Jen Sookfong Lee

Jen Sookfong Lee is a third-generation Chinese Canadian writer from Vancouver who has lived most of her life in the city’s East Side. Lee is a poet and food writer in addition to being a novelist. She is the co-editor of Whatever Gets You Through: Twelve Survivors on Life After Sexual Assault (Greystone Books, 2019).

Fiction

The Better Mother

Toronto: Knopf Canada, 2011.
PS8623 .E442 B48 2011

Publisher’s Synopsis

Meet Danny Lim. He spends his days working as a wedding photographer and his nights cruising Stanley Park, far from the family home in East Vancouver that he once fled, and where his parents and sister still live. When he rediscovers a green silk belt he had hidden years earlier, he remembers a fleeting but powerful connection he formed with a burlesque dancer named Miss Val, a.k.a. the Siamese Kitten. On that day in 1958, in an alley behind a nightclub in Chinatown, Miss Val offered eight-year-old Danny an understanding kindness and easy acceptance he had never before experienced. As the memory triggered by Miss Val’s belt washes over him, Danny decides he must find her.
Before Miss Val became the Siamese Kitten … she was Valerie Nealy, a feisty girl growing up in a rundown house on the banks of the Fraser River. But to find the stardom she thought she wanted, she made a series of difficult and seemingly irrevocable decisions that led to her own weighty present.

Awards and Honours

2012 City of Vancouver Book Award (finalist)

The Conjoined book cover

Fiction

The Conjoined

Toronto: ECW Press, 2016.
PS8623 .E442 C66 2016

Publisher’s Synopsis

On a sunny May morning, social worker Jessica Campbell sorts through her mother’s belongings after her recent funeral. In the basement, she makes a shocking discovery — two dead girls curled into the bottom of her mother’s chest freezers. She remembers a pair of foster children who lived with the family in 1988: Casey and Jamie Cheng — troubled, beautiful, and wild teenaged sisters from Vancouver’s Chinatown. After six weeks, they disappeared; social workers, police officers, and Jessica herself assumed they had run away.

As Jessica learns more about Casey, Jamie, and their troubled immigrant Chinese parents, she also unearths dark stories about Donna, whom she had always thought of as the perfect mother. The complicated truths she uncovers force her to take stock of own life.

Moving between present and past, this riveting novel unflinchingly examines the myth of social heroism and traces the often-hidden fractures that divide our diverse cities.

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Fiction

The End of East: A Novel

Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2007.
PS8623 .E442 E28 2007

Publisher’s Synopsis (from website)

Sammy Chan was sure she’d escaped her family obligations when she fled Vancouver six years ago, but with her sister’s upcoming marriage, her turn has come to care for their aging mother. Abandoned by all four of her older sisters, jobless and stuck in a city she resents, Sammy finds herself cobbling together a makeshift family history and delving into stories that began in 1913, when her grandfather, Seid Quan, then eighteen years old, first stepped on Canadian soil.

Fiction

Shelter

A flip book to: Conlin, Christy Ann. Dead Time.
Toronto: Annick Press, 2011.
Series: Single Voice

Anthology (Short story)

Tok. Book 4

PS8237 .T6 T54 2009

Lee, Jen Sookfong. “Chill, Hush.” In Tok. Book 4, edited by Helen Walsh. Toronto: Zephyr Press, 2009, 57-69.

Selected Criticism and Interpretation

Darias-Beautell, Eva. “Haunted/Wanted in Jen Sookfong Lee’s The End of East.” Chap. in Canadian Literature and Cultural Memory, eds. Cynthia Sugars and Eleanor Ty. Don Mills, Ont.: Oxford University Press, 2014, 402-414.
PS8101 .H58 C35 2014

Links

Jen Sookfong Lee personal website

Publisher Annick Press

Publisher ECW Press

Carolyn Swayze Literary Agency

Publisher Knopf Canada, imprint of Penguin Random House Canada

Reading guide to The End of East

Jen Sookfong Lee on The Better Mother, part of CBC Radio One’s The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers,  episode “Michael Ondaatje” first broadcast September 5, 2011