First Language(s): Gujarati
Second Language(s): English
Taslim Burkowicz’s books are influenced by her Indo-Canadian heritage and have been covered by the CBC. Her works include Chocolate Cherry Chai, The Desirable Sister, Ruby Red Skies and Sugar Kids (forthcoming). Burkowicz resides with her husband and three boys in BC, where she runs, dances, reads, and is chased by deadlines.
What was your favorite book as a child?
As a child, my parents never censored the books I read. New immigrants to Canada, they valued me reading (anything) immensely. My favourite book as a child was The Witching Hour by Anne Rice. The book lived in an antique trunk in my room (amongst candles and journals). Featuring old world New Orleans with dusty mansions and magical witches, what could be more enchanting to draw in a young reader? However, somewhere along the way, I must confess the book became terrifying to me (even though I read it multiple times) and I had to immediately get rid of the copy in my room. I lost many nights of sleep imagining that book was burning a hole in my trunk. Now, in my adulthood, I am amazed that words alone had such power over me. Anne Rice launched my love for gothic fiction, and when I set out to write my newest novel, Sugar Kids, I used quintessential gothic classics such as Jane Eyre, The Turn of the Screw, and The Haunting of Hill House as points of reference to help me construct my character development and plot.
What was the original reason or motivation why you started writing creatively?
Like many authors, my journey into writing began as a voracious reader. With books, I fell into new worlds and other dimensions, often losing track of time. As a child I would sit outside under my favourite tree to read and forget to come home. My love for books continued through my adult life, but I experienced something of a reverse effect in college: I took one writing course which absorbed all my attention, and I had a difficult time focusing on my other courses. I knew then that I wanted to be a writer. However, I realized quickly that a lot of the books I was reading and enjoying didn’t feature people like me: an Indo-Canadian woman, and that if I was to write professionally, I wanted to tell stories from my point of view. The books I write today feature the problems and issues that people in my community face, be it immigration, colourism, finding a place in Canadian society, Indian medieval history, or more recently, an Indo-Canadian youth’s search for her sexual identity. I’m also recently exploring the idea that Indo-Canadians don’t always have to represent their own heritage in writing, and that they also should be free to partake in other genres.
What was the most adventurous or thrilling thing you ever did/experienced?
Probably moving to Japan and living abroad for four years. At the time I didn’t speak a word of Japanese and ended up teaching in elementary schools where no one spoke English. I ended up learning Japanese in a unique way: I would have lunch with grade one students who would teach me about the monsters of Japan, and then I would spend time with the seasoned elementary school teachers, who would take me on hour-long hikes through the countryside and chat with me solely in Japanese. My unconventional approach to the language meant I learned it then from the streets rather than just books. When I came back from Japan, I visited one of the Japanese centers here in Vancouver. Immediately, I felt like I was back in Tokyo, and I instantly connected with the older generation. Their stories about the internment camps that existed in WWII, told to me in conversational Japanese, have made their way into my newest novel, Sugar Kids.
Do you listen to music while reading or writing?
I am a huge fan of pure silence when writing. However, in a house full of three boys and a husband this is a luxury. As I am writing this, one of my sons is jamming on his acoustic guitar. You can hear the following sounds at my house at any given time: guitar, electric guitar, bass, vocals, flute, and piano. While I don’t play instruments, I love to dance. Thus, music also plays a huge role in my books. My previous books have covered the grunge and swing era, and my newest book explores blues music, and most specifically, the acid house rave scene of the 90s. Therefore, while I do prefer silence, I often look up tracks of music that appear in my books while I am writing to help give me a sense of that time period and the feelings that a certain piece evokes. Music can help me create entire scenes. The right drum and bass song can conjure up a DJ, aqua and pink strobe lights, and kids partying in an underground warehouse in 1995. Or, likewise, sitars and a tabla can help me recreate the Mughal Empire in the 1600s.
The Girl in the Yellow Painting
Issue Fall '23