The Seed of an Idea: Our Origin Story

Dear friends,

I want to tell you the story of how Living Hyphen began.

The seed of this idea was born in the fall of 2015 at Toronto’s Feminist Art Conference when I attended a powerhouse panel about (the lack of) diversity in Canadian literature. The panel was stacked with writers of colour with tons of experience to share about the publishing industry.  I listened to these panelists - all writers of color - talk about the difficulties they faced in getting their work published, simply because their stories did not conform to the "Canadian narrative”. Either that or their stories were not "ethnic" enough.

As a writer and as a woman of colour, this deeply unsettled me.

After that panel, I spent the next few weeks (years, really – I still am) ravenous for art and literature that complicated that "Canadian narrative”, and that better represented my life experiences. There were some gems out there, but they were few and far between. My eyes were suddenly opened to just how White-dominated Canada’s arts and literature scene was (is). It shouldn’t have surprised me – it was all around me, after all. But when you’ve been conditioned to accept the status quo, well, it’s hard to see what’s beyond.

That is until I was jolted out of that “normalcy” by that panel. And from there, the seed of Living Hyphen had sprouted.

I reached out to Léonicka Valcius, one of the panelists whose perspective spoke to me the most. Léonicka is the founder of DiverseCanLit and the Chair of the Festival of Literary Diversity’s (the FOLD) Foundation Board of Directors. I wanted to continue picking her brain about the industry and she was generous enough to give me an hour of her time. Over a cup of coffee, I told her about my idea of starting a publication that highlights stories about/for/by individuals of hyphenated identities. I asked her if she knew of any other publications in Toronto or Canada that already did this. If it did, wonderful! I’d be so happy to support it. If not, wonderful! I could pursue my idea.

But Léonicka stopped me. “So what if it already exists? How many magazines already exist out there for women’s fashion and beauty? And yet no one stops them from producing more. Why can’t there be multiple spaces for our voices?”

That question has stayed with me all these years.

Why can’t there be more spaces for the voices of hyphenated Canadians? For those of us living in between cultures? Why must we settle for scarcity in our representation?

So here we are. Three years later and we’ve created our own space, built our own damn house. Today, we’re opening up pre-orders for the inaugural issue of Living Hyphen.

Artists and writers from all across Canada hailing from over thirty ethnic backgrounds, religions, and Indigenous nations combined, explore the theme of “Entrances & Exits” to reveal the many ways figurative doorways have shaped their identities. From longing for our homelands to (non)conforming to the new rules of this country, from reconciling our differences to finally bridging the cultures, peoples, and lands that live within us -  our inaugural issue takes you on an emotional journey of the lived experiences of hyphenated Canadians

I welcome you in joining our mission to reshape the mainstream and amplify the voices that often go unheard.

With love and in solidarity,
Justine