From childhood memories to political struggles, the Downtown Eastside figures prominently in the shortlisted works for the 2018 City of Vancouver Book Award.
In fact, three out of the four titles address subject matter related to the DTES.
The finalists announced on November 8 span numerous literary forms, including memoir, biography, and poetry.
Travis Lupick’s Fighting for Space: How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City’s Struggle With Addiction details the efforts of a grassroots group of DTES activists who pioneered harm-reduction approaches to illicit drug use.
Lupick, a Georgia Straight staff writer, said he is grateful for the nomination and the attention it can bring to the ongoing opioid crisis.
“While I worry that the public’s attention to the issue is beginning to wane, overdose deaths in Vancouver remain more frequent than ever,” Lupick stated. “In Fighting for Space, I recount how our city responded [to] and solved a previous overdose crisis that occurred through the 1990s and early 2000s. Fentanyl is a more challenging problem.”
However, Lupick is hopeful that through cooperative action, local efforts will once again be able to save lives.
“I hope that we as a city can begin talking about true solutions, about legalizing and regulating drugs so that there is a clean supply that will spare people who are addicted to opioids from the risks of fentanyl and other dangerous synthetics.”
Finalist Chelene Knight’s creative-nonfiction memoir Dear Current Occupant features essays, letters, and poems about living in 20 different homes in East Vancouver, including the DTES.
“I’m showing folks that ‘Yes, this is kind of rough stuff, but…there is light at the end of the tunnel. You can go through all of these things and still be bloody amazing,’ ” Knight told the Straight earlier this year.
Fellow finalist Erín Moure’s Sitting Shiva on Minto Avenue, by Toots reflects upon the life of DTES inhabitant Paul Émile Savard, who died alone, without an obituary or funeral.
As Vancouver’s fourth poet laureate, writer Rachel Rose served as editor of her legacy-project book, Sustenance: Writers From B.C. and Beyond on the Subject of Food, which is also in the running for the 2018 City of Vancouver Book Award. The anthology combines recipes with poetry, interviews, and photographs by local writers and chefs.
The jury consists of Vancouver Art/Book Fair board member and Vantage Point events manager Nav Nagra, UBC Indigenous Studies senior instructor Dory Nason, and author and Kwantlen Polytechnic University instructor Billeh Nickerson.
The award will be presented on December 8.