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Toronto bookseller wins 2022 Freedom to Read Award

A woman and a man, both wearing masks, are standing in front of a bookshelf and holding a clear plaque.

Anjula Gogia, left, receives the 2022 Freedom to Read Award from The Writers’ Union of Canada executive director John Degen on Feb. 18, 2022. (Another Story Bookshop)

Toronto bookseller, event coordinator and community builder Anjula Gogia has been named the winner of this year’s Freedom to Read Award.

The award is presented each year during Freedom to Read week by The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) in recognition of the recipient’s work in support of freedom of expression.

Gogia was nominated for the award by a Canadian writer who wrote that she “has spent decades building bridges between well-known and unknown writers to enlarge CanLit, forging connections between academics and the general public, between various communities, and across difference.”

Gogia, who works as a bookseller and event coordinator at Toronto independent bookstore Another Story Bookshop, says the award is “very deeply meaningful” to her, particularly as she is one of only two booksellers to have been named a winner. (The other was Janine Fuller of Vancouver’s Little Sister’s in 2002.)

“I have a lot of gratitude for the jury, for the writer who nominated me, and the company that I’m in,” Gogia says. “I’m very, very humbled and very overwhelmed.”

Gogia has worked at Another Story since 2012, and was co-manager of the now-shuttered Toronto Women’s Bookstore for many years. But even the work she did when she wasn’t in bookselling – including stints at Amnesty International and PEN Canada – was grounded in her dedication to championing the voices of those on the margins.

“I consider myself an activist bookseller,” Gogia says. “So much of what I have done is promoting the voices of Black and Indigenous writers, writers of colour, queer and trans writers. This award is meaningful for me on multiple levels.”

Referencing an event she organized for the launch of the 2019 second edition of Maria Campbell’s Halfbreed – an edition that restored pages dealing with Campbell’s sexual assault by RCMP that she had excised from the original at the request of Jack McClelland – Gogia says the importance of freedom to read for her is grounded in the reality of who is able to freely and completely tell their stories.

“So many of us have been told that our lives don’t matter, that our histories don’t matter, and that our struggles don’t matter,” Gogia says. “Books and literature [are necessary to] surviving and revolution.”

This year’s Freedom to Read Week runs from Feb. 20 to 26.