Transcript: The Question of Diversity in Art | Jul 09, 2020

Nam sits in a room with a door and houseplants in the background. She's in her early forties, with shoulder length curly brown hair. She's wearing glasses and a blue blazer.

A caption on screen reads "The question of diversity in art. Nam Kiwanuka, @namshine, @theagenda."

Nam says AMBITION, COMPETITION,
AND WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE
A PERSON OF COLOUR
BUILDING A CAREER
IN MUSIC AND ART.
SUCH ARE THE HUGE THEMES
THAT OCCUPY AUTHOR AND ARTIST
VIVEK SHRAYA
IN HER NEW NOVEL
THE SUBTWEET.
SHE'S AN ASSISTANT PROFESSOR
OF CREATIVE WRITING
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY
AND SHE JOINS US NOW FROM
THE STAMPEDE CITY FOR MORE.

Vivek is in her thirties, with long wavy blond hair with dark roots. She's wearing pendant earrings, a floral print blouse and a bright red bindi.

Nam continues HI, VIVEK. WELCOME BACK.

Vivek says HI, NAM. THANKS SO MUCH
FOR HAVING ME.

Nam says UM, IT'S REALLY NICE
TO SEE YOU,
CONSIDERING THE TIMES
THAT WE'RE IN.
BUT THIS NEW BOOK ACTUALLY
CAME OUT IN APRIL 2020,
AFTER THE CORONAVIRUS
WAS DECLARED A PANDEMIC,
A GLOBAL PANDEMIC.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE FOR YOU
TO PROMOTE A BOOK
DURING A PANDEMIC?

Vivek says I MEAN,
VERY BIZARRE,
AND SOMETIMES,
TO BE HONEST,
IT FELT...
HAS FELT QUITE SELFISH.
YOU KNOW, I'LL GO ONLINE
AND I'LL SEE, YOU KNOW,
THE DEATH COUNT OF THE WORLD
IS SUCH AND SUCH,
AND THEN I'M SUPPOSED TO,
YOU KNOW,
TWEET ABOUT MY NEW BOOK.
AND UH, YEAH, IT JUST...
IT HAS FELT A BIT STRANGE.
AND I MEAN, I'M CONSTANTLY
REMINDED BY PEOPLE AROUND ME
THAT YOU KNOW,
ART IS SO IMPORTANT
AND THAT PEOPLE ARE LOOKING
FOR ALTERNATIVE KINDS OF NEWS
IN THEIR FEED.
BUT YEAH, UM, I THINK,
YOU KNOW,
WHEN THE PANDEMIC
WAS FIRST ANNOUNCED,
I WAS STILL
KIND OF HOPEFUL TOO.
I WAS LIKE, "OH, WELL MAYBE MY
BOOK TOUR WILL STILL HAPPEN."
AND I LEARNED VERY QUICKLY
THAT THAT WASN'T GONNA BE
THE CASE, SO, YEAH.

Nam says YOU SAID THAT YOU FELT
SELFISH PROMOTING A BOOK
WHEN THE WORLD IS SO...
AND PEOPLE WERE DEALING
WITH SO MUCH UNCERTAINTY.
UM, AND YES, YOU KNOW,
YOU WORKED ON THIS BOOK
FOR A WHILE,
AND THE TIMING
JUST HAPPENED TO...
IT CAME OUT
WHEN IT CAME OUT.
DID YOU ALLOW YOURSELF...
AND NOT TO...
YOU KNOW, I'M TRYING TO BE
CAREFUL HOW I ASK THIS
BECAUSE PEOPLE
HAVE DIED FROM THIS.
AND WHEN YOU DO LOOK
AT THE BIGGER PICTURE,
WE'RE HEALTHY,
WE'RE DOING OKAY.
BUT DID YOU ALLOW YOURSELF
SPACE TO GRIEVE
FOR THAT MOMENT
IN YOUR LIFE
WHERE SOMETHING
THAT YOU HAD WORKED ON
FOR A LONG TIME, UM,
AND YOU WEREN'T ABLE
TO CELEBRATE IT
IN THE WAY THAT YOU
MIGHT'VE BEEN ABLE
BEFORE EVERYTHING
HAPPENED?

The caption changes to "Vivek Shraya. Author, 'The subtweet.'"

Vivek says YEAH. I MEAN, I THINK
THAT IT'S INTERESTING
YOU WOULD BRING UP
THE WORD "GRIEF."
BECAUSE THAT'S
THE WORD MY THERAPIST
HAS BEEN USING AS WELL.
(CHUCKLING)
BUT AGAIN,
I THINK YOU'RE RIGHT
TO NOTE THAT GRIEF
IS A COMPLICATED WORD
BECAUSE WE TEND TO
ASSOCIATE IT WITH DEATH
WHICH IS VERY MUCH A REALITY
RIGHT NOW WITH THIS VIRUS.
BUT, UH, YEAH,
I THINK FOR ME, YOU KNOW,
THERE'S THE FEELING
OF SELFISHNESS,
BUT THEN THERE HAS TO BE SPACE
FOR MULTIPLE FEELINGS TO EXIST,
AND I THINK IT HAS
FELT IMPORTANT TO ME
TO, UM, YOU KNOW, HONOUR THE
FEELINGS OF DISAPPOINTMENT.
UM, YOU KNOW,
ON TOP OF THE BOOK
I WAS SUPPOSED TO
TAKE MY PLAY TO GERMANY
THIS SUMMER AS WELL.
YOU KNOW, JUST SORT OF LIKE
BIG OPPORTUNITIES AS AN ARTIST
THAT DON'T ALWAYS COME BY.
AND AGAIN, I THINK THAT,
UM, YOU KNOW,
THE THING THAT
I'VE HAD TO LEARN
ABOUT DIFFICULT EMOTIONS
IN MY LIFE
IS THAT YOU CAN TRY TO PRETEND
LIKE YOU DON'T HAVE THEM,
WHICH SOMETIMES
MAKES THOSE FEELINGS WORSE,
AND SOMETIMES THE ONLY WAY TO
GET THROUGH A DIFFICULT EMOTION,
EVEN IF IT IS SELFISH,
IS TO ACTUALLY
JUST ACKNOWLEDGE IT.
SO I THINK IT WAS
REALLY IMPORTANT
FOR ME TO SAY
I'M DISAPPOINTED
THAT THIS ISN'T
GONNA PLAY OUT
THE WAY THAT I HOPED
IT WAS GOING TO.

