The Book That Changed Your Life: !Kona

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      The Word Vancouver festival is preparing its 2018 edition with another genre-hopping and inclusive roster of authors, set to appear at venues around the city from September 24 to 30.

      The Straight has asked a group of these writers to describe their most memorable and momentous reading experiences. Which books lit up their imaginations? Which ones struck a chord at a crucial time?

      Here’s what Vancouver actor, artist, and writer !Kona told us. She’ll be discussing her work at 1:15 p.m. on September 30, in the Sunrise Suite at the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.

      When I was a child I was an early and precocious reader. Words everywhere were read aloud. Signs, breakfast containers, newspapers, and advertisements.

      By the time I turned eight I learned the wonders of world travel through pages. It was at this time that historical-fiction author James A. Michener, with his sweeping genealogical, anthropological offerings, impressed my mind. I loved that he seemed unable to write a story in less than 800 pages.

      By age 12 I had read three or four tomes and was reading Poland. There was a heroic-seeming damsel named Krystyna as I recall, a castle prison on a mountain where she was placed by a mean father, and a young man who yearned to rescue her. I was disgusted. WHY was she waiting for a man? Why was another man preventing her from coupling with her heart's desire? I loved her name spelled with Ks and Ys. I made a vow, and altered the spelling of my birth name. No man would rescue me! And the changed spelling would remind me. Not a thing my immigrant parents appreciated. And yet, to this day, I continue to carry the spelling everywhere a “legal” name is required.

      Come 30, and alone in my new home of Vancouver, I read one of the only short science-fiction stories by E.M. Forster, a prescient piece called “The Machine Stops”. I was struck by this dystopian tale of a Cassandra-like character living in a world of underground dwellers connected by screens. After a brief interval of parking the name on a cat, I decided that the embodied strength and resistance in “Kona” was something I wanted to anchor to myself. And so I changed my name again. Years later, I learned that my edition contained an error. The character’s name was actually “Tona”. I’m fairly certain that I wouldn’t have adopted that name!