Word on the Street Festival

It’s official, we are finally going to be tabling at an event!

Word on the Street is an annual festival in Toronto celebrating books and magazines, authors and artists, and all sorts of bookish stuff. It’s also where we’ll be debuting the physical copies of the zines you’ve all been contributing to and reading online. Stay tuned on our Instagram to see previews :)

It’s a great event, and there are always lots of freebies, contests, and cool people to meet (maybe your favourite author will make an appearance?).

Alongside the magazines, we’ll be selling two other goodies, which you’ll see more of on our social channels soon ;3

So if you’re around the GTA, or love hanging around at the Harbourfront, come say hi on September 22nd at the festival!

Will we see you there?

A Little Hope...

As long as there is life, there is hope.
— Sabaa Tahir, An Ember in the Ashes

Hope is optimism, the positive state of mind that believes that something good will happen and that one only has to wait it out, keep pushing forward, and survive to see it happen.

We all have hopes, dreams, and aspirations, whether big or small, and so do our characters. Hope gives characters the motivation that pushes them through the plot twists you throw at them. It's their guiding light in the dark.

We would love to see what kinds of hopes your characters have in your submissions for our next issue of KROS Magazine.

The deadline for our next issue is May 25th, 2018.

Happy writing! :)

Author Spotlight: Sheba Karim


The author of two YA novels featuring South Asian/Muslim American teenage narrators, with another releasing this year, Sheba Karim focuses her work on themes of identity, Islam, parental conflict, and the trials and tribulations of coming of age. Currently living in Nashville, Tennessee, Karim has also lived in Philadelphia, New York City, and New Delhi, where she has been exposed to “varying types and manifestations of Islamophobia.” By writing about the South Asian/Muslim American experience, Karim actively disassembles stereotypes about race and Islam, creating a narrative filled with representation that young adult readers can enjoy.

The journey taken when writing and reading fiction is not without its epiphanies. Karim realized the power of language when she received support from her parents after sharing a short story. “It seems silly—of course they would [support me], but for me it was very powerful,” says Karim. “I had transplanted words and images from my mind and put them on the page, and someone else read these words and both understood and enjoyed them.”

On a more serious scale, her relationship with Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre—one of her favorite books growing up—shifted when she read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys in high school. “Ms. Rhys’s book helped me see the power of perspective in fiction; that every character has a backstory. That the canon of Western literature has always privileged certain voices over others,” says Karim, who is Pakistani-American. “It seems obvious now, but as a child of immigrants who grew up primarily reading books about white people living in almost exclusively white worlds, this blew my mind.  I realized that, though I was not white, I had been reading as if I were.  I had been identifying with Jane when in fact I had more in common with Bertha, both of us ‘savages’ searching for a place to call home.”

When she began practicing family law after graduating from the New York University School of Law, Karim also started writing seriously. A few years later, she enrolled in an MFA program with the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and has since been a full-time writer.

Karim’s first book Skunk Girl drastically altered her writing process. After selling her manuscript to Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, she says that with the input from her editor she “deleted and completely rewrote the second half” of her book. “It was a much better book for it, and it made me realize the importance of a good editor or a good reader who can help you determine when to persist and when to let go,” says Karim. “Deleting an entire half of a novel also helped me lose the fear of ‘killing your darlings.’” By her second book That Thing We Call a Heart, Karim was clearly without fear. She removed the original best friend of the protagonist. “She was too similar to the narrator,” explains Karim. “I realized one of the narrator’s other friends, who until then played a minor role in the book, was far more interesting and warranted much more of the spotlight.”

The only easy thing about writing, according to Karim, is the “fact that it doesn’t require a lot of physical space or objects.” For her, every part of the writing process is difficult. Karim says, “Drafting is hard because you’re trying to find the right voice, feel the characters. Revising is hard because you’re trying to figure out if that voice, those characters, are right after all.” But the process doesn’t impact her pacing when it comes to completing a work. For Karim, it depends on the type of book she is working on. “I can usually write a first draft of a young adult novel within a year. Whereas I’ve been working on a historical fiction novel for adults on and off for almost a decade!” says Karim.

Mariam Sharma Hits the Road, Karim’s third complete book, is about three friends who embark on a road trip that was meant to save one, but ends up saving all. The book, which is to be released June 5 of this year, was a project that Karim had been wanting to write for a while. “I’d always wanted to write both a road trip book and a book that captures the incredible power of friendship, particularly for those kids who can’t always turn to or confide in their parents and instead must rely on friends for solace and support,” says Karim.

Her third book not only touches on themes of support and friendship, it also speaks about the truths discovered while on a journey. "Across cultures, the journey has been a vehicle for adventure, change and transformation. A journey removes you from your comfort zone, and your responses to unfamiliar landscapes, cultures and situations can open you up to new ways of understanding yourself and others. Hence the trope of going elsewhere in order to ‘find yourself,’” says Karim. “Traveling with others means a heightened level of intimacy and time spent together; we probably all know of a friendship that has been cemented or broken on a journey.”

