By NAFISAT ALAO
Bones of Belonging: Finding Wholeness in a White World, is the second book written by Annahid Dashtgard and it is a non-fiction collection of sharp, funny, and poignant essays sharing what it is like to be a brown woman working for change in a white world.
Originally born in Iran, Dashtgard had to leave Iran after the revolution and she went to live in England for two years initially before coming to Canada where she lived in a white suburb outside of Edmonton until her early twenties. After that, she bounced around to different cities before finally coming to Toronto where she has lived for 23 years, in the area of Danforth and Donlands avenues.
“The reason I live here is because I feel safe here. It’s the first place in Canada that I have felt safe on a body level, and it’s because I’m surrounded by so many cultures and shades of skin tone that mine never stands out,” she said.
Dashtgard is the CEO of Anima Leadership, a racial justice consulting firm. Over the last two decades, she has worked with hundreds of organizations and leaders to create more inclusive workplaces.
Her book explores everyday moments and makes meaning of those moments through the lens of being a brown immigrant woman and reflects the experiences of people of colour in Canada.
She discussed where the inspiration came from for her to write this book and explore race and racial issues and how it plays out in everyday life.
“I just saw that there was a gap between what most people believe is the truth about race and racism and what people of colour experience every day and it is one that needs to be bridged, and I wanted to use stories to open peoples hearts and minds,” she said.
Dashtgard mentioned what her main message and central ideas were when writing this book and how she wanted to present the topic.
“I wanted to make everyday racism accessible and relatable for everybody in a hopeful, humorous and poignant way. I didn’t want it to be overly heavy, it’s very human and contains all these moments of what it is like to be on a human journey.”
She began writing this book a month before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and finished writing it just as the world was coming out of the lockdowns and restrictions. From her perspective, she said, “In that three-year period I felt like the world woke up to realizing that racism was really an issue and I feel like on an unconscious level I was writing stories to stitch across that void.”
Dashtgard revealed that the writing process for her recent book was not one she was expecting and she faced few challenges in writing it.
“I was very clear on my purpose, I actually felt quite easeful and what surprised me was I thought it was going to be sad or heavy, but there was so much hope, peace and love that came forth in the pages,” she said.
She hopes that her book makes an impact in contributing to the ongoing dialogue about race and racial issues in literature.
“I think my book is a very unique voice in the space of racial justice. It is a book that is accessible to everybody but it’s uniquely about breaking free of the expectations and constraints of racism,” she said.
Dashtgard hopes that after people have read her book they will begin to question the severity of racism and say to themselves: “I didn’t know racism was like that and this is how I can do better”.
She also hopes that it helps racialized individuals understand their own experiences better.
This is the second book she has written. Before Bones of Belonging, she also wrote Breaking the Ocean: A Memoir of Race, Rebellion and Reconciliation.
Bones of Belonging is available to be purchased in Canada at bookstores such as Chapters/Indigo and also at Dundurn Press in the Beaches at 1382 Queen St. E., or by going to the website at here https://www.dundurn.com/books_/t22117/a9781459750623-bones-of-belonging