Nam says WELL, I MEAN,
IN LATE APRIL,
THE SUBTWEET
ACTUALLY
BECAME A BESTSELLER.
AND YOU TWEETED-
"OVERJOYED THAT A BOOK
THAT CENTRES ON BROWN WOMEN
"AND FRIENDSHIP IS OFFICIALLY
A NATIONAL BESTSELLER."
WHAT DID THAT MEAN
TO YOU
FOR THE BOOK TO BECOME
A BESTSELLER,
ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING
EVERYTHING THAT WAS GOING ON?

Vivek says AGAIN,
A BIT STRANGE.
UM, I EVEN TALKED
TO MY PARTNER,
I WAS LIKE,
"IS THIS INAPPROPRIATE
TO BE TWEETING?"
LIKE, YOU KNOW,
I'VE SEEN A LOT OF PEOPLE SAY
"A STRANGE TIME
TO CELEBRATE GOOD NEWS."
ANY TIME PEOPLE POST GOOD NEWS
BECAUSE I THINK NONE OF US WANT
TO COME ACROSS INSENSITIVE
OR BE INSENSITIVE TO THE REALITY
OF THE SITUATION.
UM, AT THE SAME TIME,
YOU KNOW,
I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT
FOR US TO BE
TRYING TO FIND SOME LIGHT
DURING THIS TIME.
UM, AND I THINK FOR ME,
THIS PARTICULAR BOOK
WAS SUCH A CHALLENGE
TO MAKE HAPPEN,
TO GET PUBLISHED,
LARGELY BECAUSE OF THE FACT
THAT IT CENTRED
BROWN WOMEN
AND BECAUSE IT WAS
ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA
AND THE CONCERNS ABOUT
SOCIAL MEDIA DATING THE BOOK.
AND SO, FOR ME PERSONALLY
IT FELT IMPORTANT
TO BE LIKE, HEY,
A BOOK THAT, YOU KNOW,
THERE WAS SOME SORT OF DOUBT
AROUND WHETHER OR NOT IT WOULD
ACTUALLY CONNECT WITH PEOPLE.
IT'S GREAT TO SEE
THAT ACTUALLY,
THIS BOOK CAN CONNECT
WITH OTHERS.

Nam says CONSIDERING THE OBSTACLES
THAT YOU JUST MENTIONED
THAT YOU WENT THROUGH
TO WRITE THE BOOK,
WHY DID YOU WANT
TO TELL THIS STORY?

Vivek says I MEAN, FIRST OF ALL,
I REALLY WANTED TO WRITE
ABOUT FRIEND BREAKUPS.
I THINK THAT, YOU KNOW,
WE KNOW AS A CULTURE,
LIKE,
THERE IS A SORT OF SPACE
TO PROCESS ROMANTIC
RELATIONSHIP BREAKUPS.
UM, THERE'S SOMETIMES EVEN
A FORM OF ACCOUNTABILITY.
LIKE, WE KNOW THAT TEXTING
EACH OTHER WHEN WE BREAK UP
OR LIKE, TEXTING A BREAKUP
IS A FAUX PAS EVEN WE DO IT.
BUT WITH FRIEND BREAKUPS
IT'S LIKE,
YOU KNOW,
SOMETIMES PEOPLE JUST GHOST
OR YOU JUST DRIFT AWAY
AND YOU DON'T ALWAYS KNOW
WHAT HAPPENED.
BUT THERE IS SO MUCH PAIN
AROUND THAT,
AND SOMETIMES IT CAN TAKE YEARS
TO GET OVER A FRIEND BREAKUP
BUT THERE'S NOT ALWAYS
THE SAME KIND OF CULTURAL SPACE.
SO FOR ME, IT FELT REALLY
IMPORTANT TO HAVE A BOOK
THAT EXPLORED THE PAIN
OF LOSING A FRIEND SPECIFICALLY.
AND SIMULTANEOUSLY I ALSO
WANTED TO WRITE A BOOK
THAT CENTRED BROWN WOMEN,
YOU KNOW?
LIKE, AND 30-SOMETHING
BROWN WOMEN
WHO AREN'T LIKE, YOU KNOW,
OBSESSED WITH FINDING A MAN
OR HAVING CHILDREN.
AND AGAIN, THERE'S NOTHING WRONG
WITH THOSE THINGS,
BUT I THINK SO MUCH
OF WHAT WE SEE
IN TERMS OF WOMEN
IN POP CULTURE,
IN BOOKS, IN FILMS,
IS A CERTAIN KIND OF-
AS SOON AS YOU HIT 30,
YOU KNOW, YOU GET MARRIED,
YOU HAVE CHILDREN,
AND IT'S A PARTICULAR
KIND OF NARRATIVE.
AND A LOT OF MY
SINGLE WOMEN FRIENDS,
YOU KNOW, WE DO TALK
ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS
BUT WE ALSO TALK ABOUT ART.
WE TALK ABOUT OUR CAREERS.
AND SO THAT WAS SOMETHING ELSE
THAT FELT REALLY IMPORTANT.

Nam says AT ONE POINT
IN THE BOOK...
I DON'T WANNA GIVE AWAY
TOO MUCH OF THE BOOK...
AT ONE POINT
IN THE BOOK, UM,
ONE OF THE CHARACTERS
MENTIONS
I THINK WHAT WE ALL
THINK ABOUT
WHEN WE THINK ABOUT
FEMALE RELATIONSHIPS,
WHICH IS
SEX AND THE CITY.
RIGHT?

Vivek says YEAH, EXACTLY.
EXACTLY.

Nam says UH...

Vivek says SORRY, GO AHEAD.

Nam says NO, GO AHEAD,
SORRY.

