The Book That Changed Your Life: Kim Fu

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      The Word Vancouver festival is set for its 2016 edition with a massively inclusive lineup of authors, appearing at venues around town from September 21 to 25.

      We asked a group of these much-admired writers to tell us about their finest reading experiences. Which books put a stamp on their imaginations early on? Which ones revealed to them the full powers of the written word?

      Here’s what Seattle’s Kim Fu told us. She’s the author of the PEN/Hemingway Award finalist For Today I Am a Boy. Fu will read from her work at 11:50 a.m. on September 25, on the fest’s Sunrise Suite stage at the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.

      When I was 11 years old, I came across Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon by Marjorie Kellogg in a bookstore—a short, brutal novel from the 1960s about three relative strangers who are discharged from a hospital at the same time and decide to live together. It was one of the first books for adults I ever read. I still have the copy I bought that day; the pages are torn, stained, and wavy with water damage.

      What struck me then, as a child, and still moves me now, was how real the characters in Tell Me felt, their fullness and depth and vividness. Even the most minor players—the nurses and other patients, a briefly remembered grandmother, a racist neighbour, a dog on the roadside, characters who appear for only a scene or a sentence—I understood inside and out. I have innumerable literary heroes now, but I think Tell Me showed me, unconsciously and at an early age, the kind of writer I want to be. Kellogg’s prose was spare, the plot brusque. It was the people that mattered.

      Kim Fu.