Cultural Storytellers

Appreciating writers who are making a difference with words.


"If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." — Toni Morrison


Storytelling is a powerful part of the human experience, and traces of this tradition have been found across cultures since before much of written history. From the rhythms found in poetry to the moving stories that unfold behind a journalist’s lens, so many of our personal experiences and cultural stories—and oftentimes feelings we can't put into words ourselves—are captured and preserved when storytellers choose to put their pens to paper. In this roundup, we highlight just a few inspiring individuals from around the world who are passing down cultural knowledge and inspiration with the beauty of their words.



RUPI KAUR

Rupi Kaur - By Baljit Singh - rupi kaur inc., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=81982974
Image Source: Baljit Singh

Rupi Kaur is a first-generation Punjabi Canadian poet with two critically acclaimed poetry collections, Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers. Since arriving in Canada, Kaur leaned on art and poetry to express her emotions and experience as an immigrant, an Asian, and a woman.

Her poetry touches on themes like feminism, time & memory, loss, and romance as she shares stories of love, heartbreak, loss, and sexual abuse - all topics left unaddressed and unspoken in many South Asian homes. Kaur plans to release her 4th book Healing Through Words, on September 27, 2022.




AMANDA GORMAN

Amanda Gorman - by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from Washington D.C, United States, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Image Source: Wikipedia

Amanda Gorman is an African American poet and activist who gained international fame when she read her poem The Hill We Climb at the 2021 inauguration of US President Joe Biden. She is also America’s first Youth Poet Laureate, an honour she received in 2017 while a sophomore at Harvard University.


Gorman is deeply rooted, recognizing she is a descendant of once enslaved Black Americans. With the freedom to read and write, unlike her ancestors, Amanda uses her voice and writing to amplify and uplift the voices and experiences of Black Americans. Her work addresses Black identity, feminism, marginalization and climate change.



CHEN CHEN

Image Source: counterclock.org

Chen Chen is a Chinese American poet who writes about the joy and journey of understanding and exploring intersecting identities, including their queer Chinese-American identity. Through Chen Chen's poetry, Asian Americans find a space for belonging, relating to the in-between they experience – in language and self-expression.


Chen Chen is releasing their second book of poems, Your Emergency Contact Has Experience An Emergency," in September 2022. Chen Chen's work appears in many publications, including Poetry and three editions of The Best American Poetry.



MICHELLE GOOD

Image Source: michellegood.ca

Michelle Good is a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan and a writer, lawyer and advocate for residential school survivors. Her debut novel in 2020, Five Little Indians, became a national bestseller and received multiple awards as Good explored the aftermath of residential schools and their impact on survivors.

Good is an intergenerational survivor; while she did not attend the residential schools, her mother and grandmother were forced to attend residential schools. She hopes that people understand that the road to reconciliation remains long.


EDGAR GOMEZ

Image Source: edgargomez.net

Edgar Gomez is a femme-queer-Latinx boy of Nicaraguan and Puerto Rican heritage from Florida, Gomez's debut memoir, High-Risk Homosexual, explores his upbringing and coming to terms with his identity in a series of humorous essays; readers travel alongside Gomez from his uncle's cockfighting ring in Nicaragua to the bathhouses, night clubs, and drag queen parades in the US.


Gomez wants readers to understand that people, especially queer readers of colour, don't have to live without fear, shame, or risk, but instead live despite it, with pride.




DAVID BEZMOZGIS

Image Source: thevarsity.ca

David Bezmozgis is a Latvian-Canadian award-winning writer and filmmaker. Bezmozgis immigrated to Toronto with his parents from Riga, Latvia, once part of the Soviet Union.

His books have been nominated for the Scotiabank/Giller Prize, The Governor-General's Award, and the Trillium Prize. He has won the Amazon.ca First Novel Award and the National Jewish Book Award.


David deepens his exploration of the fates and furies that beset Jewish immigrants. The overarching theme of his work is the union of opposing desires he experiences as a 20th century Russian-Jewish immigrant.

MOHSIN HAMID

Image Source: literary-arts.org

Mohsin Hamid is a British-Pakistani novelist who spent most of his life growing up in Pakistan, but also spent part of his childhood in America. He also attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School.

He is known for highlighting subjects such as ethnic identity, class disparity, and mass urbanization in his works.


His latest release, “The Last White Man,'' looks at the seduction of whiteness and also its illusion through race metamorphosis and human morality.







PICO IYER

Image Source: goodreads.com

Pico Iyer is a British born essayist and novelist known for his travel writing. He is the author of numerous books that focus on crossing cultures. Many of his works have been about trying to see from within some society or way of life from an outsider’s perspective, such as the revolution in Cuba and sufism.


Iyer's 2014 novel “The Art of Stillness” is a persuasively argued case for the pleasure of slowing down and being in one place. It’s the adventure of going nowhere but inside ourselves.









MARIANA ATENCIO

Image Source: pages.beamery.com

Mariana Atencio is a Peabody award-winning journalist, author, and speaker born in Venezuela. She’s a renowned expert of the power of authenticity. She also partnered with Microsoft to promote a free online course: “Digital Storytelling for the Next Generation of Latinx Journalists.”


Guided by the desire to dig for the truth and inform the public, she asserts, “Journalism, for me, is storytelling with a purpose, and getting to be a storyteller in that respect is a tremendous privilege.”




 

Is there a writer or cultural storyteller that inspires you? Share in the comments below!