Tag Archives: Toronto

Day Out: Open Doors Toronto 2014 and Kensington Market Pedestrian Sunday

05.26.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Now, that the Victoria Day weekend has come and gone to mark the beginning of summer in Toronto, it’s been an exciting time in my household where the kids are always raring to put on their sandals and hit the outdoors. If it’s not biking around the block or going to a local park, it’s running around with LEGO or bubbles in the backyard.

But, this past weekend was primarily for Mommy. While I conceded to the kids spending an afternoon at Chinguacousy Park while I played a bit of lacrosse on Saturday, Sunday I had planned to hit downtown Toronto for the Open Doors 2014 event and one of my favourite hot-spots, Kensington Market.

Xara enjoying our impromptu picnic at Chinguacousy Park. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Xara enjoying our impromptu picnic at Chinguacousy Park. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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It was all perfectly timed since the context of Open Doors Toronto is to open its doors to more than 155 architecturally, historically, culturally, and socially significant buildings across the city. This year’s theme was Secrets and Spirits… Exploring the Mysteries Behind the Door.

While I didn’t visit the buildings I had originally planned to like I have in previous years, my family and I simply roamed the streets to see what buildings we might feel like visiting on a whim.

And because we travelled by GO bus to Union Station, I agreed to visit Commerce Court North on 25 King St. West, the location where I worked when I worked with CIBC Wood Gundy as a sales associate a number of years ago, which also happened to be on the list for Open Doors Toronto. Secrets and spirits? While I wasn’t aware of any at Commerce Court, returning there after a number of years with my husband and children brought a nostalgia I was far from expecting. The building was intact, however, its ceilings a testament to beauty, artistry, and the prize of abiding commerce.

Commerce Court North. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Commerce Court North. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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The kids in front of Commerce Court North. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
The kids in front of Commerce Court North. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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After the children finished a colouring page of Toronto’s skyline, our stomachs guided us to a place for lunch, but before we arrived, we took a light detour to The Arcadian, formerly known as The Simpson Tower, another place which has context for me. I had studied to become an ESL teacher to teach in Japan there a number of years ago.

While Michael didn’t venture upstairs to the Mezzanine, Xara was delighted by its spaciousness and minimalist place settings. I particularly enjoyed the clean lines and the natural lighting, a popular venue for cocktail parties and modern weddings.

Arcadian - upstairs mezzanine
The Arcadian, upper level view. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Padded walls and seating at The Arcadian. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Padded walls and seating at The Arcadian. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Arcs, upper level at The Arcadian. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Arcs, upper level at The Arcadian. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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The large banquet halls of The Arcadian aroused our hunger in time for lunch, so we walked to the Eaton Centre and ate at the Underground Eatery after taking in a few sites: the well-known birds in flight and the famous, high-rising water fountain.

The birds in flight at the Eaton Centre. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
The birds in flight at the Eaton Centre. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Michael, LEGO Master Builder, thrilled to find Emmett at the Eaton Centre. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Michael, LEGO Master Builder, thrilled to find Emmett at the Eaton Centre. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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My husband and daughter delighted with the sight of the water fountain at the Eaton Centre. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
My husband and daughter delighted with the sight of the water fountain at the Eaton Centre. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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The french fry at the Urban Eatery, Eaton Centre. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
The french fry at the Urban Eatery, Eaton Centre. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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With our stomachs full, the kids were again revitalized and ready to ride the Rocket to Queen’s Park Station, where we made our way to Kensington Market for the very first celebration of Pedestrian Sunday of the summer.

The expert commuters enjoying their subway ride to Queen's Park station. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
The expert commuters enjoying their subway ride to Queen’s Park station. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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The wonderful thing about commuting on a beautiful day in Toronto is not only getting great exercise, but enjoying the sights in a more intimate way, rather than driving through traffic and passing not only architectural delights, but opportunities to engage with your family and those in your community.

On our way to Kensington, I caught a few things I was more than happy to record on digital film with my android phone.

At College and University Ave. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
At College and University Ave. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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At Queen's Park. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
At Queen’s Park. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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According to my son, this is Lord Business' building from The LEGO Movie. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
According to my son, this is Lord Business’ building from The LEGO Movie. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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University of Toronto. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
University of Toronto. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Before we reached Kensington, we made a pit stop at Tim Horton’s for an iced cappuccino and an opportunity to use their washroom. My daughter tried an iced cappuccino for the first time and said, “Mmm, it’s good. It tastes like coffee,” at which I asked, “How do you know what coffee tastes like?” She told us her grandfather, Papa Cesar gave her some! Uh-huh. The things you discover on these little day trips.