Karim’s writing journey has impacted her positively. “It’s made me appreciate every day how lucky I am to be doing something I love,” Karim says. With three books, she is well on her way to literary success, which to her is measured by readers, not reviews. Karims says, “Of course it’s nice to have positive professional reviews, but to me the ultimate measure of success is if readers are moved by and connect with your work.”

Learn more about Sheba Karim here. Catch her latest tweets @ShebaKarim, as well as her Facebook posts here.

Contributor Profile: Sara Adams


After studying film for a year in university, Sara Adams switched over to studying English Literature and Classic Civilizations. Adams, an Indian writer living in Toronto, decided that if she was going to spend her time analyzing something, it would have to be literature. It was during university that the 25-year-old started writing disturbance (with you).

Originally, Adams' story was a fanfiction. When she began to see the potential of her work, she changed the character’s names and personalities to better suit her new stand-alone fictional piece. disturbance (with you) has been in the works for years, but now it’s complete.

Jaya is an aspiring photographer who recently quit her mundane part-time job to pursue her craft. With her friends Soo-Min and Victoria already successful in their fields, Jaya races to catch up. Now faced with a possible full-time, photography-related opportunity, Jaya must try to untangle herself from a yarn ball full of self-doubt and endless comparisons that she’s been making for herself since she graduated university.

disturbance (with you) was Adams' way of cathartically addressing the anxieties that came with life after university. “There was this Millennial existential question: What do you do after university? All of those stresses were in me when I started this,” says Adams. “But because it’s been a couple years since I started it, it’s changed. So, not only is this anxiety about the future, I’m now in the future.” Now that Adams can better relate to her character, she feels that her writing has grown more intense over the years. “You can feel it—it’s a struggle. That job hunt is a struggle. Seeing other people around you being successful is a struggle,” says Adams. “As I kept coming back to it, it almost got more painful to write, because every time looked at it, it was as if I had a premonition of my future struggles. It was painful to read, because it was what I was living.”

The completion of the piece marks an achievement for Adams, who decided to stop giving up on projects when she found a place to live in Toronto. “That was very hard to do, because failure was a gigantic fear. But, there’s only one way you’re going to get anywhere, and it’s if you keep going,” says Adams. “As long as I keep moving, things will start working out. Whereas if you stop moving completely, nothing’s going to happen or change. I think a lot of things have gotten more positive in my life, which is great.” The next step, Adams says, is to complete a manuscript.

In relation, Adams' protagonist needs to gain the same momentum. “Movement is interesting. Everyone moves at a different pace,” says Adams. “In the story, it’s very much about the relationships that Jaya has with her two friends. And because she’s moving so slowly, it’s like they’ve branched away from her. She feels very much left in the dust, but it’s also because she refuses to move.”

Contributor Profile: Robbie Ahmed


Having lived in Russia, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, and Canada, Robbie Ahmed has lived in and experienced many cultures. A favorite childhood experience of his while growing up in Bangladesh is re-enacting Titanic scenes with family members whenever they would visit his grandparents in Barisal by boat. Currently working part-time as a youth group and workshop facilitator with Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention in Toronto, the 25-year-old is trying to find a balance between all of his passions. Starting his creative journey at open mics performing spoken word, Ahmed has since branched into music, poetry, and writing. In fact, his story Trans*mutation is a transformed version of one of his spoken word pieces.

Whenever Ahmed would perform his spoken word piece that was inspired by his experiences as a trans man, audience members would approach him and ask what happened next. Rooted in his memories of facing family in Bangladesh after sharing that he is trans, Ahmed found that the piece needed expanding. “It started with the thoughts and feelings of being in the moment of that scene, and coming to the conclusion that being trans is okay. It was basically a written stream of consciousness,” says Ahmed. “So, I thought maybe I need to write it as a story instead of just a moment.”

In addition to addressing post-performance queries, Ahmed wanted to write a story that empowered trans people. When he was younger, Ahmed was obsessed with the X-Men, and some of the themes within the series arise in his story. “It’s the whole idea that they’re different, but there’s advantages that come with that,” Ahmed says. “I played on the idea that there’s some kind of advantage to being trans.”

One of the advantages Ahmed speaks about in his story is how being trans can help a person be resilient to cultural norms and expectations. “Being trans and cultural at the same time is very complicated. In the story, I’m trying to say that a lot of the times being trans feels more like a curse in your own cultural identity; it doesn’t give you an advantage,” says Ahmed. “But then, it comes to a point where it allows you to survive your own cultural expectations at the same time, and get the best of all worlds. It’s kind of like shifting through those worlds, so you’re passing through these identities and cultures.”

