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Winners of the 2021 and 2020 Vancouver Book Award announced, along with new poet laureate

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The City of Vancouver announced the winners of both the 2021 and 2020 Vanciuver Book Award today (November 20).

During a livestreamed event from the Vancouver Public Library Central Branch, the city also revealed the name of the successful applicant for the position of its official poet laureate.

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Cree lawyer and author Michelle Good won the 2021 Vancouver Book Award for her novel Five Little Indians

The first novel by Good—who is a member of Saskatchewan’s Red Pheasant Cree Nation and who graduated with a master’s in creative writing from UBC while managing her own law firm—had already won numerous prestigious awards, among them the Governor General’s Literary Award in Fiction and the Amazon First Novel Award.

Five Little Indians was also longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. The novel is about five young survivors of a church-run Canadian residential school in the 1960s who end up in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside after being released from their detention. On its website, the city said of the novel (published by HarperCollins): “Good chronicles, with compassion and insight, the desperate quest of these residential school survivors to come to terms with their past and ultimately find a way forward.”

Good is an adjunct professor at UBC and resides in B.C.’s southern Interior.

The city also declared Catherine B. Clement’s Chinatown Through a Wide Lens: The Hidden Photographs of Yucho Chow to be the winner of the 2020 Vancouver Book Award. (The 2020 award had been postponed from the previous year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.)

Chinatown Through a Wide Lens: The Hidden Photographs of Yucho Chow

The 2019 nonfiction book (published by the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia and translated by Winnie L. Cheung) was the result of a decade-long project by Clement to uncover, collect, curate, and publish the photos of Yucho Chow, the first Chinese commercial photographer in Vancouver.

The city commented that Clement’s collected “aging images are visual evidence of the diverse communities that once turned to Vancouver’s Chinatown for acceptance and services during a time of enormous racism”.

Catherine B. Clement

A lengthy review with several pictures from the limited-edition book in the Ormsby Review by May Q. Wong said: “These rediscovered stories remind us that during the first half of the 1900s, British Columbia was not a welcoming place for non-whites, or for people whose first language was not English.”

Also announced today was the news that Fiona Tinwei Lam has been awarded the position of Vancouver poet laureate. Tinwei Lam is the author of three poetry collections, one of which (Intimate Distances) is a former Vancouver Book Award finalist.

She has also written a children’s book and is an insrtuctor in SFU’s continuing education creative-writing program. Tinwei Lam has, additionally, co-edited and contributed to several poetry and creative-nonfiction anthologies. For more information on her writings, go here.

New Vancouver poet laureate Fiona Tinwei Lam.

The city wrote in a November 20 news release: “As Vancouver’s new Poet Laureate, Tinwei Lam hopes to build on the legacy of her predecessors and over the next two years, through community outreach, will encourage a new generation of poems and poetry videos related to the many significant historical, cultural and ecological sites within Vancouver and on the unceded traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.”

On its website, the city also thanked the oiutgoing (2018 to 2020) poet laureate, Christie Lee Charles, Vancouver’s first local Indigenous (Musqueam) poet appointed to that position.

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