Victoria author bares more than her soul

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February 27, 2013

By Will Johnson

Yasuko Thanh is not afraid to take off her clothes.

The Journey Prize-winning Victoria author, who published her debut collection of short stories Floating Like the Dead last year, is slated to appear as Miss July in a calendar of nude Canadian authors due in 2014. The project, titled “Bare it For Books,” will raise funds for PEN Canada.

But Thanh may be the only author in the calendar who already has experience working as a nude model.

“I’m trying not to tie those two worlds together as a deliberate decision,” she said. “In my wild-child days, or whatever you want to call it, I did modeling and it was certainly of a different texture. That was working as a part of the sex industry. And that’s not necessarily something I want to relive.”

“I think I have a nudist streak in me,” she said. “Anaïs Nin has this wonderful line, in one of her stories or journals, I’m not sure. ‘As sexless as a child who thinks nothing of his nakedness’. I think of it kind of like that. It doesn’t need to be provocative in that sexual way.”

“When we do the photo shoot that’s coming up on March 3, we have some interesting ideas that are going to stay away from that. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be tongue-in-cheek,” she said.

The project, which is the brainchild of author Amanda Leduc and classical music producer Allegra Young, will feature 12 nude authors and will raise financial support for PEN Canada.

When Thanh was contacted by Young and Leduc, she eagerly accepted the invitation to participate. Victoria photographer Anastasia Andrews volunteered to take the photos.

“I said any way I can help, I’m there. I think most people have heard of PEN, and I certainly support the work they do.”

Thanh enthusiastically agreed with author Vincent Lam, who will appear alongside her in the calendar and was quoted in a recent story in The National Post as saying that it’s much more personal to publish a book than to expose your body to the world.

“Putting a book, putting your soul out there, that’s way more personal,” she said.

But she also emphasized it’s important to keep her experiences in perspective.

“Yes, it’s a little soul-baring to have a book, to put it out there and to have people saying things about it. Oh, poor me. But there are places where you’re not just putting your soul out there, you’re actually putting your life on the line or you could be looking at a prison sentence,” she said.

This is why Thanh felt so strongly about supporting PEN Canada.

“The fact that there’s an organization out there, fighting for people’s freedom of speech, well that’s great. And I want to support that any way I can.”

When asked why she thought of Thanh for the calendar, which also features a diverse selection of authors such as Miranda Hill, Angie Abdou and Daniel MacIvor, Leduc’s answer was simple: “because she’s hot stuff.”

“The point of BIFB, in addition to raising funds for PEN, is to introduce Canadians to writers they might not have encountered,” said Leduc. “Yasuko is a great writer, a young writer, and maybe not as well known as some of the others in the calendar.”

When asked how she feels about appearing alongside Yann Martel, bestselling author of Life of Pi, Thanh beamed happily.

“It feels friggin’ awesome,” she said.


Writer Will Johnson is back in Victoria after stints in Vancouver and Nova Scotia. 


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