York South Asian authors help launch new conference series

The following article was submitted by Jen Sipos, manager of communications & public relations for the Faculty of Arts.

York University inaugurated an annual conference series on ethnicity and literature with a day-long event on Nov. 29 featuring readings from Red Silk: An Anthology of South Asian Canadian Women Poets, including those from co-editors, poets and York University Professors Priscila Uppal and Rishma Dunlop.

asian authorsAmong the contributors in attendance were Kuldip Gill, Sandeep Sanghera and York alumnae Sonnet L’Abbé  (BFA ’95) and Soraya Peerbaye (BA ’94), each of whom spoke briefly about her work and recited excerpts from her poetry.

Right: From left, Priscila Uppal, Arun Mukherjee and Rishma Dunlop

Organized by Uppal, who is also a York alumna (PhD ’04, BA ’97), and fellow humanities Professor Richard Teleky through the creative writing program, the annual mini conference is intended to explore issues relating to the creative process and ethnicity. Each year, the event will focus on a different ethnicity.

The day also featured a keynote speech by Arun Mukherjee, professor of English at York who was recently awarded the prestigious New India Book Prize for her translation of Joothan (see story in Dec. 8 issue of YFile). The event culminated in a panel discussion on ethnicity and literature featuring all participants, as well as York’s humanities/English professor Patricia Keeney and PEN-Canada Writer-in-Exile Reza Baraheni who is currently a writer in residence at Winters College.

During this discussion, several high school and York students in attendance were given the opportunity to ask the participants questions about their work. Brian, a Grade 12 student from Sir Sandford Fleming High School, remarked that the poets gave him “great insight into how great minds think.”

At the end of the day, Uppal described the event as “a great success”. She applauded the ways in which the event exposed students in the audience, particularly those from various high schools, to not only “how the university as an institution supports the exchange of ideas and expression in many forms and forums but also how poets and academics alike are struggling with concepts of ethnicity and multi-culturalism.” Uppal also said the conference seemed to allow students to resonate with “numerous points of view and challenging, powerful voices; furthering their own explorations of concepts of ethnicity.”