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Reconnecting to Filipino Heritage

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Primrose Madayag Knazan is an award-winning Jewish Filipino-Canadian playwright and author. Her novel, Lessons in Fusion, was nominated for the Manitoba Book Award for Best First Book, both the Manitoba and Saskatchewan Young Readers Choice Awards, and won the Manitoba Book Award for Young Readers. Her play, Precipice, won the 2021 Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition.

She has been featured at the Winnipeg THIN AIR International Writer’s Festival, CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter, Fu-GEN’s Asian-Canadian national theatre conference, and this year’s Pinoys on Parliament. Her play, Where.Are.You.From., is part of Magdaragat, an anthology of Filipino-Canadian writers.

Madayag Knazan is a Filipinx-Canadian and a Jewish woman. She grew up Catholic and left the church when she was 19. After becoming engaged in her early twenties, Madayag Knazan converted to Judaism, and her husband is an Ashkenazi Jew. The pair have two school-age boys.

Madayag Knazan wants them to give them the space and language to understand and celebrate who they are.

“We’re raising them in both worlds,” she said.  

Madayag Knazan’s parents immigrated from the Philippines to the Weston neighbourhood of Winnipeg in 1974. Growing up, embracing her culture wasn’t always easy, particularly in school. One of her latest books, Lessons in Fusion, explores cultural identity through food. Primrose started writing during the pandemic when her son was 12 years old, as he was frustrated for not having enough books that he could relate to.  

“None of these books are about kids like me,” he said, so Primrose wrote him one.

Madayag Knazan’s book came together rather quickly, even though the journey to rediscover her cultural heritage through food transpired over the years.

“The whole idea of Lessons and Fusion, and the idea of fusion, is that fusion is two cultures on a plate. But you can’t just throw two cultures on a plate; they have to compliment each other, and they have to intertwine, or else it’s not a real recipe,” she said.

– Lourdes Federis, U Multicultural

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