Although Ahmed has lived in many cultures, he finds that he struggles with “capturing culture” in his English writing. “How do you paint these environments, which are like different worlds?” Ahmed asks. A lot of his writing is inspired by Jhumpa Lahiri, author of The Namesake, who writes about the immigrant experience. He admires how Lahiri captures cultural elements through objects and words. Ahmed says, “In Trans*mutation, I talk about the abaya and chai; I try to portray these elements and the restrictions around them. And by keeping the words in their own language with some of the objects, it keeps the cultural nuances.” Ahmed also admits that because there are many writers who share and write about the immigrant experience, it’s hard to study how each portrays it. But that only means that there is more learning to be done.

Whether it be cultural or gender-related, coming to terms with or realizing an identity is a feat. Regarding trans identities and Trans*mutation, Ahmed believes that gender is something that can be questioned, and that “underneath it all, you’ll still be the same.” Ahmed says, “You can always explore until something feels like it’s right for you.”

Learn more about Robbie Ahmed here.

Contributor Profile: Isabella Jaime


In 2015, Isabella Jaime began doodling on scrap pieces of paper with ballpoint pens. During this time, the 27-year-old social worker was also taking care of her ninang, who fell ill. The piece she created while doodling on her ninang’s couch with a Sharpie was Neptuna, one of her first drawings. Its underwater theme hides a figure, and its title is inspired by the Pixies song, “Mr. Grieves.”

Jaime, who is Filipino-American and currently learning Tagalog, has always drawn in black and white. “I think my drawings in black and white tend to have a sort of dark, surreal feeling,” Jaime says. “The colour versions seem more ‘fun,’ as I like to use bright colors.” The self-taught artist says that it’s a learning process when it comes to making colour versions of her drawings.

When visiting her friend in Moab, Utah, Jaime began to draw Marsh. “I was inspired by the surreal landscape and how prehistoric it was, almost,” says Jaime, who loves dystopian novels. Taking after her observations, the prehistoric themed drawing features a drowning skeleton that has flowers growing out of it, as well as a dinosaur.

The artist, who used to live in New York City working as a child welfare social worker in the Bronx, doesn’t plan her drawings. Rather, Jaime adds things based on where she feels they should be on the page, and tries to fill the space as much as possible. “Sometimes I get burned out from all the small details, but I try to push through!” Jaime, who currently resides in Detroit with her fiancé Owen and is in a polyamorous relationship, says.

“I’m going to need him to bulk up. He’s so thin and frail.”

Recounting the words of her partner’s doctor after a major surgery, Jaime says that Jeff was in the hospital for almost a week before he came home. “This really stuck with me. For months before the surgery he had been so sick and in agonizing pain, and he hadn’t been able to eat much,” Jaime says. “I stayed with him a lot of the time at the hospital. One night, I even slept on a chair next to his bed.” When he finally came home, Jaime started drawing Frail. “I wanted to convey some of his pain, uncertainty, and bravery. He’s the strongest person I know,” Jaime says.

While drawing Frail, Jaime experienced burnout. Due to fatigue, she has an alternate version of the piece with a white background. Jaime eventually completed the piece, adding more details and the black background. Despite occasionally feeling burned out by drawing, the benefits of the activity outweigh the detriments.

Jaime uses drawing as a way of coping with anxiety. “For me, drawing is meditative and semi-unconscious. I see it as a way to help calm my anxiety, and to see how my mental state can be reflected in a visual,” Jaime says, noting that it’s interesting to see how her brain is represented on paper, and that she’s fascinated by altered perceptions of reality. However, sometimes Jaime’s anxiety won’t let her stop working on a drawing; she feels like she can’t take a break and that she has to add more details. Also, as a result of her anxiety, the artist worries and second-guesses herself frequently; she often worries about “capturing the moment,” and takes pictures and writes in journals to remember things. Jaime says, “I think drawing is also a way of capturing certain moments in my thoughts and feelings.”

See Isabella Jaime’s work, check out the magazine over at issuu.com, and to see more of what she's done, visit her Instagram here.

Contributor Profile: William Tham


While growing up in Malaysia, William Tham used to travel to Kuala Selangor via coastal roads that were long-forgotten due to the highways that popped up around the peninsula. The roads leading to the town, famous for having one of the largest firefly colonies of the world, is where majority of The Scent of Dry Dust takes place. “I have a love of quiet, bypassed places, and a story about missed connections felt so natural in that particular setting,” Tham, now living in Vancouver, says.

On the side of a coastal road near Kuala Selangor, the unnamed protagonist, who works in an inorganics lab, waits for a tow truck with his old friend, Ling, a doctor that needs adventure. While they wait, the friends discuss their lives and ambitions. As the story shifts between past and present, the protagonist’s past is revealed, and Ling’s role in his life is called into question.

