“…while always travelling seriously, he was always travelling light.” (Williams, 1971, p. 88)
The serious traveller who always travelled light was George Orwell; writing in 1971, socialist critic Raymond Williams unravels Orwell’s multifaceted history and reveals aspects of his life and work I had not known about, in under 100 informative pages. I took the book along with me to India in mid-December 2022 primarily because it was so tiny. I also was attempting to travel light. I hope I may say, to travel seriously as well.
A village in rural West Bengal, India, where as early as February the temperature goes up to 35 degrees Celsius or so every day, with no prospect of rain until April or May, is about as far from a Montreal winter as one can imagine. It’s where I have just spent four weeks working with several gifted and enthusiastic young women who teach at supplemental schools run by a local NGO, the Institute of Social Work (ISW). Like many NGOs across India and in the developing world, ISW works in the local language (here, Bengali) and draws mostly on local resources. My cousin Nupur Sarkar has been part of ISW since its inception in 1978; I am much indebted to her for having made it possible for me to spend time at ISW’s Birbhum-district schools. After a previous visit in 2019, I wrote about the experience here on the BILD blog, and have dreamed ever since then of coming back and staying awhile.
This week’s guest blogger is Ayana Jamieson, PhD. Dr. Jamieson is an assistant professor of Ethnic Studies at Cal Poly Pomona, a mythologist, and depth psychologist. She is the founder of the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network, a global community founded in 2011, committed to highlighting Octavia Butler’s life and work while creating new works inspired by Butler’s legacy. Dr. Jamieson’s, “Far Beyond the Stars” appears in the Black Futures anthology. She has also published in The Feminist Wire, 51 Feminist Thinkers, Uneven Futures: Strategies for Community Survival from Speculative Fiction, Public Books, elsewhere and was a featured speaker at the New York Times “A New Climate” on climate change. Follow her @ayanajamieson @oeblegacy on FB and IG or @oeblegacy on Twitter & Tumblr.
A book can start an entire journey. In my case, the books of the late pioneering Black woman speculative fiction writer, Octavia E. Butler changed the trajectory of my entire life. My origin story related to her work has been shared many times, but I want to talk about what it means to be “raising Olamina” after a character in a book the same age as my non-fictional children. In fact, I used my child’s remote schooling desk to record this interview with NPR’s Throughline Podcast, “Octavia Butler: Visionary Fiction” in 2021. Her work explores different ways of being human with diverse and expertly rendered characters.
This week’s guest blogger is Kahawíhson Horne. She is Kanien’kehá:ka from Kahnawà:ke who is currently enrolled in the Ratihwennahní:rat’s Adult Immersion Program. She is a recent graduate of Concordia University with a BA in First People’s Studies as well as a background in media, food sovereignty, and language revitalization. She is an avid gardener who enjoys sushi and a good bottle of wine.
“Speaking Kanien’kéha is like watching television in colour,” is an oft repeated anecdote passed down from my grandmother by way of an unknown elder. “English,” she continued “is television in black and white.”
Dear BILD readers, Mela (who is now traveling in India) asked me to step in for her to write this year-end message. It has been an honour to be involved in the BILD community since 2017, where I have the privilege to read people’s thoughts and musings about issues of belonging, identity, language, and diversity. I know as a regular blogger myself, each time when we write, we take risks. We make ourselves vulnerable by inviting people into our world of inner thoughts and feelings. We don’t know who will be reading it, how it is going to be received, and whether the topic we discuss or the experience we describe will have an impact on the reader as it did on us. But when it does and when a reader tells you how their experience reverberates yours, we feel an indescribable connection, a shared human experience that makes us whole.