By Katharine Watts
Katharine Watts: Why did you choose the Danforth as one of the major settings in Stuck in Downward Dog?
Chantel Simmons: I thought it was an interesting place to set it because of the juxtaposition of people who are striving to be perfect in a fake way in other areas, like Avenue Road or Yorkville, with people on the Danforth who are doing things for themselves from the inside out.
KW: What is your personal connection to the Danforth?
CS: I used to live on Dearbourne, right behind the Danforth. It was the first place I lived on my own after I graduated. I had a nice feeling about the area because I chose it.
KW: For your main character, Mara, the Danforth is described as the perfect place to live. Why is that?
CS: It was the ideal place for her because she was looking for balance in her life and the area epitomizes that. You can be young and live here; you can have a family; you can have lived here for many years. It’s all incorporated into one community, whereas other neighbourhoods are potentially either upper class, or all students, or really segregated, and if you’re not that type of person living there, you may feel like you don’t belong. The Danforth makes everyone part of the community.
KW: What’s your favourite thing about the Danforth?
CS: I like the idea that you can live here and have a family, and you are right off the main street where there are tons of shops and things to do, whereas typically you have to move to the suburbs to get that feeling of home.
KW: What do you think makes the Danforth stand out from other areas in Toronto?
CS: They haven’t overdeveloped it with condos or chain stores, so there’s a healthy balance. You can still go to a chain grocery store, but you also have lots of little boutiques, so it’s really unique, and it almost feels like a small town. But it’s very close to downtown. You really just have the bridge separating it from the rest of the city.
KW: Can you think of a location, anywhere in the world, that is comparable to the Danforth?
CS: It does feel sort of European in that a lot of people seem to know each other. You see a lot of people talking on the street. Other areas in Toronto can sometimes feel cold, or you just don’t run into people you know. But the Danforth feels like a small town where you could actually run into your neighbours, and that’s a nice feeling.
KW: Can you sum up your feelings about the Danforth?
CS: I think Mara herself probably says it best in Stuck in Downward Dog: “I had really gotten used to the idea of living on the Danforth. I liked the area. It was a mix of singles and multi-generational families, Greek restaurants and all-natural food stores, home decor shops and share-a-bike depots, holistic centres and hip boutiques. It was a perfect combination of trendy and traditional.”
Chantel did her research here
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Buy Stuck in Downward Dog on the Danforth at:
348 Danforth Ave
416 469 9997
503 Danforth Ave
Photo by Melissa di Pasquale