Sara Ramnarine is just starting out her career in Toronto, a city that is touted as one of the most cosmopolitan in the world with its motto, “Diversity is our Strength.” As a smart, driven, educated, contemporary woman, Sara assumes her rise up the corporate ladder will be seamless. But she soon discovers that the workplace is full of pitfalls and obstructions, including discrimination and racism. Eventually, Sara is forced to make a critical decision that affects her career and state of mind, risking her reputation for years to come.
“Priya Ramsingh’s Brown Girl in the Room is a nuanced and insightful account of what it means to be a first generation Canadian woman within a ruthless corporate environment. Fearless and direct, Ramsingh presents her protagonist, Sara, as well as her friends and colleagues with an equal mix of compassion and critique, exposing racism, misogyny, and all of their consequences. An engaging and powerful debut.” —Danila Botha, author of For All the Men (and Some of the Women) I’ve Known and Too Much on the Inside
“A storyline that isn’t discussed in popular modern fiction but needs to be told“—Goodreads
“When a book is able to make you reflect on your own life experiences and reminds you of some of the issues that still exist to this day, you know it is extremely well written!—Goodreads
“Ramsingh creates a mostly believable, true-to-life workplace filled with conflicting egos and low-key racism that’s as damaging as anything overt. The book’s message is strong… a worthwhile story”—Publishers Weekly
“Office politics steeped in rivalry and racism.”—Toronto Star
“A crucial addition to Canadian diasporic literature… In an era where representation matters, Brown Girl in the Room is definitely the first novel I have read that has connected so deeply to my own reality.” —Amrita Kumar-Ratta, Brown Girl Magazine
“This story will serve as a point of affirmation… Brown Girl in the Room gives me hope”—Harsha Nahata, Brown Girl Magazine
“Brown Girl in the Room is an all too realistic and relatable story of being a woman of colour and building your career… Ramsingh does a great job of depicting the insidiously subtle form racism can take in the professional world.”—Literary Treats
Since she was acclaimed by her Grade Five teacher for story writing skills, Priya Ramsingh has recognized her calling as a writer. An English graduate from Carleton University, Priya spent twenty-two years in communications, with nine as a freelance writer. Brown Girl in the Room is her first novel.
The short fiction collection, For All the Men (and Some of the Women) I’ve Known, by Danila Botha is a finalist for the Trillium Book Award 2017, and I had the chance to chat with Danila about her nomination and her love of short storytelling. She was overjoyed when she learned that she was a finalist for the award, comparing the nomination to getting an incredible and unexpected present. “It’s wonderful for the book to be recognized like that, and it’s wonderful to be in the company of such incredible writers,” she said. “It’s an honour and I’m so thrilled.”
Our conversation about short stories sent Danila’s mind reeling with the many collections she’s read, as well as the long list of reasons that she loves the medium. “I really enjoy the economy of the form,” she said. “Every word and every sentence has to be quite meaningful. You sometimes have two or three sentences to tell a backstory, and I really like the challenge of that.”
The stories that make up For All the Men (and Some of the Women) I’ve Known, Danila’s second short fiction book, explore the complexity of love and relationships. Though there is connectivity between a few stories, each one holds the reader in a moment. We peer into the characters’ lives as they experience joy or confusion or heartbreak, and their emotions are real. The ability to pinpoint snapshots in time and draw the reader into individual moments of emotion makes short stories unique from longer fiction. “You can leave the reader in a place where they continue to wonder what happened to the character long afterward,” Danila said.
I asked Danila what writerly advice she would give if she could speak to her younger self. She had a long list: she’d tell herself to read a lot, remind herself to persevere through frustration and the many drafts that aren’t quite right, and assure herself that her work will be greeted by an incredibly warm and supportive community.
One of her key pieces of advice was about cultivating her own individuality as a writer and having confidence in her uniqueness. She said, “The things that are different about us, which can be scary because we love other people’s work for completely different reasons, are sometimes the things that are the most interesting about our work and the things that we should explore.” While she is captivated by the work of many other authors (for example, Etgar Keret’s ability to be simultaneously emotionally impactful and incredibly succinct, and Heather O’Neill’s “magical” metaphors), she insisted on the value of trusting her own instincts as a writer.
