LiterASIAN Toronto

On November 1, 2018, the University of Toronto and Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop is hosting a new literary event in Toronto as an extension of the existing LiterASIAN festival in Vancouver which celebrates the best in Asian Canadian arts. For LiterASIAN in Toronto in 2018, the theme is Asian Literary Activism in which we will examine the history, cultural influence and the outcomes of Asian Canadian writers involved in changing society as a whole with their work.

The event features two panels with three writers on each panel discussing the past, present, and future of literary activism along with two catered receptions.  Honoured guests for our first annual event in 2018 include Joy Kogawa, Cheuk Kwan, Lynne Kutsukake, Kai Cheng Thom and Shani Mootoo. We look forward to their lively discussions and sharing of ideas.

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3:00 pm – 4:30 pm The History of Asian Canadian Literary Activism Panel – This panel discusses past efforts in Asian Canadian Literary activism which has made an impact on society and how it has shaped the modern day literary scene.

Panelists: Joy Kogawa, Cheuk Kwan, Lynne Kutsukake (Moderator: Dr. Smaro Kamboureli)

4:30pm – 5:00pm  Readings and Reception

5:00pm – 6:00pm Asian Canadian Literary Activism in Modern Times and the Influence of the LGBTQ Community – The panel will discuss what activities are happening now within the Asian Canadian and LGBTQ community and hopes of changes to come.

Panelists: Kai Cheng Thom, Shani Mootoo (Moderator: Dr. Tania Aguila-Way)

6:00pm – 6:30pm Readings and Reception

Featured Authors:

Shani Mootoo

Shani Mootoo
(Photo credit:  Ramesh Pooran)

Shani Mootoo was born in Ireland, grew up in Trinidad and has lived in Canada most of her life. She holds an MA in English from the University of Guelph, writes fiction and poetry, and is a visual artist who exhibits locally and internationally. Mootoo’s novels include Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab, long-listed for the Scotia Bank Giller Prize, shortlisted for the Lambda Award; Valmiki’s Daughter, long-listed for the Scotia Bank Giller Prize; He Drown She in the Sea, long-listed for the Dublin IMPAC Award, and Cereus Blooms at Night, shortlisted for the Giller Prize, and long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. She is a recipient of the K.M. Hunter Arts Award, a 2017 Chalmers Fellowship Award, and most recently the James Duggins Outstanding Midcareer Novelist Award. Her visual art has been exhibited locally and internationally, most notably at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC, and at the Venice Biennale at the Transculture Pavilion. She lives in Southern Ontario.

Joy Kogawa

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Joy Kogawa was born in1935 in Vancouver B.C., and published her first novel, Obasan in 1981. Her activism includes work for Japanese Canadian redress from 1983 to 1988 and the establishment of Nikkei Voice as a national newspaper for Japanese Canadians. After publishing The Rain Ascends, she worked for the community currency movement and the Toronto Dollar for about ten years. She has been involved in a sponsorship of five for a refugee family, and initiated a community building series called We Should Know Each Other among other projects.

Lynne Kutsukake

Lynne Kutsukake

Lynne Kutsukake is a Japanese Canadian sansei writer. Her debut novel, The Translation of Love (2016), is set in Tokyo during the American Occupation and explores the aftermath of war and internment through the friendship between a Japanese schoolgirl and a Japanese-Canadian girl who was deported after the war. It won the Canada-Japan Literary Award (2016) and the Kobo Emerging Writers Prize for Literary Fiction (2017). It was published simultaneously in Canada, U.S, and U.K., and was recently translated into Italian.

Lynne has a Masters degree in East Asian Studies from the University of Toronto and studied Japanese literature in Tokyo on a Monbusho scholarship. She worked for many years as a librarian at the University of Toronto Library, specializing in Japanese books and materials. Her short stories have appeared in Ricepaper, The Dalhousie Review, Grain, The Windsor Review, and Prairie Fire. She has also translated a collection of short stories by the contemporary Japanese writer Mizuko Masuda, Single Sickness and Other Stories.