Xara, who tried an iced cappuccino for the first time at Tim Horton's. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Xara, who tried an iced cappuccino for the first time at Tim Horton’s. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Me and Michael at Timmy's. (c) Photo by Esly R. Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Me and Michael at Timmy’s. (c) Photo by Esly R. Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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By the time we reached Kensington Market, it was a buzzing with colourful people, music, and art! Kensington is by far, one of my favourite spots to visit when I’m downtown. It was wonderful to be a part of the very first Pedestrian Sunday when they close off the Market to cars and have live bands, artists, and vendors on the streets to accommodate the crowds that come on the last Sunday of every month.

A musician playing Latino music at Kensington Market. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
A musician playing Latino music at Kensington Market. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Fruit stand, Kensington Market. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Fruit stand, Kensington Market. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Live music at Kensington Market. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Live music at Kensington Market. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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My favourite form of transportation: the vintage bicycle. Kensington Market. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
My favourite form of transportation: the vintage bicycle. Kensington Market. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Fire juggler at Kensington Market. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Fire juggler at Kensington Market. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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DaVintage Code shop, Kensington Market. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
DaVintage Code shop, Kensington Market. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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A blast from the past. Vintage car at Kensington Market. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
A blast from the past. Vintage car at Kensington Market. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Flash Back vintage shop, one of my favourites at Kensington Market. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Flash Back vintage shop, one of my favourites at Kensington Market. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Courage My Love vintage shop, Kensington Market. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Courage My Love vintage shop, Kensington Market. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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I caught the vintage bug a number of years ago when I first discovered thrift shops, which is where I do most of my shopping. Not only do I love great deals, I love the unique selection provided by thrift and vintage shops, and the elation I feel when I discover a vintage piece, be it clothes, shoes, or accessories.

Aside from my local Bibles for Missions thrift store, Goodwill, Salvation Army Thrift, Value Village, Talize, and Flea Market, I love grabbing vintage goodies from Kensington Market. While things are for the most part, largely over-priced, if I dig hard enough and have Lady Luck on my side, I usually score a great piece from the $5-rack at Courage My Love (which I did, of course, on Pedestrian Sunday!).

If you’re in Toronto, head on down to Kensington Avenue and Spadina to find one of its most vibrant and free-spirited places. I highly recommend Pedestrian Sundays on the last Sunday of every month where you can enjoy the sights, sounds, and buzz of smoked BBQ, cultural eats, live music, art, and where you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables, plants and flowers, and vintage clothes, and jewellery.

Looking for a great piece of Tibetan jewellery? Wacky sunglasses? A Latino maraca? Homemade peanut butter? African head scarves? Organic zucchini? Salvadorean pupusas? Old cowboy boots? A dress from 1965? Beaded jewellery? Or an army jacket? A place where eating on the curb of a sidewalk or dancing in the street is not uncommon nor prohibited? A colourful place to hang out with colourful people? Kensington Market is the place to go—and stay awhile.

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Have you ever visited Kensington Market?

If so, what’s your favourite part about it?

What’s your favourite shop there?

What’s the best find you’ve discovered while visiting Kensington?

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Dear Media: Lay Off Mayor Rob Ford

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Dear Media: Lay Off Mayor Rob Ford

11.14.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

I’m a great supporter of democracy. I respect it. And while politics isn’t my focal point of passion, I have always upheld the belief in the importance of exercising my right and privilege as a voter come election time. And while I respect the different platforms held by differing parties, belonging to a particular party hasn’t always been my cup of Jo. It’s always been more important for me to be aware of issues facing council, and best support, and vote for councillors who stand as I do on the issues I believe to be important.

But, as I said, I’m a great supporter of democracy. The majority wins. Fair’s fair.

My only regret about Toronto’s attitude, if not the entirety of our country’s attitude, is its lack of support of its political leaders once they actually come into power. Okay, so you didn’t vote for the actual incumbent winner. Boo-hoo.

