Gyal Dem Fiyah: Vivek Shraya
Vivek Shraya isn’t technically a Toronto resident anymore (she’s currently based in Calgary, Alberta, working as an assistant professor in the creative writing program at the University of Calgary), but her multidisciplinary work has been well known in the city for years. She is a musician, writer, and visual artist – using each medium to explore and share her perspectives on being a trans woman of colour in this Canadian landscape.
Vivek’s ability to infuse her experience into song, story, and poem alike is truly what draws you into her pieces. Everything is vividly descriptive: her narratives create the environment, the textures, the emotions. This is important, because a lot of what Vivek talks about pertains to her struggles connecting to the narratives of mainstream society, wherein her Brown-ness, her woman-ness, are commonly misunderstood. Yet how could that be, given that the picture she paints of her experience is so clear? It makes one wonder how blind people must be to not see it ... how willfully ignorant.
On my to-read list is Vivek’s latest book, I’m Afraid of Men, in which she uses her own history with imposed pressures of masculinity – familial, societal, et cetera – to call out some different ways of looking at gender in the here and now, as well as for the future. The book is getting rave reviews, and I’m excited to learn more about her perspective.
Vivek has also recently launched a new musical practice, her first in many years, under the title Part-Time Woman, in which she’s collaborated with the Queer Songbook Orchestra to once again bring light and imagery to her experience through music and song. So basically, Vivek is out there doing the damn thing. She’s unearthing herself and giving us the gift of coming along for that ride. Find her at vivekshraya.com or on Twitter.