Taslim Burkowicz with her second novel, The Desirable Sister. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Surrey author wants to create awareness of colourism with latest book

The Desirable Sister is Taslim Burkowicz’s second book

Growing up, Taslim Burkowicz says she could relate to both Gia and Serena – the protagonists in her latest novel, The Desirable Sister.

“I experienced — in some circles — I experienced feeling darker than people. In others, I experienced the light aspect of it. I divided my own (experiences) into two different characters and it’s completely fictional,” said Burkowicz.

The Desirable Sister is Burkowicz’s second book and follows two sisters, Gia and Serena Pirji, first-generation Canadians born to immigrant parents and how their lives play out in different ways because of their skin tone.

“Gia’s fair skin grants her membership to cliques of white kids as a teen, while Serena’s dark skin means she is labelled as Indian and treated as inferior,” reads a synopsis of the book. “This superficial difference, imposed by a society obsessed with skin colour and hierarchy, sets the sisters into a dynamic that plays out throughout their lives.”

Burkowicz said through the book, she tried to bring awareness to colourism.

“Using the characters, I tried to show how colourism affected the way the girls looked at themselves, how society looked at them and how they perceived each other,” said Burkowicz, who lives in Guildford.

“I wanted Serena to be hyper-aware and Gia to be more unaware. I wanted to create that contrast between the two and later in the book, Gia has more of an awareness of colourism, so I wanted that awareness to evolve over time.

“I think sometimes we don’t see light skin as a privilege, or even whiteness. Not just light skin, but just whiteness. The privilege that that assumes, we don’t realize it when we’re in that position of whiteness, we don’t realize how colourism affects. It’s little micro-aggressions that women of colour face, like going into a drug store and seeing all the lipstick samples. They don’t work on people of colour.”

When it came to writing the book, Burkowicz said she took experiences from her own life.

“I could almost see the middle line so perfectly… I’m south Asian,” she said. “I could see the flip side of both those experiences. Just because of the pigment of my skin, some people know what I am immediately and what culture I am. Others will struggle and grapple and so that really helped me take them and almost exaggerate each experience so that I could see them both clearly.

“I’ve heard those words said to me, like, ‘Oh, you don’t look Indian.’ So I took those words and accentuated them for Gia and tweaked them.”

While research for her first book Chocolate Cherry Chai took much longer, Burkowicz said writing and researching this novel went much faster.

“I’ve had so many experiences built up and I’ve heard so many stories… because it’s based on experience, it’s easier to write. You can’t negate experience. It’s part of your essence.”

The goal of The Desirable Sister, Burkowicz said, isn’t to find a solution to colourism.

“I think that’s a huge… It’ll take many years for that to happen, but moreso to create awareness that it exists. I think that’s the first step before solution because I think that a lot of people don’t even realize the way it impacts us because it’s undercurrent. We feel it but we don’t name it. I think the people that (it affects), it impacts their silence a lot of the time.”

For more info on the book, or to buy it, visit fernwoodpublishing.ca/authors/view/taslim-burkowicz.

There is also a book launch planned for Nov. 27 from 7 to 9 p.m. at SFU Harbour Centre in the Segal Centre (1400-1410 515 W. Hastings St., Vancouver).



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Lauren on Twitter

Just Posted

South Surrey couple donates $1M to hospital’s children’s centre campaign

Donation brings hospital foundation’s fundraising goal within $1 million

Prolific offender nabbed at Surrey SkyTrain after police say he skipped paying fare

Officers arrested Reginald Simon at Scott Road SkyTrain after discovering he had 11 outstanding warrants

The Surrey Hospice Society’s Toolbox thrift store reopens in Cloverdale

Before she fell ill, Janet Child revamped second-hand tool store

Death threat related to unsolved Surrey murder posted at major city intersection

Bradley Kline, 26, of Newton was murdered on Dec. 7, 2018

Surrey’s new top cop is White Rock resident Brian Edwards

A transition plan will see Edwards start in his new job on Jan. 6

‘A loud sonic boom’: Gabriola Island residents recount fatal plane crash

Area where the plane went down is primarily a residential neighbourhood, RCMP say

‘Honest mistake:’ RCMP says B.C. cannabis shop can keep image of infamous Mountie

Sam Steele wearing military, not RCMP uniform in image depicted in Jimmy’s Cannabis window

B.C. conservation officers put down fawn blinded by BB gun on Vancouver Island

Young deer found near construction site in Hammond Bay area in Nanaimo, B.C.

Laid-off forest workers converge on B.C. legislature

Loggers call for action on strike, provincial stumpage

B.C. guide fined $2K in first conviction under new federal whale protection laws

Scott Babcock found guilty of approaching a North Pacific humpback whale at less than 100 metres

Feds urge Air Canada to fix booking problems as travel season approaches

The airline introduced the new reservation system more than three weeks ago

Almost 14,000 Canadians killed by opioids since 2016: new national study

17,000 people have been hospitalized for opioid-related poisoning

Chevron move to exit Kitimat LNG project a dash of ‘cold water’ for gas industry

Canada Energy Regulator approved a 40-year licence to export natural gas for Kitimat LNG

B.C. cities top the list for most generous in Canada on GoFundMe

Chilliwack took the number-two spot while Kamloops was at the top of the list

Most Read

l -->