Eternity Martis: Meet the 2022 Non-Fiction Writer in Residence for SFU Library
2022, Arts + Culture, Equity + Justice
Celebrate SFU Library's 2022 Non-Fiction Writer in Residence, Eternity Martis, in an opening launch event! Join Eternity and fellow non-fiction author and journalist Kamal Al-Solaylee for an evening of readings and conversation, presented by SFU Library and SFU Public Square.
Eternity Martis is an award-winning Toronto-based journalist whose work on race and language has influenced media style guide changes across the country. Her bestselling debut memoir is They Said This Would Be Fun: Race, Campus Life, and Growing Up.
Kamal Al-Solaylee is an award-winning author and the director of the School of Journalism, Writing, and Media at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. His most recent book is Return: Why We Go Back to Where We Come From.
6:30 p.m. (PT)
A link and password to access this online event will be emailed to all registrants via Eventbrite shortly before the event.
Closed captioning in English will be available at this event.
About SFU Library's Non-Fiction Writer in Residence Program
The SFU Library Non-Fiction Writer in Residence emphasizes the power of non-fiction writing to share knowledge beyond academia, enhancing the SFU community's capacity to tell compelling research and scholarship stories. This complements the Library's growing activities in the area of knowledge mobilization.
The Writer in Residence will:
- Deliver workshops on non-fiction writing for a public audience
- Showcase non-fiction writing that brings scholarship to a public audience through public events
- Offer opportunities for SFU graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty, and staff to receive feedback and support on their own public writing projects
On this page
Eternity Martis is an award-winning Toronto-based journalist. She was a 2017 National Magazine Awards finalist for Best New Writer and the 2018 winner of the Canadian Online Publishing Awards for Best Investigative Article. Her writing has appeared in Vice, The Huffington Post, The Walrus, CBC, Hazlitt, The Fader and Salon, and on academic syllabuses around the world. Her work on race and language has influenced media style guide changes across the country. She is the course developer and instructor of Reporting On Race: The Black Community in the Media at Ryerson University, the first of its kind in Canada, and the 2021 Asper Visiting Professor at UBC. She earned an honours BA and a Certificate in Writing from Western University and an MJ from Ryerson University. In 2020, she was named one of Canada's Top 100 Most Powerful Women by Women's Executive Network.
Her bestselling debut memoir, They Said This Would Be Fun: Race, Campus Life, and Growing Up, was a "Best Book of the Year" pick by The Globe and Mail, Apple, Audible and Chapters/Indigo. CBC called the book one of "20 moving Canadian memoirs to read right now" and PopSugar named it one of "5 Books About Race on College Campuses Every Student Should Read." The TV/film rights for the book have been sold to Temple Street Productions, a division of Boat Rocker Media. In 2021, They Said This Would Be Fun won the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Non-Fiction.
Kamal Al-Solaylee is the author of the national bestseller Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes, which won the 2013 Toronto Book Award and was a finalist for CBC’s Canada Reads and the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. His second book, Brown: What Being Brown in the World Today Means (to Everyone), was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Awards for Nonfiction and the Trillium Book Award, and won the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. His most recent book is Return: Why We Go Back to Where We Come From. He was previously a theatre critic at The Globe and Mail and has written reviews and features on arts and politics for all major Canadian publications. He holds a PhD in English and is the director of the School of Journalism, Writing, and Media at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
Emily Lam (she/her) is a fourth-year student at SFU, studying Health Sciences (Population-Quantitative Health) and Business (Entrepreneurship & Innovation), who describes herself as an aggressively caring individual, a serial multitasker and the type of person who laughs before the joke is told. She is most excited about children's mental health, stigma reduction, and trauma-informed practice and how that can help build healthier and more equitable communities. Emily also has interests in housing and social policy, storytelling, and cultural community connections. Find Emily on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.
Meet non-fiction writers Eternity Martis and Kamal Al-Solaylee
By Victoria Barclay, MA Candidate, UBC Department of Sociology
Eternity Martis is SFU Library’s Non-Fiction Writer in Residence for January–April 2022, as well as an award-winning Toronto-based journalist and the author of the bestselling debut memoir They Said This Would Be Fun: Race, Campus Life, and Growing Up. Martis is also a course developer and the instructor of “Reporting on Race: The Black Community in the Media” at Ryerson University. Her accomplishments have earned her a spot on the Women’s Executive Network’s 2020 list of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women.
Kamal Al-Solaylee is a journalist and the director of the School of Journalism, Writing, and Media at the University of British Columbia, holding a PhD in English. He is the author of the national bestseller and award-winning book Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes. Al-Solaylee is also the author of Brown: What Being Brown in the World Today Means (to Everyone), which has been nominated for several awards and won the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. His most recent title is Return: Why We Go Back to Where We Come From.
Moderator Emily Lam, a fourth-year health science student at SFU, sat down with Martis and Al-Solaylee on January 20 to discuss their experiences of identity, journalism and non-fiction writing.
The event began with Martis reading from the epilogue of They Said This Would Be Fun: Race, Campus Life, and Growing Up and Al-Solaylee reading from the introduction of Return: Why We Go Back to Where We Come From.
Why do you choose to do this work?
Martis shared that during her undergraduate education at Western University, people often told her to prepare to be broke if she wanted to be a writer. Despite this, Martis brought her experience of being a woman of colour on a very white, Christian, conversative campus to her memoir. She was attuned to how people interacted with her and her friends; they were objectified. She didn’t see herself represented in the texts of her coursework—except in her electives. Martis embarked on this book during her time at Western because she knew her experiences were “important” and “personal,” even though no one was talking about these issues. She also mentioned that people sharing their experiences of race, gender and violence are often met with comments requiring proof. Writing and conducting research for her memoir allowed her “to help people change their minds about deeply held beliefs.”
Al-Solaylee spent 13 years as a journalist before undertaking his first personal piece. He shared his experiences about moving to the West from the Middle East as a proud gay man in his 20s in Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes. Like Martis, Al-Solaylee wanted people to know his experience of being brown, what that means, and the concept of brownness. Recent events filled with acts of hate have “forced [him] to rethink his resting place and where [he calls] home.” Additionally, as a former theatre critic, he finds himself thinking about his retirement—the “final act.” As such, he opens his most recent book with the question, “Where do you want to be buried?” Return: Why We Go Back to Where We Came From grapples with end-of-life questions including how to pass time, reconnection with family, and the land he left behind.
How have writing and journalism influenced your identity?
Both authors stated that personal writing allowed them to become fully aware of their experiences and properly address their emotions.
“Writing a memoir helped me understand who I am,” said Al-Solaylee. He shared that he did not understand how his sexuality motivated him, nor was he aware of the fear he felt as a gay man, but his sexuality influenced everything he did.
Similarly, Martis explained that writing helped her realize she was not angry about her experiences at Western, she was fearful.
How do you navigate mobility when sharing your story?
Having a strong support system is key.
Al-Solaylee said, “Finding people who have your back is important.”
Martis told us that her support system opened to other writers once she wrote her book and emphasized that “having people who are genuinely proud of you is really important.”
What words do you have for aspiring writers?
Martis encouraged aspiring writers to read as much as they can, and read the type of writing they want to write to get a sense of the structure. She also noted the importance of writing every day, whether a lot or a little, to keep the momentum going.
Al-Solaylee added that you should read underrepresented voices, read writing about writing, and never stop learning.