Canadian Writers in Person: Sheung-King talks about language and writing


As part of the Canadian Writers in Person series at York, Sheung-King gave a virtual talk followed by a Q-and-A session about his novel You Are Eating An Orange. You Are Naked, which was a finalist for the 2021 Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and for the 2021 Amazon First Novel Award.

Sheung-King book cover
Sheung-King book cover

Sheung-King talked about the idea of trans-language, where we don’t consider any person monolingual. “Instead, we’re all using all the languages that we know to communicate and comprehend the world around us.”

The two main characters in the book are struggling to communicate with each other, “but what they’re doing is languaging. The two of them are trying to comprehend a reality that the two of them are actually trying to create,” he said. “If language is what we use to comprehend the world, then we can also think of writing as language that’s delayed. When language is delayed and written out, maybe it becomes even more comprehensive.”

Sheung-King said that when he was writing this book, he was thinking about the dangers of East Asian writers writing in English and self-Orientalizing. “But having the multiple perspectives in this book helped me get away from the orientalizing framing of the narrative because the story is not from a Western point of view anymore. Although everything is written in English, the multiple perspectives help the reader contextualize stories that are really easy to orientalize, like the folktales included in this narrative.”

In You Are Eating An Orange. You Are Naked, readers are invited on a journey of discovering and reflecting on how language operates to convey and create meaning, and to help us relate to each other.

The reading took place on Oct. 4 at York University.