But, it seems to me, Canadians are extremely passionate about their lack of support of their elected leaders once they actually come to power. Unlike our American neighbours in the U.S., opposition is quite strong in attacking its leaders instead of supporting them in light of subverting the authority they actually have in hopes that they are able to tarnish someone’s reputation, likeability, and/or compromise his/her platform.

I hardly hear praises in politics once an election has been won, but rather loud complaints—very loud complaints. If the majority wins, why does the minority who lost, feel compelled to be the loudest and angriest voices featured and highlighted in the media?

Ever hear that verse, “A house divided amongst itself will not stand?” Yeah, that. And then we wonder why politics in Canada has always taken a divisive turn?

As a city and a country we easily speak of “unity,” as a proverbial idea in which we can all feel wonderfully positive, inclusive, and good—needless to say, maybe even “warm and fuzzy,”—but the “unified” idea in which we easily throw around is simply not evident in our politics.

That aside, I do have an opinion about Rob Ford—like all do, it seems since he came into mayoral power and more so when the alleged and confessed use of crack cocaine came into view.

First off, I’m not a supporter of the use of non-medicinal drugs by anyone. Do I smoke cigarettes? I used to—twelve years ago. Do I drink? Socially, sure, but I’m not one to drink often or drink until I make a complete fool out of myself, but I’ll have a glass of red wine with dinner sometimes should my wine complement my meal.

Yet, at the same time, I look at the controversy surrounding Mayor Rob Ford and the ferocity of Toronto’s attack on him, as well as the incessant fervor media has in exploiting his misfortune—and truthfully—my compassion for him cries out. Deeply, if not loudly. (I, unlike others, need not scream to get my point across.)

Aside from democracy, I’ve always tended to gravitate towards the underdog’s corner, the less fortunate side, advocating always for justice for the marginalized, the displaced, and the needy. And while I’m not the strongest amongst my peers, I’ve always felt a protective nature towards those who get bullied. I was, after all, bullied as a child and can empathize with those that suffer it immensely. It’s just in my nature and sensibility.

When Rob Ford was elected, he was elected by the majority of Torontonians because he’s not a “politician’s politician,” but a “man of the people,” known best for his strong criticism of councillors’ spending, and his promise to get Toronto back on track financially.

He was never a man of eloquence, nor a man who spoke in political rhetoric. He was always a man who spoke plainly and of the streets. That’s what the majority of Torontonians liked about him—that he spoke their language, not the political one that could be construed as smooth, and sweet, and easy, as it might be deceitful.

He was like that at the beginning of the election and he remains the same now as elected mayor of the city. People who voted him into power was well aware of that.

But, since the controversy of news regarding a video showing Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine, the city, as well as the world, has gone into a frenzy. First in bewilderment, then as an international joke, right down to sinister attack mode.

While it’s easier to have the mob-mentality, “Yes, let’s gang up on the guilty party because hey, he’s in the public eye, and everyone is mortified by his actions,” the fervour in which Rob Ford is daily attacked is more mortifying to me.

Media in its hunger to tell not the most compelling or truthful stories are heavy-bent on sensationalizing stories in order to get readership. The worse the story, the better it is for the newspaper, the newscast, the television. Am I right? I mean, how many stories of the “good” that’s done in our cities are actually featured? Do we as a people gravitate towards stories about fluffy kittens, acts of kindness, or ordinary acts that should generally make one smile or become more positive?

Hell no. It appears the majority of people prefer blood, carnage, violence, vulgarity, and controversy on their televisions as well as in their news stories. Or they wouldn’t be featured.

Media, too, has its own bias. It was, after all, The Toronto Star that was willing to purchase a derogatory video of Rob Ford in a tantrum for $5000 dollars. Sure, I’d pay $5000 to bring the mayor down—not—and then say it’s for the good of the people, and that it’s in the public’s best interest. Sure.

Media has been the most hungry in its frenzy to feature the failures of Rob Ford. He’s unfortunately the perfect candidate for them since he’s neither eloquent enough, nor political enough to know how to handle them correctly. He trips up on his own words. And words are power.

Yes, he’s made mistakes. He’s used illicit drugs. He uses foul language. He’s “embarrassed” the city of Toronto (or so, the media would like us all to believe). In my opinion, Toronto’s become an international highlight because of the scapegoat we pin our mayor to be.

