February 03rd, 2016
How can you not pay attention to a novelist who plays guitar in a punk band called 12 Gauge Facial and an all-woman rockabilly band called Jukebox Jezebel?
Born on June 30, 1971 in Victoria to a German mother and a Vietnamese father, Yasuko Thanh dropped out of school and lived on the streets at age fifteen. She has earned her living as a busker, an opium dealer, a cleaner of goat pens, a bed and breakfast operator, a housekeeper and a panhandler. Having also lived in Mexico, Germany and Honduras, Thanh received her MFA from UVic. She now lives with her husband Hank Angel and two daughters in Victoria.
Yasuko Thanh’s first story collection Floating Like the Dead (M&S / Emblem RH $22) was shortlisted for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize awarded to the best work of fiction by a B.C. author as well as the Danuta Gleed Award for the best first English-language collection of short fiction by a Canadian author published in 2012. It became a Quill and Quire Best Books of the Year selection and was longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. The title story won the Journey Prize for best short story published in Canada in 2009. It concerns Chinese lepers who dream of escape from their forced exile on D’Arcy Island, near Victoria, in the late 1800s. Another story received the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Short Story.
The protagonist for her debut novel due in April, Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains (Hamish Hamilton 2016), is a Vietnamese national and Paris-educated physician, Dr. Nguyen Georges-Minh, who, in 1908, loathes his own good fortune at having French connections that have made him rich while the imperial forces of France enslave the indigenous people of French Indochina. When his plan to poison the Christmas dinner of a garrison of French soldiers goes awry, he is forced to take refuge in remote jungles where his wife’s growing madness increasingly leads him to care for their infant son. While eluding capture by hill tribes, he is terrified of being discovered by French sympathizers. Thanh’s Apocalypse Then is reputedly inspired by the history of her father’s family in French Indochina and the ‘Hanoi Poisoning Plot of 1908’. The title refers to a group of covert sympathizers who seek to undermine French rule.
Thanh has also been a finalist for the Future Generations Millennium Prize, the Hudson Prize and the David Adams Richards Prize which recognizes unpublished manuscripts. Thanh received her MFA from UVic, having lived in Mexico, Germany and Latin America.
Floating Like the Dead (M&S / Emblem 2012) by Yasuko Thanh 978-0-7710-8429-4 $22
Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains (Hamish Hamilton 2016) 978-0-670-06878-4 $24.95