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Words of wisdom from award-winning author

Rabindranath Maharaj has won a slew of awards for his writing. His book Adjacentland featured on the Globe and Mail’s list of the most anticipated books for 2018. In Canada 150 Stories, his contribution appeared alongside those of other notable Canadians including Donovan Bailey and Roberta Bondar.

In his book The Amazing Absorbing Boy, 17-year-old Samuel comes to Canada from Trinidad, armed with the knowledge a naive and inexperienced boy is able to gather: Canadians have a special gland below they armpit which keeps away the cold and shaved ice falls from the sky in different flavours and colours. Canada is the land of bears, Captain Canuck and migrant workers who come here to pick apples and grapes.

 Maharaj captures the struggle to gain a sense of belonging. Where do immigrants truly belong? Does it have to be either/or, can it be both? Does the hyphen in our identities bring us closer or does it divide us?

It’s never one or the other, he says, you take from one and add to the other. “I am both fully Canadian and Trinidadian-Canadian. My sensibility is Indo-Trinidadian-Canadian. With French, Spanish and English influences because I was born and raised in Trinidad. I have been shaped by all of those. And all of the things that enhanced my writing were derived in Canada. The concept of home changes over time, but to me, home is where you feel the most comfortable. Where you understand things.”

Maharaj came to Canada in the early 1990s and completed a second MA in Creative Writing at the University of New Brunswick. Unable to find employment even after completing his second Masters in Canada, he worked in a factory cleaning floors. He scrabbled for a few hours in which to write, keeping his dream alive.

“I knew I had to do it, not let it defeat me. I knew other options would open up if I stuck it out.”

Seeing his books in book stores and libraries across the country was a validation and his advice to those wanting to become writers is simple.

Don’t waste time. If you want to write, stop thinking about it, begin writing. Practise writing. It helps brings focus to random ideas.

Don’t imitate. Find your strengths and weaknesses, your own unique voice.

Don’t be in a rush to send a manuscript off to an agent or a publisher. After writing it, put it down for a period of time. Lose all connection to it and then see it with fresh eyes. Correct, edit, make sure it’s the best possible you can make it. If you are rejected once, it will be that much harder to be seen by the publisher a second time.


Posted: Dec 3, 2019

March 2020

Centennial College

Immigration Peel Canada

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