Tham, the non-fiction editor of Vancouver-based, Asian Canadian focused Ricepaper Magazine, wrote the story about two old friends based on “experiences of unrequited love and the uncertainty over missed connections” as an undergraduate. Tham says, “A lot of my fiction is semi-autobiographical. I find it easier and more accurate to modify real experiences and conversations than to invent them from scratch.” The story also helped him address his fears surrounding the “quarter-life trap,” where life after university isn’t any clearer, there’s a possibility that one could still find themselves in a position that makes them unhappy, and the struggle of achieving independence begins despite all of these existential issues. Tham notes, “[These are] Millennial problems, of course, but I felt better after fictionalizing these fears.”

No stranger to the editorial process, Tham published his first novel Kings of Petaling Street with Fixi London last year, and is a recurring short story contributor to Fixi. Two of his reading experiences in high school heavily influenced the way he writes today. The Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard “burned with a clinical eeriness and a sense of fatalism,” while Tash Aw’s The Harmony Silk Factory impressed Tham through the “power of multiple perspectives” and the author’s ability to “tease stories from familiar settings.” Tham also hides secrets in his stories for fun, writing Cheong from How not to Forget into The Scent of Dry Dust in the form of supervisor Cheong; interestingly, How not to Forget has a character who is struggling from the events of Kings of Petaling Street. Although an experienced writer and editor, one of the challenges the 25-year-old faces when working as a non-fiction editor is his background. “Since I am of Malaysian and southern Chinese descent, I have my limitations when it comes to judging submissions outside my area of expertise,” says Tham. He adds that by observing the world through reading or exposing himself to new experiences, Tham will be better able to judge submissions.

In The Scent of Dry Dust, Tham plays within his areas of expertise, showing that although action and inaction are important when it comes to pursuing love and a career, they aren’t the only things to consider. “Often times luck still plays a key role in determining how career and relationships work out. There is the matter of being in the right place at the right time, so despite how well laid out your plans are, sometimes opportunities vanish and other times they appear out of nowhere. Nothing is written, basically.”

Learn more about William Tham here, and check out his work with Ricepaper Magazine, who will be publishing Vincent Ternida’s The Seven Muses of Harry Salcedo this September, here.

One Short Year


A year ago, I created KROS.

And now, in one week from today, our inaugural issue of KROS Magazine will go online.

It's an exciting time, and I still can't believe it's really happening. We have some amazing talent in this issue, with stories of bravery, identity, romance, and discovery. There's art too, from a talented artist we can't wait for you to meet.

After one year, and only one year, we have a complete literary magazine. We're so grateful to everyone who contributed, followed our social pages, and supported us all the way. We hope you'll stick around for the second issue, to be announced officially in February!

Origin Story: Gabrielle


I’m not the best with words.

It’s been that way since I was a little kid struggling with talking properly even after kindergarten. It was simply another symptom of autism spectrum disorder that would also shape the person I am today and how I see the world. The combination of my race and being autistic made me look back on my life for more than 20 years and look real hard at how the combination of the two affected me.

Beyond struggling with English words, there’s the fact that I can’t struggle with Filipino words. Simply because I never learned the language. It’s not uncommon for children of immigrants to not learn their parent’s mother tongue when they’re busy working full time for financial security. But nonetheless, the language barrier along with the fact that I never grew up the “Filipino” way in the Philippines speaking Filipino made me feel like an outsider in a group of people tied together because they’re Filipinos. My own Filipino co-workers, who grew up in the Philippines, have said to my face that I’m not “really Filipino” because I only speak English.

It’s hard for me to comprehensively knit the words I need to describe the situation of being considered the “other” in overly-white Canadian society, while also being seen as “not really Filipino” among other Filipinos. My written words can’t do justice to the stories I want to tell, and yet those long 23 years of self-reflection have shown me that I don’t necessarily need only words to say that.

I’ve realized that my own path is to utilize my passion of illustrating to say the words that I can’t necessarily write. And that the splashes of lines and colours will inspire others to say their own words their own way.

Origin Story: Heba


The fall I contracted carpal tunnel I used to cry myself to sleep, thinking that at 21 I was kissing the cadence of my handwriting goodbye. Most people with whom I speak about my writing are familiar with this vanity: that I love the look of my handwriting as much as your enticement with oven-fresh cookies, and that to me, flipping to a random page of a notebook and finding my script in fine graphite is one of the warmest comforts.

How I began is this: in 2005, I christened my first writing notebook, a white-and-yellow spiral 1-subject in which I wrote—what else but—Harry Potter fanfiction. I've been in love with story for as long as I can remember, but this journal was the first to be officially named (an apt "#1," of which I am now nearing 40) for creative purpose. I was in sixth grade and class time stretched too long, so I spent every period with my writing companion in front of me and my actual subject notes open on the corner of my desk. During break or at lunch I would pass around the notebook to my friends, who would read it and support me with bright eyes, and then pull out paper to write something, too. Inspired. We wrote, we shared, we spread.

By the end of that year I found my tools of the trade: FiveStar Advance Spiral 5- or 1-subject, Zebra M-301 mechanical pencil, white Staedler eraser. Come the inception of our writing club a year later, my friends joked that my pencil had written more stories than anyone else present, including myself. Actually, I should include my friends in the list, too, because even as they changed they were just as integral to my writing as any instrument.

