The Festival of Literary Diversity
Learn more about the powerful authors, poets and storytellers that will be taking part in this year’s festival.
Learn more about the powerful authors, poets and storytellers that will be taking part in this year’s festival.
Speakers for the festivals are selected by the FOLD’s programming team and are revealed in the months before each festival. Past speakers include authors like Esi Edugyan, Lawrence Hill, Jillian Tamaki and Rich Donovan.
Idil Abdillahi is the co-author of Black Life: Post-BLM and the Struggle for Freedom and an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at Ryerson University.
Idil will be appearing in Reconciliation and Resistance.
Mona Awad is the author of the novels Bunny and Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, which won the Amazon Best First Novel Award and was shortlisted for the Scotia Bank Giller Prize. Bunny was named a best book of 2019 by TIME Magazine, Vogue, CBC Books and Quill & Quire. It is a finalist for a Goodreads Choice Award for Best Horror and is being adapted for television by AMC.
Edem Awumey est né au Togo. Son premier roman Port-Mélo (Gallimard 2006) a obtenu le Grand prix de littérature de l’Afrique noire. En 2009, Les pieds sales (Boréal, Seuil), était sélectionné pour le Prix Goncourt. Descent into night, la traduction anglaise de son roman Explication de la nuit obtint en 2018 par un Prix du gouverneur général du Canada. Edem Awumey a été chargé de cours de littérature francophone à l’Université McGill.
Edem appairaîtra dans La Duel de Traduction.
Billy-Ray Belcourt is from the Driftpile Cree Nation and lives in Vancouver. He is the author of This Wound is a World (Frontenac 2017), NDN Coping Mechanisms (House of Anansi 2019), and A History of My Brief Body (Hamish Hamilton 2020).
Gwen Benaway is a trans girl of Anishinaabe and Métis descent. She has published three collections of poetry, Ceremonies for the Dead, Passage, and Holy Wild, and was the editor for an anthology of fantasy short stories, Maiden Mother and Crone: Fantastical Trans Femmes. Her writing has been critically acclaimed and widely published in Canada. She was a finalist for the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ writers from the Writer’s Trust of Canada, the Lambda Literary Award for Trans Poetry, and the National Magazine Awards and Digital Publishing Awards for her personal essay, A Body Like A Home. Her fourth collection of poetry, Aperture, is forthcoming from Book*hug in Spring 2020. She is also currently editing a book of creative non-fiction, trans girl in love, forthcoming from Strange Light in 2020. She lives in Toronto, Ontario and is a Ph.D student at the University of Toronto in the Women and Gender Studies Institute.
Gwen is appearing in The Art of Craft: Trans Brilliance Edition.
Ali Blythe is author of two critically acclaimed books exploring trans-poetics: Twoism and Hymnswitch. A Quill & Quire starred review said “Blythe delivers taut yet expansive hymns from ‘the golden-throated era / of the hormone’” and the Puritan said it’s “exciting to see a writer so conscious of building a body of work within and across collections, pursuing not just a set of ideas and concerns but an artistic vision.” His poems and essays are published in Canada, England, Germany and Slovenia.
Ali is appearing in The Art of Craft: Trans Brilliance Edition.
D’Scribe the poet is an indigenous spoken word artist currently residing in Niagara. He has competed, cried, lost and won on many slam stages around Turtle Island. Currently working on his appearance in the play “Over to you” hitting the meridian center in Niagara falls in mid December as well as a video series that will be released early February 2020. D’Scribe is loud, angry and unapologetic on stage. Offstage, though he is a giant teddy bear.
Perdita Felicien is an Olympian, World Champion & national Champion in the 100m hurdles. She retired in 2013 & is now a sports broadcaster, public speaker & television host. She has covered multiple sporting events for the CBC, including the last two Olympic Games. She was named Canada’s Athlete of the Year & was given the keys to her hometown of Pickering, Ont. Her first book, My Mother’s Daughter, will be published by Doubleday in April 2020.
Perdita is appearing in the Breakfast with Perdita Felicien.
Douglas Gary Freeman was born into American Apartheid in Washington DC in 1949 and became involved in the Civil Rights and Black Power movements as a teen. In Chicago he was targeted by the American government’s COINTELPRO war against African American “leaders” and was violently attacked by Chicago’s Red Squad which resulted in him and an attacker sustaining gunshot wounds. Subsequently, he fled to Canada. He is married with four children and five grandchildren.
Douglas will be appearing in Fighting Injustice with Fiction.
Wayne Grady is the author of a dozen works of nonfiction, two novels (Emancipation Day and Up From Freedom), and is also an award-winning translator of such writers as Antonine Maillet, Yves Beauchemin, and Yara El-Ghadban. He divides his time between Kingston, Ontario, and Mexico.
Samra Habib is a writer, photographer, and activist. Her memoir, We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Memoir was a finalist for Canada Reads in 2020. As a journalist she’s covered topics ranging from fashion trends and Muslim dating apps to the rise of Islamophobia in the US. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Advocate, and her photo project, “Just Me and Allah,” has been featured in Nylon, i-D, Vanity Fair Italia, Vice, and The Washington Post.
