Looking Inwards: Memoir, Art & Identity

25sep1:00 pm2:00 pmLooking Inwards: Memoir, Art & IdentityBrad Fraser, Antonio Michael Downing, Errol Ranville, Moderator: Carmine Starnino

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The life-affirming qualities of art are well known to the consumer: we read books, watch movies, listen to music to connect with something beyond ourselves. But what about how art impacts its creators? How does artistic practice serve as a lens to look inward with? How can the process of creating art transform the artist? Can a body of artistic work function as a sort of memoir in itself?

Moderated by Carmine Starnino, Editor-at-large for The Walrus.

Books featured:

All the Rage
Doubleday Canada

Canadian playwright’s rise to fame amid the terrors of the AIDS era.

Brad Fraser suffered an impoverished and abusive childhood, living with his teenage parents in motel rooms and shacks on the side of the highway in Alberta and Northern British Columbia. He grew to be one of the most celebrated, and controversial, Canadian playwrights, his work produced to acclaim all over the world.

All the Rage chronicles Brad Fraser’s rise as he breaks with his past and enrolls as a performing arts student. He is pulled into the newly developing Canadian theatre scene, where he shows great promise. But his early career is one of challenge after challenge, some of which result from his upbringing and prejudice against his queerness. But just as many challenges arise from his combative personality and willingness to challenge the establishment. Few Canadian artists have been as abrasive, notorious and polarizing as Fraser was in his youth.

Saga Boy
Viking (Penguin Canada)

An enthralling, deeply personal account of a young immigrant’s search for belonging and black identity amid the long-lasting effects of cultural dislocation.

Antonio Michael Downing’s memoir of creativity and transformation is a startling mash-up of memories and mythology, told in gripping, lyrical prose. Raised by his indomitable grandmother in the lush rainforest of southern Trinidad, Downing, at age 11, is uprooted to Canada when she dies. But to a very unusual part of Canada: he and his older brother are sent to live with his stern, evangelical Aunt Joan, in Wabigoon, a tiny northern Ontario community where they are the only black children in the town. In this wilderness, he begins his journey as an immigrant minority, using music and performance to dramatically transform himself. At the heart of his odyssey is the longing for a home. He is re-united with his birth parents who he has known only through stories. But this proves disappointing: Al is a womanizing con man and drug addict, and Gloria, twice abandoned by Al, seems to regard her sons as cash machines.

He tries to flee his messy family life by transforming into a series of extravagant musical personalities: “Mic Dainjah”, a punk rock rapper, “Molasses”, a soul music crooner and finally “John Orpheus”, a gold chained, sequin- and leather-clad pop star. Yet, like his father and grandfather, he has become a “Saga Boy”, a Trinidadian playboy, addicted to escapism, attention, and sex. When the inevitable crash happens, he finds himself in a cold, stone jail cell. He has become everything he was trying to escape and must finally face himself.

Run as One: My Story
Great Plains Publications

Errol Ranville has been running all his life: from chronic poverty and racism in rural Manitoba; a discriminatory music business; alcohol and drug addiction; and the responsibilities that come with being regarded as a role model. Though Errol has faced seemingly insurmountable barriers as an Indigenous performer in a predominately white music business, The C-Weed Band released several #1 songs and went on to score JUNO nominations in 1985 and 1986. He was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Indigenous Music Awards in 2011. In his memoir Run as One, Errol embraces the role of trailblazer for the countless musicians that follow his path.


Accessible Captioning Sponsor: Penguin Random House Canada

In partnership with The Walrus


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