LEE, Jen Sookfong

Author Tags: Chinese, Fiction, Kidlit & Young Adult

Having attended UBC's Booming Ground Summer Writing Program, food writer and poet Jen Sookfong Lee, as a member of the writing group SPiN, has published her debut novel, The End of East (Knopf $29.95), another family saga about three generations of Chinese Canadians within Vancouver's Chinatown. In this New Face of Fiction title, Sammy Chan returns to Vancouver to care for her aging mother due to her sister's upcoming marriage. While managing a dangerous love affair and coping with her difficult mother, she begins to record family stories dating back to the Canadian arrival of her grandfather, Seid Quan, at age 18 in 1913. History repeats itself as personal ambitions are sacrificed in favour of family goals.

Born in Vancouver on August 12, 1976, Jennifer Lee was raised on Vancouver's East side where she lives with her husband. She says she always knew she would be a writer despite her father’s observation that she should become a lawyer because “she likes to talk back” and her mother’s lingering disappointment that none of her bookish daughters entered the Miss Chinese Vancouver beauty pageant. She has edited two on-line magazines, Schema and Wet Ink. Jen Sookfong Lee has also been the voice behind "Westcoast Words," a weekly writing column featured on CBC Radio One’s On the Coast and All Points West. She is also a frequent co-host of the Studio One Book Club.

Part of a two-story novel for young adults, Shelter (Annick, 2011) is Sookfong Lee's story about a girl named Abby who has a father who works two jobs and a mother who frequents nightclubs. Abby falls in love with an older man, and finds solace at an animal shelter.

In The Conjoined (ECW Press 2016) Jessica Campbell sorts through her dead mother’s belongings and makes a shocking discovery – two dead girls curled into the bottom of her mother’s chest freezers. These girls were Casey and Jamie Cheng, two troubled teenaged sisters from Vancouver’s Chinatown who lived with the family as foster children in 1988. Everyone had simply assumed they had run away but as Jessica learns more about the girls she unearths dark truths that force her to confront her own life and who her mother really was. The Conjoined was shortlisted for a 2017 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize.


Living with Prenatal Drug Exposure, Groundwork Press, 2003
The End of East, Knopf Canada, 2007 978-0-676-97838-4
Shelter (Annick Press, 2011) 978-55451-286-7 $9.95 paperback
The Better Mother (Knopf $29.95) by Jen Sookfong Lee
The Conjoined (ECW Press 2016) $18.95, ISBN 978-1-77041-284-2
Gentlemen of the Shae: My Own Private Idaho (ECW Press 2017) $12.95 978-1-77041-313-9
Chinese New Year: A Celebration for Everyone (Orca 2017) Ages 9 - 12 $24.95 978-1-4598-1126-3

[BCBW 2017] "Fiction" "Chinese"

The Better Mother (Knopf $29.95)

The Better Mother (Knopf $29.95) by Jen Sookfong Lee is about an odd friendship between Miss Val, a longtime burlesque dancer, and Danny Lim, a Vancouver wedding photographer in the early 1980s, when HIV/AIDS was spreading rapidly. The pair met in 1958 when eight-year-old Danny Lim was sent to buy cigarettes for his father, but lost the money. Frantic, he rushed through Chinatown and saw Miss Val behind a nightclub. The burlesque dancer gave him a pack of cigarettes and her silk belt. Before Miss Val became the Siamese Kitten in showbiz, she grew up in an old house on the Fraser River. 978-0-307-39950-2

[BCBW 2011]