With this year’s edition of the Word on the Street festival set to run from September 28 to 30, we asked some of the writers on the wildly diverse bill to tell us about the reading experiences that shaped them. Which book left deep impressions early on? Which one overhauled the way they see and think, and set them on a path to a literary life?
Here’s Yasuko Thanh’s response. Thanh is the Victoria-based author of the debut short-story collection Floating Like the Dead.
She’ll be reading from her work at 12 p.m. on September 30, in the Authors Tent outside the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.
I read Beloved by Toni Morrison in my mid 20s and it changed the way I looked at the world.
I love this book because the writing is daring, visceral. The sentences pump with emotion like arterial veins. Because she writes about “bad guys”. Because her bad guys and good guys look the same. Because the book’s main character, though it’s written from multiple viewpoints, carries away any preconceived notions I had and purifies them the way a beating heart does. The protagonist Sethe makes you understand how a woman could kill a child for love.
Not many writers can convince me the way Morrison can—amazing since the world Beloved offers is once-removed from reality. I buy a baby ghost that leaves handprints in the cake, from the first paragraph. Because Morrison tells you how it is, and her bewitching poetry makes you believe her. You don’t have a choice but to follow wherever she leads, through slavery’s hell to its pit in Sweet Home, the Kentucky plantation that Sethe escapes from.