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The Chat with Téa Mutonji

Tea Mutonji-approved 2-credit Sandro Pehar

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Vivek Shraya launched her imprint VS. Books with Arsenal Pulp Press to highlight bold work by new and emerging Indigenous or Black writers, or writers of colour. Scarborough writer Téa Mutonji’s debut collection Shut Up You’re Pretty is the first work to be featured.

Canisia Lubrin calls the collection “a chronicle of millennial malaise, gendered and seaming with a discontent that does not sleep on the status quo of any page. Téa Mutonji is a writer who is assured and measured with a style all her own, holding a hand up to greats like Hurston and Kincaid. She takes back the 21st century in this delicious feast of stories as vivid and taut as they are understated.”

Téa Mutonji is an award-winning poet and writer. Born in Congo-Kinshasa, she now lives and writes in Scarborough, Ontario, where she was named emerging writer of the year (2017) by the Ontario Book Publishers Organization. Shut Up You’re Pretty is her debut short story collection, and the first book published under Vivek Shraya’s VS. Books imprint with Arsenal Pulp Press.

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The Chat: Trevor Corkum Interviews Vivek Shraya

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Vivek Shraya’s first collection of poems, even this page is white, is a bold, powerful work of art, addressing questions of racism, whiteness, and marginalization in social, creative, political, and intimate spaces.

Praising the collection, Shani Mootoo says, “this brave and very contemporary lyrical collection dares to ask the unspoken yet screaming questions, to finish the sentence that hurts, that reveals, that provokes, that celebrates. Like a Durga goddess, Shraya juggles with deft hands the multiple aspects of desire, race, gender, queerness, and contemporary pop culture.”

The Toronto Arts Council says, “Shraya’s voice is valuable to the future of poetry in Canada because of her undeniable strength, honesty, perception, and innovation."

Vivek Shraya is a Toronto-based artist whose body of work includes several albums, films, and books. She is also one half of the music duo Too Attached and the Associate Editor of Heartbeats, a website that features racialized artists and stories. Her first novel, She of the Mountains, was named one of …

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Amber Dawn, Leah Horlick, and Vivek Shraya: Where the Mountains End

Book Cover Where My Words End My Body Begins

Amber Dawn, Vivek Shraya, and Leah Horlick are joining forces for the "Where the Mountains End" tour on the US west coast during the month of April. Amber Dawn will be reading from her new poetry book, Where the words end and my body begins, Vivek Shraya will read from his recent novel, She of the Mountains, and Leah Horlick reads from her new poetry book, For Your Own Good. Find tour dates here

Andrea Routley (managing editor of Plenitude Magazine, Canada’s queer literary magazine, and the author of Jane and the Whales) gives us a preview of what to expect from the tour with the following interview about where their works come from, queerness and politics, and what they're looking forward to about working together. 

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Andrea Routley: You all draw on a cultural legacy in exploring your subjects—from Jewish mysticism (Leah) and Hindu mythology (Vivek) to the work of lesbian poets such as Gertrude Stein and Adrienne Rich (Amber Dawn). How does the exploration of these legacies inform the way you write about contemporary experiences? 

Amber Dawn: My poetry collection is very much about how and where to locate myself within past, present, and future queer and survivor communities. The poets who I cite in my book, like Lucille Clifton, Adrienne Rich, Anne-Marie …

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Vivek Shraya on the online self-promo that makes for a successful offline author road tour.

Authors have always been expected to self-promote to some degree, but occasionally an author — or, in this case, two authors — comes along who seems almost born for the task at hand.

Vivek Shraya has just finished a road tour with Farzana Doctorinterviewed here this past summer. The "God Loves Pavement" tour, a mash up of the titles of the books they were promoting, Vivek's God Loves Hair and Doctor's Six Degrees of Pavement, spanned seven cities in Canada and the U.S.

 

Shraya and Doctor also started an entertaining tour Tumblr where they posted regular updates, images, event details and a series of delightful short videos called "Brown Moments." (More on that below.) On one level, the blog functions as it should, to keep readers informed of their whereabouts and as a charming memoir of their time together. But it's also a helpful tutorial for other authors seeking a case study on what it means to report from the road, engage an audience and which tools work best.

Julie Wilson: How did you and Farzana decide that it would be feasible (and survivable) to road tour together?

Vivek Shraya: Farzana and I were both invited to do a reading at London Pride last summer that involved a five hour drive. Farzana offered to do the driving on one condition: I was to entertain her with my entire life story. I clearly wasn’t able to satiate her desire, as shortly after that reading, she approached me with the idea for the tour.

Touring together was a bit of a no-brainer because we ar …

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