It would make for a good story to say that I write because I have something to say. That early on I was left wanting for lack of myself in the things that I read, that I wanted to push through the crowd in the library hall of mirrors and chance upon a reflection that fit.

Not so. To be honest, I wrote then because it was fun, and it was something I was good at it, and because I liked it when the gang yoinked my notebook before I was finished. I liked that validation, and I liked the speed of it, and I liked it when somewhere along the line the hobby became ingrained me, when I started to not just write but think and dream in prose, to find story in every little thing, to, eventually, need voice memos while driving. I confess that sometimes I exist somewhere meta, thinking about real problems more as things to explore in a narrative than something with which I, you know, actually gotta deal.

I write now because turns of phrase are my lifeblood, because this is as necessary to me for a fulfilling life as love. Without it I feel half-dead, incomplete. Both satiation and depravity remind me that it was not a waste of time and energy to invest here.

It is only incidental that I happen to be Muslim and American and South Asian and whatever else before my ancestors immigrated there. This is all a selfish pleasure: I love prose and poetry and their mingling and I love sharing and being shared with and I love the look of my handwriting and my own literary cadence and to admire and analyze that of others, and I love to be Muslim and American and South Asian no matter the strife it causes me. And I love to amplify that love with and in others.

There is so much to be played with here. To write, to share, to spread. And so here I am.

Origin Story: Allyson


When you attend an elementary school where POCs are the majority and racism is used as an effective form of bullying, because Russell Peters is the shit, you learn a thing or two about power.

We were the majority. We were represented in the classroom. We were supported. We were the norm. We joked about rice, curry, and pasta to diss each other, and we relished each other’s creative ways of twisting our cultures for our amusement. We were ignorant of many things.

I never understood that I was part of a minority until I reached university. Even though the signs were there in high school and other aspects of life, I was too caught up in books, band, and friends to process them. I knew what racism was, Grade 10 history taught me that, but something wasn’t clicking.

It wasn’t clicking because in elementary school I felt the freedom of a dominant culture where I was represented, where I wasn’t compartmentalized into a stereotype; except when we were dissing each other, of course.

In first year university, our teaching assistant said that one person in our tutorial group had achieved a perfect grade while handing back our midterms. Conscious of being the only POC and having an extensive knowledge of stereotypes, I got up. I wasn’t confident in my grade, so I was more focused on passing than being Southeast Asian. As I glanced at my passing mark, I returned to my seat, relieved. I heard one of my classmates whisper to another, “She’s the one who probably got it.”

Power is a hell of a drug.

When you realize that your elementary school disses were nothing new and used in propaganda to demonize an entire group of people, you start to realize your own ignorance. When you’re supposed to be smart because of your race, you realize to some, you’re of one dimension. When you’ve grown up in a space where you were the majority, you will do everything you can to empower the minority.

Everyone should have a space to feel empowered. Everyone should have a space to feel safe. Everyone should have a space.

Origin Story: Tasneem


Books have always been a huge part of my life.

I learned to read in kindergarten and almost got bumped up a grade since I was already reading full novels by Grade One. During grade school, my bedside table held a stack of books so when I finished one, I could immediately pick up the next in the series. Recesses were spent wandering around the playground daydreaming about my Hogwarts letter, or wondering if I'd ever get to join W.I.T.C.H.

In high school, it was no different, though my choice in books changed and I realized stories weren't just exclusive to the written word. Manga took over my life, and I became enthralled in series like Fullmetal Alchemist and Fruits Basket, among many others.

I loved books so much that in university I decided to be an English and Classical Civilizations major. I would study books in one program, and Ancient Rome and Greece in the other. I thought it would be fantastic.

It was probably my first mistake.

Academia suggests that the only books worth studying in any capacity from any time period are written by white people. Usually white men. I read so many books that denied or ignored the existence of anything other than white, that it was actually exhausting. If they did somehow have a person of colour in the cast, they were usually unimportant or there to prove some sort of stereotypical racial point. History from books is fascinating, since you can learn a lot about a culture at any given time by reading their books. But sometimes, you want to hear a different perspective. A non-white perspective.

Reading about the "otherness" of Africa (as a whole continent, not a specific country or area), or reading about the "barbarians" of India was... disappointing. Yes, these books were written in a period of colonialists who thought they were bringing these people of colour civilization and manners. But with stories, shouldn't we always get to hear multiple sides? Fiction can do that. Fictional books can be written by anyone. Not just the victors.

It was pretty clear in university that books back in the day (and sometimes even now) only exist to perpetuate a status quo.

At least in manga, the characters for the most part are East Asian, unless based elsewhere. Some characters in Harry Potter were casted in the movies as black, and there's no way you can tell me Parvati and Padma Patil aren't some sort of brown. Even in The Hunger Games, there was an important black girl character (despite there being an uproar about her perfect casting choice in the movies).

