SOME|WHERE | Danila Botha

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I often think about what it means to be a diaspora writer. In both my novels, and my short story collections, I’ve asked myself what it means to write characters who have grown up in another landscape or country, who carry feelings and recollections of a place where things no longer exist as they once did, a place that exists more in their memories than in reality. This is something I think about a lot in relation to myself, too.

I was born in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, in South Africa, in an interregnum in the eighties, when Apartheid was ending. This was exciting, and overwhelmingly positive. I had a chance to observe many of the necessary, painfully incremental changes, but also to see people's fear of change, the necessary shift of privilege and power, and with it, people's questioning of identity.

My own sense of diaspora is rooted in sultry weather and the gift of endless green, open space. Even now, I find that I produce the best writing on the hottest days of the Toronto summers, when I can take my laptop and sit outside. Though I was born in a big city, I was lucky to grow up with an acre of backyard. My parents were serious about enjoying the outdoors, my mom beautifying through gardening, my dad growing produce from banana trees to walnuts, and working on wood sculptures. I was lucky to have parents who were open to discussing the imaginary, who challenged my ideas and took them seriously. My sense of diaspora exists in this openness, in this warmth and direct engagement. It also rests in the stories and experiences of my grandparents. Though we were all modern Orthodox Jews, (and my grandfather was the son of a rabbi) he was vocal in his love of South Africa’s geographic beauty, and in his feeling that despite the insularity of the Jewish community, we were South African too.

My grandfather was part of the first generation in his family to be born in South Africa. His parents were forced to leave their native Lithuania because of pogroms. Despite the anti-Semitism he experienced, or maybe because of it, he was determined to plant roots, even in the literal sense. My grandfather held a PHD in agronomy, and had a deep love of the land. He drank rooibos tea, spoke seven languages fluently and introduced me to the work of every South African writer I admire, from Zakes Mda, and Phaswane Mpe to Rene Bohnen and JM Coetzee. My grandmother was a fifth generation Israeli expat of Moroccan descent. She grew up in Tiberius, in the north of Israel as one of six children, speaking Hebrew and Arabic interchangeably. She was also the daughter of a rabbi, and it was my great grandfather’s work that brought him, and eventually his family to South Africa.

My grandmother was, among many things, a gifted storyteller. Her stories always burst with a mix of magic, powerful nostalgia and sharp insights. It is not an exaggeration to say that I learned a lot of what I know about pacing and detail selection from her. I fictionalized her in the short story It’s Our Life, which appears in my collection For All the Men (and Some of the Women) I’ve Known. I also gave her characteristics of my great grandmother Sarina, and my great aunt Yocheved. My sense of diaspora is rooted in their cooking, in my great grandmother’s couscous, which she made from scratch and rolled by hand, tiny ball by ball, in my grandmother’s Moroccan marzipan, which she made for special occasions and Jewish holidays. It rests in the awe she had for first world opportunities, for the enormous scope of her ambitions, both for herself and for her family.





My sense of diaspora exists in this openness, in this warmth and direct engagement.
It also rests in the stories and experiences of my grandparents.


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My grandparents had a home in Israel and eventually also in Toronto. My sense of diaspora is rooted in the enormous vegetable garden full of corn, tomatoes, potatoes, in the gardenias my grandfather grew on his veranda in South Africa, and in the fragrant kumquat trees growing outside their building in Ra’anana. It is strange to fictionalize places that are no longer there, or that no longer look the same. My first novel, Too Much on the Inside, which was published in 2015, is partly set in the Ra’anana I lived in in my twenties, in the mid 2000’s. From the specific stores selling fresh dates and peanut butter to the hummus restaurant, the seventies era apartment buildings and stray cats sunbathing on the engines of idle cars, it was a love letter to a town that has always felt like home to me. In the novel that I am currently finishing, I have an Israeli born character who is from the neighboring small city of Herzliya. My descriptions of the Sharon beach, with its rainbow arches, its perfect turquoise sea and surrounding restaurants are the stuff of my fondest teenage memories, as is the Central and South Tel Aviv of my teenage and early twenties memories.

I think often about what a joy it is to live in Toronto, a city with so many people from everywhere. The idea that retaining memories and experiences, flavors and textures of diaspora life informs parts of our identities here in ways that we're both conscious and not conscious of is so interesting to me. The word diaspora is loaded with so much nuance and complexity. I'm exploring questions of Jewish identity in my new novel, and I've been thinking about this a lot. My two main characters both carry parts of their family and cultural histories, as they try to negotiate an adult sense of identity and a sense of home fluid enough to hold all the parts of themselves.
I often think about what it means to be a diaspora writer. In both my novels, and my short story collections, I’ve asked myself what it means to write characters who have grown up in another landscape or country, who carry feelings and recollections of a place where things no longer exist as they once did, a place that exists more in their memories than in reality. This is something I think about a lot in relation to myself, too.

I was born in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, in South Africa, in an interregnum in the eighties, when Apartheid was ending. This was exciting, and overwhelmingly positive. I had a chance to observe many of the necessary, painfully incremental changes, but also to see people's fear of change, the necessary shift of privilege and power, and with it, people's questioning of identity.

My own sense of diaspora is rooted in sultry weather and the gift of endless green, open space. Even now, I find that I produce the best writing on the hottest days of the Toronto summers, when I can take my laptop and sit outside. Though I was born in a big city, I was lucky to grow up with an acre of backyard. My parents were serious about enjoying the outdoors, my mom beautifying through gardening, my dad growing produce from banana trees to walnuts, and working on wood sculptures. I was lucky to have parents who were open to discussing the imaginary, who challenged my ideas and took them seriously. My sense of diaspora exists in this openness, in this warmth and direct engagement. It also rests in the stories and experiences of my grandparents. Though we were all modern Orthodox Jews, (and my grandfather was the son of a rabbi) he was vocal in his love of South Africa’s geographic beauty, and in his feeling that despite the insularity of the Jewish community, we were South African too.

