What Doesn’t Kill Us
February 20th, 2015
Brandy Liên Worrall will read from her memoir about cancer and the consequences of the Vietnam War in her mixed-race family, What Doesn’t Kill Us. Worrall will also share selections from her work-in-progress, 17 Days, the sequel. There will be a discussion and a book signing following the reading.
What Doesn’t Kill Us
Thursday, March 12, 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Vancouver Central Library, 350 W. Georgia St.
Alice MacKay Room, Lower Level
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brandy Liên Worrall-Soriano grew up within in an Amish community in Pennsylvania, “which isn’t as exotic as it sounds,” she says. She says she learned to read at age three and began reading Helen Keller’s autobiography at age five.
“I really can’t tell you how many times I read that book, but it was a lot. I guess you could say that book planted the seed in terms of how I found real stories to be so powerful and exciting to read… As an epileptic child of an overprotective Vietnamese mother and a substance-loving American father—both of whom were traumatized during the Vietnam War where they met and got married—I wasn’t allowed to go out of the house very much. So I stayed home and paid attention to things everyone was trying to ignore or forget—mostly, what happened during this war no one was supposed to talk about but which brought us together as a family.”
Although she was never Catholic, she attended all-women’s Regis College, a Catholic college near Boston, and graduated summa cum laude with degrees in English literature and French. For one year she sought her MA in English at Boston College, leaving to attend UCLA’s Asian American Studies MA Program. With her Masters degree obtained in 2002, she became an editor at Amerasia Journal, a leading journal for Asian American Studies.
In 2003, with two children, she moved to Vancouver with her husband, Henry Yu. While at the MFA programme in Creative Writing at UBC, she explored the family histories of her own Vietnamese and Pennsylvania Dutch families. Her dreams of being a professional writer were detoured when she was diagnosed with stage III multifocal Triple Negative Breast Cancer (BRCA2-positive). She recovered but felt traumatized by the experience. “I started understanding better what my parents must have felt during my childhood—the isolation of having gone through a horrifying experience that most of one’s young adult peers could not even imagine. And all those things I paid attention to when I was a kid—those things that everyone else tried to ignore or forget—started making more sense.”
She obtained her MFA in Creative Writing from UBC in 2012. She previously edited Finding Memories, Tracing Routes: Chinese Canadian Family Stories (2006) for the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia. It contains eight personal stories of family life with a preface by Jean Barman. Henry Wu contributed the afterword. The volume is dedicated to Edgar Wickberg, whose vision and leadership helped create the CCHSBC. She has also self-published numerous poetry titles under her imprint, Rabbit Fool Press, which also produces handmade limited-edition chapbooks for poets and short story writers.
Her memoir of surviving cancer and her mixed heritage upbringing, What Doesn’t Kill Us, finds comparisons between war and cancer, exploring the potential link between her life-threatening cancer and her parents’ exposure to Agent Orange in the late 1960s.
Review of the author’s work by BC Studies:
Finding Memories, Tracing Routes: Chinese Canadian Family Stories