(The Other Woman: Women of Colour in Contemporary Canadian Literature)

Article excerpt

The Other Woman: Women of Colour in Contemporary Canadian Society is a collection of interviews and essays by or about women writers in Canada, who are either Native or whose origins lie in South Asia, East Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean or Africa.

All 21 contributions to this book provide insights on what it means to be a woman writer "of colour" in contemporary Canadian society--on the effects of historical and cultural context on their lives, their work and, perhaps most importantly, the response to their work.

While questions of identity are very much in the forefront of these discussions, the interviews reveal how differently they are negotiated by different writers and at different stages in a writer's career.

Joy Kogawa says when she first started publishing she had "virtually no consciousness, except in a negative sense, of Japaneseness." She wrote "as a white person" and "in a white voice."

Dionne Brand talks about how she was at first wary of writing in the language she grew up in: "I didn't want to be party to white Canadian titilation at the exoticism of a Trinidadian language."

Aboriginal and racial minority writers always risk having their work slotted as "exotic," "ethnic" or "immigrant writing," argues Arun Makherjee in her essay titled Canadian Nationalism, Canadian Literature and Racial Minority Women. White immigrant writers have not had their work branded thus, she says, citing M.G. Vassanji, adding that "their works were judged according to universalist criteria of merit and quickly found their place in Canadian literature anthologies."

Issues concerning these women's lives--identity crises, experiences of racism, feelings of isolation--are closely intertwined with issues relating to their work as novelists, poets, performers and storytellers. …