Untold stories of queer communities brought to life in new book by KPU instructor

Mon, May 13, 2024

A good story has many elements. What’s key, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) instructor Jen Currin tells students, is keeping it fresh.

“Even if you’re working with tired material, it’s making that material new,” says Currin. “It’s easy to think there’s nothing new under the sun, and why does my piddly little voice matter, but we’re always hungry for new stories. There’s always a new way to approach the material.”

Currin models this in Disembark, their new book of a dozen short stories. An instructor of creative writing and English upgrading at KPU, Currin felt called to chronicle the untold stories of queer communities, particularly ones of friendship and love.

“A big impetus to write the stories in this book is that a lot of the experiences I’ve lived through and witnessed, having been a part of queer communities in various cities I’ve lived in, are stories that have not been told. And so many characters — queer characters — have not been brought to the page.”

Disembark showcases modes of realism and speculative storytelling, giving readers insight into the ways we relate in this world and worlds beyond. In one story, a spirit shacks up with a lesbian couple in a rocky relationship. In another, a queer woman finds herself heartbroken when her best friend fails her at a crucial moment. In a third, a young alcoholic hashes things out with their mother in the afterlife.

“I’m interested in realism because there’s so many stories that I’m interested in telling that are grounded in the reality that we share. But I’m also really interested in magic realism, surrealism and other kinds of speculative fiction,” says Currin. 

This is Currin’s second book of short stories. Hider/Seeker: Stories won a Canadian Independent Book Award, was a finalist for a ReLit Award and was named a 2018 Globe and Mail Best Book. They have also published five collections of poetry, most recently Trinity Street in 2023.

“Poetry is my first love, but short fiction is a close runner up. The two genres have a lot of common: both being short form, being able to work with deep imagery and musicality. These are my two favourite forms, and hopefully I won’t be called to write a novel in this lifetime,” says Currin.

Disembark, available May 14, is published by House of Anansi Press.