Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997
Christ Church Cathedral414 Sparks Street

The Ever Present Past Stephen Henighan, Ann Y. K. Choi, and Anosh Irani

Hosted by Peter Schneider

The Ever Present Past Stephen Henighan, Ann Y. K. Choi, and Anosh Irani

Hosted by Peter Schneider
Christ Church Cathedral
414 Sparks Street
Ann Y.K. Choi
Anosh Irani - Photo by Glen D'Mello
Stephen Henighan

Join us for a taste of three novels that explore history’s hold over our lives and a conversation on families, culture and self-determination.

As  Stephen Henighan’s  The Path of the Jaguar  opens in 1997, Guatemala is emerging from thirty-six years of civil war. Amparo Ajuix, a determined young woman who lives in a Mayan village with her non-Mayan Guatemalan husband, is optimistic about the future. With the help of an American NGO, she runs a savings club for the women in her village with the goal of being able to offer micro-credit loans. Eager to take advantage of Guatemala’s new democracy, she campaigns to switch the language of instruction in the village’s primary school from Spanish to the local Mayan language of Cakchiquel. The second part of the novel opens in 2003. Amparo is working as a teacher in a language school for tourists in Antigua. A man who wishes to study her native Cakchiquel Mayan language. The experience of teaching this man, whom she calls Ricardo, confronts her with the in-between nature of her own culture.

Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety by  Ann Y. K. Choi  is a coming-of-age story that portrays the life of a young Korean Canadian girl who will not give up on her dreams or her family. Family secrets, a lost sister, forbidden loves, domestic assaults—Mary discovers as she grows up in the 1980s that life is much more complicated than she had ever imagined. Her secret passion for her English teacher is filled with problems, and with the arrival of a promising Korean suitor, Joon-Ho, events escalate in ways that she could never have imagined, catching the entire family in a web of deceit and violence.

Shortlisted for the  Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize,  the  heart and soul of  Anosh Irani’s  The Parcel,  is  Madhu--born a boy, but a eunuch by choice--who has spent most of her life in a close-knit clan of transgender sex workers in Kamathipura, the notorious red-light district of Bombay. Madhu identifies herself as a "hijra"--a person belonging to the third sex, neither here nor there, man nor woman. Now, at 40, she has moved away from prostitution, her trade since her teens, and is forced to beg to support the charismatic head of the hijra clan, Gurumai. One day Madhu receives a call from Padma Madam, the most feared brothel owner in the district: a "parcel" has arrived--a young girl from the provinces, betrayed and trafficked by her aunt--and Madhu must prepare it for its fate. Despite Madhu's reluctance, she is forced to take the job by Gurumai. As Madhu's emotions spiral out of control, her past comes back to haunt her, threatening to unravel a lifetime's work and identity. 

Books available for purchase at every event: Proceeds support our free children’s literacy programs.

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