Well-known Canadian Buddhist author, community organizer and educator Suwanda Sugunasiri has just published his first novel: Untouchable Woman’s Odyssey.
The story is set in a mythical setting but within the wider geographic context of South Asia. It begins to unfold when an expatriate returns after a long overseas stay and meets an old friend. The re-discovery takes us through a span of time, combining the historic(al) and the (post- and pre-colonial) political with the mythic and the spiritual.
“Untouchable Woman’s Odyssey offers both a deeply moving love story of a couple divided by caste and ethnicity, and a brilliant evocation of the ancient, mythic and religious past of a country in South Asia over two and a half millennia. The story comes alive within a wholly convincing fictional landscape that serves as the stage for a witty and informative dramatization of the country’s modern, post-colonial struggle for freedom and independence.” — Prof. Frank Birbalsingh, Professor Emeritus of English, York University
Untouchable Woman’s Odyssey can be expected to add to an already rich Canadian multicultural literary tapestry and the wider spectrum of Post-Colonial Literature.
Untouchable Woman’s Odyssey
An autographed copy may be purchased by writing to the author directly at
Featured at the Harbourfront Reading Series, Suwanda Sugunasiri is a poet with three collections – The Faces of Galle Face Green (1995), Celestial Conversations (2007) and Obama-Ji (2009). The Waves of Cuba is a free-standing publication, excerpted from the third collection. With two publications of short fiction in Sinhala, a selected one or two translated into English and Bengali, Untouchable Woman’s Odyssey, dubbed by the author as “My 75th year gift to humanity”, is his first novel.
Sugunasiri is the pioneering researcher on the Literature of the Canadians of South Asian Origins (for the Secretary of State). The Whistling Thorn: South Asian Canadian Fiction (Mosaic), one of the earliest anthologies of which he is Editor, features renowned authors such as Neil Bissoondath, Cyril Dabydeen, Rohinton Mistry and M G Vassanji, among others. He is also co-editor of a special issue of the Toronto South Asian Review, on Sri Lankan Literature, bringing together for the first time writers in all three languages – Sinhala, Tamil and English. His critical studies on literature, originally appearing in journals such as Canadian Literature, World Literature Written in English and Canadian Ethnic Studies, are now available under the title, Step down, Shakespeare, the Stone Angel is here.
Dubbed ‘Renaissance Man’, Prof. Sugunasiri, a US Fulbright Scholar, has done studies in National Development (PhD), Buddhism (MA), Moral Philosophy (MA) – all from University of Toronto, Linguistics (MA, University of Pennsylvania, USA) and Oriental Languages (BA, University of London). He has taught in diverse areas such as Buddhism, Education, Linguistics, Multiculturalism, Psychology and Sociology at University of Toronto (Trinity College, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education), Vidyodaya University in Sri Lanka and Nalanda College of Buddhist Studies (Toronto, Canada). Most recently, he was a visiting Professor at the University of Havana, Cuba, giving four seminars on Buddhism.
Featured in Canadian Who’s Who, and on June Callwood’s National Treasures on Vision TV, and feted by the Sri Lankan Canadian community with a Life-time Award, he has been most recently profiled in Wild Geese: Buddhism in Canada (McGill-Queen’s University Press), outlining his work in the field of Canadian Buddhism over the last three decades. A Member of the Canada Day Committee, Sugunasiri has also written an alternative preamble to the Canadian Constitution that seeks to include both believers in God and those who don’t – atheists, secularists and Buddhists. His Toronto Star piece, “Who, then, is a Canadian?” has entered several anthologies, including one on ‘precise writing in the essay’.
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