If anything, the guilt Torontonians should feel (or at least admit to), is that while we profess the insanctimonious ways we believe Rob Ford has acted as mayor of our city, we tend to forget to look at ourselves:

  • how easy it is to trash-talk someone on the basis that we feel we have the right to do so as citizens, while judging Rob Ford on his unseemly language, himself
  • how easy it is to take sides on an issue based on biased media coverage and allegations before anything has even been proven in court
  • how mesmerized and self-righteous we feel in being able to point the finger, yell, and act rudely, in the hopes of “catching” Rob Ford in another act of disreditability
  • how wonderful we feel in incessantly attacking a man on the basis that we feel morally superior than what he’s shown to be in our estimation (because unlike him, we’re close, if not perfect ourselves)
  • our gullibility in believing everything we see, read, or hear about Rob Ford in the papers without any form or ounce of compassion
  • and that on some level, we don’t actually care about the morality of Toronto City Council, but rather watch the comings-and-goings of Rob Ford because we find his failings a wonderful scapegoat to our own, and that we also find his failings disgustingly entertaining

Mmm. Interesting.

I’m not an electoral supporter of Mayor Ford. But, I am a supporter of him as a human being.

When has it gone so wrong that we as a community lose sight of our own decorum in our hunger to judge and attack others so ruthlessly based on what we believe to be right and just in our own eyes?

The man can’t even get to his office in the morning because media crowd the front door and hound him for answers, gruelling him always, not to paint him in a good light, but to shoot him with speedy and stressful questions equivalent to bullets meant to shoot down his mayoral career, his right to privacy, respect, and dignity.

And while the Toronto Councillors try to create motions to kick him out of office, it’s a sad day when those with political agendas of their own, as an electoral body, come together to attack their leader. It isn’t the place of the electoral body to do this. Not only that, but it’s a dangerous road.

What is needed is an unbiased body to query and review the facts before them that follow legal protocol in order to judge any forms of legal and moral misconduct on behalf of the Mayor of the City of Toronto, if that be the case, as judged by a court of law. This is legally true as it is ethically true.

And should the city then run to its “Mother,” the province, to take over the proceedings in municipal council in trying to oust Mayor Rob Ford?

It’s like a bunch of quarrelling four-year-olds who stomp their feet in frustration at not being able to get what they want because one sibling has misbehaved. Ridiculous.

I congratulate Premier Wynne for staying out of this political drama. Should she interfere, it would take precedent over and beyond potential, future conflicts in municipal office. It begs the question and leaves the door wide open to the misuse of Ontario’s provincial power over the municipality—which are two very separate entities with their own forms of process.

Oh, Politics.

Dear Media,

Please leave Mayor Rob Ford alone. If you wouldn’t be so eager in covering his story, the world wouldn’t be so keen in watching. Have compassion. There are other news worthy stories out there like the brutality of Typhoon Haiyan on the people of the Philippines or the success of the latest Governor General’s Award for fiction in Canada.

 Am I disappointed that Rob Ford has been inebriated and/or has used illicit drugs in the past? Yes.

Do I approve of his vulgar use of language in the public? No.

Do I heartily agree with the constant coverage and bullying he must undergo because of his mistakes? Absolutely not.

If it’s so wonderfully easy to magnify Rob Ford’s mistakes, the same intensity in which we use our magnifying glass, should be turned and looked at, first, at ourselves.

(Oh, Rob. You should have stuck with football. I’d like give you a consolatory hug and apologize to you on behalf of the actions of my city, in the way she has attacked you incessantly on a day-to-day basis without remorse—but you know, someone might accuse me of being a “prostitute.”

Hang in there. It’ll be all over once the city implodes with unprecedented legislation, your time in electoral office runs out, or they charge you and imprison you, or kill you—which is what it feels like they want to do. Take heart, Mayor Ford. You at least got a Bobblehead.

My true advice, Mayor, is that you ignore media, deal with the authorities regarding their investigation, work on your litigation against those who have lied to incriminate you, and focus on the work you were elected to do—while you still have the time to do it.

As for the money you have saved Torontonians with your strong conviction against overspending, I personally thank you. Since, according to your crucifiers, your use of cocaine and vulgarity in public office, far outweighs the good you have done.)