But even now, in a globalized age, there aren't enough of us in stories.

My bookshelves remain a constant in my life. I've packed them to the brim and then built more just to make room for all the novels and stories I've collected through the years. Video games and movies have made the cut too, because they're stories too, presented to us in a different medium. I love all of them, but something always feels missing. So, another constant remains: There aren't enough of us.

KROS Magazine was an idea I had at the start of my Publishing program at Centennial College in 2016.

It started with wanting to see more South and Southeast Asian authors in bookstores, with stories that aren't toned down or diluted for a generalized audience. With stories that vary just as much as all the stories I had to read in university, but with people who aren't white leading the way.

One thing I learned during the program is that the publishing industry is primarily made up of white women. That means that when stories or authors are needed, they go to their friends who are other white women. It's not necessarily a biased structure, but rather a networking structure that is in desperate need of some diversity. I'm willing to help speed up that process by being part of your network. Like your foot in the door to what sometimes feels like a closed-off industry. An editor and publisher for your stories, to make sure they eventually see the light of day.

While there are successful authors from our demographic (like Sandhya Menon with When Dimple Met Rishi or Sabaa Tahir with An Ember in the Ashes, whose books I love and adore), I think there could be more of us. More whose stories add to the diverse nature of our cultures and backgrounds, so that the narrative we have isn't so homogenous.

Most of the time, our stories are lumped in with the narratives of the Middle East, or East Asia, because we're all considered to be "other," so it's easy to do that. But our stories aren't theirs.

I moved to Toronto, Ontario, in August of 2016. Until then, I lived in a city where the population was mostly all white. There was an Indian community, but because I was so whitewashed growing up, I didn't fit in at all. I didn't have the same cultural or religious restrictions. I didn't even know a word of my parent's language, Gujarati.

But all that meant to me was that there couldn't be one way to view me or my people. If I was so different, then surely others were too. So why were the Indian characters in TV shows and books so... the same? It was probably easier that way, to keep us all stereotyped.

Some people speak up in defense of their exclusively white-casted stories by telling us they're "more realistic," because some cities and towns "don't have minorities."

I don't believe that's true. If my hometown had an entire community of Indo-Pakistani people hidden in plain sight, then other places have us in them too. However, I do believe that in the pursuit of realism, we should be able to see more diversity within the characterizations of ourselves.

That means more stories, by us. And if the usual publishers won't print them on paper because they don't fit a sales target or keep the status quo, then I will. With KROS Magazine.

The program at Centennial gave me the knowledge and tools to make that happen, so why not use them for this purpose? There's no reason not to, and there's too many reasons why our voices need to be heard.

I will be the captain of this ship, and I will make sure it sets sail.

All aboard!



Filipino folklore was never introduced to me as a child. My heart was never filled with fear and wonder by fantastical tales from the Philippines before bedtime. I knew that bruha meant witch—that was about the extent of my knowledge of the lore.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I researched Filipino legends for a project in Grade 12 and found out that there’s an entity that detaches its upper torso from the rest of its body and flies around after the sun sets, favouring pregnant women as its prey.


In Grade 12, I thought the aswang, a shapeshifting, vampire-like creature, was the manananggal; the names are used interchangeably in online sources, and only recently did I find the name of the detachable monster that has since fascinated me. I researched a bunch of other myths and legends for my Grade 12 project, but to this day I can only remember the manananggal. It was such a strange creature, with an oddly specific taste for the fertile.

Allow me to take you to a barangay in the Philippines, surrounded by dense, rich forest. Its inhabitants are asleep or are resisting the urge to close their eyes; although the sun has just set and the night brings new pleasantries, the roosters will wake you up at 4:00 a.m., regardless of how late you stay up. Within the swaying emerald mass the manananggal detaches its upper torso and leaves its bottom half concealed by the wild and the moon. Its bottom half remains standing, the only static object in the forest, waiting patiently to be whole. The wings of the manananggal unfurl and it eyes the barangay, its entrails exposed to the elements, dangling above the homes of its potential victims.

Peering into a home, it sees a pregnant woman who is fast asleep, hand clutching her stomach, and another under her pillow. Its tube-like tongue slithers up to her and sucks out her unborn child, leaving her barren. Satisfied for the night, the manananggal assumes flight, and becomes whole in the forest.

Again, I never grew up with Filipino folklore. So, when I described and commented on the “aswang” to my mom, there was a brief silence between us.

