Grad student explores life, love, family and politics in debut book

cover of "Here We Are Among the Living"

cover of  "Here We Are Among the Living"York PhD candidate in English Samantha Bernstein (BA ’06, MA ’09), daughter of Canadian poet Irving Layton, explores the complex world of families, life, love, politics and trying to live ethically in a corporatizing world in her epistolary memoir, Here We Are Among the Living: A Memoir in Emails.

The launch of Here We Are Among the Living (Tightrope Books) will take place Wednesday, June 20, at 7:30pm at Revival, 783 College St. in Toronto.  A second launch will take place July 8 at 5pm in Dufferin Grove Park.

An inter-generational story, the bookdocuments the first years of the 21st century, beginning with a conflict between Bernstein and her mother over the meaning of 9-11 and their responses to it. In another early scene, Bernstein finds a letter from her father to her mother written after their divorce in which he photo of Samantha Bernsteinrails against flower child hypocrisy. Here We Are Among the Living is in part about our attempts to reconcile ourselves to history, both familial and cultural.

Samantha Bernstein

The epistolary form has, for over 200 years, been an outlet for social criticism and an expression of engagement, especially for young people.  Bernstein’s memoir in e-mails captures both her generation’s political sensibilities and desire for instant communication.

Bernstein started writing it while completing her master’s degree thesis in Interdisciplinary Studies in York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies, and the story  includes her time as an undergraduate student in the University’s Creative Writing Program in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

Her poetry and prose have appeared in various publications, including Exile Literary Quarterly, Books in Canada, The Fiddlehead and the anthology TOK 3: Writing the New Toronto.

In addition, Bernstein received federal funding for her dissertation this year, which considers some of the central questions about ethics and esthetics posed in Here We Are Among the Living.