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The Dirty Dozen, with Jen Sookfong Lee

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Jen Sookfong Lee

Author and broadcaster Jen Sookfong Lee's newest novel The Conjoined (ECW Press) is being praised as both gorgeously written and compulsively readable. It opens with an unforgettable premise when Jessica Campbell makes a grisly discovery while cleaning out her late mother's house: the bodies of two young girls, stuffed into a chest freezer. She unravels the mystery of what happened and who her mother really was through a riveting novel that will keep you guessing to the end. 

We're excited to have her on Open Book today as part of our Dirty Dozen series, where authors share twelve unexpected facts about themselves. 

She tells us about the worst review imaginable, recommends a cocktail you might want to add into your holiday rotation, and shares her essential annual re-read.  

  1. My dream is to start a pie business.
  2. My first novel, The End of East, started as a poem. A very long poem.
  3. I learned everything I know about sex from I’ll Take Manhattan by Judith Krantz, which I first read (inappropriately) at age 11.
  4. My first writing job was a cooking column for seniors when I was 25. They did not print my photograph.
  5. My high school prom date wrote broken-hearted song lyrics in my yearbook.
  6. When my son was two, he peed on a box full of copies of my second novel, The Better Mother, which is still the worst review I’ve ever heard of.
  7. My favourite cocktail is a Ward Eight.
  8. I have been in love with Gene Kelly from Singin’ In the Rain my entire life.
  9. During one of my first readings, I saw Wayson Choy walk in and I immediately had a panic attack, went temporarily blind, and couldn’t see my own book anymore.
  10. I hate board games. Also hot tubs. And Canada geese. And, since I’m on a roll, sandals.
  11. The very first album I bought (which was actually a cassette) was Now and Again by the Grapes of Wrath. You read that right.
  12. I re-read Possession by A.S. Byatt every year.

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Jen Sookfong Lee was born and raised on Vancouver’s East Side, where she now lives with her son. Her books include The Better Mother, a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award, The End of East, and Shelter. A popular radio personality, Jen was the voice behind CBC Radio One’s weekly writing column, Westcoast Words, for three years, appears regularly as a contributor on The Next Chapter, and is a frequent co-host of the Studio One Book Club. Jen teaches writing in the continuing studies departments at both Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia.

Buy the Book

The Conjoined

On a sunny May morning, social worker Jessica Campbell sorts through her mother’s belongings after her recent funeral. In the basement, she makes a shocking discovery — two dead girls curled into the bottom of her mother’s chest freezers. She remembers a pair of foster children who lived with the family in 1988: Casey and Jamie Cheng — troubled, beautiful, and wild teenaged sisters from Vancouver’s Chinatown. After six weeks, they disappeared; social workers, police officers, and Jessica herself assumed they had run away.

As Jessica learns more about Casey, Jamie, and their troubled immigrant Chinese parents, she also unearths dark stories about Donna, whom she had always thought of as the perfect mother. The complicated truths she uncovers force her to take stock of own life.

Moving between present and past, this riveting novel unflinchingly examines the myth of social heroism and traces the often-hidden fractures that divide our diverse cities.