Darcy Tamayose uses magical realism to explore the immigrant experience

Darcy Tamayose is a writer, graphic designer and PhD student from southern Alberta. Based in Lethbridge, her work includes the novel Odoriwhich received the Canada-Japan literary prize, and the book YA Katie take it easy.

His latest is Ezra’s Ghosts, a collection of four short stories set in a sleepy prairie town called Ezra, a fictionalized version of Lethbridge. Grounded in elements of magical realism, Japanese folklore, and academic writing, the book is bound by location and themes of grief, language, and culture.

Each story features a different character facing fantastical circumstances: The Thesis is about a doctoral student who left behind a pregnant partner to work in China during the COVID-19 pandemic; ghost fly watches an Indigenous character trapped in town after her death, forced to watch her family and killer carry on without her; in The Ryukyuan, the oldest man in town suddenly grows wings one day; and Redux explores a future world of AI, universities and bioterrorism.

Ezra’s Ghosts is a finalist for the 2022 Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. The $60,000 prize recognizes the best in Canadian fiction. The winner will be announced on November 2, 2022.

Tamayose spoke with CBC Books about writing Ezra’s Ghosts.

A creative escape

“I wrote this book because I need this kind of creative process in my life. I’m also a graphic designer. I need to be engaged or at least in touch with the creative process.

“The town in the book is basically my own backyard. Ezra is basically an echo of my experience with the city of Lethbridge and southern Alberta and the surrounding community. It’s an imaginary place that I wander towards. escapes.Over the past decade of working on Ezra’s GhostsI wrote in order to return to this world of Ezra, and to shape the script and develop characters in this place and this space.

I wrote this book because I need this kind of creative process in my life.

“But I also wrote the book in order to escape project deadlines and classes. Creative writing just released my academic tension. It turns out that a practice or a project can serve as fuel – or even resuscitate another. I have been engaged in post-secondary studies as a student for over a decade. I know it has affected the way I write.

An unconventional collection

“There is an element of magical realism, or urban fantasy, in each of the four stories. But I would define it more as a genre-varying collection.

“With The thesis, for example, it is written in real time to examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on a student who traveled to China to do research at the start of the pandemic. There is a very calm and enveloping ghostly aspect to this story. I tried to make it as diaphanous as possible. Partly because there is a ghost in the story, and partly because the two stories that follow are quite dense in composition.

There is an element of magical realism, or urban fantasy, in each of the four stories.

“It’s a collection of four stories. I wanted to explore and experience the rhythm, density, and non-linear flow of storytelling. With multiple rooms, multiple moving parts, and being immersed in a liberal education system, I had lots of things to lean on.

“There are a lot of themes – that’s probably why I like the news format.”

write for others

“Accessibility is always in the back of my mind when I write. My parents are second-generation Canadians. I want to make sure they know the kind of stories that are being told.

The strongest way to enter is through compassion.

“A lot of times when I discuss things that happen in college or with my essays with my parents. Often I am aware of being from an immigrant background. That’s why I lean towards a multimodal methodology, which means that when I do my thesis or any of my papers in academia, they have a graphic standardization component. I think that’s the universal form of communication.

“The strongest path is compassion. The strongest path is being able to understand different journeys. These are all human journeys.”

Darcy Tamayose’s comments have been edited for length and clarity.