in the dominant discourse, judge themselves on colonial or racist criteria. In postcolonial scholarship the term “subaltern” is appropriated from its military and even Gramscian contexts and used to refer to the marginalizing effects of colonialism on the identity and self- narratives of those who have been objectified or ‘Othered’ by an oppressive cultural hegemony. Dionne Brand articulates this vulnerability eloquently in What We All Long For, describing a Vietnamese family who, despite having accumulated material wealth in the years since arriving as refugees, find their accomplishments remain inadequate and the suburban dream elusive: Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 24

25 “ Tuyen’s family is rich, newly rich. They have a giant house in Richmond Hill, where rich immigrants live in giant houses. Richmond Hill is a sprawling suburb where immigrants go to get away from other immigrants, but of course they end up living with all the other immigrants running away from themselves – or at least running away from the self they think is helpless, weak, unsuitable, and always in some kind of trouble. […] They hate that self that keeps drawing attention, the one that can’t fit in because of colour or language, or both, and they think that moving to a suburb will somehow eradicate that person once and for all. And after all the humiliations of being that self—after they’ve worked hard enough at two or three jobs and saved enough by overcrowding their families in small dour rooms and cobbled together enough credit—immigrants flee to rangy lookalike desolate suburbs like Richmond Hill where the houses give them a sense of space and distance from that troubled image of themselves. “ Dionne Brand, What We All Long For. Toronto: Knopf: Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 25

26 Toronto-born Tuyen considers her parents’ house artificial, and observes that “[t]he whole development seemed highly contrived, as if it were made all of cardboard and set down quickly and precariously. Someone’s idea of luxury, which was really antiseptic, and for all its cars and spaciousness, it was nevertheless rootless and desolate. But to her parents, the big suburban house is meant to project the image of arrival, as if at long last it will enable them to escape their memories of flight and foreignness, and the fear that in some important way they will always remain refugees, adrift forever on a crowded boat on the South China Sea. Dreams of suburban homeownership and attendant images of security and arrival also feature prominently in Rabindranath Maharaj’s novel, Homer in Flight. But where Maharaj’s protagonist, a recent immigrant from Trinidad, has hoped to find stability and order, he experiences social isolation and crushing loneliness instead. Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 26

27 At first the city’s order impresses Homer, its immaculate streets a striking contrast to the corruption and humid decay that had compelled him to leave Trinidad. During the hour-long car trip from Toronto’s international airport to his cousin’s suburban home on the eastern outskirts of the city, Homer marvels at the tidy landscape of subdivisions and factories they pass while driving along highway 401: “Age does not bring dereliction here, Homer thought; everything is well preserved: the houses, the landscape, the people. He focused on the neatness: each house was embellished with a colourful garden, a well-maintained lawn and a tree. They all looked similar. He felt that if he closed his eyes and opened them after one minute, he would not notice any difference. Just like a Flintstones cartoon, with the same building appearing over and over, he thought.” (Maharaj, 1997: 23-24) Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 27

28 Surprised to hear the name of the suburban community his cousin Grants lives in, Homer asks, somewhat rhetorically, “Ajax? Like the bleach cleaner?” In Ajax—named after a battleship, Homer is informed—he settles into his cousin’s basement and dreams of home ownership and big American cars. A conversation with Grants explains the significance of his cousin’s suburban address: “I... we bought the house during the boom years. Cost a fortune then. There was plenty money around and immigrants were buying houses left, right and centre. They still do, you know. Other Canadians are different from us. They see nothing wrong about living their entire lives renting an apartment or condo, but in the back of every immigrant’s mind there is always one fixed thought: when can I afford a house? It gives us security. Security.” (Ibid.: 23; 38.) Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 28

29 But the security Grants enjoys eludes Homer. Moving to Etobicoke in search of work, he rents an ill-furnished high rise apartment and joins a ragged army of immigrant men who toil at low-paying factory jobs in the city’s industrial suburbs. Early one morning, travelling home exhausted and dirty after a long night shift, he realizes how far away his dreams have become: Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 29

