In the follow-up to her BC Book Prize-winning book of poetry, Prison Industrial Complex Explodes, Mercedes Eng continues her poetic investigation of racism and colonialism in Canada, weaponizing the language of the nation-state against itself in the service of social justice. my yt mama is a collection of poems that considers historic and contemporary colonial violence in the Canadian prairies, a settler geography and state of mind that irrevocably shaped Eng’s understanding of race as person of colour born and raised in Treaty 7 Territory in Medicine Hat, Alberta.
These poems document an education in white supremacist ideology that began in infancy and occurred everywhere: at home where the author lived with her white mother, 1261 kilometres away from her Chinese migrant father’s family; in public institutions such as the school, the library, and the museum that erase Indigenous peoples’ histories while producing the myth of the "vanishing Indians;" and in the media and entertainment in which white supremacist beauty standards are constructed and reinforced. Keenly attuned to the language of those in power, Eng exposes the violence of the English language in the colonial project, taking on the words of Canadian politician F. W. Gershaw’s history of the city of Medicine Hat as occasioned by Canada’s Centennial, to derail the superficially neutral language of yt history that mythologizes nation and city while simultaneously deriding Indigenous ways of being (ontology) and ways of knowing (epistemology) as "legends" or "myths." Like the author herself, my yt mama is hybrid: part memoir, part history, part discourse analysis, part love letter to her mother.
Mercedes Eng is a Prairie-born mixee of Chinese and settler descent, teaching and writing in classrooms and in community. She lives in Vancouver on the unceded territories of the x?m??k??y??m (Musqueam), S?wx_wú7mesh (Squamish), and s?l?ilw?ta?? (Tsleil-Waututh) Peoples. Eng’s praxis constellates experiential knowledge, community organizing, informal study, and a hybrid poetics that deploys multiple forms/ideas of language from theory to memoir to historical and government documents to photography and visual art. Author of Mercenary English (CUE Books 2013; Mercenary Press 2016; Talonbooks 2018), a long poem about violence and resistance in the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood of Vancouver, and Prison Industrial Complex Explodes (Talonbooks 2017), winner of the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, her writing has appeared in Jacket 2, The Downtown East, The Volcano, on the sides of the Burrard and Granville Bridges as contributions to public art projects, and in the collectively produced chapbooks, r/ally (No One Is Illegal), and Surveillance and M’aidez (Press Release). She is at work on a women’s prison reader and a detective novel set in her grandfather’s Chinatown supper club, circa 1948.