The Festival of Literary Diversity celebrates its ninth year

Photo Courtesy of The FOLD

The ninth Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) will be held from April 28 to May 5. Celebrating the work of over 35 Canadian and International authors, the festival will present both virtual and in-person events.

Jael Richardson, the founder and executive director of FOLD, is an author based in Brampton. She explains that founding FOLD was a necessity, as she didn’t see herself represented in a crowd of authors at other literary festivals.

“It also came from the strange feeling I got when I was invited and the event itself was kind of tokenizing. I was on a panel once, for example, writing about home with two authors who had immigrated to Canada and the implication was that we would talk about these far away places we were from. Well, I was born and raised in Canada. My parents are American. The FOLD allowed me to create a space where writers could speak about a variety of things, but it was most important to me to have workshops and events where underrepresented authors could speak about craft,” says Richardson.

She explains that in her writing, she tends to start her books by asking a question and works to resolve them as the story progresses.

Farzana Doctor, a queer South Asian author, finds herself writing in a variety of genres, including adult and young-adult fiction, poetry, and recently a self-help book. Similar to Richardson, each of her books begins with an idea, question, or a preoccupation.

Doctor also spends her time working part-time as a psychotherapist and activist. “My social work training has taught me to view the world structurally and to be attuned to the multiple and complex ways we express emotions. This is good for writing characters,” she explains. 

Matteo L. Cerilli, a creative writing and professional writing alumnus, explains that as an author, he finds inspiration from anger and frustration. “As a trans man, I’m watching the list of states I feel comfortable visiting dwindle, organizing to protest care restrictions in Canada, and seeing my friends stockpile their hormones just in case. Writing books for trans people isn’t just for sentimentalism and so we can ‘feel represented’, but to actually cement trans people into history while there’s an active effort to push us out of libraries and classrooms and public life.”

During his time at York, Cerilli spent five years at Trans Bisexual Lesbian Gay Asexual (TBLGAY) as a collective member and eventually the activist and admin chair. He expresses that he saw an upsetting amount of transphobia during this time.

“I like to say that ‘reality hurts, and preparation heals’ — we can’t necessarily change York overnight, but we can build support networks to prepare ourselves. This work put me in rooms with people like Dr. Tom Hooper or Desmond Cole, and prepared me to help create the Students for Queer Liberation anarchist activist group. I’ve left SQL to the students, but I’m proud of starting that foundation. Their student groups taught me that abolishing violence, colonialism, and carcerality starts with mutual understanding and empathy.”

At FOLD, Cerilli is most looking forward to the “Making Monsters” panel, a discussion between himself, Clara Kumagi, and Nafiza Azad, moderated by Ardo Omer on creating and defeating monsters.

“One of the things I value most about FOLD is how the festival embeds equity in a real versus superficial way. As an author I look forward to great questions on panels and connections with participants and other authors,” says Doctor.

Richardson adds: “For this ninth festival, I think I’m most excited to move through a schedule that’s full of great authors and events. I’m excited to really connect with authors like Balsam Karam, who’s coming in from Sweden, and folks like Waubgeshig Rice, who I don’t get to see that often. I’m also really keen to meet with people who are attending FOLD for the first time and those who come to the festival every year.”

To learn more about FOLD, click here.

About the Author

By Sydney Ewert

Arts Editor

Sydney is in her third year at York University studying Dance. She loves to travel and explore new places. When Sydney is not editing, working, or studying for her classes, she is likely going for walks or learning new recipes.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments