Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Diaspora Dialogues, with Aisha Sasha John

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 The Diaspora Dialogues, with Aisha Sasha John

Maybe you've scavenged through a used book store in search of a favourite author, but at this year's The Word On The Street festival, you'll have the opportunity to be a literary scavenger—literally!

This Sunday, Sept. 26, The Diaspora Dialogues is hosting a literary scavenger hunt from one end of Queen's Park to the other. Stop by for a Sunday afternoon chase of literary clues, lines of poetry, personalized readings and other literary oddities. And of course, there are prizes! Intrigued? Visit the website for details.

In the meantime, Aisha Sasha John, one of the writers you'll find at the event, talks to Open Book about her own experience as a literary scavenger and her current writing projects.

Open Book:

How does your writing take part in the "Diaspora Dialogue" of Toronto's diverse literary culture?

Aisha Sasha John:

Does Toronto have a diverse literary culture? How does my writing take part in it? Hmm…well, sometimes I’ve written in opposition to what often feels like a very small, mostly homogenous lit. culture.


Can you think of a piece of writing you've done in which you've acted as a scavenger?


Oh, I’m always a scavenger. Rummaging through my own refuse. Up until a couple years ago, my process involved writing longhand every morning, underlining as I went anything that seemed potentially rich or useful. I had to underline because my handwriting is very messy and I didn’t and wouldn’t read through what I’d written otherwise. It occurred to me that by not reviewing I was probably missing out on some shining material. So I began typing most things—my notebooks were suddenly mostly Word documents. I still do this. Months later I return to the notebooks, printing out tens of pages at a time, scavenging. Reading those notebook pages over is always boring, embarrassing, exhilarating, surprising.


If you could travel to any place with the purpose of writing about it, where would it be, and why?


La Plaine, Dominica. Two years ago, I went pee at a bar there and the owner asked me, politely, lovingly, who I was. And to tell him who I am, I named my grandmother. And to be sure we understood each other, he named my aunt. He asked if I was her niece. And I am, and I said yes.

To have such a context felt new and wonderful, and I’ve never been anywhere else as pretty.


What do you most enjoy about being a writer in Toronto?


Easy access to the books I need. The several micro-communities which have nourished me. The theatre here. All the festivals. Access to often free, excellent art.


Tell us about what you're working on right now.


I finished a book of poems called The Shining Material this summer and I’m working on getting it published. I’m also working on a scavenger text: Les Cahiers. Usually, though, I’m writing this play (as part of Nightwood Theatre’s Write From the Hip Program called Kissy Kissy about women and self-betrayal. And lies. It’s the hardest thing I’ve done yet. Also, I blog:

Aisha Sasha John is a poet, playwright and performer. Her work has appeared in such places as Dear Sir, the Danforth Review, Exile Quarterly, CV2, Carousel, Existere, The White Wall Review and the Diaspora Dialogues anthology, TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 3. In 2009, Aisha completed her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Guelph; in 2010, she’s writing plays as part of Nightwood Theatre’s Write From the Hip Program) as well as Theatre Passe Muraille’s theatre creators' group, Upstarts.
Visit her blog at

And don't forget to head to Queen's Park anytime between 11 a.m and 5 p.m this Sunday, Sept. 26th for The Word On The Street's Diaspora Dialogues Literary Scavenger Hunt!

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