Reliving multiculturalism in Canada from a South Sudanese immigrant perspective: A book review

 “You can only know the best of people if you come close to them.” - Adut, one of the main characters in the book.

Calgary, Alberta, Canada  - Do you wonder why your children choose the kinds of friends they choose? Do you wonder why they are sometimes defiant? Do you think your children go too far in relating to children or people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds? If you wonder, you may be interested in reading Trifles, a fiction novel about parenting in a multicultural society. The book was written and published in 2010 by Kuir e Garang, a South Sudanese Canadian author, poet and musician.

45998Trifles features two main characters: Adut, 10, and Angelina, 10, that Kuir describes as having a friendship which defies “sanity, reality.” Angelina is a daughter of European Canadians, Oliver and Jacqueline. Adut’s parents are South Sudanese Canadians, Ayen and Kuot. (Ayen came to Canada as a widow after her husband was killed by Khartoum Security Forces in the Sudan. In Canada, she got into a relationship with Kuot, one of a group of young South Sudanese sent to Cuba in the 1980s, and had baby Adut before they got separated).

 Angelina is epitomized by her parents as a “beloved defiance” and “sweet trouble,” who “needs taming.” Kuir describes her as a “bad chick to nestle for a daughter in North America.” Her defiance is shown “in her wordings, her dressing, the arrangement of furniture in her room, and more so, in the colors of everything she owned.”

A father of a four year old daughter himself, Kuir has a knack for portraying arrogant and know-it-all parenting attitude as shown when Oliver condescendingly tells his daughter off:

“It depends on who makes you the face, Angelina. There are things we can be wrong about, but there are things we get right without our having to think about them. It is what you have to know. This is life and it is a matter of time before you scream: daddy, you were right.”

This was in reference to Angelina’s emphasis on the importance of knowing people first instead of stereotyping them. Ayen, on the other hand, believes her children were not good because they see “the world differently, radically, and fearlessly.”

It is common in most societies that older generations do not often approve of the ways of the younger generation. But sometimes, some members of older generation think forward. As a reader, you will find some elements of such thinking too in Trifles, which you may also relate with.

Kuir treats his readers to a riveting taste of parenting in multicultural Canada from a standpoint of someone who has worked as an in-school settlement worker in Calgary dealing with immigrant parents and their kids. Having experienced life as an immigrant in Canada myself, I personally connect with most of what Kuir has written in Trifles. Sometimes I have thought multiculturalism exists in theory because in real sense, it is supposed to be discussed on our dinner tables and instilled in our children so that they grow up to be responsible adults who cannot only understand and respect but also become friends with people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. A European Canadian friend of mine told me one time that his mom swore to kill herself if he brought home a non-European Canadian girlfriend. I told him the same that I was advised when I moved to Canada to marry only from my own community. Although Canada is well known for embracing multiculturalism, it is still very common for people from similar backgrounds to relate to each other. Anyone who goes beyond this comfort zone and be friends with people from different racial backgrounds can sometimes be branded by peers as a “loser.” Kuir has portrayed this through Angelina, who has been branded by her European Canadian peers as a loser for being friends with Adut, a daughter of black immigrant parents from South Sudan.

Kuir relives these experiences in Trifles in a way no other author has done before. A graduate of McGill University in Montreal, Canada with a philosophy degree, Kuir has blended in thoughtful philosophical ingredients with practical life experience in multicultural Canada. Trifles is a great book for people who want to understand and improve the concept of multiculturalism in this ethnically and racially diverse world. It is part real life experience, part philosophy, part literature and part daily life of an ordinary family in a multicultural setting. It is well written in simple English with some philosophical taste to it.

I believe anyone who will not read it will miss out in understanding how difficult it is to raise kids not only in multicultural Canada but also in multicultural societies worldwide. Kuir is as effective in communicating his experience in living and raising children in multicultural Canada. He mixes western view with an African perspective in a typical multicultural fashion. In this way, we see Dr. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela being symbolically mentioned. Even John Garang, an iconic South Sudanese liberation leader, who may be less known to most Canadian readers than Mandela and King, is also featured in the book.

I think Kuir wants his readers to learn that multiculturalism isn’t only about the food we eat or the clothes we wear. It is more about how we understand and relate to each other as Adut says: “you can only know the best of people if you come close to them.” I also think Kuir wants his readers to learn that parenting in a multicultural society is about teaching our children to learn from each other’s way of doing things by embracing and accepting each other’s culture as shown by Angelina and Adut.

Although it is set in Canada, lessons in Trifles can be applicable in any given society as we now live in an ethnically and racially diverse world. Most of us are parents, uncles and aunts. Grab it, get entertained and learn one or two about the challenges and the thrill of raising children in our ethnically and racially diverse world!

Kuir has also published Carcass Valley, a poetry anthology, and has written five manuscripts waiting for publication.

Nhial Tiitmamer has a background in Sustainable Energy, Environmental Studies and English Literature from Universities of Alberta and Calgary in Canada. He can be reached through This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.