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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 Alonzo, help me find my way. They are like landmarks for me. 

Vivek Shraya: I am often drawn to Hindu mythology and iconography as it was and continues to be a way to understand (my) queerness outside a Western/white lens.

Leah Horlick: For me, writing is a method of knitting back together my queerness and the legacy of my Jewish ancestors—things that I felt had to be separate, when in fact a lot of the magic, history, and resistance that I seek out in my writing has been alive through thousands of years through Jewish storytelling and cultural memory, as well as passed on through Jewish queer elders. 

Book Cover For Your Own Good

AR: Since the 1960s, we’ve heard "the personal is political," and as queers, this is especially true. When you write, are you actively seeking to engage in political conversations or debates? How do these influence the subjects you choose?

AD: My primary motive for writing autobiographical work has always been to join my voice with others who are dealing with and healing from institutional and individual trauma. Lately, my aim isn’t necessarily to be in a political debate around violence or stigma, but more so to honour some of the beauty and pure tenacity I am constantly witnessing within my communities. 

VS: In the past five years, my art has definitely been married to a politic. With my latest novel, She of the Mountains, I wanted to challenge biphobia, which was a challenge in and of itself, because biphobia is so pervasive. One of the decisions I made involving the main subjects was to not name them. I wanted the reader to be able to identify with them, to see themselves or anyone in the protagonists. It was also important for the main subjects to be brown because bi books are rare, but brown bi books are even rarer. 

LH: I’m interested in writing as a tool for resistance and community building, so while I hope some of my work will start conversations or debates, I’m especially interested in how we can thoughtfully share stories, moments, and narratives that don’t necessarily show up in say, mainstream CanLit. With For Your Own Good, the subject chose me and I chose to share it, and to see what kind of space could be opened up for a very nontraditional story of lesbian experience.

AR: You all came to writing first through performance or spoken word. How has this affected your writing process? 

AD: I’m nearly sick with anxiety every time I’m on stage, but the stage is a great teacher. I learn a lot about my craft and also my intentions when I perform. Plus, I love that performances and readings can often create these magic gathering spaces—there’s an undeniable energy to a good reading.  

Book Cover She of the Mountains

VS: I often work with the text orally, reading the words out loud to see if there is flow. I have found if the text flows orally, then it will flow well on the page. 

LH: I have a background in performance, and so I find that imagining the performance of a piece of writing actually makes me more confident about the work itself. Except when it’s terrifying, which is a part of it, too. 

AR: This April, "Where the Mountains End" will tour the west coast. What brought you together for this? What draws you to one another’s work? 

AD: Every artist I truly admire has equal amounts of bravery and talent. It is a risk to present personal, "speaking up" kind of work and also to have the skill to craft this work in a way that captivates an audience. I’ve seen both Vivek and Leah do exactly this on stage; they take risks and wow audiences. 

VS: I have had a crush on Amber Dawn since 2011. As a writer/activist/tour de force, I have been endlessly inspired by her and grateful to her. Being able to tour with her is a dream come true. Leah and I are bonded by being from the Prairies and I am very excited to get to know her work better! 

LH: It is a phenomenal privilege to work with Amber Dawn and Vivek, whose work I have admired and relied on as touchstones in my own healing process and craft for years. I feel so fortunate to be taking part in this adventure with them, and I think our work has so many beautiful and powerful intersections that I can’t wait to explore on stage. 

April 13, 2015

Books mentioned in this post

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Where the words end and my body begins

by Amber Dawn
edition: Paperback
tagged: women authors, canadian, lgbt

The first full-length poetry book by the Lambda Literary and Vancouver Book Award Winner.

Finalist, Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize

Award-winning writer Amber Dawn reveals a gutsy lyrical sensibility in her debut poetry collection: a suite of glosa poems written as an homage to and an interaction with queer poets, such as the legendary Gertrude Stein, C …

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She of the Mountains

by Vivek Shraya, illustrated by Raymond Biesinger
edition: Paperback
also available: Audiobook
tagged: gay, asian american

A "Globe 100" Best Book of the Year (The Globe and Mail)

Lambda Literary Award finalist

In the beginning, there is no he. There is no she.

Two cells make up one cell. This is the mathematics behind creation. One plus one makes one. Life begets life. We are the period to a sentence, the effect to a cause, always belonging to someone. We are never our o …

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For Your Own Good

by Leah Horlick
edition: Paperback
tagged: lgbt

In the canon of contemporary feminist and lesbian poetry, FOR YOUR OWN GOOD breaks silence. A fictionalized autobiography, the poems in this collection illustrate the narrator's survival of a domestic and sexual violence in a lesbian relationship. There is magic in this work: the symbolism of the Tarot and the roots of Jewish heritage, but also the …

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Jane and the Whales

Short Stories

by Andrea Routley
edition: Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged: short stories (single author)

In this playful yet poignant debut collection, Andrea Routley muddies the line between the physical and emotional worlds: reality becomes not simply what is in front of us, but a mutable, fragile place in the imagination. On the verge of divorce, and in a pot-induced haze, Tom Douglas prepares to roast a pork shank in his new-and contentious-Authen …

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