Monday, January 21, 2013

"Defining Canadian Urban Fiction" ~ Part Two

We watch and honour the U.S. President Barack Obama as if he were our own national leader. I'm sure many of us are celebrating Martin Luther King Day in our hearts today, although it is not a recognized holiday in Canada. We know American history and culture inside out, we understand it, and we embrace it, sometimes at the expense of our own stories and unfortunately, sometimes the icons of our own culture are often overshadowed.

We accept and understand the American culture and documentation because it is widely communicated, defined, and accepted, and is often more accessible than our own. This is a common characteristic with urban culture in Canada, I believe. Although we have talented and passionate individuals right here at home...we are often under-exposed.

The February 2nd event "Defining Canadian Urban Fiction," taking place at the Malvern Branch of the Toronto Public Library (from 2:00pm - 4:00pm) is a forum for Canadian readers, writers, educators, and cultural advocates to discuss this age-old rhetoric of Canada vs. the U.S., in a literary context.

This is not to say we don't enjoy the urban American culture, or that we don't celebrate the American icons and historical events, but it is to say that we're taking a moment to step back from the wider genre of "urban fiction" and decide where our rendition of this type of genre stands. We are going to discuss what we think "urban fiction" is and what type of message we think should be communicated to readers.

The panelists of our upcoming event are all writers, with a common appreciation and understanding of urban culture. In Part One of this blog series, I asked panelist Camille Ramnath and moderator Angela Walcott to share their views on the subject. In Part Two I asked the remaining five panelists: "Why is it important for you, as a writer, to participate in this event?" Here are their responses:

Tanika Chambers ~ "As a Christian, Canadian writer it is extremely important that I participate in an event like this to share my insight on the subject of "Defining Urban Canadian Fiction." Writing is a powerful medium that conveys messages and the world in which we live can affect the way we interpret life. Canada is known as the "salad bowl"; we know how to celebrate our unique difference and cultures and then come together when we need to. This event will be another way that we can celebrate our uniqueness and define what I know is there; an urban Canadian fiction identity."

D.A. Bourne ~ "It is important as a writer to participate in this event because Canadians and readers need to know what makes urban fiction in Canada "unique" and do we really stand out compared to American urban fiction. We are still known as America's little brother and many will debate and say that we aren't much different than our neighbours. If we are indeed different, what are we as Canadian writers doing to highlight our uniqueness?"

Telisha Ng ~ "My purpose in life is to help others cultivate healthy relationships with themselves and with others. One of the ways I’ve been able to do this is by connecting with others through sharing my life experiences on a blog. Canadian Urban fiction is a genre that is quickly growing and transitioning; there is an abundance of talent from coast to coast with very little buzz being created. It’s important as a writer that I advocate for community support of the creative intellectual property of myself and other emerging writers. I participate in this discussion to help sustain creative expression and abundance in my community today and for years to come."

General ~ "It is important to be involved with this event because only we can tell our own story.  It's through forums like this that facilitate the discussion of our identity and allow us to share that definition with others inside or outside the community."

Angelot Ndongmo ~ "I feel it's an amazing opportunity to be a part of this panel and take part in this discussion because it's an important step towards finding our own expressive voices as African-Canadian writers. It is imperative that we share our own unique experiences and stories inspired by our lives here in Canada in order to preserve African-Canadian literature for generations to come!"

On days like today, witnessing the second Inauguration of President Barack Obama, celebrating the birthday Martin Luther King, and even just hearing the stories surrounding this historic week, listening to the musicians, and feeling the strong sense of American pride, that naturally make me think of my own culture, and how proud I am to be a black Canadian of Jamaican descent.

Yes, we all share the same universal appreciation for world leaders and visionaries, but we also need to do our part to make sure that our voices are being represented, and our own stories are being told. Urban fiction is just one genre of literature that is documenting the Canadian experience...I take this particular genre personally because I believe there is a generational voice and cultural uniqueness that specifically speaks to the generation of Canadians of which I am a part, and the culture in which I was raised [in Toronto].

I look forward to hearing these panelists expand on their thoughts, as mentioned above, and also look forward to sharing this discussion with the greater community who also play a role in how culture is documented, and to what extent our history will be recognized, and remembered.

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