Celebrated Canadian author Wayson Choy will be honoured as this year's recipient of the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to B.C. literature.
The literary honour recognizes B.C. authors who have an exceptional literary career, with contributions spanning several decades.
The award, co-sponsored by the Writers' Trust of Canada and Dr. Yosef Wosk, will be presented at the Vancouver Public Library central branch (350 West Georgia) tonight (June 11) at 7 p.m. Choy, the 22nd recipient of the award, will receive $5,000 and a plaque added to the library's Writers Walk of Fame.
Previous winners include Alice Munro, W.P. Kinsella, David Suzuki, and Jean Barman.
“I'm proud to have my pioneer Chinatown stories—and my own personal ones—recognized as part of the shared literary history of all Canadians,” Choy stated in a news release.
“His works over the years have served as a critical thread in B.C.’s diverse literary fabric,” Vancouver Public Library chief librarian Sandra Singh stated. “His stories connect us, help us understand our city's past, and let us see life through a different perspective. He has helped tear down barriers between cultures and generations.”
Choy's experiences, including growing up in Chinatown and his Chinese Canadian heritage, coming out as gay, discovering he was adopted, and near-death experiences, have served as inspiration for his writing.
Choy, who grew up in Vancouver's Chinatown in the 1940s, was the first Chinese-Canadian student to enroll in a University of British Columbia creative writing class, where he began to work on The Jade Peony. The 1995 bestselling novel, narrated by three Chinese Canadian siblings growing up in Vancouver's Chinatown during the Depression and Second World War, won the City of Vancouver Book Award in 1995.
In 2002, The Jade Peony was chosen for the inaugural One Book, One Vancouver, a city-wide book club.
Choy followed up the fictional The Jade Peony with the non-fiction work Paper Shadows: A Memoir of a Past Lost and Found in 1999, in which he returned to explore Chinatown and his own ancestry, as well as his discovery that he was adopted.
The Jade Peony continued to inform his work for his 2004 novel All That Matters, a prequel and sequel to The Jade Peony.
While working on All That Matters, Choy faced a combined asthma and heart attack in 2001, and then suffered a heart failure in 2005. He reflected upon these near-death experiences in his 2009 book Not Yet: A Memoir of Living and Almost Dying.
Among his other honours, he won the Trillium Book Award twice (1996 and 2005), the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction (1999), and the Project Bookmark Canada award (2012). He was named a member of the Order of Canada in 2005. He has also been featured in two documentaries: Wayson Choy: Unfolding the Butterfly and Searching for Confucius.
Choy now lives in Toronto and teaches creative writing at Humber College.