Author and Activist Farzana Doctor Wins 2023 Freedom to Read Award

The Writers' Union of Canada
Press Release

The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) is pleased to announce that author and activist Farzana Doctor is the recipient of the 2023 Freedom to Read Award. The award is presented annually by TWUC in recognition of work that is passionately supportive of access to books and the freedom to read. Past recipients include authors David A. Robertson, Ivan Coyote, Jael Richardson, Mohamed Fahmy, and Lawrence Hill, and bookseller and community-builder Anjula Gogia.

Farzana Doctor is the author of four novels and a recent collection of poetry. For many years, she curated the Brockton Reading Series in her west Toronto neighbourhood. A long-time volunteer with The Writers’ Union of Canada, Doctor also volunteers with WeSpeakOut, a global group that is working to ban female genital cutting in her Dawoodi Bohra community. She co-founded the End FGM Canada Network. Doctor is also a professional psychotherapist.

Doctor was nominated for the Freedom to Read Award by Canadian journalist and filmmaker, Giselle Portenier, who focused on Doctor’s writing about subjects shrouded in silence and taboo. The nomination reads (in part): All of Doctor’s books have addressed topics of social justice and immigrant life, but it’s her fourth novel, Seven, that caught my attention for being especially ground-breaking. It takes up the issue of khatna, or female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in her insular Dawoodi Bohra community.

Doctor’s writing has helped to shift this silence and is helping to make change. Seven was released in September 2020 and since then, Doctor has participated in over 100 online events (book clubs, festivals, panels, webinars, podcasts, and interviews) to promote the novel. She also wrote articles on FGM/C that appeared in Chatelaine, Fair Observer and YourTango. In the process, she has educated thousands of individuals about FGM/C. This is no small feat. Thousands more have read the book, minds opened by the power of fiction and narrative.

February 19-25, 2023 is Freedom to Read Week in Canada: a national annual celebration that encourages Canadians to think deeply about and value access to print materials, and their rights to read, write, and publish freely on all topics and subject matter. The week has become a regular feature of the annual programming of schools, libraries, and literary groups across Canada. Freedom to Read Week is a project of the Book and Periodical Council, the umbrella organization for publishing in Canada. TWUC is a proud partner and supporter of Freedom to Read Week. For more information, please visit

The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) is the national organization of professionally published writers. TWUC was founded in 1973 to work with governments, publishers, booksellers, and readers to improve the conditions of Canadian writers. Now over 2,600 members strong, TWUC advocates on behalf of writers’ collective interests, and delivers value to members through advocacy, community, and information. TWUC believes in a thriving, diverse Canadian culture that values and supports writers.

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For additional information:
John Degen, Chief Executive Officer
The Writers’ Union of Canada

Date: February 17, 2023