Outside People By Mariam Pirbhai: Book Launch

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On November 2, 2017, Veritas Café was packed with faculty, students, and members of the community for the launch of Professor Mariam Pirbhai’s collection of short stories, Outside People and Other Stories, published by Inanna Publications in Toronto.

Two student writers opened the evening’s festivities. Jenna Hazzard, whose short story was recently a runner-up in Elle magazine’s national writing competition, read a humorous episode from the opening pages of her novella-in-progress, set in a library just after New Year’s Eve. Jenna’s reading  prompted one longtime library employee to say that she hit the mark with all her details. Kyleen McGragh performed two of her poems, “”Exhale” and “Parasite.” Both poems were recently published in FreeLit magazine, and Kyleen gave a riveting and bold recitation.

 

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Professor Pirbhai graciously thanked her colleagues, students, and especially, her Latin American friends for their support. Her stories, she noted, were about the invisible rather than the “visible” minorities in Canada. They are not just about immigrants, but about the domestic worker, temporary migrant labourers, those who are left behind and whose families are fractured because of globalization.

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She began by reading an excerpt from “Air Raids,” featuring a modern Muslim woman’s would-be sexual encounter with an airline steward during his stopover in Montreal. Set against the backdrop of a protest against a Quebec bill banning religious symbols, the story is rich with the voices of English, French, Pakistani, Jewish, and Arabic people.

Her second excerpt, “Chicken Catchers,” was based on the horrific car accident which killed ten migrant workers and the truck driver near Stratford in the winter of 2012. The victims were from Peru, five who had only recently arrived. Pirbhai’s story focuses on the inter-ethnic friendship between a Peruvian and a Jamaican worker, and may lead us to question Canadian habits of consuming chicken, particularly our preference for chicken breasts.

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She ended with a funny story, “Crossing Over,” about a woman from Mumbai’s consternation about having to perform inelegant and unfeminine manoeuvers in the family car in order to attend a dinner party in Halifax in winter.

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Outside People has been praised as a “stunning debut.”

Photos and Story by Eleanor Ty

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Winter Words and Works

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Organized by Acting Chair Tanis Macdonald, Winter Words and Works featured readings, personal stories, and talks by faculty and students from English and Film Studies at Laurier on February 3, 2016.

Author Celebration

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Left to right: Robin Waugh, Philippa Gates (Moderator), Mariam Pirbhai, Sandra Annett, Benjamin Lefebvre

Dr. Sandra Annett talked about the global community in anime fandom, showing a clip from a Korean flash cartoon entitled, There She Is.” She read from her book, Anime Fan Communities: Transcultural Flows and Frictions (Palgrave 2014).

Dr. Mariam Pirbhai presented the 100 year old history of South Asian immigration to Canada and noted the importance of the Komagata Maru for this community. She has recently edited a special issue on South Asian Canadian writing for Studies in Canadian Literature.

Dr. Robin Waugh talked about the changing representation of Mary Magdalene from the Medieval to the Early Modern period. He has co-edited Mary Magdalene in Medieval Culture: Conflicted Roles (Routledge 2014) with Peter Loewen.

Dr. Benjamin Lefebvre highlighted the enduring popularity of L.M. Montgomery by showing us her legacy and influence around the world. He has recently published The L.M. Montgomery Reader, the third of a series, (U Toronto Press, 2013-2015) and Textual Transformations in Children’s Literature: Adaptations, Translations, Reconsiderations (Routledge 2013).

Edna Staebler Laurier Writer in Residence

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Drew Hayden Taylor/ Tanis MacDonald

Aboriginal playwright and author Drew Hayden Taylor discussed the challenges of being half-Caucasian and half-Ojibway and growing up in the small community of Curve Lake First Nations. He says that as a child, he escaped from the limitations of his community by reading comics and adventure books, and is now writing more genre fiction, such as his Aboriginal vampire novel, The Night Wanderer and his forthcoming book of native science fiction.

Creative Writing at Laurier

Prize sponsor Doug Heard presented Danielle LeDuc with the Chris Heard Memorial Writing Prize. The prize was established by the Heard family for Chris Heard who was a student at Laurier who loved to write.

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Doug Heard / Danielle LeDuc

Danielle LeDuc read her amazing story, “War: A People’s History” which was surprisingly not about the kind of war you’d imagine.

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Danielle LeDuc, winner of Chris Heard Memorial Writing Prize

Dr. MacDonald and several other students from Dr. MacDonald’s creative writing class read the following short pieces:

Anthony Haslam, “Shaman’s Brew”
Dan Douglas, “Fact”
Jenna Galluccio, cento song: “Tired Lovemaking” and poem “Snap, Crackle, Pop”
Jenna Hazzard, “King of Pool”
Dr. MacDonald, “Very Wide Awake,” a poem about the space race and Planet of the Apes

Alumni Stories
Dr. Maria DiCenzo introduced three alumni who graduated from English or the Film Studies Program.

Andrew Baechler (BA English 2007) played football when he was at Laurier and has now combined his love of reading and his communication skills with sports at his current job. He is the Media Relations, Communications, and Sports Information Officer at the Athletics Department at Guelph University.

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Andrew Baechler

Ron Butler (BA Film Studies 2012) loved studying films and even made films for the Fringe when he was at Laurier. He is a cinematographer and filmmaker at Final Frame Productions.

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Ron Butler

Hanna Burnett (MA 2013, BA EN/FS 2012) says that her MA year at Laurier was the best educational year of her life. She is the Coordinator, Program Services at the Toronto International Film Festival and had entertaining anecdotes about the challenges of classifying and rating films for TIFF.

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Hanna Burnett

English Student Association

 

The English Student Association, represented by Daniella Cavallini, Beniah Lanoue, and Chris presented a PowerPoint series about the association, including aims, benefits of joining the ESA, and events planned for the Winter term, then held a short meeting with prospective members.

Contributed By: Eleanor Ty