The Next Chapter

Bahar Orang's Where Things Touch is a thoughtful exploration of beauty in a fast-paced world

The Toronto-based writer, poet and physician-in-training spoke with The Next Chapter about writing a nonfiction book that explores the human experience.
Where Things Touch is a book by Bahar Orang. (@baharoh/, Book*hug Press)

This segment originally aired on Nov. 7, 2020.

Bahar Orang is a writer, poet and physician-in-training based in Toronto. In her first book Where Things TouchOrang tries to find the beauty in her clinical encounters and redefines and reimagines what beauty is and how it's defined.

Where Things Touch serves as a literary platform for Orang to explore intimacy, queerness, love, memory. It asks what makes beauty — from physical attributes to human connection.

Where Things Touch was on the shortlist for the League of Canadian Poets' 2021 poetry awards.

Orang stopped by The Next Chapter to talk about writing Where Things Touch.

Intense and bewildering

"I started writing this book about halfway through medical school. It was at a time when the classes and lectures were mostly over and we were working in the hospital. I was doing very fast-paced, extremely structured clinical work. I was watching open heart surgeries. I was participating in deliveries. I was bearing witness to serious illness, to death and dying. 

I started writing this book about halfway through medical school.

"These were amazing encounters. But they were also intense. They were bewildering. I felt displaced. I felt like I didn't know how to truly inhabit any of that. Writing the book became a way back in. I could live inside something where things like nuance and ambiguity and attentiveness, they could be precious again. They could be taken seriously. 

"Through the book, I could suspend some of those moments in the hospital and bring them together with themes and ideas and questions that I'd been thinking about for a long time." 

Deep reflection

"In many ways, being a doctor and a writer are not necessarily opposing kinds of work. Both of them can have to do with deep reflection, deep engagement, openness, creativity, imaginativeness. 

"But of course, it's not always the case. Sometimes the world of medicine can be very rigid, overly structured, non-critical and take up a lot of your time. There's not a lot of room to do the slow and careful work of writing. 

In many ways, being a doctor and a writer are not necessarily opposing kinds of work.

"But there's a long history of doctors who write, and I see myself, in many ways, inside that tradition." 

Bahar Orang's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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