Toronto Star editor releases first book, aims to talk about the last societal ‘ism’

25 August 2023 / by Met Radio

Deborah Dundas, editor at the Toronto Star, has recently released her first book which blends personal recollections of poverty with journalistic investigation with activists and the poor.

Dundas due to her book has been invited to attend multiple book and writers festivals during the fall. These include the Eden Mills, Kingston and Vancouver writers fest. She has also been invited to Sudbury’s Wordstock in November.

For Dundas, the last “ism” that is still taboo to talk about is classism, which is the main topic of her book On Class, released on May 9 across Canada. In the book, Dundas shares her personal experiences growing up in a low-income household without many securities. She says what makes it difficult for people to talk about is a perceived and felt notion of shame.

While writing this book, Dundas was at a party and the topic of back to school items came up she says she was unable to share in the nostalgia. While growing up, her family never had the money to send her to school with many school supplies.

“The conversation went into areas of ‘do you remember when we were young, and you got these sorts of pencil crayons, or these sorts of books.’ I didn’t feel comfortable weighing into the conversation because looking at those sort of back to school days were not with nostalgia it was more with a sense of longing,” Dundas says. “There were things that I could not have. I didn’t feel like I fit in. I wasn’t able to have the things that everybody else was able to have. So you know, I kind of kept my mouth shut.”

Dundas says that the one item she remembers wanting the most was a box of Laurentian pencil crayons. She says that she would get cheap pencil crayons that broke quickly, if she got any at all.

Growing up in a low-income environment, she says she had to “temper her expectations” of being able to own or achieve certain things. While owning pencil crayons is a small example, she says it builds up into other issues such as the expectations people place on themselves.

“It is not about not having the specific items but you temper your expectations, you don’t feel as if you fit in. What is more important is that it broadens out into expectations about your own space and place in the world,” says Dundas. “Do you expect to go to university, do you expect to be able to participate in extracurricular activities? Do you expect to be able to take courses in high school that are going to get you a job, or that are going to lead you to further education? It’s all those ideas that sort of build up and create the person that you become.”

Dundas wrote on On Class for “anyone who wants to talk about class.” To expand on that for the book, she spoke to other people and got their stories regarding how classism has affected their lives, with some stories that are similar to Dundas’s experiences.

After the publication, Dundas has heard from more people who say they relate to the stories in her book. She says to keep her mental health in good condition when writing about her life she had to create a safe space for herself.

“I think anybody who is writing a personal story will tell you, you have to take the time and you  give yourself the space. You have to be kind to yourself and respect your own boundaries. You have to respect your own story,” she says.

“In journalism, when I was doing interviews, I tried to create a safe space for people to tell their stories, and that means listening to them and being true to their story and allowing their voice to come through. And that’s what I tried to do in the book and the other people I was speaking with, but that’s also what I tried to do with myself,” adds Dundas.

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