Giller-Prize-winning author inducted into Brampton Arts Walk of Fame

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Published October 7, 2021 at 3:22 pm

Playing tennis at a public court in Brampton was the first thing Giller-Prize-winning novelist and poet Ian Williams said when asked about growing up in Brampton.

“I remember playing tennis at the public tennis courts (I like to think my game has improved since then),” he said in an interview with inBrampton.com

On Tuesday (October 5), Williams was inducted into the Brampton Arts Walk of Fame. He’s the author of six books, including his latest, Disorientation: Being Black in the World, which was released on September 21, 2021.

Because of current restrictions related to the pandemic, the ceremony wasn’t the same as it would normally have been.

“The venue was mostly empty,” Williams said. “It wasn’t totally silent, though. There was some applause. They only allowed 35 people into the theatre but you could still hear people cheering and laughing.”

Williams, who moved to Brampton when he was still in elementary school, said he was honoured to be recognized by the City.

“I never thought when I was growing up in Brampton that this would happen. It didn’t even exist when I was a kid, so it wasn’t one of my goals in life, but now that it’s happened, it’s really touching and meaningful to me that the City cares enough about me to honour me in this way,” he said.

He attributes a lot of what shaped him growing up in Brampton to public facilities. “I’m really a product of everything public—public libraries, public schools, public facilities—I don’t have a private education so a lot of the things that shaped me growing up were what was available to everyone in the city.”

When the pandemic first started, Williams was living in Vancouver teaching at the University of British Columbia.

However, last year, he moved back to Ontario to teach at his alma mater, the University of Toronto.

Since being back, he’s noticed how much has changed around the city. “I can’t go past Centennial Mall without thinking about the Zellers that used to be there,” he said. “So much has changed since I moved to Vancouver, but whenever I’m walking around the city, I can still remember all the old places that aren’t there anymore.”

Williams believes the fact Brampton is constantly growing and changing makes it an excellent city for creative people and creativity in general.

“There’s always something to discover and something unfolding. I feel like there’s a creative energy about the city.”

Williams’ latest book was inspired heavily by the changing nature of the planet and society over the last year.

“When I started it, I was in Vancouver, and there were the wildfires tearing through B.C., there was the pandemic, and there were the social justice movements happening around the world that initially started in response to justice in America specifically,” he said. “To me, those three things felt like they could be the end of many things including society in a way.”

Williams described Disorientation as what he would want to say if it was the last book he ever wrote. “I basically looked at it as, if this is the last book I’ll be able to write before climate change destroys the planet, would I want it to be the novel I was working on? Or was there something else I wanted to say. So, Disorientation was the thing I wanted to say if it were to be my last book.”

For now, Williams has returned to working on his novel that he paused to write Disorientation. He expects it will be ready for release some time next year.

And of course, he’s still working on his tennis game.

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