Home and Away

Pasha Malla’s latest book, and what immigrants can write

In a recent essay in the Humber Literary Review, Jen Sookfong Lee writes about the lose-lose situation in which Canadian writers of colour often find themselves. On the one hand, she notes the senior editor who “just couldn’t justify taking on ‘one more Asian woman writing about her dead grandfather’ … when the number of Asian women publishing fiction in Canada could be counted on one hand.” But then, if she attempts to stray from this narrative, she is told that she is not “build[ing] on [her] existing audience.”

In some ways, Pasha Malla’s second novel deals with precisely this topic. The main character in Fugue States, Ash, is in his mid thirties and has just lost his father, Brij. Ash is a radio host and used to public speaking but, giving the eulogy at his father’s funeral, he realizes that he is playing a part—hoping to dazzle with wit and cleverness instead of channelling some honest...