Diversity and Inclusivity Emphasized at the Vancouver Writer’s Fest

Image by Roaming-the-Planet

By Rachel Rosenberg

The Vancouver Writer’s Fest has always been an inclusive and nurturing space for authors and literary fans to unite. According to their site, the festival was established in 1988 and has been expanding ever since. In 2010, the festival was named “the best large literary festival in Canada” by the Canadian Tourism Commission.

This year the festival will run from October 17 – 27th, so get tickets as soon as you can. The list of authors that’ll be descending upon Granville Island is unbelievable this year, as Guest Curator Tanya Talaga and Spoken Word Curator Jillian Christmas have selected brilliant performers from all across the world. If panels and showcases aren’t enough for you, there is also an improv event with The Fictionals and a Literary Cabaret night.

According to the festival’s artistic director, Leslie Hurtig, the trend in the book industry this past year has been “highlighting the voices of under-represented minorities”. Many of the festival’s events support that mission, and here are a few that shouldn’t be missed:

Word! (1 and 2)

Price: $20 Adult/$9.50 for student groups
When and Where:  Word 1 is October 22 from 1-2 PM, Granville Island Stage; Word 2 is October 23 from 10:15-11:45 AM, Granville Island Stage

A warning: this all-ages event sells out lightning quick every year. Hosted by Jillian Christmas, it features spoken word poets Emma Field, Taran Kootenhayo and Vuyo Mgoduka. All three of these poets have impressive credentials so these performances are sure to be boldly engaging.

Lee Maracle: A Life’s Work

Price: $26
When and Where: October 23 at 6 PM, The Nest

Lee Maracle was first published in 1975, and she has been incredibly prolific ever since. A well-respected Sto:lo storyteller and poet, she is also an Officer of the Order of Canada, a winner of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and a respected authority on Indigenous life. Join jaye simpson and Maracle for a discussion about writing, Maracle’s hopes for the future of reconciliation, and her experience of collaborating on Hope Matters alongside her daughters.

Love Sucks (For Youth)

Price: $20 Adult
When and Where: October 22 at 10:15 AM, The Revue Stage

These three books— by authors Sabina Khan (The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali), Brian Francis (Break in Case of Emergency) and Mariko Tamaki (Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me) — have been on our radar for a while. High school plus LGBTQ relationships don’t always equal an easy match, so these three books are about building strength amidst challenging circumstances. The authors will be presenting their works in a conversation with Susin Nielsen.

The Lives of Girls and Women

Price: $20
When and Where: October 23 at 8:30 PM, Performance Works

You might guess what this panel is about from its name, but the girls and women in these stories will still surprise you. Featuring moderator Claudia Casper and with authors Mona Awad (Bunny), Nazanine Hozar (Aria), Alix Ohlin (Dual Citizens) and Laisha Rosnau (Little Fortress), this will be an engaging night that celebrates and cherishes women. The common thread is the way that they explore and reimagine women’s constantly shifting roles.

Voices for Change

Price: $20
When and Where: October 25 from 1-2:30 PM, Granville Island Stage

Daniel Heath Justice (Why Indigenous Literature Matters), Harold R. Johnson (Peace and Good Order), Carey Newman (Picking Up the Pieces) and Tanya Talaga (Seven Fallen Feathers) are absolutely going to make this panel an engaging, informative discussion. Moderator Shelagh Rogers will be there to help enable a conversation about the ways in which shared stories and knowledge can uplift and protect the Indigenous community. If you are keen to learn more about social justice and Indigenous literature, this will be a must-attend.

The Literary Cabaret

Price: $45
When and Where: October 26 at 8 PM, Performance Works

I hope you already got yourself a ticket for this because it has sold out! This coveted night is a mix of readings and jazz music, featuring bandleader Sal Ferreras as he leads interpretations of work by Cherie Dimaline, Tom Lanoye, Sean Michaels, Bindu Suresh, Zalika Reid-Benta and Ivan Cayote.

Image by Roaming-the-Planet

There is so much more that it was difficult to restrain my suggestions to seven events! You can see event listings here and, for added pre-festival fun, view their handy reading list.


Rachel Rosenberg is a writer and library technician who is a proud member of the LGBTQ2+ community. She writes for Book Riot and can be found on Twitter @LibraryRachelR

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