Filipino-Canadian writer secures book deal

Updated: March 6, 2023, 1:20 P.M.

Author gives life to voices that are “rarely or never featured in Canadian literature”

By Charmaine Y. Rodriguez

Stories of Filipino families separated and reunited through the caregiver program will be in a novel this fall as Filipina Canadian author Jennie Austria-Bonifacio’s work found a home in one of Canada’s pre-eminent independent publishers.

Austria-Bonifacio’s “Reuniting with Strangers: A Novel told in Stories,” which is a debut collection told through linked perspectives from the Filipino-Canadian diaspora will soon hit bookstores.

Her work explores themes of estrangement, displacement, healing and belonging.

She thanked Anna Comfort O’Keefe, her publisher at Douglas & McIntyre, for the offer to publish the book.

“Thank you for helping me shine a light on the spectrum of Filipino caregivers’ experiences of family reunification. We’ve just started our journey together, but I know that my characters and I are in good hands!,” Austria-Bonifacio wrote in a Facebook post.

She also thanked her Humber School for Writers mentor, Karen Connelly for encouraging her to write about the people she worked with.

“I’ll always remember how I introduced myself to you by blurting out that I’d just left settlement work and that I felt like I was bleeding stories. When you laughed and assured me that you would help me triage them, I knew I was in good hands! Thank you for introducing me to Westwood Creative Artists,” she added.

Austria-Bonifacio, who has a BA in International Studies and an MA in Immigration and Settlement Studies, had worked as a School Settlement Worker and this placed her in the frontline of dealing with reunification issues: kids lashing out, parents needing support, and teachers dealing with student disengagement.

“As the monolith of the happily reunited Filipino-Canadian family is disassembled, different voices come to the forefront– voices that are rarely or never featured in Canadian literature. And a very special five-year-old caregiver’s son will reappear again and again, but in different ways: an angry boy at the mall, a shy babysitter’s charge, a neighbourhood legend, and more,” she earlier said in an interview with PCN.

She emerged as second runner-up in the prestigious Jim Wong-Chu Emerging Writers Award for 2020.

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