How can you not pay attention to a novelist who plays guitar in a punk band called 12 Gauge Facial and an all-woman rockabilly band called Jukebox Jezebel?

Yasuko Thanh's first story collection Floating Like the Dead (M&S / Emblem RH $22) was shortlisted for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize awarded to the best work of fiction by a B.C. author as well as the Danuta Gleed Award for the best first English-language collection of short fiction by a Canadian author published in 2012. It became a Quill and Quire Best Books of the Year selection and was longlisted for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. The title story won the Journey Prize for best short story published in Canada in 2009. It concerns Chinese lepers who dream of escape from their forced exile on D'Arcy Island, near Victoria, in the late 1800s. Another story received the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Short Story.

In October for 2017, Yasuko Thanh won the 14th annual City of Victoria Butler Book Prize for Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains (Hamish Hamilton) presented by Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and sponsor Brian Butler. In Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains, Thanh transports readers into a Vietnam filled with chaotic streets, teeming marketplaces, squalid opium dens and angry ghosts. Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains previously won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and was nominated for the First Novel Award. Previous to winning the Journey Prize for her short story "Floating Like the Dead"; in 2009, Thanh earned her living as a busker, an opium dealer, a cleaner of goat pens, a bed & breakfast operator, a housekeeper, and a panhandler. Yasuko Thanh has also completed her Bachelor of Arts as well as a Master's of Fine Arts at the University of Victoria. And she screams in the punk band 12 Gauge Facial. The awards gala was held at the Union Club of British Columbia and was emceed by journalist Jo-Ann Roberts.

The protagonist for her debut novel Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains (Hamish Hamilton 2016) is a Vietnamese national and Paris-educated physician, Dr. Nguyen Georges-Minh, who, in 1908, loathes his own good fortune at having French connections that have made him rich while imperial forces of France enslave the indigenous people of French Indo-China. When his plan to poison the Christmas dinner of a garrison of French soldiers goes awry, he is forced to take refuge in remote jungles where his wife's growing madness increasingly leads him to care for their infant son. While eluding capture by hill tribes, he is terrified of being discovered by French sympathizers. Thanh's Apocalypse Then is reputedly inspired by the history of her father's family in French Indochina and the 'Hanoi Poisoning Plot of 1908'. The title refers to a group of covert sympathizers who seek to undermine French rule.

Thanh has also been a finalist for the Future Generations Millennium Prize, the Hudson Prize and the David Adams Richards Prize which recognizes unpublished manuscripts.

Born on June 30, 1971 in Victoria to a German mother and a Vietnamese father, Thanh dropped out of school and lived on the streets at age fifteen. She has earned her living as a busker, an opium dealer, a cleaner of goat pens, a Bed & Breakfast operator, a housekeeper and a panhandler. Having also lived in Mexico, Germany and Honduras, Thanh received her MFA from UVic. She now lives with her husband Hank Angel and two daughters in Victoria.


Floating Like the Dead (M&S / Emblem 2012) by Yasuko Thanh 978-0-7710-8429-4 $22

Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains (Hamish Hamilton 2016) 978-0-670-06878-4 $24.95

[BCBW 2016]