Lee, SKY

SKY Lee, illustrator, novelist, short-story writer (b at Port Alberni, BC 1952). SKY Lee grew up in Port Alberni, BC. She moved to Vancouver in 1967, where she received a BA in fine arts from the University of British Columbia. She also received a diploma in nursing from Douglas College. Lee later settled in Salt Spring Island, BC. Along with Paul Yee, Jim Wong-Chu, Sean Gunn and Rick Shiomi, Lee founded the Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop in the late 1960s. The ACWW evolved from a small collective to a non-profit organization that lists among its members Joy KOGAWA, Roy MIKI and Wayson CHOY.

SKY Lee was first published as an illustrator of Paul Yee's Teach Me to Fly, Skyfighter! (1983), a collection of 4 stories for children. A part of the Canadian Adventure Series, the book focuses on a group of Chinese-Canadian children attending a multi-ethnic school in Vancouver.

SKY Lee received great critical and commercial success with the publication of her novel, Disappearing Moon Café (1990). Nominated for a GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD, the novel details the lives of 4 generations of women in the Wong family between China and Canada and moves freely between the past and the present. As the proprietors of the titular restaurant, these women pass along survival techniques as well as scandalous secrets to the generations that follow them. Disappearing Moon Café is memorable for its use of language, as it translates into English some of the foulest Chinese profanities. More importantly, Lee's novel focuses on these characters establishing an identity in the face of racism and isolation. The novel won the City of Vancouver Book Award.

Also in 1990, SKY Lee contributed to Telling It: Women and Language Across Canada. Along with Betsy Warland, Daphne MARLATT, Lee Maracle and others, SKY Lee discusses the issues of racism and homophobia that confront lesbian, native and Asian-Canadian women.

SKY Lee's second solo publication was a collection of short stories, Bellydancer (1994). The focus and message of this text contributed to Lee's critical designation as a "feminist writer." The protagonists in this collection include homeless women, exotic dancers and unwanted daughters. For Lee, the bellydancer is a symbol of survival, a woman creating a space and a community through action. Most of these stories concern outsiders, both men and women, who find a sense of self by aligning themselves with other outcasts to create a community. As she did in Disappearing Moon Café, SKY Lee delights in the scandalous while presenting to the reader alternative though no less legitimate notions of identity and community.