She then replied with, “How did you know that?”

raat ki rani


october is spooky. october is scary. and the spookiest, scariest islamic stories are always about the jinn.

jinn are beings made of smokeless fire, unable to be seen by the naked human eye. they live among us with their own daily lives and communities. they're everywhere and nowhere, completely common in every way (in the way that anything out of sight and out of mind would be).

however, close encounters of the third kind have nothing on the jinn when it comes to scaring muslim children all over the world.

except me, of course.

black magic is something very real in islam. it's used to summon and control jinn, for a price of course (your sanity).

whenever i was told a jinn story, i thought they were the coolest thing. straight out of fiction, except they were real. the best stories always have some truth in them.

one day, while my mother, brother, and i were vacationing in alberta with some family friends, we went on a seven hour hike at waterton. it was exhausting, but worth it. however, there was a slight problem. my mom really needed to pee. she refused to the nth degree to do this "just anywhere" and sought out a location with no fragrant flowers, just dirt and weeds, and let us all go on ahead while she did her thing.

when i asked her about this later, the drama she threw at the situation, she told me a story. it takes place in malawi, where my grandmother's family comes from. they were sitting on their old-style wraparound porch. meat was sizzling on the long grill. the adults were chatting and laughing and having a "merry ol' time."

until one of them saw a spectre, initially thought of as a trick of the light like a heat wave, circling around the most fragrant flower in the garden, the raat ki rani, or the night-blooming jasmine. they immediately shushed the rest of the attendees and ushered them all inside.

the last thing you want to do is disturb a jinn.

according to my mom, jinn are attracted to flowers, and the most fragrant ones can be their homes. if you dared used their home as a bathroom, well... she doesn't even want to think about what kind of horrors she'd suffer because of it.

we know family members who've had to be exorcised because of jinn possession, and that's not something mom (or i!) would ever want to cross off on a bucket list.

so it's like i said, the best, scariest stories always have some truth in them.

(too bad i'm still not scared) 

the crossroads: prince ali, salman rushdie, and me

Aladdin was my Disney Prince. I had a crush on him for as long as I can remember; as a kid I watched the library's copy of Aladdin and the King of Thieves enough not only to internalize every scene and song, but to run the VHS tape beyond repair. He was my Prince because he was kind enough to offer his bread, because I had a penchant for rogues (or perhaps for this he and Peter Pan are together to blame?), and because he was painted familiar: Tanner skin, black hair, shalwar, and Robin Williams's suggestion that we "brush up [our] Sunday salaam for Prince Ali" while he rode on "Abu."

(Incidentally, my father's favorite way to annoy me was to pronounce my boy's name "Al ad-Din," to which I'd immediately stomp my foot and correct, "No, it's Aladdin." Embarrassing in retrospect.)

But while Aladdin was my Prince Jasmine wasn't my Princess—the honor belonged to Mulan—excepting in small, clear moments: Her tiger's name was "Raja." Her father was the sultan and swore by "Allah." One time, she hid her harem dress in a brown cloak and covered her hair, and that image—she—was familiar. Not to say that your Disney Prince or Princess must look or act like you, but it was nice and felt good to see these people who sort of looked like me fall in love, especially since the closest thing to me in Disney was actually Shere "Khan" from The Jungle Book, which was only fun to watch because I liked to hear them call the bear "Baloo" and the elephant "General Haati."

It was that familiarity that drew me to Aladdin and, I think, Mulan, a tomboy who feared being a disappointment as a daughter, who valued her family's honor, who was coded a bit foreign. These were the Disney classics that always felt like mine (and, I should note, in a way The Jungle Book didn't).

Then the truth hit when I was older, slowly, after a course in which I studied the origin of Aladdin and the summer after I finally read Ala ad-Din and the Magic Lamp: the "original" Ala ad-Din was kind of a dick. He was lazy and his story was racist and creepy and translated from and to Arabic by men called Orientalists, and Disney's Aladdin, in some ways a welcome departure from its source material, had nothing to do with me. I'm not Disney's target audience. "Raja" and "salaam" and "abu," "Jafaar" (a name I'd come to associate with evil),"Prince Ali" and "by Allah" are flavor text, not so much for authenticity as for a hint of spice.

And, years later, the original flavor of Prince Ali has gone from adoration to something more complicated, something just shy of betrayal. Because in a way I am the American child it was written for, and in a way I'm not. Because I am a crossroads.


It was in the same course as The Arabian Nights that my professor had us finish off the semester with Salman Rushdie, whose given name I still read like the fish instead of al-Farsi. I didn't know much about Rushdie except that he was a subject to be avoided; something about slander, something about a fatwa. Our class, meanwhile, was subtitled "Storytelling in the 'Muslim World,'" and just before we cracked open our final novel, she challenged our notion of the quoted sphere with the question of whether writing in English from an Indian man in the United Kingdom, who had both offended and cast-off mainstream Islam, could count under the banner.

With that in mind, we plunged in.

I had to read Haroun and the Sea of Stories carefully at home. Years later, my cousin would mail the book back to me having borrowed it, and my parents would be upset for the second time at its presence in our house.

The verdict?

