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A novel idea takes off in Canada

Farzana Doctor took Ameera to a therapy session – Ameera being the protagonist of her novel All Inclusive. “I had to figure out what her journey was going to be,” says Doctor who also runs psychotherapy clinics. “Many writers tell you that characters tend to take on a life of their own and Ameera was very real for me.”

The activist and educator has done a lot of work around LGBTQ issues and at least a third of her practice consists of queer and trans South Asians. “Even though there are more resources for them now, some are still dealing with the same issues we dealt with 20 years ago. There may be relatively less stigma, they may feel less lost, but it is still difficult. They fear losing the love of their family. Psychotherapy provides a safe space for them.”

Originally from Gujarat, her parents moved to Zambia from Mumbai in the mid-60s. Doctor and her older sister were born there and the family moved to Canada in 1971, when she was a baby. They settled in what was then still a small town, Whitby. It wasn’t easy.

“At school, there was the one brown family – ours – one black family and one Chinese family. There was some racism and some bullying. I started to accept my Indo-Canadian self only when I went to McMaster University where I saw other like me. Until then I didn’t know what I was supposed to be – I needed to see a reflection of myself.”

It’s a confusing, confused phase many children of immigrants go through, says Doctor. “Sometimes parents don’t know how to be the bridge their children need them to be. I needed mine to tell me that I was both Indian and Canadian and how to deal with bullying. But they were dealing with all the issues first-generation immigrants have.”

Doctor is one of CBC Books’ Ten Canadian Women Writers You Need to Read Now and the recipient of Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Dayne Ogilvie Grant. To those who seek tips from the successful author, she has this to offer. 

“Look for community, for others who are doing the same thing. Form connections. No one does anything alone. Read a lot – build an internal community. And write a lot. You gain confidence and hone your craft through practice.”

Posted: Jan 3, 2018

June 2019

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