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Vivek Shraya reimagines masculinity

August 17th, 2018

Image of Vivek Shraya's book cover and Jully Black

Canadian artist, songwriter and author Vivek Shraya has reasons to be afraid, but also to celebrate. Her new book, I’m Afraid of Men, comes out this September.  

The book explores Shraya’s emotional experiences navigating the roles and attributes of masculinity put on her as a boy, how those experiences affect her now as a trans woman – and how we can embrace our differences. In addition to novels, Shraya is the author of a poetry collection, even this page is white, and the children’s book, The Boy & the Bindi.

We’re excited to host the launch of Shraya’s new book on September 5 at 7 pm in Baillie Court, when Canada’s Queen of R&B Soul Jully Black will join Shraya for a lively conversation. In anticipation, we chatted with Shraya to learn more about her new book, her love of writing and which art at the AGO inspires her.

AGO: As a multidisciplinary artist who works in many mediums, what drew you to writing?
Shraya: Music is my primary art discipline. But writing gave me a freedom I hadn’t yet known in songwriting. I felt safe to write about themes like sexuality, gender, race and religion in a way that I didn’t in pop music.

AGO: In your new book, I’m Afraid of Men, you write about your experiences with masculinity and identity starting from childhood. How has the experience changed in adulthood?
Shraya: The biggest change in my relationship with masculinity in adulthood is that I am transgender, so now I’m encountering masculinity as a woman. This has involved re-examining harmful behaviours and attitudes that I once engaged in and held when I was a man. It’s been an interesting and eye-opening experience.

AGO: How did the process of writing I’m Afraid of Men differ from your previous books?
Shraya: Despite all my books borrowing from my own life experiences, they’ve been mostly framed under the banner of fiction. This was my first non-fiction book and it was freeing to name these ideas and experiences directly instead of framing them in fictional contexts.

AGO: What would you like people attending your book launch to learn?
Shraya: Although I’m an educator and believe in the power of art (and this book) as a place for learning, I’m hoping the launch is an opportunity to celebrate this book, and my resilience in living to write it.

AGO: Do you have a favourite piece of art at the AGO?
Shraya: My favourite works at the AGO are by Canadian Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook, and Canadian Cree artist Kent Monkman.

(Select works by Annie Pootoogook are available for viewing on Wednesdays from 1-4:30 in the Prints and Drawings Study Centre, and works by Kent Monkman are currently on view in the newly reopened J.S. McLean Centre for Indigenous & Canadian Art.)

Don’t miss the conversation with Vivek Shraya and Jully Black on September 5 at 7 pm. Book your free tickets now.

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