Vivek says NO,
I WAS JUST GONNA SAY,
AND
SEX AND THE CITY'S
SUCH A GREAT EXAMPLE
BECAUSE ON ONE HAND,
YOU KNOW,
THEY'RE THESE FOUR
INDEPENDENT, STRONG WOMEN,
BUT WHEN THEY GET TOGETHER
AND THEY MEET,
THEY'RE OFTEN TALKING ABOUT
THEIR RELATIONSHIPS WITH MEN.
AND YOU KNOW, I DON'T KNOW
IF YOU'RE FAMILIAR
WITH THE ALISON BECHDEL TEST
OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT.
I'S LIKE, A TEST,
UM, THAT WAS SET UP
A COUPLE YEARS AGO.
I DON'T HAVE A LOT
OF THE DETAILS.
BUT ESSENTIALLY
IT'S SORT OF LIKE,
UH, YOU KNOW, IF YOU CAN WATCH
A SCENE IN A FILM
WHERE TWO WOMEN ARE TOGETHER AND
THEY'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT A MAN,
THEN IT PASSES THE TEST.
AND SO FEW FILMS
THAT FEATURE WOMEN
IN A SCENE
TALKING TO EACH OTHER
UM,
ACTUALLY DO PASS THAT TEST.
AND SO FOR ME, THAT WAS
SORT OF A BIT OF A BENCHMARK
FOR THE BOOK AS A WHOLE.

Nam says INITIALLY,
THESE FOUR FRIENDS
ARE QUITE TENTATIVE
TOWARDS EACH OTHER.
UM, IS...
WAS THAT ABOUT TRUST
OR WAS IT ABOUT IDENTITY?

Vivek sighs, then says UM,
I THINK IT WAS ABOUT...
I THINK MAKING HARD...
UH, MAKING FRIENDS...
I'M GONNA GUESS WE'RE SORT OF
AT THE SAME AGE RANGE HERE,
BUT I FEEL LIKE
THE OLDER...

Nam says I THINK YOU'RE
YOUNGER THAN ME,
BUT SURE,
I'LL TAKE IT!

(LAUGHING)

Vivek says WELL, I FEEL LIKE THE OLDER...
AND I DON'T KNOW
IF YOU AGREE WITH THIS,
BUT I FEEL LIKE
THE OLDER WE GET,
THE HARDER IT IS
TO MAKE FRIENDS.
AND WE DON'T REALLY TALK
SO MUCH ABOUT THIS
BECAUSE THERE'S THIS IDEA
THAT YOUR FRIENDS ARE PEOPLE
THAT YOU JUST HAVE
IN YOUR LIFE
AND YOU HAVE FRIENDS FOREVER
BUT YOU KNOW,
AS A 30-SOMETHING,
LIKE, I'VE JUST FOUND THAT
MAKING FRIENDS OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL
AND OUTSIDE OF, YOU KNOW, UH...
YEAH,
MOSTLY OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL
IT'S VERY, VERY HARD
TO MAKE FRIENDS.
AND SO I THINK IT IS
ABOUT TRUST.
AND I THINK
YOU HAVE CERTAIN...
YOU SUDDENLY START
TO HAVE CERTAIN REQUIREMENTS
BECAUSE YOU ALREADY HAVE
CERTAIN KINDS OF FRIENDS
THAT CHECK OFF
CERTAIN KINDS OF BOXES.
AND FOR ME, THE OTHER THING
THAT WAS REALLY IMPORTANT
TO EXPLORE IN THIS BOOK
WAS THE WAY THAT NOW,
MAKING FRIENDS
IS INEVITABLY IMPACTED
BY SOCIAL MEDIA.
IT'S VERY STRANGE
TO MEET A NEW PERSON
AND THEN SUDDENLY GET TO ACCESS
A LOT OF INFORMATION ABOUT THEM
JUST BY GOOGLING THEM,
AS OPPOSED TO
ASKING THEM QUESTIONS
AND LEARNING THESE THINGS
FIRST-HAND.
AND SO FOR ME,
I THOUGHT OF SOCIAL MEDIA
AS KIND OF LIKE
A THIRD CHARACTER IN THE BOOK.
AND HOW THESE CHARACTERS,
THE TWO MAIN CHARACTERS,
HOW THEIR FRIENDSHIP
IS ALWAYS MEDIATED
BY THIS SILENT
THIRD CHARACTER
OR THIS LIKE, OUTSIDE LENS
IN WHICH THEY'RE LEARNING
THINGS ABOUT EACH OTHER
ALL TIMES AND DEVELOPING
FRIENDSHIP THROUGH THAT,
IF THAT MAKES SENSE.

Nam says WELL, THE BOOK
IS CALLED
THE SUBTWEET.
WHAT IS A SUBTWEET?

(LAUGHING)

Vivek says GREAT QUESTION.
UH, OKAY, LET'S SEE
IF I CAN DO THIS.
SO, A SUBTWEET IS OFTEN
A REMARK ABOUT SOMEBODY,
UM, BUT WITHOUT MENTIONING
WHO IT'S ABOUT.
AND IT'S OFTEN...
IT CAN BE SEEN AS
A BIT PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE,
IT CAN SEEM
ALMOST LIKE INSULTING.
SO, YOU KNOW,
IF AFTER THIS INTERVIEW
I WERE TO, YOU KNOW,
TWEET SOMETHING LIKE,
"NOTHING LIKE
DOING AN INTERVIEW
"WITH SOMEONE WHO HASN'T
READ YOUR BOOK BEFORE."
YOU KNOW, AND OBVIOUSLY
YOU'VE READ THE BOOK
BUT I'M JUST SAYING, LIKE.
AND THEN IT'S LIKE
YOU WOULD GO ONLINE
AND YOU FOLLOW ME
AND YOU'D BE LIKE,
"OH, IS SHE TALKING ABOUT ME?"
LIKE,
BUT I COULD BE LIKE,
"OH, NO, IT'S ABOUT ANYONE.
IT'S JUST A VAGUE COMMENT."
SO, SUBTWEETING HAS BECOME THIS
KIND OF FORM OF LIKE...
AGAIN, I THINK PEOPLE SEE IT
AS VERY PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE,
BUT SOMETIMES IT'S A WAY
TO SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER
WITHOUT BEING ABLE
TO TALK TO POWER.
SO, IF, YOU KNOW, YOU...
IF YOU WERE MY BOSS,
BUT I DIDN'T FEEL
LIKE I COULD HAVE A DIRECT
CONVERSATION WITH YOU
BUT I MIGHT BE ABLE
TO JUST SAY SOMETHING
ABOUT YOU ON TWITTER VAGUELY,
I MIGHT DO THAT.
AND SO, IT'S...
I THINK IT'S BECOME
VERY COMMONPLACE
BUT AT THE SAME TIME, IT CAN
CAUSE FOR A LOT OF PARANOID
BECAUSE PEOPLE
ARE OFTEN LIKE,
"OH, IS SHE SUBTWEETING ME
RIGHT NOW?"
AND PEOPLE CAN ALWAYS DENY
THAT THEY'RE SUBTWEETING YOU.
THEY CAN BE LIKE, "NO, NO, NO,
THAT WASN'T ABOUT YOU."

Nam says WELL, I'M GLAD
YOU MENTIONED THAT
BECAUSE ONE OF THE CHARACTERS
ACTUALLY SAYS,
"A SUBTWEET IS AN ACT
OF RESISTANCE."
IS THAT WHAT
YOU MEAN?

Vivek says YEAH, I MEAN,
I THINK IN SOME CASES
IT CAN BE AN ACT
OF RESISTANCE.
RIGHT?
SO I THINK, YOU KNOW,
I MIGHT SAY SOMETHING LIKE,
ABOUT WHITE PEOPLE, RIGHT?
I MIGHT BE LIKE, "WHITE PEOPLE
NEVER BLA BLA BLA," WHATEVER.
AND AGAIN,
I MEAN IT GENERALLY,
BUT I MIGHT'VE ALSO HAD
A TERRIBLE EXPERIENCE,
YOU KNOW,
WITH A WHITE PERSON IN MY LIFE
WHO HAS MORE POWER THAN I DO.
AND I MIGHT NOT HAVE THE ABILITY
BECAUSE OF THE POWER DYNAMIC
TO ACTUALLY TALK TO THEM
ABOUT IT DIRECTLY.
AND SO SOMETIMES JUST
SUBTWEETING ABOUT WHITE PEOPLE
JUST FEELS EASIER.
SO, I THINK THAT'S WHAT THAT
CHARACTER IS SORT OF GETTING TO.
IN SOME CASES, SUBTWEETS
CAN BE LIKE AN ACT OF...
ACT OF RESISTANCE.

Nam says WELL, THIS UM...
BETWEEN THE TWO...
THERE'S TWO MAIN CHARACTERS,
AND IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP,
THERE WAS LOVE
AND THERE WAS MISUNDERSTANDING
AND IT PLAYS OUT
ALL ON SOCIAL MEDIA.
THE INTIMATE IS A PLACE
WHERE WE'RE SUPPOSED TO BE,
YOU KNOW, AUTHENTIC,
SHOW WHO WE ARE,
YET IT'S A PLACE THAT'S RIFE
FOR MISUNDERSTANDINGS.
WHY DO YOU THINK
WHAT YOU SAY IN THE BOOK...
YOU CALL IT
"INTIMATE AMBIGUITIES."
WHY DO YOU THINK
THESE INTIMATE AMBIGUITIES
THRIVE ON
SOCIAL MEDIA?

Vivek says WELL, I MEAN,
TO YOUR POINT,
I THINK THE DIFFICULT THING
ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA
IS LIKE, YES, ON ONE HAND,
WE'RE SUPPOSED TO BE AUTHENTIC,
BUT I DO THINK
THE CULTURE OF SOCIAL MEDIA
IS REALLY ABOUT
THE HIGHLIGHT REEL, RIGHT?
LIKE, YOU SELDOM SEE...
I MEAN, I REMEMBER
ONCE A FRIEND OF MINE
POSTED A PHOTO
OF HERSELF CRYING
AND I WAS LIKE,
DEEPLY DISTURBED.
(CHUCKLING)
AND I WAS LIKE,
WAIT A SECOND.
WHY IS IT THAT IF A FRIEND
IS CRYING ON SOCIAL MEDIA
IT'S VERY UNCOMFORTABLE
BUT YOU KNOW,
FRIENDS LIKE GOING ON VACATION
AND YOU KNOW,
SMILING AND PARTYING,
THAT'S ALL VERY ACCEPTABLE?
AND IT'S BECAUSE THAT'S
WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA'S ABOUT.
SOCIAL MEDIA ISN'T ACTUALLY
IN A LOT OF WAYS
ABOUT BEING AUTHENTIC.
IT'S ABOUT A CURATION OF,
YOU KNOW,
A VERY ONE-DIMENSIONAL PART
OF YOUR LIFE.
AND I THINK
THE HARD THING ABOUT THAT
IS THAT WHAT THAT MEANS
IS WE'RE CONSTANTLY MAKING
ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT EACH OTHER
BASED ON A ONE-DIMENSIONAL
PERSPECTIVE ON SOMEONE'S LIFE.
SO, I LOOK AT YOUR PHOTOS
AND I'M LIKE,
OH, WOW, NAM LOOKS LIKE SHE'S
HAVING THE TIME OF HER LIFE,
SHE'S OUT THERE,
SHE'S GOT LIKE,
AN AMAZING LOOK ALL THE TIME.
HER HAIR LOOKS AMAZING
ALL THE TIME,
AND MEANWHILE, YOU KNOW,
YOU MIGHT BE AT HOME
STRUGGLING WITH MENTAL HEALTH
AND NOT TALKING
ABOUT THOSE THINGS
AND SOMETIMES POSTING A SELFIE'S
ACTUALLY A WAY
FOR YOU TO FEEL BETTER
ABOUT YOURSELF.
AND SO, I THINK FOR ME,
THE BIGGEST THING ABOUT THE BOOK
IS WANTING TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE
TO THINK
ABOUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT
WITH SOCIAL MEDIA
AND OTHER PEOPLE'S CONTENT
WITH A LOT MORE KINDNESS
AND BY GIVING PEOPLE
THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT
AND NOT ALWAYS MAKING
ASSUMPTIONS BASED ON WHAT WE SEE
BECAUSE WHAT WE SEE
ISN'T ALWAYS TRUE.

Nam says WELL I MEAN, STUDIES SHOW
THAT WOMEN, WOMEN OF COLOUR,
TRANS WOMEN RECEIVE THE BRUNT
OF HATE ON SOCIAL MEDIA,
AND THAT SOCIAL MEDIA
IS ALSO WHERE YOU CONNECT
WITH YOUR AUDIENCE
AND WHERE YOU CAN FIND
YOUR COMMUNITY.
UM, HOW DO YOU THEN
NAVIGATE THAT SPACE?
A SPARE WERE...
A SPACE WHERE YOU YOURSELF
HAVE RECEIVED DEATH THREATS?

Vivek says YEAH, I MEAN, AGAIN,
GREAT QUESTION.
IT'S SUCH A STRANGE PLACE
FOR THAT REASON.
LIKE, ON ONE HAND,
IT'S ONE OF THE ONLY PLACES
TO CONNECT WITH OTHERS LIKE YOU
IN A PARTICULAR WAY
AND SIMULTANEOUSLY IT'S ALSO
A PLACE WHERE YOU GET LIKE,
A VERY INTENSE FORM OF HATRED,
ESPECIALLY
IF YOU'RE MARGINALIZED.
AND I THINK FOR ME
IT'S MEANT ESTABLISHING
CERTAIN BOUNDARIES,
YOU KNOW,
WITH SOCIAL MEDIA.
AND UNDERSTANDING LIKE,
FOR INSTANCE, RIGHT NOW,
BECAUSE OF THE PANDEMIC,
I FIND THAT LIKE, YOU KNOW,
A LOT OF WHAT CAUSES ME STRESS
FROM THIS TIME
IS A LOT OF THE SPECULATING.
SO YOU GO ON TWITTER
AND PEOPLE BEING LIKE,
"I THINK WE'RE GONNA BE IN THIS
FOR THREE YEARS."
AND THEN I GET VERY ANXIOUS
ABOUT IT,
AND SO THERE'S THE NEWS ASPECT
WHICH IS LIKE, REALLY INTENSE
BUT THEN ALSO THE SPECULATING
WHICH IS REALLY INTENSE.
AND SO FOR ME,
FOR MY MENTAL HEALTH,
I'VE BEEN LIKE, OKAY,
I'M NOT CHECKING SOCIAL MEDIA
MORE THAN TWO TIMES A WEEK
IF POSSIBLE.
AND I THINK THAT THAT RULE
IN GENERAL HAS BEEN IMPORTANT
BECAUSE... OR THOSE
KIND OF BOUNDARIES.
LIKE, I DON'T HAVE SOCIAL MEDIA
APPS ON MY PHONE.
UM, I HAVE TO GO
ON A COMPUTER AND LOG IN
BECAUSE THAT EXTRA STEP MEANS
THAT I'M NOT JUST
SITTING AND CLICKING
AND LIKE, LOOKING AT THINGS
AND THEN COMPARING MYSELF.
AND BEING LIKE, "OH,
THIS PERSON'S DOING THIS.
"THIS PERSON'S AMAZING.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME?
"WHY AM I NOT
BAKING BREAD RIGHT NOW?"
YOU KNOW,
ALL THAT KINDA STUFF.
SO I THINK FOR ME,
IT'S REALLY ABOUT BOUNDARIES.

Nam says YOU KNOW, SOMETHING HAPPENS
IN THE BOOK...
AGAIN, I DON'T WANNA SPOIL IT
FOR PEOPLE
WHO HAVEN'T READ IT YET...

Vivek says I APPRECIATE THAT.

(CHUCKLING)

Nam says BUT ONE OF THE CHARACTERS
WONDERS IF CALLOUT CULTURE
IS THE SAME AS TROLLING.
WHICH TO ME
IS SUCH A...
I'D NEVER ACTUALLY
CONSIDERED THAT.
UM, IS CALLOUT CULTURE
THE SAME AS TROLLING?

(LAUGHING)

Vivek says WELL, LET'S ASK
MY CHARACTERS.
NO, I MEAN,
I DON'T KNOW.
IT'S DIFFICULT.
AS SOMEONE WHO'S BEEN BOTH
TROLLED AND BEEN CALLED OUT,
UM, THERE ARE DEFINITELY TIMES
WHERE IT DOESN'T FEEL
THAT DIFFERENT,
AND I THINK PART OF IT
IS THAT WITH CALLOUT,
UM, THERE IS A KIND OF, UH,
GOING FOR BLOOD
THAT SOMETIMES FEELS...
LIKE, I THINK, AGAIN,
KIND OF LIKE SUBTWEETING,
I FEEL LIKE
CALLOUT CULTURE
OR CALLING SOMEONE OUT
CAN BE A VERY IMPORTANT ACT
ON THE INTERNET.
AND AGAIN, I THINK ESPECIALLY
WHEN PEOPLE ARE IN POWER.
WHEN PEOPLE ARE CALLING OUT
OUR GOVERNMENT,
UH, YOU KNOW,
I THINK THAT THESE THINGS,
OR PEOPLE ARE CALLING OUT
ARTS INDUSTRIES,
THESE GESTURES
ARE SO IMPORTANT,
AND CALLOUT HAS BEEN AN AMAZING
WAY TO INCREASE DIALOGUE
OR CULTIVATE CHANGE.
BUT WHEN I'VE
HAD CALLOUT HAPPEN,
IT'S OFTEN FROM OTHER PEOPLE
IN MY COMMUNITIES
AND THAT CAN FEEL
QUITE DEVASTATING
BECAUSE UM, YOU KNOW,
OFTEN IT FEELS LIKE,
WELL, WHY COULDN'T WE HAVE
JUST HAD A CONVERSATION?
AND THAT'S NOT TO SAY THAT
THERE ISN'T A POWER IMBALANCE
WITHIN COMMUNITIES.
CERTAINLY AS SOMEONE
WITH A PLATFORM,
I HAVE, I GUESS,
A CERTAIN KIND OF POWER
AND CERTAINLY
A KIND OF PRIVILEGE.
UM, BUT SOMETIMES CALLOUT,
IT CAN FEEL RELENTLESS
AND IT CAN, YOU KNOW,
MAKE ATTACKS ON YOUR CHARACTER
AND WHO YOU ARE
AS AN INDIVIDUAL.
AND AGAIN,
THAT SOMETIMES DOESN'T FEEL
THAT DIFFERENT FROM TROLLING.
AND SO, I THINK BY MY CHARACTER
ASKING THE QUESTION,
I'M NOT SAYING
CALLOUT CULTURE IS BAD,
AND I'M NOT TRYING TO PLACE
THAT KIND OF VALUE,
BUT I GUESS WHAT I'M TRYING
TO GET US TO THINK ABOUT
IS LIKE, HOW MIGHT WE CALL OUT
OR HOLD PEOPLE RESPONSIBLE,
UM,
OR HOLD PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE,
ESPECIALLY IN OUR COMMUNITIES,
BUT DO IT WITH A KIND OF
RESPECT IF NOT KINDNESS?
SO THAT IT DOESN'T JUST
FEEL LIKE TROLLING.