I told my professor after our first discussion that I loved the book and that I wished I'd read it as a kid. Here was the land of "Kahani," and it was called that because that's what you call Storybrooke for a kid named Haroun. Here there were "Guppees" who talked too much and "Chupwallas" who never spoke, and the antagonist was "Khatam-Shud," the end. Here the protagonist rode a hoopoe, not a phoenix, and his father was the "Shah of Blah," a title that's magic on its own, being a rhyme of two languages, and I got it. My professor was Egyptian and she assumed Princess "Batcheat" was a pun on "batshit" but I understood her name immediately to come from "batjeet," from "conversation," and God, how I was breathless. Even the things that I didn't know—this time from the other end of the spectrum, such as the mythology of the hoopoe—felt familiar, puzzle pieces I didn't realize were missing and for which I was eager to find a place.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories is one of my favorite books. It sits next to Neil Gaiman, Elizabeth Wein, and J. K. Rowling, all of whom have brought changes to my writing and excitement to my writer's heart.

But I can't actually put it on my shelf. And that's not because I have to hide it from my parents—it's because I'm not really sure if I myself am okay with how much I like it. Rushdie is a talented storyteller and we tick off similar boxes and I'm intimidated by his skill and respect his bank of knowledge, but I am a proud Muslim and I'm not okay with some of the things for which he stands.

Does his novel "count" as a story from the "Muslim world"? Is Haroun and the Sea of Stories written for someone like me? It's intimately entwined with the corresponding mythology from a man who lived and clearly studied it. It's not a translation or an adaptation of anything; it sits at a crossroads and makes the most of it.

All I can say is I want more. I want more of this, of writers who don't translate or adapt but intertwine. No footnotes, no glossary, this is what it is and spices are added not for additional flavor but because they're intrinsic to the recipe. One of my protagonists divides her day into seven pieces: fajr time, morning, dhur time, 'asr time, maghrib time, isha'a time, dear-god-I-should-be-asleep-my-parents-will-kill-me. It's a personal and synaptic rule of which she's scarcely aware; it always has been and will be, whether she is going through the mundane routines of adulthood or tempering a crisis of faith or saving the world with a talking bird on her shoulder and sword in hand. She won't be explaining it to anyone, but if her readers find it familiar, or eventually internalize and understand, that is success.

A crossroads is, after all, a meeting of roads, not their terminus. A hub for rich activity; teeming with knowledge and creativity, exchanged and the best exalted.

There are a lot of roads in North America. I'll be in my car.

The Effects of Filipino Culture on Canadian-Filipino Youth: A Case Study


Growing up in a Filipino household with hardworking parents and grandparent, and being the eldest child and only daughter creates some intense intersectional expectations. My father’s side of the family had doctors, architects, teachers, and artists; my mother’s side had generations of domestic workers, store owners, and farmers.

There seems to be an overwhelming consensus in Filipino culture that to be successful you will need to be a nurse, domestic worker, teacher, or anything that will pull you out of poverty.

I’ve been pushed and pulled into several directions based on the expectations of my elders to the point where I decided to fight fire with fire. A nurse? Nah, I’ll be a doctor.

Being the first of both families to attend university in Canada, everyone had high hopes. I was to become a psychologist and open a practice of my own—I would meet expectations and then some.

But, sometimes your passions cling to you like burrs on a finely knit sweater. In third year, I wrote a manuscript for National Novel Writing Month, and fell in love with a craft that I buried in a concerted effort to smash familial expectations.

Instead of deciding to take a fifth year to do a thesis, I applied to a publishing program. I decided to drop everything and read. There was a great deal of confusion and a lingering sense of doubt within my family, but there was something within me that knew if I didn’t take this chance, if I didn’t see what I was made of, then I would’ve been an artless doctor for the rest of my life—if I ever made it to grad school, that is.

After I was accepted into the program, it was strange walking into psychology classes every day, looking at the crowd of students who were invested and determined to make something of themselves in the field. It was as if I was swimming in another stream and watching everyone else float by me, unaware of the academic waters that they resided in.

I met one person in my program who was also applying to something other than psychology. We spent a good 30 minutes before an exam talking about how psychology was interesting but wasn’t for us, and how tradition and culture almost messed us up. It was a relief to know that I wasn’t the only one who wanted to take a chance and invent a new path for myself rather than following one that I knew I never wanted.

#ownvoices don't have to be complicated

We don't need our stories to constantly be dowsed in politics for them to be #ownvoices stories.

Our racial and religious identities don't always need to be front and center. Sometimes a brown character is just that: a brown character. There doesn't need to be a reason for them being brown. Their parents don't need to be doctors or own a corner store, nor do they need to be breaking the stereotypes so dramatically as to become the complete opposite.

They just are, just as we are.

Whether your stories want to make a statement or not, it doesn't matter. Because an #ownvoices story just needs to be written by one of us to qualify.

It's already tiring enough justifying our existence in the real world, going through the politics of immigration, of DACA, of why we came to be here in the first place. Why do our characters need that same kind of justification?

It's fiction. You can do whatever you want, however you want, as politicized as you want.

It's up to you.