“The Danger of a Single Story”

On October 22, 2019, Program Chair Sandra Ens challenged us to something novel — a panel discussion of author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s presentation, “The Danger of a Single Story” (2009)

In this “Ted Talks” video, the author describes growing up in Nigeria reading books from Britain or the United States. However, Nigerian literature was missing entirely. Attending college in the U.S., Ms. Adichie was taken aback that North Americans know next-to-nothing about Nigeria specifically, and she felt patronized or pitied as an “African.” She realized that our opinions are (still!) based on “a single story.” To make matters worse, we extrapolate that story across all the countries, cultures and diverse peoples living in the entire African continent. Ms. Adichi’s own books, along with strong support she and her publisher give to other Nigerians to write and publish their own stories, will help readers broaden perspectives and dispel negative stereotypes.

After the video, members referenced examples from their own experiences, especially of different cultures and faith traditions, in general agreement with Ms. Adichie’s thesis.  Recognizing that it is easy to fall into the trap of stereotypes, we were reminded of the importance of being open to other stories and of learning to appreciate that the story being told, including our own, is often incomplete but still worthy of consideration.

You may listen to Ms. Adichi herself, if you weren’t at our meeting.

(Thanks Helen, for your always outstanding Minutes, which I have used for this post! I’m sorry I missed out on this special meeting. Janet H.)

Jaspreet Singh: CPL Author in Residence

KennyOMG / CC BY-SA
Kashmir

On October 15, 2019, we welcomed special guest Jaspreet Singh, an internationally renowned novelist, essayist, poet and short-story writer. He was accompanied by Christine Gingerick of the Calgary Public Library Foundation, our marvelous tour guide when the new library was unveiled, and Calgary poet Rosemary Griebel. Mr. Singh is the 2019 Calgary Public Library’s Author in Residence.

Mr. Singh read excerpts from ELENA FERRANTE, of whom he is a huge fan. He spoke of the art of Ms. Ferrante’s English translator Ann Goldstein, which segued smoothly to reading part of his essay “My Mother, My Translator,” which you can (should!) read in entirety (link provided below.)

This poignant essay begins with a relatively short visit his mother made to Canada. Her son’s first book, 17 Tomatoes: Tales from Kashmir, had been published. She had arrived with her own translation into Punjabi of the first of the fourteen short stories contained in his English work.

Mr. Singh was impressed that his mother had so eloquently captured in Punjabi the emotional impact of the story. In six weeks, she had handwritten translations of 13 of the 14 stories but had skipped the 9th. When she mailed it later, her son — the author — was upset, as she had made some specific changes to the story. She insisted the story then should be left out, should he not make her changes! Eventually, they compromised by adding a Translator’s Note.

However, “the 9th” was more her story, and became the catalyst for her to write her own memoirs of a woman born in British-occupied India, who had experienced the 1947 partition creating Pakistan and the 1984 Sikh Massacre. It is now her son Jasmeet who is learning much more of his mother’s life, while translating from Punjabi to English. We look forward to being able to read these memoirs someday!

Mr. Singh also mentioned briefly two of his novels, Chef and Helium. They are perfect reading for gaining deep insight into India, Pakistan and Kashmir, for our season of Cultural Awareness Through Literature.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL ESSAY (Granta.com) and to coincidentally discover a most interesting quarterly and book publisher.

Richard Wagamese: Building bridges with literature

Dan Harasymchuk / CC BY-SA

Doloris shared with us “an author who understood the fundamental role that storytelling can play in building bridges of cultural understanding.” It wasn’t until age twenty-three that Mr. Wagamese reconnected with his own Ojibway (Anishinaabe) people. Fortunately, he gives us all an opportunity to understand them so much more, through his writings.

Richard Wagamese was part of Canada’s 60’s SCOOP when it was common practice to ‘scoop’ newborns from mothers on reserves, placing them with mostly middle-class Canadians of European descent. His parents, victims themselves of a residential school system that “tried to scrape the Indian out of their insides,” (Richard Wagamese) had abandoned their children. At three, he was separated from his siblings and sent to various foster homes before being adopted at nine. At sixteen, he was living on the streets, escaping an abusive home life.

Doloris has written about so eloquently about this important and incredible Canadian indigenous writer: PLEASE CONTINUE TO READ HERE

HERE’S A TRIBUTE by Shelagh Rogers to her “Chosen Brother,” which Doloris recommended.

CWLC in Westword

The Writers’ Guild of Alberta’s magazine Westword published an article about our Club in their October-December issue. Moorea Gray wrote the article, and we have been granted kind permission to post this article on our website.

To read the article, click on its name, below.

THE CALGARY WOMEN’S LITERARY CLUB
A book club with a difference (then and now)
Moorea Gray

CWLC Winter Party 2019

Once again, our gracious Winter Party host was Honorary Member, Ruth Hilland. Ruth and the staff at Amica Aspen Woods provide a most welcoming venue and delicious meal for our Club’s Winter Party.

Needless to say, there are a few creative behind-the-scene CWLC elves who add extra pizazz through tablescapes and entertainment.

This was a perfect time to have two new members introduced by their friends. What “resumés!” To top everything off, we had a most special performer, opera singer Melissa Jackson (Calgary Opera, Cowtown Opera and more.) Singing seasonal songs, her voice carried beyond our room and into the foyer, to the delight of Amica residents and staff, as well as ourselves.

For the New Year, it’s our members that will continue to make the Calgary Women’s Literary Club “sing.” We resume March 3rd.

Happy New Year!