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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Shani Mootoo



One goal of Carleton University's 2006 Munro Beattie Lecture is to act as bridge between academic and public audiences. Judging by the attendence in the Azrieli Theatre, with a good mix of students and what looked to be the general public, it works. Introduced by Sarah Casteel, the resident 'Shani Mootoo expert', Shani's lecture was titled "In the Temple of the Recurring Dream: Notes on Becoming a Writer".

She told several stories on how she approaches her art and her writing. Clearly, her works acknowledge the importance of the artist's "freedom to self-define", and she resists being kept in any pigeon hole that critics are wont to label. She does admit that her work contains elements of very personal experiences which, when she is honest with her art and writing, leaves her raw and exposed. "People can usually tell when I have lied in my work", she told the audience.

To me anyway, Mootoo is the poster-child of the author who is imbued with the "labels" so many people (straight men?) groan about when they hear them: the sexually repressed sailor-suit wearing girl child, who was once a victim of incest, who grew up to become a lesbian writer/artist, born in one country, raised in another, now living in Canada, who writes about place, time, gender, with stories rooted in race and in the Canadian immigrant story. She's the whole package. However, she does it very well apparently. Carleton University has two courses which feature Mootoo's work to date, one undergraduate and one graduate-level course.

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