I first encountered Gillian Sze‘s work when she sent a poem that ended up in 111O/6, the broadsides issue. Since then, I’ve followed her occasional posts on Twitter and looked out for her writing elsewhere. This year, Gasperau Press put out Peeling Rambutan, “a poetic travelogue” that “meditates upon the rifts between immigrant parents and their Canadian-born children” and “the complexity of our heritage through the lens of the present”.
I asked Gillian to tell me about the process of writing this book, and she replied with the following.
“I started this project in 2008, though, at the time, I didn’t know it would become a book. I went to Asia with my parents that year and when I returned, it was all I could write about. I finished the first draft in 2011 – complete garbage – and spent the next two years editing, burning, ripping, tossing, revising, reshaping.
“The book documents my first experience of China, seen through my eyes, but also through my parents’. I saw many things: their villages, ancestral temples, commercial streets where my great-grandmother shopped. There’s a great line by Don McKay that comes to mind: Home, the first cliché. Thinking back, I suppose my first draft was terrible because I was trying too hard to answer something. The book as it is now doesn’t. And I like it better this way. What do we do with all this history anyway?
“Andrew Steeves at Gaspereau Press has been wonderful. I like the way they do things over there. Andrew still contacts his writers via snail mail. It was a windy day the day I received my acceptance letter. It blew right out of my mailbox, then down my steps, and a half a block away. I almost didn’t chase after it because I recognized my own writing on the S.A.S.E. and that’s never a good sign. Well, I’m glad I did. Now the book is out – here’s hoping it flies away from me much the same way.”
Thanks, Gillian! And congratulations!
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