Jen Sookfong Lee writes, edits, and sometimes sings badly on a podcast.
In 2007, Knopf Canada published Jen’s first novel,The End of East, as part of its New Face of Fiction program. Hailed as “an emotional powerhouse of a novel,” The End of East shines a light on the Chinese Canadian story, the repercussions of immigration and the city of Vancouver.
Called “straight-ahead page-turning brilliance” by The National Post and shortlisted for the City of Vancouver Book Award, The Better Mother, Jen’s sophomore novel, was published by Knopf in May 2011. Set in Vancouver during the mid-20th century and early 1980s, The Better Mother is about the accidental friendship between Miss Val, a longtime burlesque dancer, and Danny Lim, a wedding photographer trying to reconcile his past with his present.
Jen’s third novel for adults, The Conjoined, was published by ECW Press in September 2016 and was nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award and was a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. A literary crime novel, it follows a social worker, Jessica Campbell, as she unravels the mysterious deaths of two foster sisters who lived with her family in the 1980s. Hailed as “complex, refreshing, and relevant,” by The Globe & Mail, The Conjoined is the final title in Jen’s Chinatown trilogy.
Gentlemen of the Shade, Jen’s first creative non-fiction title, was published in 2017 by ECW Press, and is a pop culture love letter addressed to her favourite film, My Own Private Idaho by Gus Van Sant. Her forthcoming memoir in essays, Superfan, explores Jen’s ongoing relationship with pop culture, and touches on grief and loss, intergenerational conflict, and, of course, the Kardashians. Superfan is forthcoming in Spring 2022 with McClelland & Stewart.
In 2011, Jen published Shelter, her first children’s title. Shelter, a novella for young adults, was published in February 2011 as part of Annick Press’ Single Voice series. It follows a young girl as she struggles to balance her first and dangerous love affair with a difficult and demanding family.
In 2017, Orca Books published Chinese New Year: A Celebration for Everyone, a middle grade non-fiction book that uses Jen’s own childhood memories to explore the history of China’s most famous holiday. The following year, Jen published a companion baby book, The Animals of Chinese New Year, which tells the ancient story of how the Chinese zodiac began.
In March 2021, Finding Home: The Journey of Immigrants and Refugees was released. A middle grade non-fiction book, Finding Home explains the history of and current day reality for immigrants and refugees worldwide and is the inaugural title in Orca’s Think series, which takes on complex topics for children.
The Shadow List, Jen’s first poetry collection, was published by Buckrider Books in April 2021. Called “compulsively readable” by The Georgia Straight and “vividly, gorgeously alive” by The Vancouver Sun, The Shadow List is filled with desire, where we question the politics of who gets to choose and who doesn’t.
A familiar voice on radio and podcasts, Jen was a columnist for CBC Radio One’s On the Coast, All Points West, and The Next Chapter for many years and was also a frequent co-host of the Studio One Book Club. She also taught fiction at The Writers’ Studio Online at Simon Fraser University for six years. Currently, she co-hosts the literary podcast, Can’t Lit, with Dina Del Bucchia and acquires and edits for ECW Press. Jen is represented by Samantha Haywood at the Transatlantic Agency.
Born and raised in East Vancouver, Jen now lives in North Burnaby with her son and very emotional rescue dog.
Photo by Kyrani Kanavaros.