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Gardening Essays

Garden Inventories

Reflections on Land, Place and Belonging

by (author) Mariam Pirbhai

Wolsak and Wynn Publishers Ltd
Initial publish date
Nov 2023
Essays, Arab & Middle Eastern, Personal Memoirs
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2023
    List Price

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After a lifetime of traversing continents and cities, Mariam Pirbhai found herself in Waterloo, Ontario, and there she began to garden. As she looks to local nurseries, neighbourhood gardens and nature trails for inspiration, she discovers that plants are not so very different from people. They, too, can be uprooted, transplanted – even naturalized. They, too, can behave as a colonizing or invasive species. And they, too, must learn to adapt to a new land before calling it home. In Garden Inventories, Pirbhai brings her scholar’s eye, her love of story and an irrepressible sense of humour to bear on the questions of how we interact with the land around us, from what it means to create a garden through the haze of nostalgia, to the way tradition and nature are bound up in cultural ideals such as “cottage country,” or even the great Canadian wilderness. Roses, mulberries, tamarinds and Jack pines wend their way through these essays as Pirbhai pays close attention to the stories of the plants, as well as the people, that have accompanied her journey to find home. Throughout, she shows us the layers of history and culture that infuse our understandings of land, place and belonging, revealing how a garden carries within it the story of a life ­­– of family, home, culture and heritage – if not also the history of a world.

About the author

Mariam Pirbhai is the author of a novel titled Isolated Incident (Mawenzi 2022) featured among CBC’s “65 Works of Fiction to Watch for in Fall 2022”) and a short story collection titled Outside People and Other Stories (Inanna 2017), winner of the IPPY and American BookFest Awards. Pirbhai is a Professor of English at Wilfrid Laurier University, where she teaches and specializes in postcolonial studies and creative writing. She is also the author or editor of several academic books on the global South Asian diaspora, including Mythologies of Migration, Vocabularies of Indenture: Novels of the South Asian Diaspora in Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia-Pacific (University of Toronto Press 2009) and Critical Perspectives on Indo-Caribbean Women’s Literature (Routledge 2013). Pirbhai has served as President of CAPS (Canadian Association of Postcolonial Studies, formerly CACLALS), Canada’s longest-running scholarly association devoted to postcolonial and global anglophone literatures. Pirbhai is the daughter of Pakistani immigrants whose arrival in Canada followed a circuitous route from England, the United Arab Emirates and the Philippines. She and her husband live in Waterloo, Ontario.

Mariam Pirbhai's profile page


  • Short-listed, Foreword INDIES Award for Nature (Adult Nonfiction)