My Mother, My Translator

Jaspreet Singh

In 2008, Jaspreet Singh made a pact with his mother. He would gladly give her the go-ahead to publish her significantly altered translation of a story from his collection, Seventeen Tomatoes, if she promised to write her memoirs. After she died in 2012, he decided to take up the memoir she had started. My Mother, My Translator is a deeply personal exploration of a complex relationship. It is a family history, a work of mourning, a meditation on storytelling and silences, and a reckoning with trauma—the inherited trauma of the 1947 Partition of India and the direct trauma of the November 1984 anti-Sikh violence Singh experienced as a teenager.

Tracing the men and especially the women of his family from the 1918 pandemic through the calamitous events of Partition, My Mother, My Translator takes us through Singh’s childhood in Kashmir and with his grandparents in Indian Punjab to his arrival in Canada in 1990 to study the sciences, up to the closing moments of 2020, as he tries to locate new forms of stories for living in a present marked by COVID-19 and climate crisis.

Véhicule Press
Biography & Autobiography 2021


“A powerful and moving memoir, kinetic in its tracing of the various impacts of inherited trauma through several generations of Jaspreet Singh's family living through Partition and Sikh massacre in India to himself here in Canada. Through a series of digressions, both playful and deeply serious, My Mother, My Translator reshapes memoir in an unforgettable way.” - Daphne Marlatt, author of Then Now

“These pages form a complex elegy from son to mother that crosses cultures and languages, touching on family and immigration, war, grief and reconciliation. My Mother, My Translator defies genre and has a cumulative power that reveals literature as a home, a place to live.” - Mark Anthony Jarman, author of Czech Techno and Knife Party at the Hotel Europa.

“The exact past will elude us forever, writes Jaspreet Singh, yet we are compelled to explore it. As a young man he finds that the stories we can never tell construct us and our families more surely than those we do tell. Yet along with the excoriating power of the unsaid, he discovers the healing power of translation, and of mountains. My Mother, My Translator is an unflinching work.” - Ted Bishop, author of Riding with Rilke: Reflections on Motorcycles and Books, and The Social Life of Ink

“Singh is an unparalleled chronicler. … My Mother, My Translator is an indispensable, inimitable memoir.” - Shazia Hafiz Ramji, Quill & Quire

"My Mother, My Translator valiantly confronts the weight of silence—both the author’s own and that of others—to excavate the “woundful” tales and memories asking to be told, however painful." -Christine Wiesenthal, Alberta Views

"With lyricism and power, My Mother, My Translator intertwines moments from Singh’s life with those of his mom. He had urged her to write a memoir of her own, and she reluctantly agreed. But she had abandoned the idea before she died in 2012, at the age of sixty-eight. Singh takes up where she left off and chips away at the silences and traumas she left behind." - John Lownsbrough, Literary Review of Canada

Jaspreet Singh's non-fiction has appeared in Granta, Brick, Alberta Views, and the New York Times. He is the author of the novels Chef, Face, and Helium; the story collection Seventeen Tomatoes; the poetry collections "November" and "How to Hold a Pebble"; and most recently, the memoir My Mother, My Translator. His work has garnered many awards and has been published internationally and has been translated into several languages. He lives in Calgary. You can find him online at

Other books by Jaspreet Singh:
Seventeen Tomatoes: Tales from Kashmir
Trade paperback
280 pp 8.5" x 5.5"
ISBN13: 9781550655797

CDN $22.95