August 2022

Recap of the Saturday, August 20, 2022 Event
With Farah Heron

On August 20, Farah Heron, the engaging author of Kamila Knows Best, provided her thoughtful
and personal reflections on the continuing importance of Jane Austen’s Emma to modern
readers and writers. Heron’s popular novel introduces the character Kamila in Heron’s unique
re-telling of Emma. Readers come to love the author’s strong, fashion-conscious Kamila, who
cares for a depressive father, carefully plans the future for her friends, and slowly discovers
what is most important in her own life.

Heron explores themes raised by Austen in the context of a social environment much removed
from the Regency, namely, the author’s South Asian Muslim community in Toronto, Canada.
Heron describes her close-knit community in Toronto as an “Austen village”, including pressures
on unmarried women to wed and upon children to care for their parents and family. Heron, an
avid reader of Austen’s works since age 12, described the influence of Austen in each of her
four published novels and explained specific parallels between Emma and Kamila Knows Best.
Farah Heron, born and raised in Toronto, told us that her parents immigrated to Canada after
they were ousted from Tanzania along with all Asians in the 1970’s after having lived there for
generations. Her ancestors had come from India to Tanzania in the 1800’s. Her upbringing in
her South Asian community in Toronto was among a tight-knit community where everybody
knew everybody else in the group and her parents’ friends were like extended family members.
Heron, who studied English and psychology at university, also shared her personal experiences
overcoming depression through her re-discovery and appreciation of Austen’s works and their
film adaptations during college. In her novel, Heron explores characters inspired by Mr.
Knightley, Harriet Smith, and Jane Fairfax. The author presents her South Asian “Mr.
Woodhouse” as grappling with mental illness that his daughter Kamila must navigate.
Heron credits Jane Austen’s works with pushing her to become a professional writer and with
helping her to cope during difficult times during her own life. Her South Asian Muslim
community in Canada has afforded rich soil for a re-examination of themes presented by Jane
Austen over 200 years ago.

You can watch the entire presentation on our JASNA Southwest YouTube channel.
Farah Heron writes romantic comedies “full of huge South Asian families, delectable food, and
most importantly, brown people falling stupidly in love.” She lives in Toronto with her husband
and two children. Kamila Knows Best was published this past March by Forever. Heron has
written three other novels, The Chai Factor, Accidentally Engaged and Tahira in Bloom.

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