I was busy in doing my lessons and homework. Mother was engaged in the kitchen, preparing tea for me. Suddenly, there were shout and cries and a lot of confused noise.
In fact, it would seem that dissatisfaction with the state of CanLit, strangely enough, is the current state of CanLit. One has to wonder: Why are writers suddenly eagerly anticipating its fiery death? What are they hoping to build from the ashes? It was a demand by over 90 prominent Canadian writers and artists for an independent inquiry into the process by which UBC fired former Creative Writing head Steven Galloway.
While many of the writers initially signed the UBC Accountable letter before any clear information about the allegations against Galloway was available, once it was confirmed by numerous sources that those allegations were, indeed, sexual harassment and sexual assault, only a handful of writers removed their name.
Apparently, this illustrious group had chosen their figurative hill to die on: She explains that, prior to the Galloway open letter, the general consensus was that CanLit was left-leaning and progressive. Post-Galloway, Sookfong Lee could no longer hold onto these illusions, and had to admit that having them in the first place only served to uphold the racism that so often hurt her.
For example, inwhen Chippewas of Nawash poet Lenore Keeshig took non-Native writers to task for appropriating Native stories and voices. Perhaps predictably, non-Native writers did not stop.
CanLit still appears surprised every single time by the appearance of Black literary expression and Black life. Or, to put it more frankly, how do the writers, editors, publishers and agents that make up CanLit live through those mistakes, hear them pointed out, do nothing to address them, then still somehow manage to tell themselves that CanLit is diverse and progressive?
And why are we suddenly — finally — willing to actually see these mistakes now? What words have traditionally been employed to describe CanLit? Canadians have just spent an entire week debating whether Sir John A. Black people in Canada continue to be murdered by police officers who do not value their humanity — and the lack of consequences for those murders only reinforce and legitimize this dehumanization.
On top of that, racist carding policies that specifically target black men, presuming them to be inherently criminal, continue. When Canadian institutions devalue and dehumanize black Canadian lives, can we really be surprised that CanLit devalues and marginalizes black Canadian literature?
Do you let your love make you blind, do you stop loving the country entirely, or do you acknowledge its imperfections, shrug and try to love it anyway? All of us as writers know the blessing and curse that is constructive criticism. Sometimes for days, weeks, months, years.
But eventually, we all sit down, assess the criticism and do the work to fix the problems. Eventually we have to grab some fucking fire extinguishers and put that fire out.
In other words, we have to sit down, assess the criticism and do the work to fix the problems. We can make change ourselves, now. In fact, we are. So many amazing people are stepping forward and speaking out, or quietly writing revolutions. Take that momentum and build on it.
Put your ego aside and listen to the constructive criticism you need to hear. Learn from that criticism. Give both CanLit and Canada no choice but to become better.
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