News and Interviews

Getting to Know Coconut Dreams Author Derek Mascarenhas: Bloody Noses, Scars & Cozy Sweaters

Derek Mascarenhas_author photo_Credit Khadeja Reid

Aiden and Ally Pinto, the brother and sister duo of the Pinto family, are at the heart of Derek Mascarenhas' linked story collection Coconut Dreams (Book*hug). Moving from Goa, India to suburban Canada, Ally and Aiden navigate the South Asian experience in a predominantly white town together. With backdrops ranging from IKEA to school yard fights, safari vacations to trips homes to Goa, these stories are big, smart, and moving.

Mascarenhas' voice is an exciting addition to CanLit as he moves effortlessly from ghost stories to suburban parking lots, and from complex questions of identity to loving depictions of family ties. 

We're excited to welcome Derek to Open Book today, where he shares 12 little-know (and entirely entertaining) facts about himself in our Dirty Dozen challenge. 

He tells us about a well-deserved teenage nickname (and why you may want his help for your next batch of baking), how he rolled with a bloody nose to make a Halloween costume extra-scary, and the super popular wellness trend he was way ahead of the crowd on.

  1. I worked at McDonalds as a teenager and was given the name “Egg King” for consistently perfect eggs. My record was cracking six eggs at once, although cracking two at a time was the fastest and most functional method. If I tried six now, it would be a mighty mess and a waste, but I can still proudly crack two at the same time.
  2. I’m pretty much always cold. Layers, wool sweaters, and down are my best friends in winter. But in the summer, you can usually find me frustrated by the number of places with excessively blasted the A/C. Even though I was born and have lived in Canada my whole life, I still think my body has some ancestral memory and preference for a warmer climate.
  3. Related to the previous point, my hands are cold most of the time. It’s usually awkward when I have to shake hands with people. If I know I’m going to need to, I’ll sometimes prepare by rubbing my hands together to warm them up. Although there’s no scientific evidence to prove it, I like to believe an expression a relative of mine used to say: cold hands, warm heart.
  4. I love fruit and eat an above average amount a day. In the summer, Ontario strawberries and peaches are my favourite, but you will often see me cracking coconuts, patiently separating pomegranate, and devouring juicy mangoes.
  5. I’m allergic to penicillin.
  6. I often listen to the same song on repeat for hours, days (...weeks). I do this while writing too - there’s something about the circularity that helps me think and focus. I always wear headphones so I don’t to disturb others, and the song changes depending on what gets stuck in my head. The song that’s been in heaviest rotation over the last number of months has been Shad’s The Stone Throwers (Gone in a Blink).
  7. I was born on Earth Day. Growing up, I was once in my town’s paper for an Earth Day segment. In elementary school I used to wear a fluorescent yellow jumpsuit that said “Don’t Pollute!” on it. I’m still quite worried/upset about state and trajectory of the environment.
  8. My go-to Halloween costume was a ghost. One year when I was a kid, I got a nose bleed and it ran all down the white sheet and made it look extra scary. This was the only welcome nose bleed I’ve ever had.
  9. I’m not a fan of perfume or cologne as I’m sensitive to strong smells.
  10. I can’t swim very well and am usually rocking a flotation device in places I can’t touch the ground.
  11. I’m fairly accident prone, mostly as a result of playing sports, my general clumsiness, and inauspicious circumstances. I’ve had countless soccer sprains, once cracked my head on a wall, and almost ripped my ear off playing rugby. I still have two small scars on my face from 1) catching an elbow playing basketball, and 2) not catching a baseball, as a result of a bee. In fact, the only reason I started growing a beard is because I got stitches above my lip and couldn’t shave until it healed.
  12. I was using coconut oil before it was cool.

Derek Mascarenhas is a graduate of the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies Creative Writing Program, a finalist and runner-up for the Penguin Random House of Canada Student Award for Fiction, and a nominee for the Marina Nemat Award. His fiction has been published in places such as Joyland, The Dalhousie Review, Switchback, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, Cosmonauts Avenue, and The Antigonish Review. Derek is one of four children born to parents who emigrated from Goa, India, and settled in Burlington, Ontario. A backpacker who has traveled across six continents, Derek currently resides in Toronto. Coconut Dreams is his first book.