VANCOUVER — Wayson Choy, the celebrated author of “The Jade Peony” and a powerful voice for the Chinese-Canadian community, has died.
His agent Denise Bukowski announced his death on Twitter on Sunday, saying that he died in his bed on Saturday night.
Choy was born in Vancouver in 1939 and had an illustrious career that spanned decades, winning a number of awards and becoming a member of the Order of Canada.
He is best known for his debut novel “The Jade Peony,” which is set in Vancouver’s Chinatown during the 1930s and 1940s and tells the stories of three children in an immigrant family.
The novel won critical acclaim, sharing the 1995 Trillium Book Award with a novel by Margaret Atwood. It also won the 1996 City of Vancouver Book Award and was named an American Library Association Notable Book of the Year in 1998.
Later, Choy’s follow-up novel “All that Matters” took home another Trillium and was shortlisted for the 2004 Giller Prize.
Choy is also the author of two acclaimed memoirs, “Paper Shadows,” and “Not Yet: A Memoir of Living and Almost Dying.”
The former details his childhood in Vancouver during and after the war, while the latter chronicles his experience suffering a combined asthma-heart attack.
For decades, Choy taught English and creative writing at Humber College, and continued even after his literary success. He insisted that teaching was his great love.
News of Choy’s death prompted a wave of condolences from authors on social media, with novelist Jen Sookfong Lee writing that everyone should aspire to be the kind of author and mentor Choy was.
She wrote that he attended her “first big reading” in 2007 and whispered to her, “You did a good job. I’m proud of you.”
“In the years following, he was unfailingly kind, always telling me he had read my latest book, always asking how publishing was treating me,” Sookfong Lee wrote.
“I don’t say this much but my heart is broken. He was every possible good thing I could have ever imagined. I have always loved you, Wayson.”