The New Quarterly has launched a new series dedicated to providing a platform for stories that are overlooked or underrepresented in Canada. The #WeAreListening online exclusive series features personal stories or histories of national significance from authors whose voices might otherwise go unheard or lack representation in the Canadian literature landscape.
The series emerged as a continuation of TNQ’s Canada Day campaign that utilized the #WeAreListening hashtag. “We hoped the hashtag would offer an opportunity for individuals to share stories which otherwise might not have the opportunity to reach a national audience,” says Catherine Brunskill, The New Quarterly’s Publicity Director. “It is so important that we create space that allows us to hear each other’s stories.”
Continuing with the spirit of the campaign, the #WeAreListening series features commissioned pieces from authors whose stories explore experiences and histories outside of the dominant Canadian narrative. “We’re so pleased that our readers and writers have been able to connect through this exclusive online series,” says TNQ Managing Editor Sophie Blom. “This forum has helped spark important conversations.”
The series launched on August 15, 2017 with Farah N. Mawani’s “Losing Ground,” a piece centred on the effects of a small Québec town voting down a proposal for a Muslim-run cemetery. When describing the piece, Barb Carter, Lead Poetry Editor at TNQ, said it left her “almost shaking. Its simple direct style and apt metaphors show the folly of Québec’s decision. The accompanying illustrations are haunting in their images of a lost and almost found home.”
TNQ hopes that “as our inaugural piece, [Mawani’s] essay helps not only to start conversations but to set a tone for thoughtful, respectful dialogue rooted firmly in human experience and the desire to know and understand it,” explains Susan Scott, TNQ’s Lead Nonfiction Editor.
This hope is being carried through every piece published in the series. Following “Losing Ground,” the #WeAreListening has featured work from Silmy Abdullah, a Toronto-based author who writes about the Bengali immigrant experience in Toronto, four poems by Siku Allooloo, an Inuit/Taino writer from Denendeh, Northwest Territories, and “Trans Girl in Love”, a personal essay by Gwen Benaway, an award-winning trans girl poet of Anishinaabe and Métis descent.
“Marginalized writers have been creating vital work for years that should have been celebrated and instead has gone unacknowledged. With this project, we not only want to listen to these writers’ essential voices, we want to amplify them so that everyone can hear them,” says TNQ Consulting Editor Alicia Elliott.
TNQ currently plans to continue the series through the remainder of the calendar year. #WeAreListening is in keeping with TNQ’s renewed commitment to support diverse and marginalized voices. Further examples include the addition of four consulting editors and a call-out to diverse writers in 2016. The #WeAreListening series can be read on TNQ’s website: tnq.ca/online-exclusives.
About The New Quarterly: The New Quarterly has been publishing the best of new Canadian writing—fiction, poetry, author interviews, essays, and talk about writing—for more than 35 years. TNQ also has three contests: the Nick Blatchford Occasional Verse, the Peter Hinchcliffe Short Fiction Award, and the Edna Staebler Personal Essay.