***

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Book Review: The Hungry Ghosts by Shyam Selvadurai

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Book Review:

The Hungry Ghosts by Shyam Selvadurai

06.06.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

hungry ghosts

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Category: Fiction

Author: Shyam Selvadurai

Format: Hardcover, 378 pages

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

ISBN: 978-0-385-67066-1

Pub Date: April 2, 2013

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Summary from publisher:

In Buddhist myth, the dead may be reborn as “hungry ghosts”-spirits with stomach so large they can never be full-if they have desired too much during their lives. It is the duty of the living relatives to free those doomed to this fate by doing kind deeds and creating good karma. In Shyam Selvadurai’s sweeping new novel, his first in more than a decade, he creates an unforgettable ghost, a powerful Sri Lankan matriarch whose wily ways, insatiable longing for land, houses, money and control, and tragic blindness to the human needs of those around her parallels the volatile political situation of her war-torn country.

The novel centres around Shivan Rassiah, the beloved grandson, who is of mixed Tamil and Sinhalese lineage, and who also-to his grandmother’s dismay-grows from beautiful boy to striking gay man. As the novel opens in the present day, Shivan, now living in Canada, is preparing to travel back to Colombo, Sri Lanka, to rescue his elderly and ailing grandmother, to remove her from the home-now fallen into disrepair-that is her pride, and bring her to Toronto to live our her final days. But throughout the night and into the early morning hours of his departure, Shivan grapples with his own insatiable hunger and is haunted by unrelenting ghosts of his own creation.

The Hungry Ghosts is a beautifully written, dazzling story of family, wealth and the long reach of the past. It shows how racial, political and sexual differences can tear apart both a country and the human heart-not just once, but many times, until the ghosts are fed and freed.

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Book Review by Zara from The Bibliotaphe Closet:

The Hungry Ghosts by Shyam Selvadurai is an exquisitely rich story about Shivan Rassiah, a young boy born from poverty and the weight of a burdened past that originally stems from an abrasive grandmother that poisons her lineage to create a wilful and eventually rebellious daughter—and the fate of her belief in her own terrible karma.

Amidst the turmoil of a divided Sri Lanka where the tensions between the Tamils and Sinhalese people are a vivid and violent backdrop to the tensions between Shivan’s estranged grandmother and mother and the sides he is forced to choose from in order for his family to survive—Shivan also grows, discovers, and explores his own sexuality as a gay man and battles against the intolerance of his homosexuality by his Sri Lankan culture and community.

Between his grandmother’s controlling dominance and astute ambition for power and money; his mother’s depression and devastation at the failure of a western country, Canada, whose expectations she held towards were far too high in estimation compared to her real immigrant experience; and his sister’s radical extremism in feminist theory and racial equality—Shivan is often a victim of emotional liminality and displacement, marginalized in his culture and experience not only by being both Tamil and Sinhalese, but more importantly a Sri Lankan-born boy who immigrates to Toronto, Canada as a refugee and eventually becomes a westernized Torontonian and later, a Vancouver resident, open and active in the LGBT community.

The richness in this novel is found in the author’s ability to write with an eloquence and ease that give his characters resounding depth, authenticity, and a vulnerability, which readers can eagerly connect to and appreciate.

And the emotional landscape of the novel’s characters are not static, nor linear, but like life, mimic the fluctuation of people who change their minds over time and over a number of experiences.

The cultural translations of Buddhists stories also enrich the novel in metaphor and Sri Lankan culture, as well as intensify the substance of the novel’s characters.

But, the novel is not just entirely character-driven. The plot, too, is rich as it is turbulent and engaging. The capacity in which characters can love is just as passionate as their ability to hate and condemn, which drive them to illogical and unthinkable acts of cruelty.

The plot, filled with the torment of conflict and anguish, create an emotionally charged and gripping tale that will move readers to empathy and reflection about the importance of resisting exclusivity, answering the issues of cultural displacement, and advocating racial and gender equality, while defining the ideas of love and home.

Overall, The Hungry Ghosts by Shyam Selvadurai is a beautifully written book, full of substance and dichotomy, tenderness and heartache, tension and cruelty—a book that is so gloriously good, I couldn’t put it down—and still mourn the loss I feel in turning its very last pages.

A book like this is one is one in which you befriend its fictional characters in your reading and then miss them severely, feeling a loss at having to accept that though the story does not end, the book itself, has to. The Hungry Ghosts by this gifted and mature writer will inevitably leave its readers hungering for more.

***

Characters:  5 stars

Pacing: 5 stars

Cover Design: 3.5 stars

Plot: 5 stars

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Zara’s Rating

z ring - smallz ring - smallz ring - smallz ring - smallz ring - small

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 A special thanks to Random House of Canada on behalf of Doubleday Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an unpaid, honest review.