Sheena Kamal’s writing has been featured in The Guardian, Bustle, The Irish Times, Writer’s Digest and Entertainment Weekly. Her bestselling debut novel The Lost Ones won her a 2018 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, a Strand Magazine Critics Award and Macavity Award for Best First Novel. The sequel It All Falls Down was called “a stunning, emotionally resonant thriller” in its Kirkus starred review. In 2020, expect her next thriller No Going Back, and her first YA novel, Fight Like A Girl.
Helen is a Dane Zaa, Cree, and mixed Euro-descent woman from Prophet River First Nations living in Fort St. John, B.C. She has engaged in activist and artistic events across Canada, including a poetry performance at the 2017 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Awards in Montreal. Her first book, In My Own Moccasins: A Story of Struggle & Resilience, was a national bestseller and was long listed for the RBC Taylor prize.
Sonya Lalli is a Canadian writer of Indian heritage. She studied law in her hometown of Saskatoon and at Columbia University in New York, and later completed an MA in Creative Writing and Publishing at City, University of London. Sonya loves to cook, travel and practice yoga. She lives in Toronto with her husband.
Sonya will appear in Better Bring the Book Club.
Amanda Leduc is the author of the non-fiction book DISFIGURED: ON FAIRY TALES, DISABILITY, AND MAKING SPACE, out now with Coach House Books. She is also the author of the novel THE MIRACLES OF ORDINARY MEN, published in 2013 by ECW Press. Her new novel, THE CENTAUR’S WIFE, is forthcoming with Random House Canada in the spring of 2021. She makes her home in Hamilton, Ontario, where she lives with a very lovable, very destructive dog and serves as the Communications Coordinator for the FOLD.
Teacher, editor, and critic, Canisia Lubrin has been published internationally, including translations into Spanish, Italian, and forthcoming in German and French. In 2019 she was Writer-In-Residence at Queen’s University and poetry faculty at Banff Centre. She’s received nominations for the Toronto Book Award, Journey Prize, Gerald Lampert, Pat Lowther, and others. Lubrin’s Voodoo Hypothesis was a CBC Best Book. The Dyzgraphxst (M&S) is her second book. She earned an MFA at the University of Guelph.
A proud Brampton kid at heart, Des has touched many stages around the GTA. She is the co-director of the Toronto BAM! Youth Slam and 2019 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word National Champion. Poetry turns her stories of relationships, growing up and struggles with self-love as an Indo-Caribbean (queen) into tales of perseverance. She has a passion for spreading poetry through her community hoping that others find strength through stanza, by way of the soul.
Ryan McMahon is an Anishinaabe creative who talks, writes and yells for a living. McMahon’s work is squarely rooted at the intersection between the good, the bad and ugly between Indian Country and the mainstream.
Sandhya Menon is the New York Times bestselling author of When Dimple Met Rishi, Of Curses and Kisses, and many other novels that also feature lots of kissing, girl power, and swoony boys. Her books have been included in several cool places, including the Today show, Teen Vogue, NPR, BuzzFeed, and Seventeen. A full-time dog servant and part-time writer, she makes her home in the foggy mountains of Colorado. Visit her online at SandhyaMenon.com.
Kagiso Lesego Molope has won the 2019 Ottawa Book Award and the Inaugural Pius Adesanmi Memorial Award for Excellence in African writing. Her novels are Dancing in the Dust, The Mending Season, This Book Betrays My Brother and Such a Lonely, Lovely Road.
Rhonda Mullins is a Montreal-based translator who has translated many books from French into English, including Grégoire Courtois’ The Laws of the Skies and Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette’s Suzanne. She is a seven-time finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation, winning the award in 2015. Novels she has translated have been contenders for Canada Reads and one was a finalist for the 2018 Best Translated Book Award.
Rhonda will appear in the Translation Duel/Duel de Traduction.
Dorothy Ellen Palmer is a disabled senior writer, accessibility advocate, retired English/Drama teacher, improv coach, and OSSTF union activist. Her work appears in: Refuse, Nothing Without Us, Wordgathering, Alt-Minds, All Lit Up, Herizons, Little Fiction Big Truths, 49th Shelf, and Open Book. Her novel, When Fenelon Falls, (Coach House, 2010), features a disabled protagonist in the Woodstock-Moonwalk summer of 1969. Her memoir, Falling for Myself, just appeared with Wolsak and Wynn.
Casey Plett wrote the novel Little Fish, the short story collection A Safe Girl to Love, and co-edited the anthology Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers. She is a winner of the Amazon First Novel Award, the ALA Stonewall Book Award Barbara Gittings Literature Prize, and a two-time winner of the Lambda Literary Award. She has written for The New York Times, The Walrus, McSweeney’s, Maclean’s, and Rookie, among other publications.
