Author Profile: Vivek Shraya

In 2018, we profiled some of the authors who participated in the 39th edition of the Festival. After this profile was published, Vivek Shraya published her first comic with artist Ness Lee, Death Threat, and became a M·A·C Cosmetics ambassador as part of the Canadian Original campaign. Her imprint, V.S. Books, also announced the release of their second book, Burning Sugar, by Cicely-Belle Blain. She’ll be published her novel, The Subtweet, in the Spring of 2020.

Is there anything Vivek Shraya can’t do? For over 10 years now, the multi-disciplinary artist has bounced from medium to medium without ever missing a step, always subverting expectations and defying categorization. Short films, photo exhibits, solo and collaborative albums, poetry and short story collections you name it, she’s done it.

And yet, it all started with music. Shraya began experimenting with songwriting at an early age and would go on to release her first full-length musical project, Samsara: The Sketches, at 21 years old. In 2015, 12 years and nine projects removed from her debut, Vivek Shraya and her brother, Shamik Bilgi, announced the formation of Too Attached, their collaborative electro-pop outfit. As Too Attached, Shraya and Bilgi joined Tegan and Sara during the Canadian leg of their 2016 tour, and Shraya currently serves on the board of directors for the Tegan and Sara Foundation.

In addition to her musical accomplishments (including an appearance on the longlist for the 2018 Polaris Prize), Shraya’s body of writing is notable in that each of her five books represent a different strand of writing: God Loves Hair (a short story anthology), She of the Mountains (a novel), even this page is white (a poetry collection), The Boy and the Bindi (a children’s book) and I’m Afraid of Men (an autobiographical essay). For her next project, she will again look to experiment with a new medium: a comic book inspired by the hate mail and death threats she’s received throughout her career.

Shraya has also taken it upon herself to contribute to Canada’s publishing industry beyond her capacity as a writer. Having lamented in the past that she never read any works by a writer of colour until she was 20 years old, Shraya partnered with Arsenal Pulp Press in 2017 to launch VS. Books, a publishing imprint dedicated to mentoring and supporting young artists of colour.

In fact, Téa Mutonji, one of our 2018 Festival Delegates, is the first writer to have joined the VS. Books roster. Téa’s debut collection of short stories is due for publication next year and Shraya herself has remarked that the endeavour, seeing as her own first book was also an anthology of short fiction, signifies her career coming full circle.

Enjoyed this profile? You can now listen to second season of the TIFA Backlist which features our 2018 event with Vivek Shraya, Sarah Henstra (The Red Word) and Rachel Giese (Boy: What It Means to Become a Man)! All three authors read from their newly released works before being interviewed on stage by Rinaldo Walcott, Director of Women’s and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto.