City of Words

by Kurt Kleiner
Author Lawrence Hill

Acclaimed novelist Lawrence Hill recently spoke at the City of Words reading series.

UTSC is a hub for intellectual and cultural exchange in the Eastern GTA, and the 2-year-old campus event City of Words contributes to this role in a whole new way. The popular reading series features writers of note who are from Scarborough or who have written about issues related to the region.

“Young writers and young readers often think that important things are happening elsewhere,” says Karina Vernon, professor of English at UTSC and lead organizer of City of Words. “I think it’s exciting for students to look at a writer and see a potential future there. Also, they get to see that this place matters, that writing about this place matters. Their place in the world matters.”

Past participants in the event have included Sheniz Janmohamed, a writer, poet and spoken-word artist from Scarborough, and David Chariandy, whose award-winning debut novel, Soucouyant, was set in Scarborough.

Celebrated Canadian novelist Lawrence Hill delivered a stirring reading on February 1 of this year. Hill is the multiple-award-winning author of The Book of Negroes and Any Known Blood, as well as many other works. His stories of growing up in the Toronto suburb of Don Mills address issues similar to those faced by Scarborough residents.

UTSC’s Vernon herself is from Vancouver, but she appreciates the richness that Scarborough offers writers. “One of the reasons Scarborough has produced interesting writers is that it is an interesting place all by itself,” observes Vernon. “It’s paradoxical: [Scarborough is] both a suburb and an urban centre. On the one hand, it’s super suburban; on the other hand, it’s an immigrant community. It’s a really complex space. It’s ripe for writing about and investigating.”

The next visiting writer is novelist and poet Mary di Michele. She will appear at City of Words on March 29, 1:30–3 pm, in the HW 308 in the Humanities Building.