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Queers dominate One Book shortlist

Two queer Vancouver writers have snagged themselves spots on the three-book shortlist for the Vancouver Public Library’s One Book One City program.

Seven library workers read for five months before narrowing the best-book category down to Ivan E Coyote’s Loose End, Karen X Tulchinsky’s The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky and David Chariandy’s Soucouyant.

“Two out of three ain’t bad,” says Tulchinsky. She and Coyote are both queer, while Chariandy is a married father of two.

One Book One City is a reading club for the entire city. It’s designed to foster a culture of reading and discussion by bringing people together around one text.

Library spokesperson Marya Gadison says it’s just chance that two of the three shortlisted writers are queer. “They’re just great books,” she says. “Who knew?”

The selection process was difficult, says Gadison, but ultimately “these three captured our hearts and imagination. All three are well-written, solid books.”

Coyote says she’s honoured to have been shortlisted.

“I feel great about it. I love librarians. They’re the most organized force we’ve got for anti-censorship in North America.”

Coyote’s series of queer short stories (drawn from her regular Xtra West column) are set predominantly in East Vancouver.

Tulchinsky’s novel explores the Jewish experience in Toronto around the 1933 riot that pitted Jews and Italians against Anglo-Canadians after several youths unfurled a banner with the legend “Heil Hitler.”

The book is narrated by a fictional gay Simon Fraser University (SFU) history professor telling the tale of his boxer father.

“The impetus of the book is the stories of my grandfather who emigrated from Russia and raised his family during that period,” Tulchinsky says.

Soucouyant, a Caribbean-influenced text set in Toronto, is the first book for Chariandy, who teaches English at SFU. It was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for English fiction in 2007.

The winner will be announced Apr 23 by Mayor Sam Sullivan. This is One Book One City’s seventh year.