The Trillium Book Award nomination is an indication that her instinct has led her right. The book went through a long process to reach this point of celebration: from its initial inspiration that came from reading love-and-heartbreak-laden books, poems, and stories, such as Lynn Crosbie’s Liar; through her research process, where she spoke to people about their relationships; and through the writing process, sometimes frustrating, sometimes emotion-filled, but always underpinned with “an element of pure pleasure,” Danila said.
Now that the book has landed in the hands, eyes, and minds of its audience, Danila is effusively grateful for the encouraging and thoughtful response it has received. “You always feel a little bit vulnerable when something comes out, whatever it is,” she said, “especially when it’s emotional in nature. But people have been absolutely kind and supportive.”
You can find For All the Men (and Some of the Women) I’ve Known here.
Finalist for the 2017 Trillium Book Award!
Shortlisted for The 2017 Vine Award Award for Canadian Jewish Literature in the Fiction category!
Shortlisted for the 2017 ReLit Award!
In For All the Men (and Some of the Women) I’ve Known, Danila Botha explores the nuances and complexity of relationships, from love to betrayal. In these eighteen unforgettable stories, Botha creates characters so authentic, readers are convinced that they know them personally. As in her debut collection, Got No Secrets, Botha excels at blending literary techniques with popular zeitgeist. With her trademark honest and singular voice, Botha exposes the desire for human connection above all things. The collection is hopeful, fearless, and utterly relatable.
“Everyone in this book is alive. Painfully, nervously, ardently. This collection, (like Chekhov by way of Kathy Acker but utterly original), is truthful and dreamy, tough and tremulous; sad and aching, seductively, with hope.—Lynn Crosbie, author of Where Did You Sleep Last Night
“With an ear for poetry and a knack for tragedy, Danila Botha is an expert on yearning. These stories are for anyone who has ever loved and lost, but not let go.”—Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall, author of Ghosted
“For All the Men (and Some of the Women) I’ve Known is unlike anything I have ever read before. Unflinchingly honest in its examination of love in all its joyful, messy, agonizing, spectacularly beautiful glory, these stories seem to vibrate on their own emotional frequency. Danila Botha writes with a heartbreaking rawness and intensity that will continue to haunt you long after you’ve turned the final page.”—Amy Jones, author of We’re All In This Together
“I discovered [author Danila Botha] while I was reading books for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award specifically her delightful first story collection, Got No Secrets. These two stories are brand new, stories written in a gutsy, head-on, colloquial style about love, sex and mis-connection among the urban 20-somethings she knows so well. Her characters are all compulsively themselves, driven, probably always, to make a mess of things, but vulnerable, full of desire, and often touchingly witty.”—Douglas Glover, author of Elle
“A searing and beautifully forthright collection about the angst, chaos, tragedy and hope in the quest for love. A series of unique, riveting and perfect portrayals that pulls no punches. Reading these stories made me smile and made me want to smash things.”—Lisa de Nikolits, author of Between the Cracks She Fell
“For All the Men has Botha delivering smart prose that seamlessly balances humour, disappointment, and dysfunction… Botha is an incredibly fresh voice in Canadian literature, and this remarkably visceral and unforgettable collection feels like it’s only setting the stage for much more to come.”—Liz Worth, Quill & Quire
“I devoured this collection, and I hope Ms. Botha continues to hone her craft producing more stories with that healthy touch of realism that she has come to be recognised for.” —Miramichi Reader
“Each of these stories are real and honest, open and gut-wrenching, and Botha makes them jump out from the page into your mind. The characters are unforgettable. This book will stay with you for a long time, as you ponder your own understanding of love long after you have shut the last page.”—Laurie Burns, Atlantic Books Today