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About the Author:

shyam selvadurai

From the Shyam Selvadurai Official Website.

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Shyam Selvadurai was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1965. He  came to Canada  with his family at the age of nineteen. He has studied creative writing and  theatre and has a BFA from York   University, as well as an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia.

Funny Boy, his first novel, was published to acclaim in 1994 and won the WH Smith/Books  in Canada First Novel Award and in the US the Lambda Literary Award. It was also named a Notable Book by the American Library Association, and was translated into 8 languages.

His second novel, Cinnamon Gardens, was published in Canada, the  UK, the US and translated into 9 languages. It was shortlisted for Canada’s Trillium Award, as well as  the Aloa Literary Award in Denmark  and the Premio Internazionale Riccardo Bacchelli in Italy.

Shyam is the  editor of an anthology, Story-Wallah: A  Celebration of South Asian Fiction, published in Canada and the US, and his  novel for young adults, Swimming in the  Monsoon Sea, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award and is the  winner of the Lambda Literary Award in the US, the Canadian Library  Association Book of the Year Award and Silver Winner in the Young Adult  Category of ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award.

His articles have  appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Time Magazine, Toronto Life, Walrus Magazine, Enroute Magazine, The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. He served as Festival Curator for the Galle Literary Festival for  2 years. His fourth novel, The Hungry  Ghosts, was  published   April 2, 2013 in Canada, India and  Sri Lanka.

– From the Shyam Selvadurai Official Website

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Links:

Shyam Selvadurai’s Official Website

Connect with Shyam on Facebook

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Have you ever faced cultural displacement before? Where and how?

What unfulfilled desire do you “hunger” for the most?

Have you read Shyam Selvadurai’s book, “The Hungry Ghosts” yet? If so, what did you think of it?

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Hey, Have You Heard the WORD ON THE STREET, Toronto? 09.07.2012

Hey, Have You Heard the WORD ON THE STREET, Toronto?

09.07.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

It’s that time of year again for book lovers everywhere! It’s THE WORD ON THE STREET Book and Magazine Festival Event that takes place in Vancouver, Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Kitchener, Toronto, and Halifax!

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And Toronto will be hosting its event on:

September 23, 2012

at Queen Park’s Circle

from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

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And there are going to be hundreds of author events, presentations and workshops, and of course, the beloved marketplace where we can all browse the best showcase of Canadian books and magazines!

Now, if you’re like me, you might already anticipate doing one or more of the following things:

  1. Faint at the thought of all those beautiful books.
  2. Jump up and down from pure giddiness due to the literary buzz.
  3. Recruit your friends to attend so you have someone to help you carry your book purchases.
  4. Print the directions, the street map, and plan out your personal itinerary for the author events.
  5. Plan your wardrobe in advance, packing your camera, notebook, extra pens, and touch-up lipstick for those special author sightings.
  6. And sing and dance out of sheer joy from book love!

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Here are some highlight events that I know I’ll personally be visiting:

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The Scotia Giller Prize Bestsellers Stage – featuring the biggest names in Canadian literature

Remarkable Reads Tent – Random House and McClelland & Stewart will present favourite Canadian authors.

Penguin Pavilion – Penguin Books of Canada will feature Penguin authors.

Toronto Book Awards Tent – Nominees for the Toronto Book Awards read from their nominated works.

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And here are some of the authors I personally look forward to seeing:

Wayson Choy. (c) ABC Local

Wayson Choy: Scribendi.com Wordshop Marquee at 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM

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Katrina Onstad: The Remarkable Reads Tent at 12:45 PM – 1:45 PM

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David Bergen. (c) HarperCollins Publishing.

David Bergen:  Scotiabank Giller Prize Bestsellers Stage at 1:00 PM – 1:30 PM

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John Ralston Saul. (c) AGO.net

John Ralston Saul: the Scotiabank Giller Prize Bestsellers Stage at 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM

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Christine Putney. (c) Word on the Street.

 Christine Pountney: Vibrant Voices of Ontario Tent at 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM

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Steven Heighton

Steven Heighton:  Great Books Marquee at 1:45 PM – 2:15 PM

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Vincent Lam

Vincent Lam: The Remarkable Reads Tent at 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Susan Swan

Susan Swan:  the Vibrant Voices of Ontario Tent at 3:15 PM – 3:45 PM

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For more details about The Word on the Street, click on the button at the top of this post!

