...with the new novel, Seven by Farzana Doctor (Ep. 101)
Farzana Doctor's new novel, Seven, juggles family, history, culture, and the incredible weight of those forces on women today. It's a detective story and travel novel, and a powerful insight into a woman struggling with sex, identity, her past, and her vast network of relatives. But the overarching issue throughout the book is female genital mutilation (FGM), a practice still common around the world.
Farzana joins Ben to talk about the book, FGM, her writing process, and much more.
About the Guest
Farzana Doctor is a writer, activist, and psychotherapist. Her ancestry is Indian, and she was born in Zambia while her family was based there for five years, before immigrating to Canada in 1971.
She became interested in community organizing as a teen (primarily environmental issues, gender violence and LGBTTTIQ rights). From 2009-18, she curated the Brockton Writers Series and has been a volunteer with The Writers’ Union of Canada and the Writers’ Trust. She currently volunteers with WeSpeakOut, a global group that is working to ban female genital cutting in her Dawoodi Bohra community.
She studied social work in the early nineties and has been a social worker ever since. She worked in a variety of community agencies and a hospital before starting part-time private practice, where she sees individuals and couples.
She has been writing all of her life but it became a more regular practice around 2000, when she began writing her first novel, Stealing Nasreen, which was published by Inanna in 2007. Her second novel, Six Metres of Pavement, won a 2012 Lambda Literary Award and was short-listed for the 2012 Toronto Book Award. In 2017 it was voted the One Book One Brampton 2017 winner. Her third novel, All Inclusive was a Kobo 2015 and National Post Best Book of the Year.
While all her books are distinct from one another, some common themes include loss, relationships, community, healing, racism, LGBT rights, diasporic identity and feminism. She seamlessly blends strong stories with social justice issues. Her genre so far has been contemporary literary fiction, but here is usually a hint of magic realism in her stories.
She's just completed a novel, Seven (August 2020, Dundurn), and a poetry collection. You Still Look the Same. She is currently at work on a YA novel. Farzana was recently named one of CBC Books’ “100 Writers in Canada You Need To Know Now". She is represented by Rachel Letofsky of CookeMcDermid.
She’s an amateur Tarot card reader and has a love of spirituality, energy psychology, hypnosis and neuroscience.
She lives with her partner and dog near the lake in Etobicoke, the traditional territory of the Haudenosauneega, Anishinabek and Huron-Wendat peoples.
Mentioned in this Episode
- Female genital mutilation (FGM), also called female genital mutilation. Read this WHO fact sheet about the practice that affects millions of women and girls worldwide.
- The Dawoodi Bohra community
- Farzana's advice column, Dear Maasi
- Hussonally Abdoolally Nasirudin Dholkawalla, an Indian entrepreneur on whom a key character in the book is based
- The book, Mullahs on the Mainframe: Islam and Modernity among the Daudi Bohras by Jonah Blank
- The 2020 Vice documentary, Meghan Markle Escaping the Crown
The Quote of the Week
We are human beings. We make the traditions so we should have the right to change those traditions. - Malala Yousafzai