25th Trillium Award

The Dirty Dozen, with Sonia Saikaley

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Sonia Saikaley

Sonia Saikaley's first collection of poetry, Turkish Delight, Montreal Winter (TSAR Publications), is a narrative twisted with the threads of two cultures and two climates, infused with the mystery and longing of a homeland she has never visited. Susan Musgrave describes it as "sensuous and shocking, a turbulent voyage of a book." Sonia will launch Turkish Delight, Montreal Winter in Ottawa on Wednesday, October 10th at Burgers on Main. For more info on the book launch, visit our Events Page.

Sonia may never have been to Lebanon, but her journeys through Japan and Italy have left her with some juicy morsels to confess in our Open Book Dirty Dozen — from belly dancing to chrysanthemum-eating to typhoon-wandering.

Sonia Saikaley's Dirty Dozen

1. I always wanted to be called "Angela". My wish came true when I taught English in Japan and my students thought I looked like the Japanese pop singer Angela Aki. Even on my visits to Tokyo, passersby called me ?Angela-san?.

2. A nurse named me. My parents couldn?t think of any more girl names (I?m the youngest of four daughters).

3. During my sojourn in Japan, I loved wandering through cemeteries. There was something very intriguing about these sacred grounds. I admired the ancient Buddhist temples, the flowers and food left during obon. One day as I walked past some graves, a woman approached me and I thought, "Oh no, I?m caught. What?s the fine for this?" But she only wanted to invite me into the funeral home. We chatted over green tea while she explained certain aspects of a Buddhist funeral.

4. In Japan, I ate a chrysanthemum — well, a chrysanthemum salad. I also ate intestines and beef tongue. Surprisingly, I loved the beef tongue. The chrysanthemum salad and intestines were "so-so" as my Japanese students would say.

5. I love walking in the rain and thought it was a good idea to venture outside my apartment in Japan before a typhoon headed towards my region. A search team (well, my supervisor and fellow colleague) tried to contact me but I couldn?t hear my cell phone in my purse. Fortunately, I made it back to my place, drenched but safe.

6. I belly-danced my way across the public schools in Shiogama, Japan.

7. In Italy, I sometimes used the men?s washroom. I was on a strict bus schedule. There was no time to wait in the long line-ups for the women?s restroom.

8. Although my writing is heavily influenced by my Lebanese heritage, I have never been to Lebanon, believe it or not. Well, unless I count the time I was in my mother?s belly and my family went there for a visit.

9. I used to steal cigarettes from my father?s grocery store so my friends and I could try smoking. A neighbour caught us a couple of times. I?m a non-smoker today.

10. As a child, I slipped on some mud and landed on a piece of plywood hidden under the dirt. My sisters couldn?t stop laughing as I entered the house, completely covered in mud. I still have a scar on my left knee.

11. In junior high school, I was kicked out of my English class for arguing with a classmate who kept pulling at my bra straps. The boy and I sat in the hallway on the cold floor and I made sure my back wasn?t turned towards him. Minutes later, the vice-principal showed up, shaking her head in disapproval and saying she was disappointed in me. She kept calling me "Sarah" and I didn?t correct her and neither did the boy.

12. I don?t drink coffee. I rise early without an alarm clock. I?m embarrassed to admit it but I think I?m a Type A personality artist!

Sonia Saikaley was born and raised in Ottawa. She grew up in a traditional Lebanese household and much of her writing is influenced by her rich Middle Eastern heritage. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Still Point Arts Quarterly, Things Japanese: A Collection of Short Stories, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, and the anthology Lavandería — A Mixed Load of Women, Wash, and Word. She is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers and the University of Ottawa. Her first book, The Lebanese Dishwasher (Quattro Books, 2012), was co-winner of the 2012 Ken Klonsky Novella Contest.

For more information about Turkish Delight, Montreal Winter please visit the Tsar Books website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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