Writer’s Words: Dawn Promislow

As the 2011 The Word On The Street festival creeps ever closer, I thought we’d take a trip down memory lane and revisit 2010’s festival from the eyes of one of our authors! Dawn Promislow read from her collection Jewels and Other Stories as part of the Diaspora Dialogues scavenger hunt.


I was a “clue” in the Diaspora Dialogues scavenger hunt. I have never been a clue before! I sat on a chair under a tree, people had to come and find me, I had to read a paragraph from a story of mine, ask a question, and they had to answer. My question was: Where do Angeline, Magdalene and Godfrey live? (Angeline, Magdalene and Godfrey are characters in my story.) The answer: Soweto. People of all ages stopped at my chair, scavenger clue sheet in hand, and listened to me read. They listened to the story of Angeline, Magdalene and Godfrey, who lived far away, and rather long ago. If they answered the question, they made a check mark on their clue sheet, said goodbye, and went trailing off on their way.

I would get a brief respite, when I could watch the paths around me filling up with people: people carrying bags, magazines, pamphlets, books, and chatting about what they’d just seen in the next tent, or under the last tree.

I felt very happy to be sitting in a beautiful park in the fall sunshine in the middle of a great city in Canada, and sharing a story I wrote about a faraway place. And this is the meaning of Word on the Street: it’s a wonderful celebration of literacy and reading, which are the magical means by which we share stories, stories that are from close to home, and stories also that are from very far away.


About her book:

A collection of short stories set in apartheid-era South Africa, that follows a wide range of characters – a collector of cacti who seeks her own kind of freedom, an artist who finds inspiration in the dusty earth, a young man who goes away in the dark of night to become a freedom fighter. The Canadian Jewish News called the stories “wonderful….with rich imagery and lush description,”  while Quill & Quire calls them “subtly wrought” and “imbued with a depth and resonance.”


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