A Woman Who Helped Make Me Who I Am: Lucy Maud Montgomery—Guest Post By Saleema Nawaz
I read every book by Montgomery I could get my hands on. Then I read them again and again. I cried over the death of Walter Blythe, the burning of Silver Bush, and the reconciliation of Jane’s parents. I identified with Emily Starr, and marveled over Valancy Stirling. I even read Magic for Marigold three times.
When I was nine, my mother took me on a camping trip to Prince Edward Island where we visited Green Gables, took dozens of photos and bought as much tacky Anne merchandise as we could afford. We also visited the cemetery where L.M. Montgomery is buried, and where I waited for a moment when I could sneak off and kiss her grave — rather like an overly romantic Montgomery heroine might do.
In the fourth grade, I obtained an old-fashioned-style plaid dress that came with a pinafore, and I wore it constantly.
I wanted to be Anne, oh so badly. Growing up without a father, I already considered myself half an orphan. And my family was from Nova Scotia, just like’s Anne’s. But in other ways, being Anne seemed like a difficult feat to achieve for a half-Indian girl with dark hair. (One year I tried dressing up as Anne for Halloween with a straw hat and orange yarn braids, and a woman answering the door said, “And what are you dressed up as? A monster?” It still stings.)
But I also wanted to be Anne’s creator: a writer like L.M. Montgomery. The fact that her manuscript for Anne was rejected multiple times before publication was a gospel that I absorbed and internalized until it was like armour to bolster my own writerly confidence.
Most of all, I wanted to do for other people what L.M. Montgomery’s books did for me: immerse them in different worlds, make them care about made-up people, and experience the magic of getting lost in a book.
Saleema Nawaz is the author of the short story collection Mother Superior and winner of the prestigious Writers’ Trust of Canada / McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize. Born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, she currently lives in Montreal, Quebec. Her novel Bone & Bread is the winner of the Quebec Writers’ Federation Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction 2013 and is short-listed for Canada Reads 2016.