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.
“... a book that captures the emotions of a young, disabled immigrant fighting to gain a sense of belonging in society”
– Kirkus Reviews
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.
Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2021
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