Taslim Burkowicz with her second novel, The Desirable Sister. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Taslim Burkowicz with her second novel, The Desirable Sister. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Surrey author wants to create awareness of colourism with latest book

The Desirable Sister is Taslim Burkowicz’s second book

Growing up, Taslim Burkowicz says she could relate to both Gia and Serena – the protagonists in her latest novel, The Desirable Sister.

“I experienced — in some circles — I experienced feeling darker than people. In others, I experienced the light aspect of it. I divided my own (experiences) into two different characters and it’s completely fictional,” said Burkowicz.

The Desirable Sister is Burkowicz’s second book and follows two sisters, Gia and Serena Pirji, first-generation Canadians born to immigrant parents and how their lives play out in different ways because of their skin tone.

“Gia’s fair skin grants her membership to cliques of white kids as a teen, while Serena’s dark skin means she is labelled as Indian and treated as inferior,” reads a synopsis of the book. “This superficial difference, imposed by a society obsessed with skin colour and hierarchy, sets the sisters into a dynamic that plays out throughout their lives.”

Burkowicz said through the book, she tried to bring awareness to colourism.

“Using the characters, I tried to show how colourism affected the way the girls looked at themselves, how society looked at them and how they perceived each other,” said Burkowicz, who lives in Guildford.

“I wanted Serena to be hyper-aware and Gia to be more unaware. I wanted to create that contrast between the two and later in the book, Gia has more of an awareness of colourism, so I wanted that awareness to evolve over time.

“I think sometimes we don’t see light skin as a privilege, or even whiteness. Not just light skin, but just whiteness. The privilege that that assumes, we don’t realize it when we’re in that position of whiteness, we don’t realize how colourism affects. It’s little micro-aggressions that women of colour face, like going into a drug store and seeing all the lipstick samples. They don’t work on people of colour.”

When it came to writing the book, Burkowicz said she took experiences from her own life.

“I could almost see the middle line so perfectly… I’m south Asian,” she said. “I could see the flip side of both those experiences. Just because of the pigment of my skin, some people know what I am immediately and what culture I am. Others will struggle and grapple and so that really helped me take them and almost exaggerate each experience so that I could see them both clearly.

“I’ve heard those words said to me, like, ‘Oh, you don’t look Indian.’ So I took those words and accentuated them for Gia and tweaked them.”

While research for her first book Chocolate Cherry Chai took much longer, Burkowicz said writing and researching this novel went much faster.

“I’ve had so many experiences built up and I’ve heard so many stories… because it’s based on experience, it’s easier to write. You can’t negate experience. It’s part of your essence.”

The goal of The Desirable Sister, Burkowicz said, isn’t to find a solution to colourism.

“I think that’s a huge… It’ll take many years for that to happen, but moreso to create awareness that it exists. I think that’s the first step before solution because I think that a lot of people don’t even realize the way it impacts us because it’s undercurrent. We feel it but we don’t name it. I think the people that (it affects), it impacts their silence a lot of the time.”

For more info on the book, or to buy it, visit fernwoodpublishing.ca/authors/view/taslim-burkowicz.

There is also a book launch planned for Nov. 27 from 7 to 9 p.m. at SFU Harbour Centre in the Segal Centre (1400-1410 515 W. Hastings St., Vancouver).



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Lauren on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey city Councillor Brenda Locke. (File photo)
Brenda Locke trying to breathe life into Surrey’s defunct Public Safety Committee

Surrey councillor’s motion will be up for debate at a future council meeting

RCMP logo
Keen-eyed neighbour’s call to police helps stop South Surrey burglary in progress

Mounties were on the way before suspects triggered home alarm

The Festival of Lights; Jingle Bell White Rock; and the Lighted Boat Parade all helped light up the White Rock waterfront on Saturday, Dec. 7. (Aaron Hinks photo)
White Rock Festival of Lights postponed

While event founder remains optimistic, the future of this year’s display is uncertain

Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon was sworn in as minister of minister of jobs, economic recovery and innovation by B.C. Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin and Premier John Horgan during a virtual ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. (Province of BC/YouTube screen shot)
BREAKING: Kahlon named minister of jobs, economic recovery and innovation

Kahlon was sworn in by Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin during a virtual ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 26

Naomi Morrisseau and daughter Genesis Reign-Soldat. (Surrey RCMP photo)
Surrey mom and young daughter found and are safe, police say

Naomi Morrisseau and her daughter Genesis Reign-Soldat, age 3, had been reported missing in Whalley

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

The baby boy born to Gillian and Dave McIntosh of Abbotsford was released from hospital on Wednesday (Nov. 25) while Gillian continues to fight for her life after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Abbotsford mom with COVID-19 still fighting for life while newborn baby comes home

Son was delivered Nov. 10 while Gillian McIntosh was in an induced coma

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A new ‘soft reporting’ room is opening inside the Ann Davis Transition Society offices on Dec. 1, 2020 which is thought to be the first of its kind in B.C. (Ann Davis Transitional Society/ Facebook)
New ‘trauma-informed’ reporting room opening next week in Chilliwack

It’s a space for reporting domestic violence, sexual assault, or gender-based violence to police

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

The online poster for Joel Goddard, who left his Willoughby home Nov. 10, 2020, has been updated by his family and friends who received word that he’s been found.
Langley man missing since Nov. 10 found alive and safe in Abbotsford

Family of the Willoughby area man had been searching for days. Police find him at Abbotsford Airport

A UBC study recommends an multi-government investment of $381 million to protect 102 species at risk in the Fraser River estuary. (Photo supplied by Yuri Choufour)
102 Fraser River estuary species at risk of extinction, researchers warn

UBC team develops $381-million strategy to combat crisis, boost economy

Most Read