30 “The bus arrived and Homer slipped his two loonies into the slot and headed for a seat at the back. Young women on their way to offices, immaculately attired, sat at the front, while closer to Homer were ragged-looking middle aged men with dirty knapsacks between their legs and overused safety boots. [...] Perhaps it was because they looked tired and sleepy, but Homer could not help thinking that they appeared ill at ease. Maybe they were all foreigners, migrants functioning solely on the success stories they had been told of earlier migrants, enduring the thin comforts of this life with a fatalistic exhaustion, dreaming of their own success stories five years from now. Maybe they have already given up on themselves, Homer thought, their lives sucked dry, thinking instead of their children. He would look at the weary men with their slack, expressionless faces, these men propelled by furtive dreams, and even though he was operating under different circumstances, working for himself rather than for any children, he would suddenly feel frightened.” Ibid.: 73. Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 30

31 Homer’s sense of liminality is echoed in M.G. Vassanji’s novel, No New Land. But where Homer experiences crushing loneliness and social exclusion in suburbs he finds cold and uninviting, Vassanji’s protagonists are buffered by a tightly knit cultural community that bolsters their efforts to make a place for themselves in the new country. In No New Land, the Lalani family joins an established community of Tanzanian ex-patriots living in a Don Mills high rise. Their address, 69 Rosecliffe Park Drive, has achieved legendary status among South Asians in East Africa mainly because its inhabitants have recreated their home city of Dar Es Salaam in the building’s corridors and common spaces: Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 31

32 “Sixty-nine Rosecliffe Park. The name still sounds romantic, exotic, out of a storybook or a film. Sometimes it’s hard to believe you are here, at this address, sitting inside, thinking these thoughts. [...] But then you step out in the common corridor with its all too real down-to-earth sights, sounds, and smells, and you wonder: This, Sixty-nine Rosecliffe? And you realize that you’ve not left Dar far behind. “Twenty floors.” Nurdin once did a small calculation for his wife. “Twelve homes in each—you have two hundred and forty families—that’s three good-sized blocks of any street in Dar.” Except that the variety found here at Sixty-nine would not be found in any street in Dar. Here a dozen races mingle, conversant in at least as many tongues.” (Vassanji, 1991: ) Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 32

33 Although the lobby doors at 69 Rosecliffe revolve continuously with departures and arrivals from school or work, other residents are able to conduct vital commerce without ever needing to leave the building. Each floor has its speciality: on the sixth level, Gulshan Bai prepares tiffin for a steady stream of customers who carry her meals to work in plastic containers; on the fourteenth floor, Sheru Mama and her husband Ramju make chappatis in the traditional manner; there is even a halal butcher. It is possible to buy toiletries at all hours from an apartment on the ground floor, and a continuous open house operates on the eighteenth floor where residents play cards, drink tea and share gossip about Dar and the respective fates of their fellow emigrants. Encounters in the corridors confirm the presence of practitioners eager to dispense legal, medical or spiritual advice. Awash in familiar faces and routines, 69 Rosecliffe is a slice of sovereign soil transplanted halfway around the world, a vertical version of Dar that has just happened to take root in suburban Don Mills. Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 33

34 But their parents, making the immigrant sacrifice, despair that their own prospects are limited because they lack an acceptable accent and the ephemeral qualification called “Canadian experience.” Still, the building at 69 Rosecliffe Park, and the weekly mosque held nearby at a school gymnasium on Eglinton Avenue, represent a start, a defensible beachhead in this improbable corner of Don Mills where Dar’s exiles have made their new home. As these novels suggest, visible minorities seeking shelter in Toronto area suburbs routinely encounter bigotry, poverty and cultural isolation. At the same time, however, even while underscoring the sort of deep-seated racism Jurca argues is endemic in suburban literature, Chariandy, Brand, Maharaj and Vassanji’s novels emphasize another reality: that Toronto-area suburbs are culturally far more diverse than broad-brush analyses of North American suburbia have typically accounted for. Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 34

