Lydia Kwa

Poet and novelist, Lydia Kwa was born in Singapore in 1959 and came to Canada in 1980. She received a B.Sc. in psychology from the University of Toronto and a M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. She now lives in Vancouver where she continues to write and to work as a therapist.


This Place Called Absence

Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 2000.
9th floor PS8571 .W3 T48 2000

New York: Kensington Books, 2002.

Publisher’s Synopsis (Turnstone)

Kwa transports us between the past and present, merging tradition and modern life in a way that is reminiscent of Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club. This is a heart-breaking tale of despair and hope and the transformational power of the imagination.

Awards and Honors

2000 in Canada First Novel Award (Nominated)
2002 Lambda Literary Award – Lesbian Fiction (Nominated)


Pulse: A Novel

Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2020.
9th floor PS8571 .W3 P84 2010

Publisher’s Synopsis (From its website)

The story begins in the summer of 2007 in Toronto’s Chinatown. Natalie is thrown into recollections of her native Singapore when she receives the devastating news that Selim, the son of her childhood friend and lover, has died suddenly. Selim left behind clues that suggest his death may have something to do with Natalie’s own past, and she decides to return to Singapore to uncover the truth. Bound up with this tragedy is the relationship between Natalie and her father, a domineering man whose treatment of his daughter may be the key to understanding Selim’s death.


The Walking Boy: A Novel

Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2005.
9th floor PS8571 .W3 W34 2005

Publisher’s Synopsis (From its website)

… Set in 8th century China during the Tang Dynasty, The Walking Boy is a vivid and compelling novel inspired by true historical events during the final years of the reign of the country’s only female emperor.

Awards and Honours

2006 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize (BC Book Prizes) (Nominated)


The Colours of Heroines

Toronto: Women’s Press, 1994.
9th floor PS8571 .W3 C68 1994

Sinuous book cover



Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 2013.
9th floor PS8571 .W3 S56 2013

Publisher’s Synopsis

Through the mind’s eye Lydia Kwa charts the path of the stranger in a new land, the immigrant seeking escape, and transformation from the suffering of the past.  Sinuous is a journey toward self-realization and acknowledges that through the fiery trials of life it is possible to find renewed strength and purpose for the future.

Selected Criticism and Interpretation

Fu, Bennett Yu-Hsiang. “Differing Bodies, Defying Subjects, Deferring Texts: Gender, Sexuality, and Transgression in Chinese Canadian Women’s Writing.” Ph.D. diss., Université de Montréal, 2004.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Goellnicht, Donald C. “”Forays into Acts of Transformation”: Queering Chinese-Canadian Diasporic Fictions.” In Culture, Identity, Commodity: Diasporic Chinese Literatures in English, ed. by Tseen Khoo and Kam Louie. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005, [153]-182.
9th floor PS153 .C45 C85 2005

Khoo, Gaik Cheng. “Lydia Kwa.” In Asian American Poets: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, ed. Guiyou Huang, [179]-183. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.
9th floor PS153 .A84 A826 2002

Ty, Eleanor, “Recuperating Wretched Lives: Asian Sex Workers and the Underside of Nation Building,” chap. in Unfastened: Globality and Asian North American Narratives. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010, 20-40.
9th floor PS153 .A84 T9 2010 (also available as an e-book)


Publisher Turnstone Press has information about Kwa.

Publisher Kensington Books

Publisher Key Porter Books