Valerie Mason-John was born in 1962 in Cambridge, and used the stage name 'Queenie', and later became known as Vimalasara. While being raised in foster homes, and living on the streets at age 14, and in borstal aged 15 to 17, she tried to take her life three times. She struggled as "an extreme anorexic bulimic" with an addiction to cocaine until she discovered mindfulness. "It was through those teachings of just learning to come back to the body, come back to feeling in the body that began to interrupt my addictive behaviours, began to interrupt my automatic pilot because I was a chronic relapser," she told a Chatham-Kent Addictions Awareness Conference about thirty years later. "In a way, mindfulness began to clear away the smudge on the window so I could begin to see things more clearly and begin to live a life with hope."

Mason-John studied at Leeds University and later for an MA in Creative Writing at Sussex University. A playwright, author and performance poet, she has also worked as an international correspondent covering Australian aboriginal land rites. Her writing has included articles for various national publications, including The Guardian, and she has done freelance research work for the BBC and Channel 4. A former editor of Feminist Arts News, she directed the Pride Arts Festival in England for four years and was the artistic director of London Mardi Gras. She is also part of a team of trainers designing anger management programmes for schools. She was an actress with the Talawa Theatre Company and in 2001 was Artist in Residence for PUSH 2001 at the Young Vic, the National Theatre and the Jerwood space in London.

In 1998, she wrote and produced her first play, Sin Dykes. Since then her theatre writing credits have included Brown Girl in the Ring, a one-woman show which toured nationally, The Adventures of Snow Black and Rose Red, a family pantomime, and most recently, You Get Me, which premiered in 2006. She edited Talking Black: African and Asian Lesbians Speak Out published in 1994 and wrote Lesbians Talk: Making Black Waves with Ann Khambatta, published in 1993. Her collection of poems and plays entitled Brown Girl in the Ring was published in 1999. This was followed by her first novel, Borrowed Body (2005, republished in 2007 as The Banana Kid and in 2014 was republished as Borrowed Body in Canada), told in the voice of Pauline, a young black girl of Nigerian descent, growing up in white foster homes and orphanages, then reclaimed by her mother. It won the 2006 MIND Book of the Year Award.

Detox Your Heart (2006) is her non-fiction book dealing with anger, hatred and fear, re-published in 2017. It was followed by Eight Steps Recovery - Using the Buddha’s Teachings to overcome Addiction (2014).

In 1997, Valerie Mason-John was named Britain's Black Gay Icon and in 2000 she won a Windrush Achievement Award for her contribution to the Black British community. She received an Honorary Doctorate in 2007 from the University of East London. Since coming to Canada, she has co-produced in 2015, a talking book of poetic prose to tell the stories of Black people in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and co-edited the first national anthology of African Canadian Poetry, The Great Black North. In February of 2020, Valerie Mason-John of Vancouver released her poetry collection, I Am Still Your Negro: An Homage to James Baldwin (University of Alberta Press $19.99), described as an emotional critique of colonization's bitter legacy.



The Best International Book Award


The Best USA Book Award


The Robert Kroetsch Poetry Award


Alberta's Best Educational Book


Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered Arts Award


Honorary Doctorate awarded by University of East London


Grant For the Arts - Arts Council England


MIND Book of the Year Award


Young Mind Book Award (runner up)


Arts Council Writers' Award


Black, Asian and Chinese Shoreline/Culture Word First Chapter for a Novel Competition


Windrush Achievement Award




I Am Still Your Negro: An Homage to James Baldwin (University of Alberta Press $19.99) 978-1-77212-510-8


Lotus Petals in the Snow


Eight Step Recovery - Using The Buddha's Teachings to Overcome Addiction


The Great Black North - Contemporary African Canadian Poetry

[Valerie Mason-John was among 90 contributors to the first national anthology of poetry by African Canadians, Great Black North: Contemporary African Canadian Poetry ( $21.95), edited by Valerie Mason-John and Kevan Anthony Cameron, and launched during Black History Month in February of 2012. 978-1-897181-83-6]


Broken Voices: 'Untouchable' Women Speak Out


Black British Aesthetic


Bleeding My Soul: New Writing for Women Doing Time


Detox Your Heart


Tell Tales


Borrowed Body


Mother Tongue


Brown Girl in the Ring: Plays, Prose and Poems


Assaults on Convention


Talking Black: Lesbians of African and Asian Descent Speak Out


Words from Word Up Cafe


Lesbians Talking: Making Black Waves


Black Art and Culture on the Mainland of Europe: France, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Spain


Frauen Zimmerim Haus Europa


Half the Earth: Women's Experience of Travel World Wide

[BCBW 2019]