Passages: Welcome Home to Canada
Michael Ignatieff, Alberto Manguel, Nino Ricci, Anna Porter, M. G. Vassanji, Michelle Berry, Ying Chen, Brian D. Johnson, Dany L
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Without departure, there is no arrival -- this is the experience of some of Canada's best-known émigré authors and public figures, shared in Passages: Welcome Home to Canada.
In first-hand accounts, these celebrated writers explore the excitement and anguish of uprooting to a new country. Childhood memories, familiar streets, the aromas of local cooking, long-cherished plans -- to leave all this behind can only be traumatic. And yet, to find a haven from oppression and danger, a place to carve out a new identity and put down new roots -- this is a thrill only an emigrant can know. In Passages we see this terrible pain and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for growth in delicate balance.
Alberto Manguel discovers the quiet pleasure of citizenship after years of cosmopolitan wandering. Ken Wiwa looks for a fresh start, far from the shadow of his martyred father in Africa. Nino Ricci, having grown up in an old-world Italian community transplanted to rural Ontario, describes his passage into the larger world, where other families don’t bake their own bread or slaughter their own pigs. Shyam Selvadurai tells of his flight from the intolerance of his native Sri Lanka, where, as a Tamil and a homosexual, he found himself unwelcome. Moses Znaimer describes his parents’ hair-raising escape first from Hitler and then Stalin, a series of adventures through Eastern Europe and Central Asia and finally across the Atlantic.
Introduced by Michael Ignatieff, Passages explores what it means to be a foreigner, what it means to be a writer and what it means to be a Canadian -- and what it means to be all three at once.
S. academics started moving to Canada when Canada was expanding its universities and founding new ones. About 125,000 Americans came to Canada between 1964 and 1977 as draft dodgers of the Vietnam War. Half of them stayed. Back and forth. The borders touch. It’s one big mass of land. There’s no getting around it. My father had taken a job at the University of Victoria as an English professor. On our glass coffee table, before we left, he laid out a map of the United States and Canada and my brother and I kneeled down to trace the route we would take: through Pennsylvania, through the Midwest to Chicago, through Iowa and the Badlands and Wyoming or Montana (nobody’s sure any more), through Idaho to Washington state, where we would take the Anacortes ferry to Victoria and touch down (all of us—our toys, the U-Haul, the poor carsick cat) on Canadian soil.
I breathe deeply as I walk up the road to the bus stop. Part of me wants to turn back, to be released from this commitment, but a far sterner part keeps me going. I have waited too long to turn back. My adolescence in Sri Lanka was darkened by a shadow—a failure, I thought, within myself. While other boys would sit around bragging about their conquests with girls and fantasizing, I sat with them in silence, trying not to stare at the curve of their necks, the way their thighs flexed and strained against the thin cotton of their pants.
He is recognized as an accomplished editor, translator, anthologist, essayist, and novelist. ANNA PORTER was born in Hungary. Her family settled in New Zealand after the 1956 Revolution. She began her publishing career in England, then moved to Canada in 1968. Anna Porter is publisher of Key Porter Books, and is one of Canada’s most respected publishing professionals. She is the author of three crime novels: Hidden Agenda, Mortal Sins, and The Bookfair Murders, which was made into a movie. Her most recent book, The Storyteller: Memory, Secrets, Magic and Lies, is a non-fiction account of the story of Hungary and of Porter’s family.
Around two o’clock in the morning. My city at night. Almost nobody on the barely lit streets. Here and there, large, thin dogs watched us pass with an almost scornful indifference. Five in the car: two women (a Russian and a Yugoslavian) and three Haitian men. I was dozing, in the back, jammed between the two young women. They were journalists, here to secretly make a documentary about Haiti. I had been their guide for the past week, an extremely dangerous situation at the beginning of that year—1976. The international press was beginning to demand explanations from Duvalier junior.
He is my default template, the clay from which I mould my image. And now that I have defined him, quantified his values and made sense of the questions he once posed to my sense of self, I can begin to look for my own answers. When I am in here, I feel reassured that he is close at hand, that I can reach over and reread his words, look between the lines, talk to him, engage in a debate with him. When I am in here, I am in my father’s study. I am also back in Africa. And I am in Canada. I am at home. As I sit here typing these words, writing into the future, I am conscious of the folder that sits on the shelf with my father’s books.