Acclaimed literary series returns with a twist

This year marks an important milestone for York University’s acclaimed Canadian Writers in Person Lecture Series. The course, presented by the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and features some of Canlit’s best talents. Each author reads and discusses their work with students in the course. To celebrate its anniversary and York’s 50th birthday in 2009, organizers have invited some of Canada’s most celebrated authors, poets and playwrights – all with connections to York University – to offer their own unique take on the Canadian voice and experience.

All readings, which are free and open to the public, take place on Tuesdays at 7pm in Room 206 Accolade West Building on York’s Keele campus. The series starts Sept. 17 and runs to March 31. 

York alumna Emily Pohl-Weary (left) is a Toronto-based author and editor. Her works include Violet Miranda (2005), a girl-pirate graphic novel; Strange Times at Western High (2006), a novel for young adults; Iron-on Constellations (2005), a collection of poetry; and a novel A Girl Like Sugar (2004). Pohl-Weary (BA ‘97) is the editor of the female superhero anthology Girls Who Bite Back: Witches, Mutants, Slayers and Freaks (2004), a book dubbed “a bible of pop culture femininity.” In 2002, she co-authored the Hugo Award winning biography about her grandmother, Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril, which was also a finalist for the Toronto Book Award.

The author of six novels and two collections of short stories, the work of M.G. Vassanji (right) has appeared in various countries and several languages. He has twice won the Giller Prize; in 1994, for The Book of Secrets (1993), and in 2003 for The In-Between World of Vikram Lall. His most recent novel The Assassin’s Song (2007) was a finalist for the Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award, and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. He holds an honorary doctorate from York University, which was awarded to him in 2005.

Douglas Glover (right) studied philosophy at York University and earned a BA in 1969. He is the author of five story collections, four novels, a book of essays and a book about Don Quixote. His novel Elle (2003) won the 2003 Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction. His stories have frequently been anthologized, notably in The Best American Short Stories, Best Canadian Short Stories and The New Oxford Book of Canadian Stories.

Winner of the Emily Dickinson Prize for Poetry, York English Professor Rishma Dunlop (left) is the author and editor of several collections of poetry including Metropolis (2005), Reading Like a Girl (2004), The Body of My Garden (2002), and the edited anthologies White Ink: An International Anthology of Poems on Mothers and Mothering (2007) and Red Silk: An Anthology of South Asian Women Poets (Mansfield, 2004). She is coordinator of the Creative Writing Program at York University and the founding editor of the international poetry journal Studio. She was also a finalist for the CBC Canada Council Literary Awards in 1998.

Djanet Sears (BFA ‘99) (right) is an award-winning playwright, director and performer. She is the author of the critically acclaimed plays Afrika Solo (1990), Harlem Duet (1997), and The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God (2003). Sears won the Governor-General’s Award in 1998 for Harlem Duet. She is a founding member of Obsidian Theatre, a theatre dedicated to producing works by authors of African descent living or working in Canada.

Peter Robinson (PhD ‘84) (left) is a crime novelist known for his series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks. Since 1987 Robinson has written 19 Inspector Banks novels and has won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel five times. In 1996, Robinson won France’s Grand Prix de Littérature Policière and Sweden’s Martin Beck Award for In a Dry Season (1999), the 10th book in his series. His most recent work is All the Colours of Darkness (2008).

York Professor Jan Rehner (right) has published poetry, literary criticism, a feminist analysis on infertility and a text on critical thinking. Her first mystery novel, Just Murder (2003) won the 2004 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Crime Novel. Her second, On Pain of Death (2008), was a finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Award. She lives in Toronto and teaches humanities and writing at York University.

The critically acclaimed novel Soucouyant (2007) by York alumnus David Chariandy (PhD ‘02) (right) was a finalist for five prizes including the 2007 Governor General’s Literary Award, the 2008 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best First Book (Canada and the Caribbean) and the 2008 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize (BC). Chariandy teaches English literature at Simon Fraser University and is one of the founding editors of Commodore Books, the first Black Canadian literary publisher in Western Canada.

Sonnet L’Abbé (BFA ‘95) (left) is a Toronto-born writer of French-Canadian and Guyanese descent. She is the author of two collections of poetry, A Strange Relief (2001) and Killarnoe (2007). Her work has been internationally published and anthologized. In 2000, she won the Bronwen Wallace Memorial Award for most promising writer under 35. L’Abbé has taught writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies, reviewed poetry for The Globe and Mail and is currently doing doctoral work in ecopoetics in the Department of English at the University of British Columbia.

Makeda Silvera (MA ‘04) (right) was born in Jamaica and has lived in Canada for more than 30 years. She is the co-founder and managing editor of Sister Vision Press and is the author of two collections of short stories, Remembering G (1990) and Her Head a Village (1994). She is the editor of the groundbreaking Piece of My Heart: A Lesbian of Colour Anthology (1991), The Other Woman: Women of Colour in Contemporary Canadian Literature (1994), and Ma-Ka: Diaspora Juks (1997). The Heart Does Not Bend (2003) is her first novel. She lives in Toronto.

An award-winning writer, playwright and filmmaker, York alumna Debra Anderson (BA ‘01) (left) is a recipient of the prestigious George Ryga Award for Playwriting. Her animated short film, Don’t Touch Me, premiered at the 1998 Inside Out Toronto Lesbian and Gay Film & Video Festival and has been screened internationally at independent film festivals. Her writing has been anthologized in Geeks, Misfits and Outlaws (2003), Bent On Writing: Contemporary Queer Tales (2002) and the Lambda-nominated Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity (2002). The author of one novel, Code White (2005), Anderson also organizes and promotes Get Your Lit Out, an ongoing reading series based in Toronto that promotes local female authors.

The best-selling first novel of York alumnus Nino Ricci (BA ‘81) (left) Lives of the Saints (1990) garnered international acclaim, appearing in more than a dozen countries and winning a host of awards including, in Canada, the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and the Books in Canada First Novel Award, and in England, the Betty Trask Award and the Winifred Holtby Prize. It was followed by In A Glass House (1993) and Where She Has Gone (1997), which completed the trilogy that Lives of the Saints began. The Lives of the Saints trilogy was recently adapted for a television miniseries (2004) starring Sophia Loren, Nick Mancuso and Kris Kristofferson. Ricci’s most recent novel, Testament (2002), was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize for Canada and the Caribbean and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and was the co-winner of the Trillium Award. A new novel, The Origin of Species, will be published in September 2008 by Doubleday Canada.

For more information and the schedule of author presentations, visit the Canadian Writers in Person Lecture Series Web site.