Monia Mazigh

Interviewed by Zehra Naqvi

Monia Mazigh is an author, human rights advocate, and an academic. She was born and raised in Tunisia and immigrated to Canada at the age of 21. She has a PhD in finance from McGill University, ran in the federal elections in 2004 as an NDP candidate, and was the National Coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group between 2015 and 2016. She lives in Ottawa.

In 2002, her husband, Maher Arar was arrested and deported to Syria. He was tortured and held for over a year without charge. Mazigh entered the public eye as she campaigned tirelessly for his release. In 2008, she published her first book, Hope and Despair, a memoir about the ordeal of releasing her husband and clearing his name.

In 2014, she published her first novel, Mirror and Mirages, which follows the lives of six different Muslim women living in Canada. The novel was a finalist for the Trillium Book Award in the original French. It was translated into English by Fred Reed.   

Her latest book, Hope Has Two Daughters (translated by Fred Reed), is also about Muslim women. It explores two critical uprisings in Tunisian history—the 1984 Bread Riots and the 2010 Jasmine Revolution—through the eyes of a mother and her daughter.

When Monia Mazigh was in Vancouver on book tour for Hope Has Two Daughters, I had the chance to sit down with her for a conversation.

When did you realize you wanted to be writer? You have a PhD in Finance. Was writing something that came to you later in life, or was it something you were always pursuing?

I always wrote. I always loved writing. It was a part of my education, but also a part of my own life. I have always had a journal. I didn’t have a particular idea about writing for others, but for me writing was one of the best ways to express my feelings and to share my ideas with others. Yes, I went to a field that is far from writing. It is assumed to be in a way contradictory or in conflict with what I am doing right now. And there’s truth there. But also, my life is not only my academic background. I think writing came to me, probably as a rescue when my husband was arrested. This is where I started writing opinion pieces, and sharing them with newspapers—basically writing publically. Later on, when I decided to write a memoir about this period of my life, I think this is where I decided to take writing as not just a hobby, but as a tool for me to just survive in this world.

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Kevin Chong

Interviewed by Nico McEown

Kevin Chong was born in Hong Kong and raised in Vancouver. He’s the author of five books of fiction and non-fiction. As a journalist, his work has appeared in a range of publications, including Taddle CreekChatelaineMaclean’sMaisonneuve, Vancouver Magazine, and The Walrus. He teaches creative writing at the University of British Columbia and SFU’s The Writer’s Studio, co-edits Joyland Magazine, and lives in Vancouver with his family.

http://www.kevinchong.ca/

If you’re looking for a biography on Kevin Chong, do not go to his Wikipedia page. During my interview I learned firsthand just how untrue some Wikipedia facts can be.

I met with Kevin at his office at the University of British Columbia. We sat at a round table, each of us with our respective object in front of us, he with his cup of coffee and me with my recording device.

When did you first know you wanted to pursue a career in writing and what were you doing at that time of your life?

I don’t remember the exact moment. I used to joke that I was painting myself in a corner, that there was nothing else I could do. A product of being really sure of yourself I guess—ignorance is bliss—where you study writing and enjoy being a writer so much that you don’t take practical matters into consideration. I studied creative writing here at UBC. After that I did a graduate degree in New York. My parents helped put me through a very expensive grad program. A lot of parents would say no to a fine arts degree, but my parents were really supportive. I knew I wanted to be a writer and I had full-hearted confidence that I could do it. I wasn’t a star student, but my thesis was good enough to get published. Once I had a book out I thought I had made it. That’s really not true, but I thought so at the time. I guess by my early twenties, I knew that this was my path, for better or for worse. I never had a day job. This is my day job, teaching.

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