Memoir of Growing Up Black in 1950s: 1st Runner-up

Lynette Dathorne, age 12

Toronto-based writer Lynette Dathorne’s story “Scenes from My Youth,” an excerpt from her memoir-in-progress, has been named first runner-up in the Nonfiction category of the annual OASIS Journal anthology competition in Tucson, Arizona. “Scenes from My Youth” will be Lynette’s first published story.

“The year was 1953,” she says, “and the focus of my submission was on my family leaving British Guiana for London, England, when I was thirteen years old and my experiences at school when I arrived. The major theme of my memoir is what it was like growing up in London as a black girl during the fifties and sixties.”

The photograph at left, taken in December 1952, is of Lynette at age twelve, seven months before her family left British Guiana for England. “It is from a family portrait taken in a studio in Georgetown. My father [already in England] had asked my mother to send a photo of the family.”

Last spring, Lynette worked with me privately on portions of her longer memoir manuscript through the Online Mentor program within the Creative Writing Program at University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. Of the news that an excerpt has been chosen by the OASIS judges, she says, “Being first runner-up is an added bonus, and motivation for me to continue with my writing.”

Also accepted for publication in this year’s OASIS Journal anthology are works of creative nonfiction by four more writers who have studied with me (in alphabetical order), three of them through University of Toronto. The fourth, Tilya Helfield, was my student at Ryerson University and later worked with me privately.

Jennifer Capes, of Nepean, Ontario

Tilya Gallay Helfield, of Toronto, Ontario, who also recently completed a manuscript of nineteen linked short memoirs, Metaphors for Love, and is seeking a publisher. (She blogs at

Susan Labuhn, of Lethbridge, Alberta, who also had a poem accepted.

Joyce Wood-Shortino, of Boston, Massachusetts, who had two prose submissions accepted by OASIS judges for inclusion in this edition. The publisher says this is highly unusual.

This is the tenth consecutive year for OASIS Journal. Published by Tucson, Arizona-based Imago Press, the collection features fiction, nonfiction and poetry by emerging writers over age 50. This year publisher Leila Joiner received 382 entries of which 113 will be published.

Though only a handful of Canadians submitted, they certainly succeeded in grabbing the judges’ attention. Lynette Dathorne is joined by Barbara Ponomareff of Orono, Ontario, first runner-up in the Fiction category, and Tiina Heathcock of Dorset, Ontario, first runner-up in the Poetry category.

Last year's OASIS Journal

I learned of OASIS Journal and got to know Leila Joiner several years ago through one of my online students, Jane Boruszewski, of Syracuse, New York, when I was teaching memoir writing through Ryerson University. Jane—who died August 1, 2009, and is much missed—had several memoirs published in OASIS anthologies, and the 2009 edition was dedicated to her. Her family posthumously published her memoir-based novel Escape from Russia, excerpts of which had appeared in OASIS.

The OASIS Journal competition accepts fiction, nonfiction (including memoir) and poetry submissions from May to July 31 each year. OASIS doesn’t have a website, but for more information about next year’s competition, contact Leila Joiner in May 2012 at In the Archives: read my interview with Leila Joiner.

2011 OASIS Journal will be available for purchase in November through and

For more about Memories into Story, my online course through U of T (partnered with the New York Times Knowledge Network), click here. To inquire about the Online Mentor program through the U of T, School of Continuing Studies, Creative Writing Program, click here.

Here’s a complete list of winners in the 2011 OASIS Journal competition:


WINNER: “Venus” by Bill Alewyn (Coolidge, Arizona)

FIRST RUNNER-UP: “Corvus Rex” by Barbara Ponomareff (Orono, Ontario, Canada)

SECOND RUNNER-UP: “Ordinary Time” by Mimi Moriarty (Voorheesville, New York)


WINNER: “Amazing Grace” by Calvin W. Fulton (Tucson, Arizona)

FIRST RUNNER-UP: “Scenes from My Youth” by Lynette Dathorne (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

SECOND RUNNER-UP: “Yasha’s Story” translation from the original German by Ruth Hohberg (San Diego, California)

HONOURABLE MENTION: “Dreaming in America” by Stan Vasile (Tucson, Arizona)


WINNER: “Bodhi Tree on Via Arcilla” by Bobbie Jean Bishop (San Diego, California)

FIRST RUNNER-UP: “First and Last Time” by Tiina Heathcock (Dorset, Ontario, Canada)

SECOND RUNNER-UP: “HAIKU: Life on the Scale” by Teresa Civello (Albuquerque, New Mexico)


“Hoarding” by Judy Ray (Tucson, Arizona)

“Winds” by Rita Ries (Los Angeles, California)


  1. Muchi Lukhezo says:

    Hello, I am the child of a family friend of Lynette Dathorne’s family in the UK, but have not seen her for years.
    I understand that Lynette’s memoirs have now been finished and published – please correct me if I have been misinformed. I would be fascinated to get a copy of her monograph; I have started the initial work and some research into my own family history and feel that her work will give me some information I need, as well as giving me some guidance upon my own endeavour.
    I would appreciate your telling me how I can get hold of her publication, or putting me in touch with her – feel free to pass on my email address to her.
    Many thanks, Muchi

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