Writer and product marketing director Chanel M. Sutherland, BA (English lit.) 10, grew up in a small Caribbean village in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where her grandmother, Rosa Punnett, was a beloved storyteller. Libraries and books were rare, Sutherland says, and her grandmother entertained the village children by spinning stories.
Sutherland says she has always wanted to tell stories, just like her grandmother.
To that end, Sutherland recently won the CBC Nonfiction Prize for her short story Umbrella. The Concordia alumna says she always has her grandmother in mind when she writes. “She was a strong woman. I always talked to her about my writing.”
Umbrella marinated for nearly a decade, Sutherland says, first as snippets in her head and then as notes on her telephone.
The story touches on Sutherland’s experience as an immigrant, following her family’s move to Montreal. A shy 10-year-old, Sutherland became the outsider with a funny accent who tried to blend in, facing schoolyard scrutiny and racism, including, in high school, the question, "Do you like being Black?"
That became the opening line of Umbrella.