Ambitious first novel lauded by critics, nominated for literary prizes
Author David Chariandy makes two appearances in the Okanagan this month as this year’s Cultural Studies Annual Speaker and as part of UBC’s Visiting Author series. Chariandy will give a reading of his work on Monday, October 21, 7 p.m. at the Okanagan Regional Library at 1380 Ellis St. Kelowna.
The author, an associate professor of English at Simon Fraser University, also presents a free lecture, titled Post-race: Hope and Delusion in the 21st Century. This event takes place on Tuesday, October 22, from 3:30 to 5 p.m., University Theatre at UBC’s Okanagan campus.
Chariandy’s acclaimed first novel, Soucouyant (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2007), was nominated for several prizes, including the Governor General’s Award (shortlisted); a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (shortlisted); the Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award (shortlisted); the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize (shortlisted); the Toronto Book Award (shortlisted); the Scotiabank Giller Prize (longlisted); and the International IMPAC Dublin Award (longlisted).
Soucouyant examines the life of an immigrant woman living near Toronto who suffers from pre-senile dementia and her son’s return to care for her. There are issues of past meeting present, racial struggle and class distinction.
Chariandy says that much of the inspiration for Soucouyant came from his grand-aunt’s decline and death from dementia. While she forgot how perform ordinary daily tasks, she remembered an “elsewhere past” in astonishing detail.
“My grand-aunt’s passing forced me to confront not only the sorrow one feels for the death of a loved one, but also the responsibility one might feel towards another’s personal memories,” Chariandy told Canadian Living magazine.
“I guess another discussion could take shape around the various issues that I’ve tried to represent: history and memory; the psychological toll of dementia on families and caregivers; the relationships between immigrant parents and their sons or daughters; the legacies and ongoing realities of colonialism and of bigotry; the ways we interpret or misinterpret monsters and monstrous acts,” Chariandy said in the Canadian Living interview.
His second novel, Brother, is forthcoming from McClelland & Stewart.
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