Nam says DO YOU HAVE AN ANSWER
FOR THAT?

Vivek says YEAH, I MEAN, FOR ME,
IT'S PICK UP THE PHONE.
YOU KNOW?
LIKE, I HAVE HAD,
YOU KNOW,
INTERACTIONS
WITH INDIVIDUALS
WHERE I HAVE FELT
OFFENDED BY SOMETHING
THAT THEY HAVE DONE
OR I HAVE DONE SOMETHING
THAT HAS OFFENDED THEM,
AND I THINK THAT,
YOU KNOW,
MAYBE IT'S 'CAUSE
I GREW UP IN THE 90S,
BUT IT'S LIKE...
(CHUCKLING)
THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT
ACTUALLY HEARING VOICE
AND YOU KNOW, REMEMBERING
THE HUMANITY OF SOMEONE
THAT FEELS SO IMPORTANT.
AND I THINK ONE OF THE THINGS
WE'VE LOST WITH SOCIAL MEDIA
AND THE INTERNET IS THAT
PEOPLE HAVE FORGOTTEN...
WE FORGET THAT THERE'S A HUMAN
ON THE OTHER END OF THAT TWEET
OR THAT PICTURE OR YOU KNOW,
THAT, YOU KNOW, COMMENT.
AND FOR ME,
BY PICKING UP THE PHONE
AND HAVING A CONVERSATION
WITH SOMEONE,
IT REMINDS BOTH PARTIES,
LOOK, WE'RE HUMANS WERE
TRYING TO LEARN SOMETHING.
AND IF ANYTHING,
I FIND THAT LIKE,
INTIMACY CAN THEN BE BUILT.
WHEREAS IN A CALLOUT,
SELDOM IS INTIMACY BUILT.
TRUST ISN'T BUILT
THROUGH CALLOUT.
WHEREAS, WHEN YOU ACTUALLY
HAVE CONFLICT WITH SOMEONE
IN A RESPECTFUL WAY,
YOU CAN ACTUALLY...
YOUR RELATIONSHIP
CAN ACTUALLY DEEPEN AND GROW,
WHICH I THINK IS BEAUTIFUL.

Nam says UM, THE BOOK IS ALSO
ABOUT MAKING IT
IN A DOMINANT CULTURE,
MUSIC BUSINESS.
UM, ARE SOME
OF THESE EVENTS
DRAWN FROM SOME OF THE THINGS
THAT YOU'VE EXPERIENCED
AS A MUSICIAN?

Vivek says I MEAN,
IT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE
FOR ME TO SAY NO
TO THAT QUESTION,
BECAUSE YOU KNOW,
CERTAINLY,
I'VE BEEN
IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY,
THE CANADIAN MUSIC INDUSTRY,
FOR YOU KNOW, 18 YEARS.
AND AS SOMEONE
WHO HASN'T NECESSARILY
HAD THE KINDS OF SUCCESS THAT
THE CHARACTERS IN THE BOOK HAVE,
I CERTAINLY HAVE
A LOT OF EXPERIENCE
AND I CERTAINLY DREW
FROM THAT EXPERIENCE.
BUT YOU KNOW, TO ME,
THE BOOK WAS MOST JOYFUL
WHEN I WROTE IT
FROM THE PERSPECTIVE
OF NOT WRITING WHAT I KNOW.
YOU KNOW,
THERE'S THAT OLD SAYING,
LIKE, "WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW."
AND I ACTUALLY MADE A...
I SCRIBBLED ON THE TOP
OF THE PIECE OF PAPER,
YOU KNOW, "THIS IS ONLY FUN
WHEN IT ISN'T ABOUT YOU."
AND SO I REALLY TRIED
TO LEAN HARD
INTO WRITING CHARACTERS
WHO THOUGHT A LITTLE BIT
DIFFERENT THAN ME,
OR FELT DIFFERENT THAN ME.
YOU KNOW, NEELA,
FOR INSTANCE,
ONE OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS,
IS VERY ANTI-SOCIAL MEDIA.
AND DESPITE WHAT I'M SAYING
ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA,
I'M NOT ACTUALLY
ANTI-SOCIAL MEDIA.
AND SO IT WAS REALLY INTERESTING
TO WRITE SOMEONE
WHO WAS LIKE,
VERY STANDOFFISH ABOUT IT,
WHO'S KIND OF SNOBBY ABOUT IT.
UM, SO YEAH.
I MEAN, I THINK THE BOOK
DEFINITELY PULLS
FROM MY EXPERIENCE
BUT I REALLY TRIED
TO CHALLENGE MYSELF
BY WRITING OUTSIDE OF ME,
IF THAT MAKES SENSE.

Nam says WELL,
A WORD THAT'S BEEN...
BECOME PART OF THE LEXICON
IN THE PAST FEW YEARS
IS "DIVERSITY."
UM, AND...

Vivek says I'VE NEVER HEARD
THAT WORD BEFORE.

Nam laughs sardonically and says WHAT?
UM, AND IN THE BOOK YOU
WRITE IT A COUPLE OF WAYS
WHICH I FOUND WERE
REALLY THOUGHT-PROVOKING.
YOU WRITE ABOUT
THE DIVERSITY STOCK MARKET
AND ONE OF THE CHARACTERS
WONDERS ABOUT
WHETHER A CONCERT TOUR OFFER
IS A DIVERSITY INVITATION.
UM, IS THIS SOMETHING
YOU WORRY ABOUT,
THAT YOUR WORTH IS NOW...
IS LIMITED TO THE EXES
THAT YOU CROSS OFF A LIST
WHEN WE'RE ALL TALKING
ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE
OF DIVERSITY AND DIVERSITY
IS PART OF THE CONVERSATION?

