Interview with Sid Tafler

Why did you write Us and Them?
I wrote this book because it seems like how much of the world works. People still go to war over ethnic or religious hatred, and even in peaceful countries, those who look or speak differently often face intolerance or worse. My own experience growing up Jewish in Montreal, a city perhaps unique in North America in its multiple identities, sheds light on this experience. The book looks back more than 100 years since my family emigrated to Canada, so it shows how society has changed, generally become more tolerant and accepting. This is an unending struggle, as racism still exists in various forms, sometimes hidden away in corners and dark places, perhaps more dangerous than when it was more overt.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I wrote a poem for my mother called Fragments of a Rainbow when I was about eight years old. It was about the beautiful maple leaves scattered on the ground in Montreal in the fall.
What is your writing process?
I struggle. I plan, I research, I write and rewrite. I lose sleep. My eyes grow bleary, my backside hurts. I give the manuscript to editors and friends. I rewrite again. I never know when I'm finished. Does this sound like fun? When you find just the right words, the right pacing, a way of saying things like you've never said them before, it's like being a kid on a swing again.
Have you ever been a victim of racism?
Yes, some times from some of the most unexpected places, like people I'd call friends. But the problem is more than just naked racism, like "I hate you because . . ." It can be much more subtle than that. Some people truly don't feel hated in their hearts, but they treat other people differently, make them feel unwelcome, unwanted. Then there's unconscious racism, where you find yourself stereotyping or profiling people different from you with phrases like "These people are . . ." In Us and Them, I describe a little girl of about five seeing two small black girls at a drinking fountain and saying "You're so dark. What happened to you?" The little girl was surprised, she probably never saw a black person before. You couldn't call her racist, but no doubt the two little black girls felt hurt or humiliated. As members of a minority, they would likely feel the sting of "differentness" again and again in their lives.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Winnie-the-Pooh. I was very small and I loved it and still do.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Recommendations from other readers, mostly my sister Gitta. She is an avid reader of fiction, a quality she inherited from my mother Sarah, who was a great fan of Robertson Davies and other fine writers.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The wonder of life. The little hummingbird that greets me on the clothesline at dawn. The thought of the great Pacific, the largest territory in the world, lapping at the shore a block from my house. The fabulous beings in the forest surrounding my city, Victoria--big trees, plants and animals. And the next challenge awaiting me, usually writing, editing or selling my work.
How do you decide what to include or remove from a book or other work?
With great difficulty. But generally I believe less is more, that my work is stronger when it's honed and tightened. I had two chapters in Us and Them about the person most involved in the struggle against racism in the last century, a fascinating character who lived in the US but did much of his work in Canada, not far from where I live. I was convinced by my readers/editors to take them out, because they don't follow the theme of memoir. I will release this work soon as a separate, short-length book.
What are you working on next?
Great Bear Mountain, a novel set in prehistoric times, 30,000 years ago in France. This may seem weird to some people, but it was a very important time in the development of our species, Homo sapiens. In terms of art, tool-making technology and spirituality, it was when the modern human mind emerged, and also when Neanderthal, the last remaining humans on earth other than us, went extinct.
My story is about the meeting of Homo sapiens, specifically, two young men searching for new territory for their band, and a family of Neanderthal, living on the very land the two men want for their own people. They face difficult choices, between love and acceptance on one hand, and hatred and war on the other.
Is Great Bear your first novel and when will it be published?
Yes, after many years of writing mostly non-fiction--articles, plays and a memoir--this is my first novel. It will be published in the coming months, late 2013 or early 2014.
Published 2013-09-23.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Us and Them
Price: $8.99 USD. Words: 56,020. Language: English. Published: September 23, 2013. Categories: Nonfiction » Biography » Autobiographies & Memoirs, Nonfiction » Biography » Editors, journalists, & publishers
Did you ever feel your face prickle under the hostile gaze of a stranger? Us and Them is a vivid memoir for anyone who ever feared or mistrusted another person because of their skin color, their religion or the language they spoke--or faced that fear and suspicion. "Graceful, lucid writing." Vancouver Sun "Told with skill and sensitivity." Victoria Times Colonist