35 This is not to say that racial tensions do not exist, but rather that they are less a cause or consequence of “white flight” than a product of cultural conflicts analogous to those found within the inner city itself. The prototypical suburb—a white, middle-class bedroom community segregated from the inner city by race and income—is increasingly the exception in the greater Toronto area, where many suburban municipalities, including Vaughan, Markham and Mississauga, are culturally more diverse than the downtown core and where “inner suburbs” like Scarborough and Rexdale attract large numbers of recent immigrants seeking affordable housing and who work in mid-city industrial enclaves. Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 35

36 Even Don Mills, a community novelist Lawrence Hill describes in his memoir, Black Berry, Sweet Juice, as being so monoculturally white in the 1960s that he became conditioned to think of his black features as ugly, has undergone a profound cultural shift as residents of Chinese, South Asian and Middle East origin have trickled into its perimeter while transforming the adjacent high density inner suburban communities of Flemingdon and Thorncliffe Park. As geographers Larry Bourne and Damaris Rose observe laconically, “diversity has suburbanized.” Although Don Mills “proper” (the distinctive four-quadrant 1950s development radiating outward from Lawrence Avenue and Don Mills Road) remains predominantly white, in 2006 nearly 40% of its residents self-identified as visible minorities. By contrast, 77% of Flemingdon Park’s population consists of visible minorities, while almost 75% of Thornclife Park residents describe themselves as visible minorities. (source: City of Toronto, Neighbourhood Profiles for Banbury-Don Mills, Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park). Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 36

37 The extent to which Toronto’s inner and outer suburbs have diversified is far more than a merely demographic measure, however. Diversity is also a quality of the imagination, marking the invisible moment when the urban narrative becomes truly representative of the lives lived within its orbit. Seeming to write in anticipation of this moment, in “Canada Geese and Apply Chatney” Sesanarine Persaud describes a Guyanese immigrant who wanders the sprawling parkland of Eglinton Flats in Weston, watching Canada geese gather before their long migration south for the winter. Inspired by hunger and recollections of home, Writerji enlists two friends who wring the necks of enough geese to fill the freezer of their Emmett Avenue apartment. A week later the trio visit friends whose Scarborough apartment overlooks Morningside Park. During their visit Writerji disappears into the woodland surrounding Highland Creek and returns with a bounty of crab-apples. Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 37

38 “Next thing he coming back with he hand full a them small sour apple. He can’t believe all them apple falling on the grass and wasting. People wasteful in Canada he muttering over and over. Writerji want help to pick some nice green apple on them tree. Why? He thinking just like how yuh use green mango, or bilimbi, or barahar to make achaar and chatney why not green apple. And right then mango scarce in Toronto, cost a fortune. Them days was not like nowadays when you gat West Indian store every corner. Them days you only get fruits from the West Indies when anybody coming. But that apple-chatney taste good with them geese we bring for Prem and Kishore.” Sasenarine Persaud, Canada Geese and Apple Chatney. TSAR Books, Week March 2012 Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 38

39 Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 39 Representations of Suburbia 1960: Phyllis Brett Young’s The Torontonians. [mid-century suburbia] 1975: Hugh Garner’s Death in Don Mills 1989: Barbara Gowdy’s Falling Angels. 1991: M.G. Vassanji’s No New Land. [set in late 1970s Thorncliffe Park] 1997: Anatanas Sileika, Buying on Time [1950s Weston] 1997: Rabindranath Mahraj’s Homer in Flight. [Ajax; Etobicoke] 1998: Sesanarine Persaud, Canada Geese and Mango Chatney 2004: Linwood Barclay’s Bad Move. [Oakville] 2005: Michelle Berry’s Blind Crescent. 2006: Emily Schultz’s Joyland. 2006: Dionne Brand’s What We All Long For. [Richmond Hill] 2007: Richard Scrimger, Into the Ravine. [Scarborough] 2007: David Chariandy, Souccouyant. [Scarborough] 2008: V.V. Ganeshananthan’s Love Marriage. [Scarborough]

40 Week March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 40


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