Authors Discuss Toronto, Egypt, and Vietnam in Their Books // Caryn Cathcart
The concept of place is not limited to geography. It also encompasses culture, character, history, politics, perspective, language, and inspiration. In fact, place can exist entirely beyond geography—it’s found in distant mythologies, online communities, and even the ever-fickle human memory. It is no surprise that the theme of writing and place proved incredibly rich for IFOA Weekly’s latest Open Book Literary Salon.
The free event, which took place on October 8th at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre,
featured a roundtable discussion between Camilla Gibb, Kamal Al-Solaylee, and Steven Heighton. Freelance books columnist, editor, and publicist Becky Toyne moderated.
Toyne opened the evening with a simple question: Where, for you, is home?
Gibb, who was born in London, England, but raised in Canada, called Toronto her home. She explained that when her roots were severed from London, the idea of home—that critical reference point—became distorted. Only through raising her daughter in Toronto has Gibb been able to adopt the city as her home. Conversely, when Al-Solaylee first moved to Toronto, he fell in love with the city immediately. He described the experience as a true romance, similar to how people often fall for Paris. Though he described today’s Toronto as a more hostile, alien place, his book, Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes (HarperCollins Canada), is dedicated to the city he calls home. Lastly, Heighton explained that he had been raised in Toronto but had also lived in Japan. To answer Toyne’s question, then, he provided an excellent Mavis Gallant anecdote. When Gallant was asked if she considered herself a Canadian writer despite having lived outside the country for most of her life, she answered, “I will remain Canadian even if Canada ceases to exist.” This statement applied nicely to the situation of each writer. Continue reading