York Master's student named George Brown College's PEN Canada Writer-in-Residence

Kurdish writer Kaziwa Salih, a York University Master’s student in Humanities, has published 12 books, has been the editor of two Kurdish magazines, been named PEN Canada’s 2014 Writer-in-Residence for Prepatory and Liberal Studies at George Brown College and is waiting to fulfill a one-year Fellowship from the State University of New York-Albany at the Global Institute for Health and Human Rights.

Kaziwa Salih photo

Kaziwa Salih shows the cover of her book of short stories My Clay Fiancée

After she graduates in June, will have a Master’s degree in Humanities to add to her BA (Hons) in Communications Studies and certificate in Migrations and Forced Refugee Issues (both from York) and a graduate certificate in Journalism from Sheridan College. Despite this success, both here in her adopted country and elsewhere, but she remains a relative unknown and finds it difficult to get published here, Ms. Salih says.

"It’s difficult to break into publishing in Canada, it’s disappointing," she says. "It makes you feel you do not belong to this country. When you are overseas you risk your life to save your identity as a writer, and when you come to Canada you risk your identity as writer. Most of the time I think I should migrate from Canada to somewhere that won’t detach me from myself, from my real identity."

Born in Iraqi Kurdistan, Ms. Salih came to Toronto in 2003. She founded the Anti-Genocide Project in 2010 to bring together the voices of genocide victims living in Canada and has received several international awards, including the 2013 Naguib Mahfouz Award for the Novel and Short Story from the Nagham Institution and Egyptian Ministry of Culture for her book of short stories entitled "My Clay Fiancée" and has twice received award at the Amita Festival of Art and Literature in Italy (2001 and 2002).

A witness of the Kurdish genocide herself, it’s no surprise that Ms. Salih has chosen to concentrate in the areas of genocide and culture in both her research and other writings. As PEN’s Writer-in-Residence, she says she gets to speak to college students and share her experiences with them.

As to her research, she says "my Master's thesis presents the arguments that genocide has an inherent culture, and that the culture of genocide is inheritable through trans-generational which operates in a state of constant flux. It also argues that the culture of genocide is portable, or transferable to host countries, through the acculturation or the interactions and cultural influences between nations."

Looking to the future, one option open to her, Ms. Salih says, is to pursue a PhD in Cultural Psychology and look into genocidal culture violence. She’s begun looking into that avenue, "(but) I have to make sure I fulfill the requirements and find the right supervisor."