Jael Richardon by Simon Remark Photography

Episode 55: Mahmoud Ababneh interviews Jael Richardson

Jul 15, 2023

Jael Richardson talks about the beginnings of the Festival of Literary Diversity, popularly known as FOLD. She talks about the challenges of decentering whiteness and the joy of prioritizing marginalized voices. Jael also discusses her books Gutter Child, The Stone Thrower, and The Hockey Jersey. She shares nuances of writing dystopia, the privileges of growing up middle class in Brampton, Ontario, finding Black community, and her sequel to Gutter Child.


Mahmoud Ababneh is pursuing a Ph.D. in English Literature at the University of Calgary on Treaty 7 territory. His research centers around trans-Indigenous and postcolonial literatures, decolonization, and settler-colonialism. Mahmoud is currently teaching at Bow Valley College. His work appeared in the Journal of Holy Land and Palestine Studies.

Jael Richardson is the author of The Stone Thrower and the founder and Executive Director for the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) in Brampton, Ontario. Her debut dystopian novel, Gutter Child was shortlisted for the Amazon First Novel Award, a finalist for the White Pine Award and won a Word Award. Her second picture book, Because You Are, was published in July 2022 and her newest book The Hockey Jersey was released earlier this year. Richardson holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph and lives in Brampton, Ontario.

Show Notes

4:00 – The Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) began in response to the need for diverse books and a diverse publishing industry.

8:11 – “Big ships turn slowly”: On the difficulty of changing the narrative of blockbuster authors, welcoming marginalized authors, and having wheelchair-friendly stages.

10:54 – On Richardson’s memoir The Stone Thrower and the influence of her father.

13:26: Finding Lawrence Hill and Dionne Brand after not being connected to Black community in her youth.

15:01 – “Racism makes you feel alone”: How reading about your own community helps you feel less alone and strange.

17:55 – On the ongoing genocide of Indigenous peoples.

18:56 – The power of books.

19:30 – How Casey Plett’s Little Fish changed Richardson.

21:06 – On interviewing Colson Whitehead, who said he doesn’t think his books change anything, but Richardson believes books change people.

27:42 – Gutter Child and the imagined dystopian worlds of the novel, which take inspiration from the sixties.

29:50 – The character of Mr. Gregors, the problems with being a “good” person, and the legacies of such goodness in “Canada.”

32:00 – The dangers of nostalgia in Canada.

36:36 – The central question of Gutter Child: “What happens when you grow up in a world that’s designed for your failure?”

40:30 – On the conscious choice to not be explicit about race in Gutter Child.

48:43 – How a family gathering changed Richardson’s conception of Black community.

53:50 – Remembering her pencil crayon set, the inequity of flesh-toned crayons, and shadeism.

56:14 – Working on a sequel to Gutter Child.

TIA House recognizes the generous support of the Canada Research Chairs program and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. We also appreciate the support of the Faculty of Arts and the Department of English at the University of Calgary, where our offices are housed, as well as the guidance of Marc Stoeckle at the Taylor Family Digital Library.

TIA House is run by Larissa Lai, Shuyin Yu, Ryan Stearne, Shazia Ramji, Rebecca Geleyn, Mikka Jacobsen, Benjamin Ghan, Amy LeBlanc, Marc Lynch, and Mahmoud Ababneh.
Our Intro/Outro music is Monarch of the Streets by Loyalty Freak Music, accessed from the Free Music Archive.

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