Hope I run into you on September 23 in Toronto. (I’ll have a wide smile on my face, a camera around my neck, and books in my arms!)

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Have you ever attended The Word on the Street Festival in your city?

What are you looking forward to the most for this year’s WOTS event?

Which authors are you looking forward to meeting?

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Re- Cap of the Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musee National Exhibit at the AGO

Re-cap of the Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musee National Exhibit at the AGO

07.22.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Picasso. The name is as famous as it is as revered as one of the most important artists of the 20th century. And one of his shows: Masterpieces from the Musee National Picasso in France is housed in Toronto at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) for the duration of the summer.

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Though I consider myself more of a writer and photographer than an artist, I didn’t want to pass up on a chance at seeing Picasso’s work in the “flesh”—for a second time. My husband and I had seen the Picasso Erotique show in Montreal a number of years back when we were still single.

This is one of my favourite charcoal drawings by Picasso, “The Embrace (The Kiss), which I first saw at the Picasso Erotique show in Montreal.

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The architecture of the AGO in itself is an elaborate art piece from its large wooden staircases to its grand ceilings and open concept skylights.

AGO staircase. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez.

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The show opened with a number of black and white personal photographs of Picasso and his family, which created an immediate intimacy for the voyeur.

But, the oil painting that struck me as one of my favourites almost immediately was the oil on canvas piece called Olga in an Armchair painted in Montrouge in the spring of 1918. Its portrait held a sad, yet simple grace that embodied a woman who was not only Picasso’s first wife, but a woman who later had to bear the adultery of her famed husband.

“Olga in an Armchair.” Oil on canvas. Pablo Picasso. 1918.

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I especially liked the floral brocade on the armchair that matched the hem of Olga’s skirt. And if you look closely enough at the original painting you’ll notice a hint of Olga’s silver necklace.

And at the edges of the painting are brushstrokes of what seems to be excess paint from Picasso’s brush. I assume this wasn’t intentionally meant to be a part of the piece, but has remained intact since its 1918 inception.

I loved this painting so much, I bought a print before returning home!

The grandeur of The Acrobat painted in Paris on January 18, 1930 also caught my attention with its fluid contortion and its sheer size. The painting is all limbs with no torso and embodies Picasso’s nightmares about his body and his loved ones’ bodies changing, which according to the descriptive piece about the painting, “anguished him.”

“The Acrobat.” Oil on canvas. Pablo Picasso. 1930.

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A smaller painting, gouache on plywood, Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race) painted in Dinard in the summer of 1922 was beautifully detailed right down to the curl of the women’s hair. The print below does not do the original justice, so those of you who can make a trip to the AGO before the summer ends, I suggest that you do. The detailing and the colour of this piece is a feast for the eyes. And though the women are heavy in stature the painting evokes a wonderful freedom and exuberance with one breast bared on each woman and one woman hanging her head back in exhilaration.

“Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race).” Gouache on plywood. Pablo Picasso. 1922.

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 Another beautifully coloured painting is the oil on canvas, Nude in a Garden created in Boisgeloup on August 4, 1934. The pink flesh of the woman in the painting is bright with her head lying back and her arm behind her head in relaxed ecstasy. The painting’s bright colours especially the pink flesh against the green backdrop of the garden with voluptuous white flowers reflect an obvious eroticism in Picasso’s painting, which is further explained when the viewer realizes the painting is of Picasso’s mistress, Marie-Therese Walter.

“The Nude in the Garden.” Oil on canvas. Pablo Picasso. 1934.

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Overall, the showing was pent-up with the buzz of audience excitement since quite a number of patrons came to the show even with the slotted entrance times. The exhibit filled approximately four to five rooms that included mixed media, oil paintings, and sculptures. Though it wasn’t as intense as the Picasso Erotique showing in Montreal, it was an overlay of work by a master whose creations have not yet lost its appeal.

For those who are not as familiar with Picasso’s work, the Masterpiece show at the AGO is a good place to start. For avid fans of his work, the show will help you reminisce of the first time you fell in love with the genius that is Picasso.

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“I paint the way some people write an autobiography. The paintings, finished or not, are the pages from my diary.” – Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

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What is your favourite piece created by Pablo Picasso?

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