Arts & Entertainment
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Wayson Choy wins Woodcock Award

Gay Chinese-Canadian author honoured for literary career

Gay Chinese-Canadian author Wayson Choy (right) was presented with the 2015 George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award by the previous year’s winner, Jean Barman, at the Vancouver Public Library on June 11. Credit: Jeremy Hainsworth

One of Canada’s foremost gay authors, Wayson Choy, was named as 2015’s recipient of the Vancouver Public Library’s George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award on June 11.

“We are delighted to be recognizing Wayson Choy for his considerable literary contributions,” says Sandra Singh, chief librarian at the Vancouver Public Library. “His works over the years have served as a critical thread in BC’s diverse literary fabric.

“His stories connect us, help us understand our city’s past, and let us see life through a different perspective. He has helped tear down barriers between cultures and generations.”

The award recognizes a BC author whose outstanding literary career and contributions to society span several decades.

Among his well-known titles are The Jade Peony and Paper Shadows: A Memoir of a Past Lost and Found.

“I’m proud to have my pioneer Chinatown stories — and my own personal ones — recognized as part of the shared literary history of all Canadians,” says Choy, who now lives in Toronto.

Influencing Choy’s writing are his struggles to embrace Chinese traditions as a first-generation Canadian, accidentally discovering he was adopted, facing two near-death experiences and being openly gay.

Choy says our lives are full of drama and meaning and that literature helps us see life as it is.

“If you want to write a good book, pick up the hot bits,” he says. “That’s where you find some of the bits that are worth having.”

The 76-year-old says life has meaning but that we need to seek it out.

“Someone wants you to know that you matter,” he says. “You’re part of a chain of beings saying, ‘you will survive, do not surrender.’”

“If you can love another, thank those who love you,” Choy says.

Choy got a chuckle from the crowd when he said his Chinese grammar sometimes comes through in his writing.

“They don’t have pronouns and being gay, it gets confusing.”

Choy’s work has also been nominated and shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award, Scotiabank Giller Prize, Charles Taylor Prize, Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize and CBC’s Canada Reads.