Vivek says YEAH, I MEAN,
TRUTHFULLY, YES.
WHEN I GET INVITED...
AND I DON'T KNOW IF YOU HAVE
THIS EXPERIENCE TOO...
BUT WHEN I GET INVITED
TO BE ON A PANEL,
I'M OFTEN LIKE,
AM I GETTING INVITED
BECAUSE SOMEONE RESPECTS...
THE ORGANIZERS OF THE FESTIVAL
RESPECTS AND VALUES MY WORK,
OR IS IT BECAUSE I CHECK OFF
QUEER, TRANS, BROWN?
YOU KNOW, AND THEN
WHEN I GET TO THE PANEL
AND THERE'S LIKE THREE
OTHER WHITE PEOPLE AND ME,
THEN I'M LIKE, AH, OKAY.
THAT IS EXACTLY WHY
I WAS INVITED. YOU KNOW?
AND AGAIN, I THINK THAT
IT IS VERY NEBULOUS.
LIKE, I'VE ALSO BEEN ON THE
ORGANIZER AND OF THAT EQUATION,
AND I DO THINK
IT IS CHALLENGING.
LIKE, HOW DO YOU ORGANIZE
FROM A PERSPECTIVE
WHERE YOU'RE NOT
JUST CHECKING OFF BOXES?
BUT I THINK PART OF IT
IS MAKING SURE
THAT THE ORGANIZATION
ON EVERY LEVEL
REFLECTS A CERTAIN KIND
OF DIVERSITY,
AS OPPOSED TO
JUST THE FRONT FACING,
LIKE ARTISTS OR TALKERS
OR SPEAKERS.
SO, YEAH, AND I MEAN,
THE DIVERSITY STOCK MARKET,
YOU KNOW, I DO THINK
THAT IS SOMETHING
THAT A LOT OF US WHO ARE,
YOU KNOW,
RACIALIZED AND MARGINALIZED
THINK ABOUT
IS LIKE, OKAY, WELL,
WE HAVE A CERTAIN KIND
OF COMMERCIAL
OR CULTURAL CAPITAL NOW.
WHAT HAPPENS, YOU KNOW,
IN FIVE YEARS
WHEN DIVERSITY ISN'T
SO TRENDY, RIGHT?
SO I DEFINITELY SEE A LOT
OF YOUNGER ARTISTS ESPECIALLY
MAKING ALL KINDS OF CHOICES
AROUND THEIR CAREERS
BECAUSE THEY UNDERSTAND
THAT A PART OF WHY
THEY MIGHT BE VALUED
IS FOR THIS PARTICULAR
OR FOR PARTICULAR BOXES
THAT THEY CHECK, WHICH IS
REALLY AWFUL, YOU KNOW?
I THINK IT SPEAKS TO THE WAYS
THAT SO MUCH OF THE WORK
AROUND DIVERSITY
IN CANADIAN INDUSTRIES
HAS BEEN IMPORTANT
BUT AT TIMES,
HAS STILL FELT
LIKE IT WAS ABOUT...
IT HAS BEEN ABOUT A TREND.

Nam says WELL, YOU SAID
THE NEW ARTISTS
ARE MAKING
THESE CHOICES.
UM, BECAUSE
ONE OF THE CHARACTERS
ACTUALLY THROWS
A CHARGE LIKE THAT
TO SOMEONE ELSE
IN THE BOOK.
UM, IS THERE SUCH A THING
AS PERFORMATIVE DIVERSITY
TO APPEAL
TO THE DOMINANT CULTURE?

Vivek says UM...
(CHUCKLING)
YEAH, ABSOLUTELY.
I MEAN, I DID A PROJECT
LAST YEAR CALLED TRAUMA CLOWN
WHERE I TALKED
A BIT ABOUT HOW,
AS AN ARTIST, YOU KNOW,
I OFTEN FELT LIKE
THE ONLY WAY THAT I...
OR ONE OF THE WAYS
IN WHICH I'VE GOTTEN SUPPORT
FROM AUDIENCES
AND FROM LARGER INSTITUTIONS
IS BY REVEALING TRAUMA.
AND THE MORE TRAUMA
I'VE REVEALED,
THE MORE SUPPORT I'VE GOTTEN.
AND I'VE SORT OF LIKE TRACED
THAT RELATIONSHIP
THROUGHOUT MY CAREER.
AND THAT'S NOT TO SAY THAT I'VE
SHARED MY TRAUMA DELIBERATELY
TO GET SUPPORT.
UM, BUT I CERTAINLY UNDERSTAND
THE PRESSURE TO.
SO YOU KNOW, AGAIN,
I CAN'T SPEAK ON BEHALF
OF ANY OTHER ARTISTS
BUT I CAN SAY PERSONALLY,
YOU KNOW,
WE TALKED ABOUT MY BOOK
I'M AFRAID OF MEN
LAST TIME I SAW YOU,
AND I THINK ONE OF THE THINGS I
REALLY STRUGGLED WITH THAT BOOK
IS LIKE, YOU KNOW,
SHOULD I BE INCLUDING
A STORY OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE
FOR THIS BOOK
TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY?
AND I THINK THAT
THAT'S REALLY...
I THINK THAT'S
REALLY AWFUL.
I THINK THAT LIKE,
YOU KNOW,
MARGINALIZED ARTISTS
SHOULD BE ABLE
TO WRITE FROM
A PLACE OF TRUTH
AND OF INSPIRATION
WITHOUT HAVING TO FEEL LIKE
THE ONLY WAY OUR WORK IS VALUED
AS IF WE, YOU KNOW,
TALK ABOUT
HOW HARD IT IS BEING BROWN
OR HOW HARD IT IS BEING TRANS
OR HOW HARD IT IS BEING QUEER.
AND AGAIN, THAT'S NOT TO SAY
THAT TALKING ABOUT THOSE THINGS
ARE BAD OR WRONG,
BUT THEY SHOULD BE OUR CHOICE
AND NOT SO MUCH, UM,
A CHOICE MADE OUT OF PRESSURE
OR DESIRE TO STAY RELEVANT.

