When my husband, Mohammed Dokainish, joined the Mechanical Engineering Department at McMaster University in 1964, our friends advised us to drive to Ancaster, Burlington, and Dundas to look for a home. At the end of our day’s search, we drove around the university, and I exclaimed, “Oh! But this is where we’re going to live!” That was before the beautiful Sunken Botanical Gardens were replaced by the imposing McMaster University Medical Centre.
We enjoy the closeness of our home to the university. Each September’s student parade strengthens our belief that the presence of the young in our community enriches and energizes us. We have met students from Engineers without Borders and learned about their work in Africa and here at home. Our daughter and son attended Westdale schools and then the Arts and Science program at McMaster.
Upon arrival in Hamilton I tutored at McMaster while pursuing my PhD in English at the University of Western Ontario. In the 1960s I joined the 16-member faculty at Mohawk College in a building on Dundurn Street South. In 1970, the college moved to Fennell Avenue West, where I taught for 30 years.
I found life in Westdale conducive to reflection. My writing career began with seven books of poetry and drawings; it continued with fiction, each novel containing several pieces of my art work. In my second novel, Mystic Loon(2007), I portray the life in Canada I have come to love: a symbiotic existence where diverse people’s cultures are intertwined, a theme that has matured within me over the decades. I chose Westdale for its locale. The characters share a bond with the land and with each other’s roots. But this is where fact ends and fiction begins in my novel. The photographer-heroine is in search of the spiritual identity of her adopted land. Her husband, an internist at McMaster Medical Centre, is dedicated to the physical well- being of others. Husband and wife are the antipodes of life.
The immigration story is told through characters who adapt to their new home, and others who do not. The main Mohammed and Soraya with son Hisham, daughter Madiha, and grandchildren, L to R: Faris, Jenna, and Callum. couple travels through Canada to experience its French heritage, its First Nations’ roots, as well as its English culture. Love, deception, passion, doubt and hope, clash of cultures, forgiveness, acceptance, and creativity constitute the vibrant texture of this Canadian journey.
Mystic Loon probes post-multicultural Canadian identity. In the 20th century, we applauded Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s vision of a cultural mosaic consisting of separate but equal parts glued together, a good first step. But in the 21st century, we know how glue tends to age and the pieces fall apart. Mystic Loon portrays cultures inextricably connected with each other. Individuals who possess a creative vision for their country enjoy living in these integrated communities, yet they do not lose sight of their native roots. Akin to baking a cake! Different ingredients mix to form a whole, a process especially inspiring in the Canada of the 21st century.
Soraya Erian and her husband have been AWWCA members for eight years. A writer-artist from Egypt, Soraya came to the University of Toronto on a Canada Council scholarship to obtain her MA in English literature. She taught creative writing, literature, and communications at Mohawk College. Now retired, she is enjoying a life of contemplative creativity and her three grandchildren, who “fill her heart with joy.” You can view Soraya’s publications and artwork at soraya-erian.com.
Soraya Erian, Spring 09 newsletter, p2