My grandfather was part of the first generation in his family to be born in South Africa. His parents were forced to leave their native Lithuania because of pogroms. Despite the anti-Semitism he experienced, or maybe because of it, he was determined to plant roots, even in the literal sense. My grandfather held a PHD in agronomy, and had a deep love of the land. He drank rooibos tea, spoke seven languages fluently and introduced me to the work of every South African writer I admire, from Zakes Mda, and Phaswane Mpe to Rene Bohnen and JM Coetzee. My grandmother was a fifth generation Israeli expat of Moroccan descent. She grew up in Tiberius, in the north of Israel as one of six children, speaking Hebrew and Arabic interchangeably. She was also the daughter of a rabbi, and it was my great grandfather’s work that brought him, and eventually his family to South Africa.

My grandmother was, among many things, a gifted storyteller. Her stories always burst with a mix of magic, powerful nostalgia and sharp insights. It is not an exaggeration to say that I learned a lot of what I know about pacing and detail selection from her. I fictionalized her in the short story It’s Our Life, which appears in my collection For All the Men (and Some of the Women) I’ve Known. I also gave her characteristics of my great grandmother Sarina, and my great aunt Yocheved. My sense of diaspora is rooted in their cooking, in my great grandmother’s couscous, which she made from scratch and rolled by hand, tiny ball by ball, in my grandmother’s Moroccan marzipan, which she made for special occasions and Jewish holidays. It rests in the awe she had for first world opportunities, for the enormous scope of her ambitions, both for herself and for her family.





My sense of diaspora exists in this openness, in this warmth and direct engagement.
It also rests in the stories and experiences of my grandparents.


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My grandparents had a home in Israel and eventually also in Toronto. My sense of diaspora is rooted in the enormous vegetable garden full of corn, tomatoes, potatoes, in the gardenias my grandfather grew on his veranda in South Africa, and in the fragrant kumquat trees growing outside their building in Ra’anana. It is strange to fictionalize places that are no longer there, or that no longer look the same. My first novel, Too Much on the Inside, which was published in 2015, is partly set in the Ra’anana I lived in in my twenties, in the mid 2000’s. From the specific stores selling fresh dates and peanut butter to the hummus restaurant, the seventies era apartment buildings and stray cats sunbathing on the engines of idle cars, it was a love letter to a town that has always felt like home to me. In the novel that I am currently finishing, I have an Israeli born character who is from the neighboring small city of Herzliya. My descriptions of the Sharon beach, with its rainbow arches, its perfect turquoise sea and surrounding restaurants are the stuff of my fondest teenage memories, as is the Central and South Tel Aviv of my teenage and early twenties memories.

I think often about what a joy it is to live in Toronto, a city with so many people from everywhere. The idea that retaining memories and experiences, flavors and textures of diaspora life informs parts of our identities here in ways that we're both conscious and not conscious of is so interesting to me. The word diaspora is loaded with so much nuance and complexity. I'm exploring questions of Jewish identity in my new novel, and I've been thinking about this a lot. My two main characters both carry parts of their family and cultural histories, as they try to negotiate an adult sense of identity and a sense of home fluid enough to hold all the parts of themselves.
DANILA BOTHA | Danila is a fiction writer based in Toronto. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, she has also lived in Israel, and in Nova Scotia. Her first collection of short stories, Got No Secrets, was praised by the Globe and Mail, the Chronicle Herald and the Cape Town Times. It was also named one of Britannica’s Books of the Year (Canadian short stories) in 2011, and was also published in South Africa. Her debut novel, Too Much on the Inside, was shortlisted for the 2016 ReLit award, and won a Book Excellence Award for Contemporary Novel. Her critically acclaimed sophomore collection of short stories, For All the Men (and Some of the Women) I've Known was named a finalist for the 2017 Trillium Awards and the Vine Awards for Canadian Jewish Literature. Danila has been the Writer in Residence at Open Book, a Delegate at IFOA, and has contributed to the National Post's The Afterword, the 49th Shelf, the Puritan and more. She has been invited to read at festivals and reading series' across the country. Danila teaches Creative Writing at the University of Toronto and at the Humber School for Writers. She studied Creative Writing at York University, and Humber's School For Writers. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Guelph University. She is also working on her second novel and on a new collection of short stories.
DANILA BOTHA | Danila is a fiction writer based in Toronto. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, she has also lived in Israel, and in Nova Scotia. Her first collection of short stories, Got No Secrets, was praised by the Globe and Mail, the Chronicle Herald and the Cape Town Times. It was also named one of Britannica’s Books of the Year (Canadian short stories) in 2011, and was also published in South Africa. Her debut novel, Too Much on the Inside, was shortlisted for the 2016 ReLit award, and won a Book Excellence Award for Contemporary Novel. Her critically acclaimed sophomore collection of short stories, For All the Men (and Some of the Women) I've Known was named a finalist for the 2017 Trillium Awards and the Vine Awards for Canadian Jewish Literature. Danila has been the Writer in Residence at Open Book, a Delegate at IFOA, and has contributed to the National Post's The Afterword, the 49th Shelf, the Puritan and more. She has been invited to read at festivals and reading series' across the country. Danila teaches Creative Writing at the University of Toronto and at the Humber School for Writers. She studied Creative Writing at York University, and Humber's School For Writers. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Guelph University. She is also working on her second novel and on a new collection of short stories.

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