Tara Nanayakkara

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My name is Tara Nanayakkara and I am an author with four published novels.

My existing published portfolio consists of To Wish Upon a Rainbow (Creative 1989 ISBN # 9780920021613 ), Priya's World (Inanna 2012, ISBN # 9781926708652), Cardboard Dreams (Lulu 2015, ISBN # 9781483436180) and Dawning of a New Garden (Inanna 2016, ISBN # 9781771333184).

I am a Canadian citizen, born in Sri Lankan, who immigrated to Canada with my family as a small child. Born with severe congenital cataracts, I have a keen interest in reading memoirs about people overcoming obstacles and challenges in their lives. I write stories about everyday people with strong characters and voice, incorporating relatable themes, and consider my fiction upmarket ideal for book clubs, discussion groups, and readily adaptable to film.



BY Tara Nanayakkara

A Sri Lankan immigrant to Canada describes growing up with impaired vision in this memoir.

Nanayakkara, the author of Cardboard Dreams (2015), was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon), in the mid 1960s. Soon after, the family relocated to Canada and were among the first Sri Lankan immigrants to settle in Newfoundland. The author was acutely aware of her poor vision from an early age, but was expected to keep up with the fully sighted students at school. She suffered from fatigue and eyestrain due to her disability, but despite her hard work, insensitive teachers often referred to as “lazy” on report cards. She begged her parents to send her to a school for the blind, but they refused, as her mother, a teacher, believed that it would bring shame on her. Nanayakkara describes having to use a large-print reader in class and how it made her feel separate from her classmates. She relates an account of a lonely childhood in which she was bullied, not only because of her difficulty seeing, but also because she was Asian. Her family’s search to find a doctor who could help improve her sight met with disappointment. As a result, her family limited her freedom, but as she grew older, she pushed for independence. She eventually attended Memorial University of Newfoundland as a history major and had dreams of becoming a writer. This frank, illuminating memoir becomes a story of personal determination as she tells of how her professional life and love life took shape in her early 20s, after years of struggling for acceptance.

Nanayakkara’s writing is richly descriptive as she paints a vivid portrait of herself as a child, and of how she felt about herself: “my short black curly hair, thick coke bottle glasses that I refused to wear when I wasn’t reading…and my lack of academic smarts.” The author is unafraid to return to painful moments in her youth in order to highlight the absurdity of racism. The work is bold but lacks a sense of bitterness, even as it demonstrates how her parents’, teachers’, and peers’ lack of understanding of her disability led to her overwhelming sense of isolation. On occasion, the author resorts to clipped sentences that seem out of harmony with her descriptive style: “The optimism I had experienced at the end of 1981 did not carry into the new year. The broadcasting class I had enjoyed so much in the fall was to be shelved.” The memoir also ends abruptly with little pause for overall reflection, although it does leave a suggestion that further volumes may follow. However, these are minor criticisms and detract little from a book that captures the emotions of a young, disabled immigrant fighting to gain a sense of belonging in society. This book will be of particular interest to other Sri Lankan immigrants to Canada, but will also strike a chord with a wide range of readers who’ve felt excluded for their differences.

A courageous and often inspiring remembrance, despite a few flaws in its execution.

Pub Date:

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2021

Awards, Press & Interests


St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Unexpected skill or talent

Playing piano

Origin Story: Tara Nanayakkara, 2017


Cardboard Dreams

After Vijay and Siyara take in their nephew, Siyara realizes she understands Jake better than anyone and begins to love him like a son. Through a shared bond of unfulfilled dreams, they both try to forge their respective paths: Jake through his music and Siyara through her work. But when Jake becomes seriously ill, Siyara’s world begins to implode as her shaky marriage shudders under the weight of too many secrets. Just when it seems that Siyara has no choice but to continue down a lonely path, a confession leads her to a shocking truth that will change everything.
Published: Aug. 28, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4834-3618-0

Dawning of a New Garden

Confronted with the task of re-inventing her life, young widow Priya grieves by researching spiritualism for a new age magazine and spending time in the garden her late husband, Gabe, had tended. Human contact is limited to an elderly nursing home resident, Jeevan, who is from her father’s native land of Sri Lanka. Soon Priya is drawn further into Jeevan’s world, which includes a mysterious nephew, Suresh. Despite rigid religious views, Suresh takes advantage of Priya’s vulnerability. Soon an isolated Priya finds herself facing the prospect of either single motherhood or a loveless marriage. While her Canadian and Sri Lankan friends Meg and Shobi conduct a tug of war over Priya’s destiny, Suresh’s jealous and coercive tactics prevent her from exploring a third possibility, her kindly neighbour Ryan, the only person whose presence gives Priya a genuine sense of solace. In this sequel to the author’s earlier novel, Priya’s World, Priya’s life is mired in uncertainty, but as spring begins to stir, the garden Gabe planted begins to speak to her of new life and fresh possibilities.
Published: Sept. 28, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-77133-317-7

Patchwork Family

In Patchwork Family, we are introduced to Gemma Thomas, a family counsellor, who feels she is doing a good job of running her own life. She balances her career and single motherhood to her two children while tending to the needs of her ailing mother, Camille, who is battling the ravages of Parkinson’s disease and her demoralized younger brother Arvind who is fighting his own inner demons. Trouble suddenly appears in the form of her ex-husband Simon who flies into town for what Gemma assumes is a routine child access visit, but soon discovers out that he has ulterior motives. At the same time she finds herself mired in her friend Marla’s relationship drama. Then to add to the mix, Gemma has met someone new on-line. As she navigates her way through a complex web of circumstances, she finds herself reacting on impulse. The risks she takes see Gemma battling it out with Simon in court. A string of shocking deceptions tangled in a maze of ironic twists show Gemma how strong she has to be as she watches her patchwork family transition from what it was to what it can be.

Priya's World

At twenty-five, Priya a kindergarten teacher must accept the loss of her parents in a plane crash. Her grief plunges her into an eating disorder. While her friends recognize that she is crying out for help, Priya denies it all as she strives to make peace with Renita, her father's sister--a woman who appears chronically depressed. Unbeknownst to Priya, Renita harbors a disturbing family secret. The story opens with Priya reuniting a lost toddler with his mother during a trip to the mall. A chance meeting with Gabe Johanson, a childhood friend of Priya's late mother, opens the door to new friendships and even more secrets. While Priya battles her inner demons, she finds herself choosing between two men: Trent Perelli, the handsome young performing arts instructor she meets through a friend and Gabe, compassionate and empowering--but with a past that causes the very mention of his name to rankle the nerves of Priya's maternal grandparents. The novel deals with the ravages of anorexia and the tyranny of food disorders, as well as the poisonous role that family secrets can play on more than one generation. Throughout her heart-wrenching journey of self-discovery, Priya will lose her health and her family as she knows it, but will ultimately gain self-esteem and the love she has always craved. Through her pain, she will reach out to others in unexpected ways and take bold steps to re-invent her life.
Published: Aug. 15, 2012
ISBN: 978-1926708645