Ryerson professor Althea Prince holds a writing workshop as part of the writer-in-residence program for immigrant women at NEW.
Immigrant women listen, share and write down personal experiences during a writing workshop launched by NEW.
Image Resource: Tannis Toohey/Toronto Star
The group is currently working on a second anthology.
PRiSMs: Life Writing of Women’s Voices
NEW is pleased to have renowned novelist and sociologist Dr. Althea Prince as our writer-in-residence for 2011. Dr. Prince will run writer’s workshops for women to engage in literary life writing through workshops, writing circles and one-to-one feedback. Women will have a supportive place to create original stories, poems, essays and plays. This program is generously funded by the Ontario Arts Council.
“This is the first time anyone has ever asked my opinion. I feel comfortable in speaking up and get mindful feedback on my writing and ideas.”
- S.H., emerging writer and survivor of domestic violence
Award winning author, Dr. Althea Prince was born in Antigua, the Caribbean, and has resided in Canada since the nineteen-sixties. She is a professor of sociology, teaching first at York University, and the University of Toronto. She now teaches at The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University. During the years 2002 to 2005, Dr. Prince was Managing Editor of the publishing company, Canadian Scholars’ Press & Women’s Press. Her awards include The Children’s Book Centre ‘Choice’ Award for "How the Star Fish Got to the Sea". In 2007, she received the Antigua and Barbuda International Writers’ Festival First Annual Award for Literary Excellence.
Dr. Prince’s latest work is entitled, The Politics of Black Women’s Hair (Insomniac Press. Toronto, 2009). Her other publications include: a novel, Loving This Man; a short story collection, Ladies of the Night; and Being Black a collection of essays.
Why Have A Writer-in-Residence in a Women’s Settlement Agency?
The newcomer women participants at NEW are as diverse as their countries of origin. These women have left their vibrant and dynamic spaces for artistic expression back home surrounded by community, commonalities of shared culture, music, food and languages. This project will give community members to work with an accomplished writer in reclaiming their voices through the written word.
Migration and the stress of settlement leave these talented women with little time for creative and artistic pursuits. The responsibilities of childcare, living in public housing and survival jobs take over their lives. Moreover, many women are sponsored by husbands and upon their arrival in Canada are stunned to find themselves isolated, voiceless and perceived as submissive beings. This experience of settlement makes newcomer women especially vulnerable to violence, poverty and discrimination.
The intergenerational aspect of our programming results in mothers, daughters and grandmothers using the arts to communicate across the common ‘culture clash’ between recently arrived newcomers and their Canadian-born children. Through our writing workshops they dialogue and explore the themes of migration, diaspora, identity and family.
“I was really bored in the beginning when my mom kept bringing me here. But really - I love it now. And, after hearing everyone’s stories I know there is nothing we cannot overcome.”
- Sudeshna, 13-year-old workshop participant
How do we find our voices as women? NEW’s writer-in-residence, Dr. Althea Prince cautions us about the danger of telling one story – a single story which wholly defines newcomer women while denying them of their skills, capacities and voices. In 2010, twice a week, members of the PRISMs Life-writing program refused to be defined by this single story.
The first group published an anthology of essays, poems and recipes entitled “Listening to Ourselves … Stories About Life.” The book is published by A Different Publisher and is currently sold at A Different Bookstore. A book launch was held at the Pape Branch of the Toronto Public Library featuring artist Itah Sadhu and distinguished journalist Jan Wong.
This second group of participants in the Life-writing Workshop developed excellent writing habits, and took to heart the guidance to "write every day, even if it is just for fifteen minutes." Several of the women found new strength and confidence in themselves, as they relied on going within to release some of the experiences of settling into their adopted country. In addition, the dialogue that came out of the weekly meetings allowed them to feel confident and proud of their creative voice. The group is currently working on a second anthology.