children of air india is a series of elegiac sequences exploring the nature of individual loss, situated within public trauma. The work is animated by a proposition: that violence, both personal and collective, produces continuing sonar, an echolocation that finds us, even when we choose to be unaware or indifferent.
This collection breaks new ground in its approach to the saga that is Canada/Air India, an event and its aftermath that is both over-reported and under-represented in our national psyche.
329 deaths. 82 Children. Canada's worst mass murder. The accused acquitted.
What does it mean to be Canadian and lose someone in Air India Flight 182?
Why does 9/11 resonate more strongly with Canadians than June 23, 1985? The poems in this book search out answers in the "everything/ness and nothing/ness" of an act and its aftermath, revealing a voice that re-defines and re-visions.
Air India never happened. Air India always happens.
About the author
Renée Saklikar’s ground-breaking poetry book about the bombing of Air India Flight 182, children of air india, won the Canadian Authors Association Prize for Poetry and was shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Her book Listening to the Bees, co-authored with Dr. Mark Winston, won the 2019 Gold Medal Independent Publishers Book Award, Environment/Ecology. Trained as a lawyer, Saklikar is an instructor for Simon Fraser University and Vancouver Community College. She was the first Poet Laureate for the City of Surrey, (2015–2018) and was the 2017 UBC Okanagan Writer in Residence. Co-founder and curator of the poetry series Lunch Poems at SFU, Renée has seen her work adapted for opera, visual art and dance. Renée serves on the boards of Turning Point Ensemble, Poetry Canada, the Surrey International Writers Conference and The Ormbsy Review. Passionate about storytelling, Renée offers writing coach services and loves helping others find their creative voice. She recently developed Writing To Heal Your Life, an online course geared to help creative people in precarious times.
- Winner, Canadian Authors Association Poetry Award
"Tender without being sentimental, incisive without losing compassion, children of air india is part song, part family album, part legal document, part childhood attic. Saklikar's rare gift is the ability to collect all these fragments to create a whole that is a lyrical and haunting palimpsest."
- Sirish Rao, author and Artistic Director of Indian Summer Festival
"Saklikar's collection of poems brings intensity, but also warmth to police language, journalistic terms, and the legal jargon we see in newspapers. Interweaving themes of personal loss, the incomprehensibility of murder and the rampancy of legal and corporatist society, Children of Air India ultimately produces a benediction for those who perished; it adds emotional grit to the discourse of an inexplicable act of terror."
-The LA Source
"It is a personal story for Renée, who lost her aunt and uncle in the bombing. children of air india is a powerful book, filled with the stories (lived, researched and imagined) of those involved in the events, most especially those who died that day, and those who were left behind. It is a compelling and haunting entry point (or re-entry point) into an event that should loom much larger than it does in our collective Canadian memory. And in the story of our country that we've constructed for ourselves."
"The poems are based on -- and contain excerpts from -- actual records and the resulting work is artistically haunting and unsettling to read, as if the reader is privy to very private material."
"The collection doesn't seek to impose any answers, or suggest any recompense for the loss of so many innocent lives. It holds what details it can, preserves and honours them in a way official investigations failed to do."
-Quill & Quire
"It is more than possible that British Columbians of multiple ethnicities and religions have not truly faced up to the mass trauma and sickening horror of the bombing of Air India flight 182. This book of poetry tries to support the grieving process."
-The Vancouver Sun
"The more I resisted writing about the bombing of Air India Flight 182, the more it claimed me. Eventually, I answered the call. And I did so by becoming a student of the saga that is Canada/Air India. I immersed myself in the archive. Days spent sitting with court and inquiry documents, family correspondence, some of if very personal and painful; and slowly, these voices, of the children who died, entered my imagination. So I did not decide to write children of air india. Not at all. The work overcame me."
-I & Eye Magazine
"One of the most significant books of poetry produced in this place. A place it remakes. The scope of children of air india goes beyond event and into the realm of thought, knowledge, and how we must read and write absences forever present."
- Wayde Compton, author of Performance Bond and 49th Parallel Psalm
"A collage of fact and imagination, this book, because of Saklikar's insight, compassion and poetic skill, delves into and transcends private grief to tell a crucial public story, one brimming with implications and questions for all of us."
-Sandy Shreve, Canadian Poetries
"Blending poetry and prose, Saklikar has made her own monument around which readers can gather, searching for dignity and meaning. Inconspicuously erected, Children of Air India is a Canadian literary sundial."
- BC Bookworld
"A hearbreaking debut collection. children of air india is a distillation of rage, grief, compassion and incomprehension into a Kaddish of the imagination, a song of witnessing, and indictment of indifference that also reads as a blessing for the dead. This is a voice that must be heard; this is the kind of poetry that teaches us how to be human."
- Rachel Rose, author of Song and Spectacle