Last Saturday I had two presentations at public libraries in Milton.

Now with increased immigration and the flocking of these immigrants to big cities like Toronto, it seems that white people are moving further out to the suburbs.

According to that book Boom Bust and Echo, this is a normal stage of the baby boomers life cycle. They went out there to raise their families etc. But then as immigrants establish themselves they move out there too.

Anyway, Milton is a small town about 45 minutes outside of Toronto with a pretty big Muslim population.

So I get to the library bright and early and I speak to the person who had coordinated my visit. I like to know how people have heard of me and how they came to book me so I ask her if she’d heard of my work.

She had not. Apparently it was the school boards who had funded my visit. She said out right that they had no funds to bring in an author. And when she’d contacted my artist representation agency one of the ladies there had recommended me.

Then she said an interesting thing. “Oh it’s so nice to celebrate May as Asian Heritage Month but really, it’s so hard to find anyone good.”


I couldn’t even blame her, honestly. I’ve seen some Asian authors present, and why would she think I was any different?

It’s so hard to get people to give you a chance!

So she showed me the room in which I was to present. It was just off the children’s area, a nice little room, very airy with lots of windows.

But ten minutes before my session there was no signs of an audience.

So I went over to some of the parents in the children’s area and told them that I would be doing a presentation, etc. They seemed very friendly.

They nodded like yeah, sure.

They made an announcement over the p.a. that an award-winning author and storyteller would be presenting…blah blah blah. But I thought maybe I could punch it up a bit, so I asked if I could invite them in. And I tried, but nope, it didn’t work.

And then when I was about to start, there was one one brown guy in his mid forties and two pre-teens sitting there, all of them looked Muslim.

None of the white people came in, and I don’t know why, but I felt deflated.

Just for a moment.

And then I thought about it, and I remembered how I dressed (honestly I do forget at times that I look any different!) and I thought, “Duh! Of course they wouldn’t come!” Here’s this middle-aged fat Pakistani looking woman in traditional clothes…

and I thought never mind.

What the heck, why should I care? Respect the audience who did come to see me! So I started by telling Ruler of the Courtyard and while I was in the midst of the story, more and more brown Muslims came in, a couple of gentlemen and some mothers as well, and something told me to change the focus, and just talk about what it was like coming to Canada.

An entire audience of Muslims in Milton, about twenty to twenty-five people which was EXCELLENT on a bright and sunny, WARM (the first warm Saturday) day of May! (I mean who would want to be inside listening to an author on such a day, right?)

Thing with library visits is that the audience can be miniscule! I’ve heard of really good authors presenting to two or three people! It’s happened to me too!

So twenty-five people is a really really good turnout!!!

The librarian came in a couple of times but didn’t stay to watch. She tried to pull some of my books off the shelves but darn it, they were all out!

And the enthusiasm of the people afterwards was remarkable!

And it turned out one lady had actually come all the way from Sarnia to see me! Sarnia is about two hours away! She’d seen the program brochure and had made a note of coming!

And then I found out why the turnout was so good! There was a mother who told me that she’d seen the brochure and she’d photocopied it and taken it to the mosque, put it in the men’s and women’s sections! Urged all her friends to come out! And I thought no wonder we’d had such a good turnout! And then she said, but it’s so hard! They say they’ll come…

And I finished her sentence for her, “But they don’t know if it’ll be any good.”

She laughed and nodded.

And then one of the gentlemen came up to me and told me how much he’d enjoyed hearing me talk, especially about my father and our family’s struggles when we first came.

I urged the people to tell the librarians how much they’d enjoyed my presentation (if they had) so that the librarians would be encouraged in pursuing programming that would reflect their needs.

They were so enthusiastic that I had a hard time leaving them to go to the second venue! There was an hour between presentations, and the other library was like five minutes away, but even then it was a rush, getting a bite of lunch and making it there in time!

Same thing happened there! The librarian had put about ten chairs in the program room, but he had to keep bringing more and more as more Muslims arrived to hear me!

It was lovely!

And then later someone called me a fat a** and to be completely  honest I couldn’t even argue with that.

Live in the truth, no matter how bitter. That’s my motto.

And once again I thought I have no right to be confident in what I do, and yet once they’ve seen me…

Like at this school I did a program at called Universality in Folktales and we explore how some stories are universal and I teach them story writing and storytelling skills so that they share a story from their cultural background.

It’s kind of cool. And yesterday when I told the kids, “Today is my last day.” They all said, “Awwwww!”

They absolutely loved the program. It was through a Toronto District School Board initiative called Dare 2 Create, where we were trying to get the Toronto kids to see their city through creative lenses.

Part of it involved me and the grade fives coming up with this found poem about life in Don Mills, where this school was located. It’s next to the Don Valley Parkway and a commercial shopping area, so it combines wilderness and city, and we wanted the poem to reflect that.

Here’s the poem we composed together:

Walk Don Mills

See the sculpture teeth

Growing trees,

Walk the path

Chirp, squawk, tweet

Down by the river

See the rainbow bridge

Through the swearing tunnel

The banks of the Don River


Salmon if you’re lucky,

And then…

A great blue heron

With a turtle in its beak

Get as close as I can

But it still

Flies away

Maple helicopters

Whirr to the ground

Like flying tadpoles

The smell of pine

Like Christmas

In the sky

A red tailed hawk



A rabbit screams

The hawk will eat


I’m hungry too

Leave the valley

Past the library

To the shops for

Beaver Tails

That have no beaver in them

And poutine.