Amber Dawn won the 2013 City of Vancouver Book Award for her frank portrayal of years spent hustling sex on the streets of that city, How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler's Memoir (Arsenal Pulp Press $15.95).

With poetry and prose, she re-traces her path from "survival street work" to her current work as a writer, filmmaker, activist, artist, and educator.

"In most large cities," she writes "there are an estimated 10,000 people (mainly women) working as prostitution-based sex workers and yet we rarely hear from them."

Dawn's story is one of strength, solidarity, alliances, transformation and the "ghetto feminism" that is forged between sex workers. According to her publisher, "Queer, feminist, and sex-positive, How Poetry Saved My Life is a moving and revolutionary book that will challenge readers to confront assumptions about sex work and sexuality."

The City of Vancouver Book Award was presented on November 22 as part of the Mayor's Arts Award ceremony in Vancouver.

How Poetry Saved My Life is not the first gritty and poetic book to both reveal the underbelly of Vancouver and gain its major literary prize. Downtown Eastside activist Bud Osborn, a major force in the successful fight to establish a free injection site, won the City of Vancouver Book Award in 1999 for Keys to Kingdom.

In 2012, Amber Dawn won the $4,000 Dayne Ogilvie Prize from the Writers' Trust of Canada, an annual award given to a lesbian, bisexual or transgender writer who shows promise in their work.

Dawn has one of the more unusual curriculum vitae among UBC Creative Writing grads. Her 'docu-porn' film 'Girl on Girl' has been screened in eight countries; she has thrice toured with the Sex Workers' Art Show in the U.S. and she was voted Xtra! West's Hero of the Year in 2008.

Dawn's first novel Sub Rosa (Arsenal $22.95) features a teenage runaway heroine named Little whose descent into the sex trade is both surreal and chilling. It received a Lambda Award.

A former writer and poetry editor for Prism international magazine, Dawn previously co-edited With a Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn, an anthology of lesbian short stories, and she edited a collection of "subversive, witty and sexy" horror stories by queer and transgressive women, Fist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer Desire (Arsenal Pulp, 2009). "Instilling both fear and arousal," the tales of horror encompass gothic, noir and speculative fiction genres.

Where the Words End and My Body Begins (Aresenal, 2015) is Dawn's debut book of poetry. According to publicity materials, it is "a suite of glosa poems written as an homage to and an interaction with queer poets, such as the legendary Gertrude Stein, Christina Rossetti, and Adrienne Rich, as well as up-and-comers like Leah Horlick, Rachel Rose, and Trish Salah. (Glosas, a 15th-century Spanish form, typically open with a quatrain from an existing poem by another writer, followed by four stanzas of ten lines each, and usually end with a line repeated from the opening quatrain.) By doing so, Amber Dawn delves deeper into the themes of trauma, memory, and unblushing sexuality that define her work."; The book was nominated for a Dorothy Livesay poetry prize.



Sodom Road Exit (Arsenal, 2018) $21.95 978-1-55152-716-1
Where the Words End and My Body Begins (Arsenal, 2015) $14.95 978-1-55152-583-9
How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler's Manual (Arsenal 2013) 9781551525006 $15.95
Sub Rosa (Arsenal 2010) 978-1-55152-361-3
Fist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer Desire (Arsenal Pulp, 2009) - editor
With a Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn (Arsenal 2005) - editor
Hustling Verse: An Anthology of Sex Workers' Poetry (Arsenal 2019) $19.95 978-1-55152-781-9 - co-editor with Justin Ducharme.

[BCBW 2019] "Sex" "Fiction"