We caught up with Anita shortly before the Canadian release of her second novel, Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters. Her first novel, Side by Side, won an Independent Publisher Book Awards’ Silver Medal for Multicultural Fiction in 2019.
What are you currently working on; what excites you about the project?
I’m currently working on a sisterhood story, more bitter than sweet, inspired by The Blind Assassin and the Neapolitan novels. Lots of complex family dynamics and secrets, also in keeping in with my interest in exploring issues of identity, belonging, immigrant experiences, and the lives of South Asian women. What excites me about the project is having another opportunity to explore the complexity of female relationships and family life. Endlessly fascinating topics to me. I was fortunate to receive a Literary Creations grant from the Ontario Arts Council to support this project. The manuscript is with my agent now, actually. I’m trying hard not to worry about it. And failing…
What other projects have you worked on since leaving Humber?
After graduating, I was fortunate to have the book that I worked on during the creative writing program, Side by Side, published by Inanna Publications. I was thrilled and honoured (and shocked) when it won an IPPY Silver Medal for multicultural fiction in 2019, as the subject matter, issues of mental health and loss by suicide, is close to my heart.
I’ve also been working on a novel entitled Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters, which will be released on January 28th by HarperCollins Canada. It’s a mother-daughter story told in alternating timelines, about a mother and daughter who never meet and, more broadly, about the ties that bind mothers and daughters together, and the secrets that tear them apart. I’m fascinated by the complexity of mother-daughter relationships, for instance, why we place such high expectations on each other and the cost of those expectations. My characters often grapple with the pressure of being “good daughters,” which can make living authentically a challenge as they try their best to fulfill that role. I’m excited about the book being in the world after two years of work and waiting. I hope it sparks conversations around choice, the importance of living in accordance with one’s inner truth, and women’s mental health.
How did your time at Humber prepare you for what you’re doing now?
Working on a manuscript with a mentor definitely helped prepare me for working with my editors. At times it was tough, but ultimately a rewarding experience, and helped push my writing and revision skills to the next level. I might have even developed a slightly thicker skin. (Probably not.) The creative writing by correspondence program was an important step in my development as a writer and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity.
What year did you graduate?
Photo Credit: Kathy Youssef