Nam says NOW, I THINK WE HAVE
AN IDEA OF, UM,
YOU KNOW, WHEN WE THINK
OF WHAT AN INTELLECTUAL IS,
WE HAVE THIS CERTAIN IMAGE
THAT COMES UP IN OUR MINDS.
BUT THE CHARACTERS IN YOUR
BOOK ARE INTELLECTUALS.
UM, AND THEY ARE GROUNDED
IN FEMINIST THEORY,
CONTRASTING WHAT,
YOU KNOW,
PEOPLE CAN SEE AS
ONE-DIMENSIONAL QUALITY
OF SOCIAL MEDIA.
UM, WHY WAS THAT A CHOICE
THAT YOU MADE?

Vivek says I MEAN, AGAIN, I REALLY WANTED
TO WRITE SMART CHARACTERS,
LIKE SMART WOMEN, YOU KNOW?
WHO, AGAIN, AREN'T JUST SITTING
AROUND AND TALKING ABOUT MEN,
TALKING ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS,
TALKING ABOUT THEIR NAILS.
AND I MEAN, AGAIN, LISTEN,
I LOVE TALKING
ABOUT A GOOD BLOWOUT,
I LOVE TALKING ABOUT MAKEUP.
BUT I THINK THAT THOSE THINGS
ARE HELD AGAINST US.
UM, YOU KNOW,
WOMEN ARE SO OFTEN PORTRAYED
AS SUPERFICIAL.
UM, AND ONLY CARING
ABOUT SUPERFICIAL THINGS.
AND UM, I THINK THAT THAT
DOES A DISSERVICE TO...
TO WOMEN IN GENERAL.
SO I THINK FOR ME,
IT FELT REALLY IMPORTANT
TO HAVE... TO WRITE
STRONG WOMEN CHARACTERS.
AND SMART WOMEN CHARACTERS.

Nam says AND YOU'RE... YOU'RE...
YOU'VE CREATED AN IMPRINT,
VS BOOKS
WITH ARSENAL PULP PRESS
AND YOU'VE PUT OUT A CALL
TO WRITERS OVER 50,
WHICH IS UNUSUAL
BECAUSE I THINK
WHENEVER WE THINK OF,
YOU KNOW, WRITERS
IT'S THE YOUNG INGÉNUE,
20, 25.
UM, WHY DID YOU
WANT TO DO THIS?

Vivek says WELL, THIS IS THE THIRD
OPEN CALL WE'VE DONE
FOR THE IMPRINT.
AND THE IMPRINT...
JUST SOME BACKGROUND
INFORMATION...
IS ESSENTIALLY SET UP TO SUPPORT
ONE EMERGING AUTHOR
EVERY YEAR, YEAR AND A HALF,
THAT IS BLACK, INDIGENOUS,
OR OF COLOUR.
AND I SET THAT UP BECAUSE,
YOU KNOW,
WITH EVERY STRIDE I MAKE
IN MY CAREER,
I WANNA MAKE SURE
THAT I'M CREATING SPACE
FOR PEOPLE, YOU KNOW,
WHO ARE MARGINALIZED
WHO ARE STILL FACING
THE KINDS OF BARRIERS
THAT I FACED IN MY CAREER
WHEN I FIRST STARTED.
UM, BUT THIS PARTICULAR
ITERATION
WAS REALLY INSPIRED
WHEN I, UM,
WAS TOURING WITH THE FIRST
AUTHOR WE PUBLISHED,
TÉA MUTONJI.
AND HAVING CONVERSATIONS
WITH OLDER, UM, WRITERS
WHO WERE LIKE,
"WHAT ABOUT US?"
AND UH, AND BY OLDER
I MEAN LIKE 50+.
AND IT STARTED...
IT MADE ME THINK ABOUT
HOW IN OUR CULTURE, WE REALLY
EQUATE EMERGING WITH YOUTH,
OR BEING YOUNG.
UM, AND HOW THAT
THAT'S NOT ACTUALLY TRUE
AND THAT, YOU KNOW,
ONE OF THE THINGS
THAT I'VE BENEFITED FROM
AND YOUNGER ARTISTS
HAVE BENEFITED FROM
ARE THESE CONVERSATIONS
AROUND DIVERSITY, RIGHT?
LIKE, I CAN BE
CRITICAL OF THEM
BUT AT THE SAME TIME,
I KNOW THE WAYS THAT
I'VE BENEFITED FROM THEM
AND THE WAY THAT OLDER
GENERATIONS, YOU KNOW,
THERE WEREN'T NECESSARILY
THESE KINDS OF OPEN,
YOU KNOW, LARGE CONVERSATIONS
AROUND DIVERSITY
OR AT LEAST SUPPORT
FOR THESE CONVERSATIONS.
AND SO, I THINK IT THINKING
ABOUT THE, YOU KNOW,
LACK OF OPPORTUNITIES
FOR OLDER WRITERS,
THE WAY THAT WE DO LIVE
IN AN AGEIST CULTURE
THAT REALLY THINKS
THAT IF YOU HAVEN'T MADE IT
BY A CERTAIN AGE
YOU'RE IRRELEVANT
OR YOUR VIEWPOINTS
AREN'T IMPORTANT,
I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE
REALLY IMPORTANT,
EVEN AS A CONVERSATION STARTER,
FOR THIS YEAR THE OPEN CALL
TO BE 50+ BIPOC WRITERS,
SO THAT WE CAN START THINKING
ABOUT HOW WE MIGHT
ACTUALLY START SUPPORTING
OR PROVIDING MORE SUPPORT
FOR OLDER WRITERS AND ARTISTS.

Nam says VIVEK, THAT'S ALL
THE TIME WE HAVE.

Vivek says OH, WOW.

Nam says THANK YOU SO MUCH
FOR COMING BACK ON THE SHOW.

Vivek says THANKS SO MUCH
FOR HAVING ME.

The caption changes to "Producer: Carla Lucchetta, @carrletta. Producer: Nam Kiwanuka, @namshine."

Nam says I LOVE YOUR BOOK.
THANK YOU AND STAY WELL,
AND I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE
WHAT YOU CREATE NEXT.

Vivek says THANK YOU SO MUCH
FOR HAVING ME
AND THANKS FOR YOUR FANTASTIC
QUESTIONS AS ALWAYS.

Nam says THANK YOU.

Watch: The Question of Diversity in Art