Josh Scheinert’s ’01 post-CHAT story hasn't followed a linear path. He did his best to combine a passion for travel and learning about new places and cultures with interests in writing and human rights. On the surface, his current specialization in international investment law might seem to be a divergence from this, but a closer look reveals a large focus on questions surrounding business responsibility to guard against human rights abuses. His credentials speak to a passion for stories of justice. Since graduating from TanenbaumCHAT in 2001, Josh received a B.A. in History and Political Science from McGill, a J.D. from Osgoode Hall Law School, and his LL.M. in International Law from Cambridge. Josh has spent a number of years in Toronto working in international investment law and doing independent consulting on international business and human rights. He's also spent a year teaching law at the University of The Gambia, and a semester teaching law in India. Before law school, he worked with a political consultant in Washington, D.C. and was called to the bar after doing a clerkship at the Federal Court in Ottawa.
Now, his non-linear path has taken a new turn, towards authorship. Josh's new book, The Order of Nature, is set in Gambia and explores a story of love, intolerance, and justice. Below, in Josh's own words, is a summary of the narrative and how he came to write it.
What does it mean to live a life that's illegal, to be born into a community where you don't belong?
Andrew accepted a volunteer placement in Gambia after college. Sheltered and shy, he wanted a change from his well-to-do suburban life. At first, things went as planned. He did good work, made friends, and started to break out of his shell. But then, unexpectedly, he meets Thomas.
Thomas is a charming hotel bartender. Having run away from his homophobic village, he understands all too well how unforgiving his country can be to people like himself. He has one friend and nowhere safe to be who he is. Then, unexpectedly, he meets Andrew.
The Order of Nature follows Andrew and Thomas as they navigate an environment where their love is illegal. At first, they believe it’s possible to develop a relationship in even the most trying circumstances. But as their relationship strengthens, the homophobia that envelops them becomes more hostile; the politics of prejudice catch up. Exposed and arrested, they are forced to confront what it means when your very existence is considered a crime, your love against the order of nature.
My decision to write a novel stemmed from a desire to tell a story I felt was not getting enough attention. Having lived in The Gambia as a law professor for a year, I came to appreciate the real challenges LGBTQ people face in countries where laws criminalize who they are. During my time in The Gambia, I was in the closet. And even though my experience was wonderful, I knew that if there was ever a problem, I could easily return home, where home meant comfort and safety. For too many people, that luxury does not exist. I wrote The Order of Nature to provide readers a window into what it means to live a life that's illegal.
TanenbaumCHAT played an important role in getting me to this point. While at CHAT, I had the benefit of being taught by several teachers who showed me the value and power of storytelling. Whether through literature or the performing arts, my years at CHAT showed me how stories help us understand and empathize with unfamiliar people and places. If only there had been a course on how to write a novel, maybe it wouldn't have taken me 3.5 years to finish!
The Order of Nature can be found on Amazon or on a shelf at our Learning Resource Centre.