By Casey Stepaniuk
A few weeks ago we brought you Three New Queer Vancouver Writers. The five Vancouver authors featured in this post are well-established pros from here in Vancouver who have made their mark across Canada and internationally.
The title says it all: these are writers whose work you can’t miss.
Fans of spoken word and/or live storytelling should be ashamed if they haven’t yet seen Ivan Coyote perform in or out of Vancouver. Their subtly disarming kitchen-table style storytelling is breathtaking both on the page—six short story collections, one novel, and other collaborations—or in person. Whether Ivan is taking on the nuances of butch and trans identity, small-town childhood in the Yukon, or searching for a no-nonsense cup of brewed coffee in East Vancouver, you’ll be captivated. Check out their website for upcoming live storytelling performances, which are an essential queer Canadian experience.
If you’re looking for a (gay) writer who brings Vancouver’s Chinatown to life, look no further than Wayson Choy who was born and raised there. He is often praised for his complex, authentic characters and beautiful, literary style; in fact, he’s won all kind of awards from the Trillium Book Award to the City of Vancouver Book Award. His debut novel The Jade Peony is a family saga set in 30s and 40s Chinatown and features a gay Chinese-Canadian character. If memoir is more your thing, Choy has also written two of those: Paper Shadows (about his Chinatown childhood) and Not Yet (after two brushes with death).
Amber Dawn is one of those writers whose talents can’t be contained in one form or genre: she has published poetry, memoir, fantasy, erotica, horror, and essays. Whatever the medium, she often writes about queer identity, survivor pride, and sex work. For example, her latest book How Poetry Saved My Life is part memoir, poetry, and even a bit of erotica; it chronicles her experiences hustling Vancouver’s streets and how poetry acted as a lifeline during those years. Sub Rosa, in contrast, is a dark urban fantasy novel set in the downtown east side. Like Wayson Choy, Amber Dawn has also won the City of Vancouver Book Award.
Hiromi Goto is well-known for the spell-binding magic she brings to all her writing. Darkest Light and Half World, two companion YA books, are deliciously dark urban fantasy—with lovingly specific details of East Vancouver—heavily inspired by Japanese mythology. The best part of Half World is the unlikely heroine’s even more unlikely sidekick/guide. When was the last time you read a book where the old, wise kick-ass mentor was a Chinese-Canadian lesbian? Probably never. Hiromi Goto has also written books for adults, all with a touch of magic: The Kappa Child, Hopeful Monsters, Chorus of Mushrooms, and more!
Most well-known as a playwright, C.E. Gatchalian is also a poet, (non)fiction writer, editor, and teacher. He’s the only person on this list who was born and raised in Vancouver, and still lives here. His plays, such as Falling in Time, Broken, Crossing, and Claire, have appeared on national and international stages. They often tackle tough, controversial subjects and have been praised for being brilliant as well as disturbing. Gatchalian is the artistic producer of The Frank Theatre Company, whose mandate is to promote queer and sex-positive theatre in Vancouver. If you’re looking for queer stories on the Vancouver stage, look no further than C.E. Gatchalian.
Casey Stepaniuk is a writer and librarian-in-training who runs the website Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, where you can find LGBTQ+ Canadian book reviews and a queer book advice column. She also writes for Book Riot. Find her on Twitter: @canlesbrarian
Sign up for the Out In Vancouver newsletter if you are interested in hearing about more non-heteronormative news, events, and culture that are part of Vancouver’s colourful mosaic, and to get notified on the latest contests.