8 Must-Read Feminist Voices Appearing in Vancouver

Posted by 
Rebecca Peng

Feminism isn’t a concise topic. It’s diverse and nuanced and connects a plentitude of voices across disparate communities. From October 15-21, 2018, the Vancouver Writers Fest will host some of literature’s most insightful feminist thinkers to speak to the many facets of the movement, including these eight notable Festival authors who will address some of society’s most pressing issues in conversations and panel discussions.

Sisonke Msimang is an incisive essayist whose writing on South African politics, among other topics, has featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Guardian. She is a champion of the political power of words, arguing that “story is the antidote to bias.” This belief is core to Msimang’s brilliant memoir, Always Another Country, an uncompromising account of her political and feminist awakenings in the wake of exile, political upheaval and racism. She will discuss questions of home, diaspora and the ways in which words inspire necessary action.

When Rachel Kushner was five-years-old, she worked sorting books in a feminist collective bookstore. She has been leading key feminist discussions ever since. Her latest Booker-longlisted novel, The Mars Room, is another powerful contribution to this evolving, worldwide conversation. It depicts the systemic nature of institutionalized sexism, through the story of a mother serving two consecutive life sentences at a Women’s Correctional Facility in California. Kushner will speak to her new novel and the contemporary events that inspired it. 

Journalist and author Sofka Zinovieff will discuss her new novel, Putney, with former The Globe and Mail Books editor Mark Medley. In Putney, Zinovieff reimagines Lolita for our present moment. As her protagonist, Daphne, reflects on her childhood relationship with a much older man, she realizes that what she once thought of as romance was in fact abuse. Richly drawn and undeniably timely, Zinovieff’s work untangles the challenging and pressing topic of consent and power. It’s a compelling look at how our understandings of sexual relations change over time.

Also not to be missed is the upcoming conversation between bold, genre-defying authors, Amber Dawn and Vivek Shraya. Both authors write back, poignantly and powerfully, to structural violence. Dawn’s latest novel Sodom Road Exit addresses the intersections between systemic poverty, legacies of trauma and queerness. In I’m Afraid of Men, Shraya reflects on her identity as a brown, trans woman and the communal harm resulting from internalized misogyny. Dawn will also interview Daemon Fairless and Brian Goldman at the same event.

Dionne Brand has consistently written beautiful and enlightening poems, novels and essays on topics of gender and race. A master of her craft, Brand is one of Canada’s most influential thinkers, and a crucial voice on Blackness, the female body and issues of diaspora. Speaking to her two dazzling new releases, Theory and The Blue Clerk, Brand will explore radical reimaginings of love.

Internationally-lauded author Deborah Levy dissects her own life in The Cost of Living. Her eloquent, often-humorous autobiography is not only an arresting and full depiction of a woman’s life, but a sharp criticism of the erasure of women by modern societal expectations. Levy produces a manifesto for “a new way of living,” articulating what love and kinship can look like amidst modern chaos. Levy will discuss writing and womanhood at every age with Marsha Lederman.

As we know, feminism doesn’t only concern women. During the The Evolution of Man panel, Rachel Giese, award-winning journalist and Chatelaine editor-at-large, will speak about her new book, Boys: What It Means to Become a Man, a sweeping investigation on the stifling, toxic restraints that can hinder male social and emotional development. Giese, a mother to a son herself, interviews educators, activists and psychologists, piecing together a better way forward in the wake of dramatic social upheaval.

The Vancouver Writers Fest will take place October 15-21, 2018. To view the full program guide and purchase tickets, please visit the festival website.

Images (left to right): Top: Dionne Brand, Amber Dawn, Sofka Zinovieff, Rachel Kushner; Bottom: Rachel Griese, Vivek Shraya, Deborah Levy, Sisonke Msimang

Rebecca Peng is a writer currently living on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. She graduated from UBC with distinction as the English Honours Medalist. She has previously contributed to SAD Magazine.

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