Part voyeuristic pleasure, part travel guide, the Perfect Summer Day Questionnaire connects writers and their books to real-life Canadian places while celebrating the goodness of summer.
Jon Chan Simpson grew up in Red Deer, Alberta, and he lives in Toronto. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto's MA creative writing program, and his work has been featured in Ricepaper magazine. He debut novel is Chinkstar.
49th Shelf: Tell us about the setting for your perfect summer day. Is it a place in your book? The place where you live? Somewhere that you’re homesick for?
Jon Chan Simpson: I love Alberta weather, and the summers in Red Deer, my hometown, are fantastic. The mornings are crisp, the days are long, hot and sunny, and the evenings are clear and cool, perfect for hanging out and barbecuing. Grab a hoodie, a frisbee, some friends, beers and grillables, and you’re set. Even if you suck at frisbee.
49th Shelf: Obviously, you’ve got a book to read. What book is it? Where do you go to read it?
Jon Chan Simpson: Doretta Lau’s How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun—it is seriously awesome. I head to the farmer’s market, grab some strudel from the strudel guy and/or a sausage from the sausage folk, then sit, eat and read on the hill by the skate park. Then I head back into the market for a Filipino bbq skewer.
49th Shelf: When you’re finished reading, it’s time to eat. Is it patio weather? Where do you go for lunch, and what do you order?
Jon Chan Simpson: The pho at Sherry’s restaurant (or Pho Thuy Duong, according to the sign) is some of the best anywhere. It’s heating up outside, so I’m going for a spicy Hue-style soup to match. This place is an oasis! So good I couldn’t resist writing it into Chinkstar.
49th Shelf: This particular summer day being perfect, you meet up with excellent company to spend the afternoon with. Who are you hanging out with?
Jon Chan Simpson: Why, my best buds from elementary school, of course: Danny, Jon (another one, who’s slightly older and better-looking than me), Peter, and our spouses. The more the merrier!
49th Shelf: How do you while away the next few hours in a memorable fashion?
Jon Chan Simpson: We grab some inflatable tubes (and some waterwings for Danny), throw on our swim gear, pick up some snacks and cold drinks then head to the river for a long, lazy float. We play frisbee on the water and watch an osprey divebomb for fish, and everyone capsizes at least four times. Gabi sees a beaver and freaks out (in a good way). Our van magically appears at our landing point downstream, bearing dry towels and some thermos coffee. Thanks, van!
49th Shelf: We like bookshops. Where do you recommend we go to buy a book nearby?
Jon Chan Simpson: Red Deer’s well-stocked, well-loved, hugely successful pillar-of-the-community independent bookstore, which has amazing coffee and croissants and a botanical garden with butterflies and a crotchety-but-kind-despite-herself owner who gave me my first book of poetry, a beat-up ol’ tome that was in fact her first book of poetry. It contained the secret to eternal happiness.
Oh, you mean real, non-imaginary bookstore? Then Chapters, I guess. It’s the only one in town. (Editor's note: Sob.)
49th Shelf: What’s playing on your iPod as you walk there?
Jon Chan Simpson: Kanye’s Yeezus. Haters gonna hate, though.
49th Shelf: Once at the bookshop, what three (Canadian!) books are you having difficulty choosing between?
Jon Chan Simpson: Patrick DeWitt’s Undermajordomo Minor, Pasha Malla’s/Jeff Parker’s/Nathan McKee’s joint Erratic Fire, Erratic Passion, and This One Summer, or whatever other awesomeness Jillian and Mariko Tamaki have cooked up. And it’s not really a choice. I buy them all!
49th Shelf: And oh, those summer nights. What would be your ideal way to cap off a perfect summer day?
Jon Chan Simpson: We all go out and grab a waffle cone from the Little Ice Cream and Soda Shoppe (yep, this place is for real, stupidly cute name with olde-style spelling and all), take the dogs out around the neighbourhood, then get a fire going in someone’s backyard, play cards, drink beers and laugh till dawn.
KWONG WAS A GOD.
Everything was about to change. In less than forty-eight hours, guy’d be taking the stage in Van City, owning an audience meant for some all-hype-no-talent new-money rapper, spitting next-level truths that’d have A&Rs scrapping for him coast to coast.
He’d ink some paper and drop an album that the world didn’t even know it had been waiting for. All with game and swag to spare.
To the kids gathered out there in the bush somewhere between Township Road 382 and the United States of MTV, this man was god. Chi-rhyme, nip-hop, zippa-flow, slanty, jaunedell, chinksta: all planets in a system revolving around its rising son, King Kwong, my brother.
Chinksta rap is all the rage in Red Deer, Alberta. And the king of Chinksta is King Kwong, Run’s older brother. Run isn’t a fan of Kwong’s music—or personality, really. But when Kwong goes missing just days before his crowning performance and their mom gets wounded by a stray bullet, Run finds himself, with his sidekick, Ali, in the middle of a violent battle between Red Deer’s rival gangs—the Apes and the Necks—on the run from his crush’s behemoth brother, and rethinking his feelings about his family and their history, his hatred of rice-rap and what it means to be Asian.
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