The Book That Changed Your Life: Jen Sookfong Lee

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      The Word Vancouver festival is gearing up for its 2017 edition with a huge and inclusive lineup of authors, appearing at venues around town from September 19 to 24.

      We asked a group of these acclaimed writers to tell us about their most memorable reading experiences. Which books shaped their imaginations early on? Which ones taught them the power of the written word?

      Here’s what renowned local author and broadcaster Jen Sookfong Lee told us. Among the latest on her list of works is the celebrated 2016 novel The Conjoined. She’ll discuss her work at 12:15 p.m. on September 24, on the Quay stage outside the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.

      I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, and many books have changed my life (it could be argued that it’s mostly books that change my life and people rarely do). The book that totally changed how I saw voice and language was Stilt Jack by John Thompson, which my favourite teacher at UBC, Keith Maillard, told me to read.

      Thompson's poems are characterized by emotional disconnect, hard winters, and the edges of loneliness. His voice was uniquely his. No one else has ever written like John Thompson and no one else ever will. We can try to accomplish all sorts of social or literary goals with our writing, but really, if you don’t know and inhabit your own voice, then it doesn’t even matter. Stilt Jack forced me to confront who I am in words and that has been the most valuable lesson of my writing life.