Muskoka by Julian Samuel

This is a real fever trip of a book. It bills itself a romcom, if a romcom can be at an intersection of Indigenous, settler and immigrant stories. Julian Samuel himself was born in Pakistan, but has lived in Canada for a long time, and is an artist and author and all-around interesting person.

In the story, we have Mohammed, an immigrant from Pakistan, and Deana, an Indigenous princess. The two meet at an adult math class in Toronto and fall in love — sort of. Can they get past Mohammed’s bladder cancer and Deana’s riches and worldly experience? Can two people so different find something in common to make their relationship work? This book manages to bring together the experience of immigration and some of the feelings that come with that including loneliness and otherness, with the confusion of being a settler to the land that was never rightfully given. This small volume deeply meditates on what is a settler, an immigrant, an Indigenous person, a Canadian, and looks at the complicated and difficult relationships between these. It also forces readers to look at their own stereotyping thoughts and biases, as you discover what Mohammed is learning about himself and other people.

It is a slow — read carefully, there is so much going on — kind of book, and yet it is highly intelligent and witty. The book occasionally made me laugh with lines like, “life jackets are a form of colonialism” or “the rich Muskoka air which all immigrants from polluted China love.” It is such a smashing of culture that it will make your head ache, just like Canada. It will force you to have a discussion in your head about how and what is the result of colonialism, and who gets what and why.

The book is rich in references to paintings and music, and had me looking up and learning many things. It is certainly a journey of discovery, magic, and a real trip. Oh yes, and love.

Currently residing in Toronto after living in Montreal for three decades, Julian Samuel is a writer, and painter. Publications include novels: Passage to Lahore, and Radius Islamicus. He has directed many documentaries including: The Raft of the Medusa: Five voices on colonies, nations and histories, Into the European Mirror, City of the Dead and the World Exhibitions, Save and Burn and Atheism. His articles and essays have appeared in Canadian Literature and Fuse, Race and Class, The Montreal Gazette, Le Devoir, La Presse, Counterpunch, Books in Canada and Montreal SeraiMuskoka is his third novel. For more information on past and recent work see his website:

Publisher: Guernica Editions (April 1, 2024)
Paperback 8″ x 5″ | 200 pages
ISBN: 9781771838771

Laurie Burns is an English as additional language teacher to immigrants, literacy volunteer and voracious reader living in Dartmouth.