By: Mira Busscher and Natalia Hunter
The second Balderdash reading series event of the year took place on Thursday November 14th, 2019 and was held in the Robert Langen Art Gallery, hosted by Sanchari Sur. The event was supported by the Laurier Library, the Dean of Arts, the English department and The New Quarterly publication.
This event featured three talented writers who each shared a reading of their new work: Dorothy Ellen Palmer, Mahak Jain and Eufemia Fantetti.
Dorothy Ellen Palmer, a retired high school teacher and a disability advocate, opened the event with a reading of the introduction to her memoir, Falling for Myself. Dorothy’s memoir details her experiences of learning from the frequent falls in her life to eventually falling in love with herself. Dorothy was also open with her acknowledgement of her own internalized ableism, and the importance of breaking down the notions of ableism, discrimination and privilege.
The next speaker was Mahak Jain, a graduate from the University of Guelph’s creative writing program, who read the beginning of her short story, The Marriage Broker. Her short story was published in The New Quarterly, which features emerging writers who have not yet been published. Jain’s short story explores the relationship between Indian culture and marriage, focusing on a company named the India Marriage Bureau. Mahak blends the Indian experience into her writing in a way that allows her to explore a variety of opinions regarding cultural norms and values.
The final speaker was Eufemia Fantetti, another graduate from Guelph’s creative writing program and the Writer’s Studio at SFU. Eufemia read part of two chapters from her memoir, My Father, Fortune-Tellers and Me: A Memoir, that explored her relationship with her parents, specifically after her father went through a surgery and her mother’s struggle with mental illness. Eufemia discussed her spiritual journey of attempting to make sense of her family issues and relationships by exploring the notions of fate, destiny, astrology and tarot cards. Eufemia creatively blended these large spiritual questions regarding the world with humour as she imitated the Italian accents of her parents when she read.
Following the individual speakers, there was a very insightful question and answer portion that allowed the audience to speak with the writers directly and ask questions about their work and writing process. Dorothy, Mahak and Eufemia all engaged with the question regarding the difficulty of writing personal material, each offering a profound note on the catharsis of opening up and telling the bad with the good and letting go of shame and secrecy, while also sharing about the meaning of having their work out in the world to be shared publicly. Each writer reflected on their own work with an interesting perspective, with Mahak explaining the writing process of creating a character that has different values and views than her own, and Dorothy expressing that, despite her work being a memoir, she views the version of herself in the book as a character, which shaped her creative process.
Overall, the second Balderdash Reading Series of the year was a success and celebrated the deeply personal and diverse stories these authors have to offer with their explorations of culture, disability and family struggles.