In the spirit of I Love to Read Month and Black History Month, Junie Désil shares her journey to becoming a writer and how she incorporates her heritage into her works.
Junie Désil is the child of Haitian immigrants and was born in Montréal, however, she was raised in Winnipeg.
Ever since she was young she has been curious and liked to read and write and while growing up she often found herself at the Winnipeg Public Library. Despite her love for reading and writing, she never would have guessed that she would pursue becoming an author.
"I actually thought I'd be a doctor, a psychologist," says Désil. "So, when I moved to Montréal and subsequently to Vancouver, I was just doing social work and, in fact, that's what I've been doing most of my life but I always wrote on the side so I kind of decided that I'm going to try."
So, Désil started attending slam poetry events and eventually she was noticed by a publisher and sold her first collection.
The author released eat salt | gaze at the ocean in 2020 and it focuses on the Haitian cultural myth of zombies as a metaphor for Black lives.
"I basically decided to use the zombie as a metaphor for Black lives. What it's like to be in that in-between space of being seen and not seen and that hyper-visibility that we experienced. So, the ocean and zombie were metaphors for kind like the condition of what it's like to be Black in Canada."
This published work was a finalist in 2021 The BC and Yukon Book Prizes' Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize.
February is Black History Month, and Désil says that it's important to remember their history, but also to look to the future.
"I think of Black History Month as being not just my history or the history of Black people, but all of our histories, because we're not just sort of like this side or addendum in history. We all have our part to know what Black History Month is, knowing how we got here. I just think it's an opportunity to really get to know how Afro-Canadian, Afro-Caribbean and long-term, multi-generations of Black folks in Canada have come to be."
Désil encourages people to deep-dive into the history of Black people, sit with the discomfort it brings and allow it to open up pathways to meaningful conversations.
For those aspiring to become a writer, she says that integrating one's history and personal stories and memories can be a great tool for writing a meaningful book.
For more information about Junie Désil, visit her website.