“Botha’s characters freely indulge in sex and drugs and copious amounts of alcohol in their quest to find succour or peace, though it becomes readily apparent that what they are most intent on discovering… is some sort of authentic connection with another human being… The author is undeniably familiar with modern urban ennui, and the stories in her collection have an admirable directness and grit.”— Steven W. Beattie, Globe and Mail
“A series of orchestral variations whose loops and iterations are made vital by the steady introduction of new elements… stories full of people who disappoint, or are disappointed, yet they rarely end on a note of despair, which in today’s Tinder-enabled relationship landscape seems almost like an act of subversion… She [Botha] has a fine talent…”—Emily Donaldson, Toronto Star
“Botha’s collection thoughtfully, tragically, and insightfully captures the peculiarities of modern relationships in the time of texting, online dating, and an unnerving urban detachment we’ve come to recognize as a normal thing.”—The Literary Lollipop
Photo: Ayelet Tsabari
Danila Botha is a fiction writer based in Toronto. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, she has lived in Israel, and in Nova Scotia. Her first collection of short stories, Got No Secrets, was praised by the Globe and Mail, the Chronicle Herald and the Cape Town Times. It was also named one of Britannica’s Books of the Year (Canadian short stories), and was published in South Africa in 2011. Her first novel, Too Much on the Inside, was shortlisted for the 2016 Relit Award and won a Book Excellence Award for Contemporary Novel. Her sophomore collection of short stories, For All the Men (and Some of the Women) I’ve Known, was published in 2016 to rave reviews. It was also recently named a finalist for the 2017 Trillium Book Awards. She is currently working on her second novel and on a new collection of short stories. Read more on her website: www.danilabotha.com
“Mother, mother, can you hear me? Sure I’m sober, sure I’m sane.
Life is perfect, never better, still your daughter, still the same.
My mother calls me immediately after dinner. My cellphone’s ring beats at my brain like a jackhammer; even though I have call display, I pick it up, just to make it shut up. She doesn’t know about anything that goes on in my life. She doesn’t know what subjects I’m taking, what I like studying, what I do any night of the week. She just wants to know that her investment is working out well—that her daughter will one day become a respected professional that is actually worth something. I hope I don’t live that long. I tell her that I’m fine, that the test went well, that I’m going to have to spend another night at the library. Another project for my abnormal psychology class. A lot of research. Periodicals, you know. I’ll probably see her in the morning, maybe.
A startling and original new voice that owes as much to Black Flag and Bikini Kill as it does to J.D. Salinger and Heather O’Neill. A South African copywriter is transplanted to the urban jungle of Manhattan. A recovering rape victim tries to resume a normal life. A Toronto nurse cuts herself to fill her emptiness. In Got No Secrets, Danila Botha takes us into the private lives of twelve different women, with only one question in mind: What if these women were you? From addiction to abuse, from childhood to suicide, from Hillbrow, Johannesburg, to downtown Toronto, Botha’s prose is compassionate, provocative, often funny, and always fearless.
“Intensely original and fantastically written.”—The Literary Lollipop
“Danila Botha is an emerging literary lioness on Canada’s literary landscape… Got No Secrets packs an emotional wallop…powerful and poignant…an honest and freshly forthright debut that is filled with the headaches and heartburns of youth gone awry…”—The Halifax Chronicle Herald
“Danila Botha’s debut collection of short stories makes the personal political. With clear diction, Botha’s prose packs a punch. There’s no skirting the issues, masquerading behind metaphor or dancing between the lines.”—The Coast
“The writing is stark, honest and stripped-down, making no excuses, just like the classic punks that see frequent mention throughout. The question that Got No Secrets asks is: exactly where does bad parenting end and self-determination begin?”—Broken Pencil
“Botha’s story telling technique seamlessly blends tragedy and humour, making this collection a must have”—Reading the Rails, Toronto Word on the Street
Danila Botha was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She volunteered with Na-me-res, an organization benefiting the homeless, which inspired many of the stories in Got No Secrets. Her writing has appeared in 24 Hours, Yoink! Magazine, and NOW. She lives in Toronto. http://www.danilabotha.com