About the Author

Vivek Shraya

Vivek Shraya is the author of the young-adult collection God Loves Hair, the novel She of the Mountains, the poetry book even this page is white, and the children's picture book (with Rajni Perera) The Boy & the Bindi (all published by Arsenal Pulp Press), as well as I'm Afraid of Men and What I Love About Being QUEER. She is editor of the Arsenal Pulp Press imprint VS. Books, dedicated to work by young black, Indigenous, and writers of colour. Vivek was the 2014 recipient of the Steinert & Ferreiro Award for leadership in Toronto's LGBTQ community, the recipient of Anokhi Media's inaugural Most Promising LGBTQ Community Crusader Award in 2015, a 2015 Toronto Arts Foundation Emerging Artist Award finalist, and a 2015 recipient of the Writers' Trust of Canada's Dayne Ogilvie Prize Honour of Distinction. Originally from Edmonton, she now lives in Calgary, where she is an assistant professor in the University of Calgary's Department of English.

Books by this Author
Death Threat

Death Threat

by Vivek Shraya
illustrated by Ness Lee
edition:Hardcover
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even this page is white

even this page is white

edition:Paperback
tagged : canadian, lgbt
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God Loves Hair

God Loves Hair

by Vivek Shraya
illustrated by Juliana Neufeld
edition:Paperback
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I'm Afraid of Men
Excerpt

I’m afraid of men because it was men who taught me fear.

I’m afraid of men because it was men who taught me to fear the word girl by turning it into a weapon they used to hurt me. I’m afraid of men because it was men who taught me to hate and eventually destroy my femininity. I’m afraid of men because it was men who taught me to fear the extraordinary parts of myself.

My fear was so acute that it took almost two decades to undo the damage of rejecting my femininity, to salvage and reclaim my girlhood. Even now, after coming out as a trans girl, I am more afraid than ever. This fear governs many of the choices I make, from the beginning of my day to the end.

In the morning, as I get ready for work, I avoid choosing clothes or accessories that will highlight my femininity and draw unwanted attention. On the hierarchy of harassment, staring is the least violent consequence for my gender nonconformity that I could hope for. And yet the experience of repeatedly being stared at has slowly mutated me into an alien.

If I decide to wear tight pants, I walk quickly to my bus stop to avoid being seen by the construction workers outside my building, who might shout at me as they have on other mornings.

When I’m on a packed bus or streetcar, I avoid making eye contact with men, so that no man will think I might be attracted to him and won’t be able to resist the urge to act upon this attraction. I squeeze my shoulders inward if a man sits next to me, so that I don’t accidentally touch him.

If I open Twitter or Facebook on the way to work, I brace myself for news reports of violence against women and gender-nonconforming people, whether it’s a story about another trans woman of colour who has been murdered, or the missing and murdered Indigenous women, or sexual assault. As important as it is to make these incidents visible by reporting them, sensationalizing and digesting these stories is also a form of social control, a reminder that I need to be afraid and to try to be as invisible as possible.

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She of the Mountains

She of the Mountains

edition:Paperback
also available: Audiobook
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The Boy & the Bindi

The Boy & the Bindi

by Vivek Shraya
illustrated by Rajni Perera
edition:Hardcover
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The Subtweet
Excerpt

 

Neela Devaki was an original.

 

She was reminded of this fact shortly after she stepped out of her cab and into the Fairmont Hotel, the main site for the North by Northeast Festival. Zipping through the masses of musicians, fans and industry reps, she felt sorry for the chandeliers, which loomed above like golden flying saucers, forced to light up the dull networking that buzzed beneath them. But a conversation between two art students, draped in curated thrift wear featuring strategically placed rips and holes, brought Neela to a reluctant halt. 

 

“I was totally working on something like this for my final project. I guess originality really is dead,” one of the women sighed, taking photos of herself, duck-faced with a pop-up art installation.

 

Neela skimmed the artist’s statement. The frosted toothpick statues of penises were “a comment on the current global epidemic of white demasculinization.” Why not just hang a red and white flag that said Make Art Great Again? Brevity was the true endangered species.

 

“You should still do it. All the good ideas are taken anyways. Isn’t that kind of freeing?” replied the other.

 

Neela snorted. She would never offer that sort of “comfort” to a stunted peer. No wonder she was bored with most of the art she encountered.

 

She considered sharing with these young women that she always knew she was on the verge of invention at the precise moment when originality felt impossible. That instead of surrendering to despair, she would needle in and out and through her brain until an idea surfaced — naked, stripped of predictability and familiarity. That this process often required her to sing a phrase over and over for hours until the syllables carved their own unique melody out of hollow air. She was certain that the reiteration planted the words in her vocal chords so that when she sang them, they carried the imprint of her body. By embedding herself into her song, she muted any risk of passing off mimicry as art. Why wasn’t fully committing to creation more desirable than observing what everyone else was doing and doing the same?

 

But defending the sanctity of originality to strangers at an art exhibit would make her seem like an egomaniac. And no one listens to a cocksure woman.

 

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