News and Interviews

The Word on the Street interview, with Judge and Children's Author Manjusha Pawagi


We at Open Book are excited to partner again this year with Toronto's most unique literary festival, The Word on the Street, which takes place this year on Sunday, September 24. We've had the chance to speak to several of the authors appearing in the Vibrant Voices tent, which celebrates excellence in Ontario literature, and we're launching our series today, speaking with Manjusha Pawagi, who has one very impressive c.v.

A Stanford-educated lawyer and journalist, she was appointed to the Bench almost ten years ago. Somehow she also managed to fit in a career as a children's author, with publications including the beloved picture book, The Girl Who Hated Books, which was nominated for a Blue Spruce Award. 

She returns this year to add to even more to her list of achievements, turning her hand to memoir with Love and Laughter in the Time of Chemotherapy (Second Story Press). Witty, generous, and determinedly hopeful in the face of all that she was going through, Manjusha's memoir is relatable, honest, and inspiring as well as being downright funny. 

We talk to her today about what she will be reading at The Word on the Street, her advice for a great public reading, and her favourite place in Ontario. Catch Manjusha at the Vibrant Voices tent at 3:45pm until 4:15pm on Sunday, September 24

Open Book:

Tell us about what you’ll be reading in the Vibrant Voices tent this year.


Manjusha Pawagi:

I’ll be reading from my memoir, Love and Laughter in the Time of Chemotherapy. In it I describe what it was like to face my own mortality when I honestly had thought I would live forever; I expound on how the worst moments of your life can be made even worse with roommates; and I answer the age old question, how can you get a banana popsicle when you really need one?  Spoiler alert: I survive.


Have you attended The Word on the Street in the past? If so, tell us about a favourite memory. If not, what are you most looking forward to?


I’ve been to Word on the Street many times, as a reader and a writer. My favourite memory is reading my children’s book, The Girl Who Hated Books, in the Kids’ Tent twenty years ago because kids make the best audience (no offense).


The Vibrant Voices tent celebrates Ontario authored and published books. Tell us about a favourite Ontario author or book you've read.


On the Shores of Darkness There is Light is a book by Ontario author Cordelia Strube that has continued to stay vividly with me even years after I first read it.  I’m a sucker for child narrators and Harriet is one of the most compelling ones I’ve read.  


What's the best advice you've ever received or the best advice you would offer about public readings? 


The best public readings I’ve attended were ones where the author shared some anecdotes about the writing of the book in addition to reading from it because really it’s the extras we’re all eager for, the reading we can do on our own.


Do you have a favourite spot in Ontario? 


My favourite spot in Ontario is Vanderwater Conservation Area near Belleville where the Moira River curves and creates a series of rushing waterfalls that you can splash across and sit in. I’ve been going there since I was a child and I now take my own children there every summer. We see great blue herons, and water snakes and snapping turtles. The sound of the water and the sunlight on the spray make my heart lift every single time I go there. 


What can you tell us about your next project? 


My next project is a children’s book (or three) retelling the epic Ramayana from the point of view of Prince Rama’s twin sons. 


Manjusha Pawagi is now Justice Pawagi, having been appointed to the Bench in January 2009. She presides in Brampton at the Ontario Court of Justice, Family Court. She has practised exclusively in the area of family law with a focus on children, first at the Children's Aid Society of Toronto and then at the Office of the Children's Lawyer. She has been active in legal education and in children's education, working for children's literacy in India.

Justice Pawagi's first career was as a journalist and children's author. She has an MA in journalism from Stanford University and worked as a reporter for the Associated Press in St. Louis, Missouri and for CBC Radio, in Toronto and Charlottetown.

The Word On The Street is a is a national celebration of literacy and the written word. Each September, in communities coast to coast, the public is invited to participate in hundreds of author events, presentations and workshops and to browse a marketplace that boasts the best selection of Canadian books and magazines you'll find anywhere.

The Word On The Street takes place in Toronto at the Harbourfront Centre (235 Queen Quay West) on Sunday, September 24, 2017 and features dozens of fantastic author readings, kids programming, author signings, food tents and much more.

Related reading

Love and Laughter in the Time of Chemotherapy

An unexpected, wry, and funny memoir about one woman's experience with cancer.

Manjusha Pawagi, a successful family court judge, has written a not-so-typical memoir about her experience with cancer. Wryly funny and stubbornly hopeful, this is her quirky take on what it’s like to face your own mortality when, to be honest, you thought you’d live forever. She describes how even the darkest moments of life can be made worse with roommates; details how much determination it takes to ignore the statistics; and answers the age-old question: what does it take to get a banana popsicle around here?