A Literary Map of Vancouver Part II
THE LYRICAL OUTSIDERS
The two authors I call Vancouver’s Lyrical Outsiders are titled as such because, for one, the central characters they write about are ostracized for their sexual or ethnic identities. The lyrical nature they share, meanwhile, is a deft touch with their prose, a pretty ability with words, the likes of which bring many of us back to the printed word over and over again.
Every time Wayson Choy writes a book, it seems, the awards and nominations keep getting bigger. His debut novel, 1995’s The Jade Peony, won the Trillium Award and the City of Vancouver Book Award. Paper Shadows: A Chinatown Childhood, Choy’s next release, a memoir, not only won The Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction, but was also nominated for a Governor General’s Award. His most recent novel, All That Matters (2005) brought the already famous Canadian author to the country’s attention when it was short-listed for our country’s grand literary prize, The Giller. The following year, Choy was named a member of the Order of Canada.
A Chinese-Canadian, Choy’s works are all set in Vancouver’s Chinatown in the mid-twentieth century and tell the stories of immigrants. They are as enjoyable for the freshness of the tales as for the artful way in which Choy turns a phrase. The Jade Peony is not only about three Chinese-Canadian siblings and their sense of belonging to the nation, but is also concerned with both Canada’s treatment of the Japanese in our country as well as with issues of sexuality. With the backdrop of the Second World War, we learn of the lives of these Chinese-Canadians who, as Choy so deftly puts it, live in a “hyphenated reality,” one as much concerned with assimilating to the new culture as it is unable to let go of a Chinese history that includes ghosts, gods and demons.
For the rest of this piece click A Literary Map of Vancouver Part II.