Not okay

Non-binary jaye simpson (left) describes the trauma of being told they were a boy in their debut poetry collection, “it was never going to be okay.” FULL STORY

Mutonji’s quest for balance

June 18th, 2020

“There is a humungous amount of emotional labour that comes from being a writer of colour,” says Téa Mutonji. “In my experience, the second I publish my book the work load of that identity got tripled.”

Téa Mutonji’s debut story collection about a young woman’s journey from age six to her twenties, Shut Up You’re Pretty (VS. Books $17.95), not only got our vote for best ‘title’ of the year; it thrust her into the limelight in her mid-twenties as the only published-in-B.C. contender for either the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize or the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Now, in June of 2020, it has received the province of Ontario’s most lucrative literary award, the $20,000 Trillium Book Award, with an additional $2,000 for its publisher, VS Books / Arsenal Pulp, for promotional purposes. The mandate for VS Books is to present work by new and emerging Indigenous or Black writers, or writers of colour. Shut Up You’re Pretty is the inaugural release from this imprint, curated and edited by writer-musician Vivek Shraya.

Born in Congo-Kinshasa, Mutonji, who lives in Toronto has produced her own version of “Lives of Girls and Women,” a connected suite of stories that reflect life within Congolese traditions and the challenges of being a Congolese immigrant “interrogating the moments in which femininity, womanness and identity are not only questioned but imposed.”

The goal of her main character is to attain peace within herself, a process she views as the seeking of equilibrium. “I hope people take away from my book the balance in life,” Mutonji says. “I try to look at motherhood through the eyes of balance, when it can be good and not-so-good. And I try to look at independence the same way.”

The Trillium award was announced June 17. You can watch the online ceremony that was broadcast on Facebook here).
“We are so happy that a book like Shut Up You’re Pretty has won the Trillum,” Arsenal Pulp Press publisher Brian Lam says. “It’s proof that the change that needs to happen in the Canadian publishing industry is possible.”

The next book to be published under the VS. Books imprint is Burning Sugar, a poetry collection by Vancouver writer and activist Cicely Belle Blain, coming in September.
 
Shut Up You’re Pretty also won the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction from the Publishing Triangle in April, and last year was a finalist for the Writers’ Trust of Canada Fiction Prize.

BOOKS:

Shut Up You’re Pretty (VS. Books 2019) an imprint of Arsenal Pulp Press, $17.95 9781551527550

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