Danny Ramadan is a Syrian-Canadian author, public speaker and storyteller. His debut novel, The Clothesline Swing, continues to receive praise and awards and is translated to multiple languages. His children book, Salma the Syrian Chef, is out in March 2020.
Danny will appear in Fighting Injustice with Fiction.
Jael Richardson is the author of The Stone Thrower: A Daughter’s Lesson, a Father’s Life, a memoir based on her relationship with her father, CFL quarterback Chuck Ealey. The Stone Thrower was adapted into a children’s book in 2016 and was shortlisted for a Canadian picture book award. Richardson is also a book columnist and guest host on CBC’s q. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph and lives in Brampton, Ontario where she founded and serves as the Artistic Director for the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD). Her debut novel, Gutter Child, is coming Winter 2021 with HarperCollins Canada.
Jamaal Jackson Rogers is an award winning poet, arts educator, creative entrepreneur, and performance artist. As a poet, he was selected to be Ottawa’s first English Poet Laureate after 27 years in which the position had gone unfilled, while his career in arts education has earned him 2016’s Ontario Arts Educator Award. His defining moments are when he makes intimate connections with his participants during workshop exchanges and performance sets.
Roshanie is a Brampton-based DJ that is known for her nostalgic and global song selections. She has shared stages with international acts and some of Canada’s most promising emerging artists. Beyond the DJ booth, Roshanie is a resident host on ISO Radio, a community radio station broadcasting live from Central Toronto. She is also the founder of feminist educational initiative, Solidarity in Sound, which works toward gender equity in music.
Shiann Croft is an educator, spoken word artistscreenwriter and change agent to art and culture in the GTA.The Brampton based poetess has a powerful relationship with storytelling that is ancestral and thought-provoking. Using words such as storyteller, cultural custodial and prophet of the times to describe herself, Shiann is also a brilliant educator that uses creative writing as a tool to center the experiences of black folx.
Shyy will appear in The Poet’s Gallery.
Makambe K Simamba is a Dora Mavor Award winning playwright and actor, whose work includes Our Fathers, Sons, Lovers, and Little Brothers, A Chitenge Story, and The Drum Major Instinct. She works consistently in theatre, as well as in film/TV. Makambe is a proud Zambian, and she is thrilled to serve her community though her ability to tell stories.
Makambe will perform the Opening Gala Theatre Performance of Our Fathers, Sons, Lovers and Little Brothers.
Jesse Thistle is Métis-Cree, from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. He is an assistant professor in Métis Studies at York University in Toronto. He won a Governor General’s Academic Medal in 2016, and is a Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation Scholar and a Vanier Scholar. Visit him on Twitter @michifman.
Rinaldo Walcott is a co-author of Black Life: Post-BLM and the Struggle for Freedom. He is a writer, critic and Professor. His work is centrally concerned with Black life across the diaspora.
Rinaldo will be appearing in Reconciliation and Resistance.
Jenny Heijun Wills has lived, studied, and worked in Toronto, Montreal, Boston, and Seoul. Her memoir, Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related won the 2019 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for non-fiction. She currently teaches at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba.
Lindsay Wong is the author of the bestselling, award-winning memoir The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug-Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family. She has a BFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia and MFA in literary nonfiction from Columbia University, and she is now based in Vancouver, Canada. My Summer of Love and Misfortune is her first YA novel.
The FOLD is a remarkable and wonderful event for authors and attendees alike. What an amazing community, dedicated to the vital need for inclusive stories and the critical role they play in building a better world.
Field Guide to the North American Teenager is my first novel and FOLD was my first Canadian literary festival. While American and Canadian culture overlap quite a bit, especially when it comes to bookshelves, Canadian literature is unique and I was very heartened by to be embraced by that community I consider home despite residing in the US. It was a homecoming I didn’t know I needed!
The Festival of Literary Diversity was an absolute joy–the organizers thought of *everything* and by anticipating authors’ needs, they freed us to focus on connecting with the audience and each other. There was no pretension, no posturing–just very genuine conversations with invested writers and engaged readers.
I have been to a lot of writers festivals and the FOLD is definitely near the top of the list of those I want to be invited back to.
Being part of such a clearly diverse, inclusive and mutually respectful group was thrilling and inspiring: a glimpse of a better world.
Wherever I go in Canada and find another writer of colour, we eventually end up gushing about how great the FOLD is, how by normalizing diversity it liberates us to talk to audiences about craft. It’s hard to imagine the literary landscape returning to a prehistoric pre-FOLD era.
FOLD is a festival experience unlike any other I’ve had. The FOLD team strive to create a space that’s welcoming and engaging, while allowing for curiosity, ingenuity and the fostering of real community – and they succeed, every year.
The FOLD is one of the most important literary events on this continent. By focusing on diverse voices and giving authors space to share their stories and speak their truths, it is revolutionizing the writing and storytelling realm as we know it.
Being part of the FOLD community has provided me with a strong sense of belonging. Sharing diverse stories and listening to different voices that broaden my understanding of the world has impacted me as a person and motivated me as a writer.
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