Cheuk Kwan

Cheuk Kwan color

Cheuk Kwan was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Singapore and Japan. After studying engineering in the U.S., he immigrated to Canada in 1976 where he embarked upon a successful IT career. In 1978, Kwan co-founded The Asianadian, a progressive and influential magazine dedicated to the promotion of Asian Canadian arts, culture, and politics. The following year, Kwan helped lead the Anti-W5 Campaign to fight against the racist portrayal of Chinese Canadians in the media. Kwan’s diasporic life inspired him to produce and direct the Chinese Restaurants documentary series. He is the Executive Director at Harmony Movement.

Kai Cheng Thom

Kai Cheng Thom

Kai Cheng Thom is a writer, performer, lasagna lover, and wicked witch.  She lives and dreams from the unceded Indigenous territories that make up colonial-era Canada.  A prolific poet, fiction writer, and essayist, her published book-length works include the award-winning Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir (Metonymy Press), a place called No Homeland (Arsenal Pulp Press), and From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea (Arsenal Pulp Press).

She has featured as a performer at such venues including Verses International Poetry Festival, the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, Word on the Street Toronto, the Blue Metropolis Festival, and numerous other literary festivals.  She has also completed the Spoken Word Residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts and the ARISE Residency at Eventual Ashes Theatre and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.  A social worker by trade, Kai Cheng is a deeply experienced arts facilitator and workshop provider.  She combines her knowledge of mental health, arts-based community organizing, and writing in order to provide arts education that nourishes the creative soul as well as technical skill.

Planning Committee:

ACWW Staff


JF Garrard (LiterASIAN Toronto Festival Coordinator) is the founder of Dark Helix Press, Co-President of the Canadian Authors Association Toronto Branch, Senior Editor for Ricepaper Magazine and an Assistant Editor for Amazing Stories Magazine. She is an editor and writer of speculative fiction (Dark Helix Ezine, Trump Utopia or Dystopia Anthology, The Undead Sorceress) and non-fiction (The Literary Elephant). Her short fiction has made appearances here and there: “The Metamorphosis of Nova” (Iguana Books’ Blood is Thicker), “The Perfect Husband” (Renaissance Press’ We Shall Be Monsters), “My Girl” (Sirens Call Publications’ Issue 37, Women In Horror Month Issue) and “The Intruder” (Strange Constellations, forthcoming 2019).

Her education background includes a Nuclear Medicine degree from the University of Toronto, MBA from the Schulich School of Business, York University and she is working on a Creative Writing certificate at Ryerson University. Her contributions regarding diversity, business, and healthcare topics have been published in Entrepreneur, Huffington Post,, Women’s Health, Cosmopolitan, MochiMag, My Corporation, Indie Pubchat, Authors Helping Authors, among others. Find her on Twitter (@jfgarrard), Instagram (@jfgarrard) and Facebook.

University of Toronto Staff

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Tania Aguila-Way is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Toronto. Her current book project, Asian Canadian Literary Ecologies, explores the intersection between scientific knowledge-seeking and environmental anxiety in contemporary Asian Canadian literature.


Smaro Kamboureli is a Professor and the inaugural Avie Bennett Chair in Canadian Literature.  A specialist in contemporary Canadian literature and criticism, she was a Canada Research Chair (CRC) Tier 1 in Critical Studies in Canadian Literature in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph (2004-2013).

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Hana Kim is the director of the Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library at the University of Toronto and a former head of the Asian Library at the University of British Columbia. Before this, she was the Korean Studies Librarian at the Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library for 11 years.  She is the author of multiple book chapters and journal articles in library and information science. 


Lisa Mar is an historian of Chinese in Canada and immigration in North America, the Richard Charles Lee Chair in Chinese Canadian Studies, and she directs Asian Canadian Studies at the University of Toronto.

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Caitlin Morishita-Miki is a recent graduate from the University of Toronto with a degree in History, French and Asian Canadian Studies. She currently works as the Outreach Coordinator for the Asian Canadian Studies program at University College as well as a research assistant on the Japanese Canadian Arts & Activism Project. She hopes to promote Asian Canadian representation in both academia and literature.


Address: University of Toronto, Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library, 8th Floor, Robarts Library, 130 St. George Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 1A5