In June of 1994, in the same week that Daniel Gawthrop received a Western Magazine Award for his profile of CBC "AIDS Diary" host Dr. Peter Jepson-Young ("Whose Death Was It, Anyway?"), New Star Books published Daniel Gawthrop's biography of Jepson-Young, entitled Affirmation: The AIDS Odyssey of Dr. Peter (New Star, 1994). The title was drawn from a meditative litany that Jepson-Young used to cope with his illness, until his death in 1992. The book examines Dr. Peter's life and achievement in the context of the socio-political times in which he lived. What emerges is a moving portrait of emotional maturation and wisdom: Jepson-Young's personal AIDS crisis transformed him from a self-involved hedonist to a civic-minded activist whose CBC "AIDS Diary" for two years provided public education on HIV/AIDS-related issues and countered homophobic prejudice and discrimination.

Gawthrop followed Affirmation with Highwire Act, one of the few in-depth studies of the record of NDP Premier Mike Harcourt. A critical account of the difficulty of governing in British Columbia, Highwire Act reveals how Harcourt, a consensus-driven pragmatist, was unfairly treated by local media wary of socialism and hounded into resignation by his own fickle New Democratic Party.

Gawthrop's third book, Vanishing Halo, celebrates the earth's coniferous crown while doubling as a plea to restrict harmful logging and mining practices that have threatened the world's boreal forests. Its exploration of traditional aboriginal knowledge and co-management regimes offers practical solutions to an ongoing crisis.

Daniel Gawthrop's fourth book, The Rice Queen Diaries (Arsenal Pulp, 2005), was a debut of sorts because it was his first foray into the realm of literary non-fiction. Gawthrop himself views the work as risky, "less because of its depictions of gay sex than for its authorial voice which, with self-critical irony, explores the political minefields of ethnicity and desire in a pan-Pacific landscape." While the narrative approach marks a departure from his first three books, it continues his journalistic efforts to focus on the political and the problematic.

Gawthrop's political interests as a writer have been mirrored by his social activism and employment. During the 1990s, a period in which he wrote for various B.C. and national periodicals on a range of subjects related to art, culture and politics, he also wrote for and edited in-house publications of the Hospital Employees Union and other labour organizations.

In the gay community, Gawthrop has served as the first publisher and editor of Xtra! West, as media relations manager for the 1990 AIDS walkathon and, in the same year, as organizer of the ice hockey component of the Gay Games in Vancouver. (Four years later, just before playing left wing for Vancouver's hockey team, the Cutting Edges, at the Gay Games in New York City, Gawthrop engaged in a bit of culture jamming by starting a dialogue with a CBC Hockey Night in Canada icon. "Nothing I've ever worn in drag," he wrote in the Vancouver Sun, "could possibly equal the sheer campiness of Don Cherry's wardrobe." The legendary "Coach's Corner" personality responded on air to this sartorial assault by questioning the meaning of "drag" and "camp".)

In 2000, a three-month journey to Southeast Asia turned into a nearly four-year expatriate stint, as Gawthrop took on a job in Bangkok as sub editor at The Nation, an English daily. Back in Canada, he began working in 2004 as a national communications representative at the B.C. regional office of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. In 2009, he completed a Master's degree in Professional Communication (International and Intercultural Communication) at Royal Roads University. Gawthrop presented a paper based on his Master's thesis, Circumventing the junta: How Burmese exiles use independent media to foster civic culture and promote democracy, at the 2009 Asian Media and Information Centre conference in New Delhi. The paper was also included in the program of a similar conference in Seoul, South Korea. The thesis is available through various online academic libraries.

Gawthrop has also published personal essays in two Arsenal Pulp anthologies edited by Richard Labonté and Lawrence Schimel: "Marriage: Why I Took the Plunge," in First Person Queer: Who We Are So Far (2007) and "When Eros Meets Daddy," in I Like it Like That: True Stories of Gay Male Desire (2009).

In The Trial of Pope Benedict: Joseph Ratzinger and the Vatican's Assault on Reason, Compassion, and Human Dignity (Arsenal Pulp, 2013), Gawthrop argues that Ratzinger must not be allowed diplomatic immunity from abuse scandals that have rocked the Vatican. Gawthrop not only accuses Ratzinger of quitting to avoid dealing with an explosive new sex scandal, but also indicts him for promoting a toxic theology whose destructive impact can be felt far beyond the Church itself. [See interview and review below]

In Gawthrop's first novel, Double Karma (Cormorant, 2023), an American photographer, Min Lin, heads to his father’s homeland of Burma in 1988 where pro-democracy activists are trying to overthrow the military regime. Min gets caught up in the movement after falling in love with one of its leaders. When she’s arrested, Min flees to the jungle and, joining the rebels, comes face-to-face on the battlefield with a Burmese army captain who looks exactly like him. After an explosion kills his double, Min awakes in a hospital misidentified as a hero of the regime, causing him to pose as the dead soldier for his own survival. He escapes back to LA a few years later where he builds a new life, accepts his homosexuality and learns to deal with his father’s secret history in Burma. Decades later, a new wave of religious persecution and ethno-nationalism in the country now known as Myanmar compels him to return. Still haunted by the events of ’88, and knowing his ex-girlfriend is to be released from prison, Min must come to terms with his actions while seeking the truth about the double he met on a battlefield a lifetime ago.

[Photo by Murray Bush]


Double Karma (Cormorant, 2023) $24.95 9781770866836

The Trial of Pope Benedict: Joseph Ratzinger and the Vatican's Assault on Reason, Compassion, and Human Dignity (Arsenal Pulp, 2013) $15.95 9781551525273

The Rice Queen Diaries: A Memoir (Arsenal Pulp, 2005)

Vanishing Halo: Saving the Boreal Forest (Greystone/David Suzuki Foundation, 1999)

Highwire Act: Power, Pragmatism and the Harcourt Legacy (New Star, 1996)

Affirmation: The AIDS Odyssey of Dr. Peter (New Star, 1994)

[BCBW 2023]