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Telling Our Stories

posted by Georgina de Barros


“What does he want from me? Is it just a compliment or am I exaggerating? Is this the way things are in the workplace in Canada? What makes him think I am interested in men, anyway?”

The graphic novel has come a long way in the past 30 years from its origins as “comics” or “kids’ stuff”. Autobiographical works in particular, have tackled such issues as the Holocaust (Maus), the Iranian Revolution of 1979 (Persepolis) or attachment and psychoanalysis (Are You My Mother?). Telling Our Stories: Immigrant Women’s Resilience is another example; this work is the result of a series of creative writing workshops with newcomer and refugee women held across Ontario. In these workshops, the women talked about their experiences of sexual violence, with a particular focus on the unique difficulties of being a survivor and new to Canada.  (For example, only this year did the Canadian government amend the law so that a woman experiencing domestic violence by her sponsor cannot lose her permanent resident status if she leaves them.)

Telling Our Stories focuses on the experiences of four fictional women, based on true stories. The work is illustrated by Coco Guzman, and is colourful and quirky. Guzman and the project coordinators made specific choices about the focus of the stories – the violence is depicted off-the-page and no men are shown, only women. Also, the acts of violence are given less space than the women themselves – their ambitions, fears and decision-making process. At times the dialogue in its efforts to inform can get clunky, but this work is primarily meant for educational purposes. Each individual story ends with the women finding support – both through service agencies and through friends - and then advocating against sexual violence in the community.  

The Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) hopes that the community and service providers will use this graphic novel to inform themselves and help others. You can obtain your own free copy on their website, and in several languages. As well, on Thursday, August 17, 2017 , OCASI will be speaking on the project and handing out copies of the graphic novel at the Kitchener Public Library:



Georgina de Barros is a KW Counselling Services’ Intake Resource Consultant and our Multicultural Outreach Worker.