I’m lucky to live in a city that so proudly celebrates the arts. We Torontonians love a good festival: Film, Pride, Jazz, Craft Beer… if you like it, Toronto’s got a festival for it! Thankfully, the world of writers is not immune to Toronto’s festival fever. Over the past two weeks, Toronto opened its doors to authors and readers of all stripes for the 40th edition of the Toronto International Festival of Authors! I bought a multi-event pass for the Festival, meaning that I practically lived down at the Harbourfront Centre for the duration of the festival run (thank you Boxcar Social for keeping me fed and watered). Here are a few festival highlights I was lucky to attend.
I kicked off my Festival experience with the North American premiere presentation of Women Talking, a theatrical adaptation of Miriam Toews’ incredible novel about a community of Mennonite women discussing what to do in the aftermath of a series of violent attacks. The first half of the session was a table read of the theatrical adaptation of Women Talking, while the second half featured a discussion with Toews, playwright Linda McLean, choreographer Janice Parker, and director Orla O’Loughlin. It’s amazing to experience books through different cultural media, and the theatrical adaptation of Women Talking didn’t disappoint. I look forward to the upcoming film adaptation!
Tayari Jones and her Cartier Watch
Without question, the Festival highlight for me was a discussion with Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage, in conversation with Nantali Indongo. Jones and Indongo got up close and personal about Roy, Celestial, and the rest of the cast of characters in An American Marriage (which won the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction and is my personal pick for best read of 2019). Jones is truly wonderful in conversation – I could have happily stuck around for another hour or two listening to her talk about the process of developing her characters’ voices and unique perspectives on a tragic series of events. Incidentally, if ever you get the opportunity to meet Ms. Jones, ask her about her Cartier watch 😉
Detangling Family Ties
I won’t lie to you: I’m a complete sucker for a good panel discussion. On Saturday, Emma Donohue, Ian Williams, and Michael Christie talked about family dynamics in their most recent works: Akin, Reproduction and Greenwood, respectively. The discussion itself was great, but the highlight for me was Williams, whose ambitious novel takes the concept of reproduction literally: the story splits and replicates in structure, mimicking cell development. I’m always fascinated by writers who have such a unique handle on story structure, so I picked up a copy of Reproduction at the author signing. I can’t wait to dive in – everything about it just seems irresistible.
A Wander Through the Book Garden
While the weather didn’t cooperate for the outdoor dedication of David Chariandy and Dionne Brand’s paving stones in the Toronto Book Garden, a last-minute venue change kept us warm and dry while we toasted the Garden’s newest occupants. After the dedication ceremony, the rain held off long enough for a leisurely walk through the Book Garden, a beautiful little oasis located in front of Queen’s Quay Terminal. If you get a chance, wander through to find the names of past winners, including Margaret Atwood, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Michael Redhill, Michael Ondaatje, and more.