Death Threat

By Vivek Shraya & Ness Lee (Arsenal Pulp Press Vancouver)
ISBN: 978-1-55152-750-5 (HB/Digital edition)

Vivek Shraya is a poet, musician, educator, writer and performer of immense creativity, as can be appreciated in books such as God Loves Hair; even this page is white; The Boy & the Bindi; I’m Afraid of Men and She of the Mountains or her many albums and films.

On her 35th birthday Shraya publicly announced her status as Trans and requested that she be henceforward addressed with female pronouns. That seems inoffensive enough to me and you, and nobody’s business but hers, but sadly and all too typically these days, the announcement inspired the by-now pro forma response from certain quarters: a tirade of vitriol and harassment from nasty busybodies hiding behind and tainting social media…

Unevolved old jerks like me just get angry and hunger to respond in kind – with vituperative counterattacks – but happily, more civilised people find better ways. This book is perhaps the best of them as, in collaboration with Toronto-based artist and designer Ness Lee, Shraya transformed fear and disappointment into art with a heavy helping of surreal, satirical soul searching.

The liberating act of turning those unsolicited, unreasoning email assaults – all couched in offensive terms by people who hide behind religions whose fundamental tenets they will gleefully cherry pick – into a gloriously incisive and witty exploration of the inexplicable mindless aggression that continues to debase so much of modern society is eyepopping and mind-blowing…

Unlike those who cower behind the cowardly anonymity of keyboards and phones, Shraya & Lee proudly appended their names to this vibrant voyage, detailing how the bile of ignorant bullies (you simply won’t believe just how dumb some bigots can be until you see the hate mail here!) inspired beautiful images and empowering inclusivity.

My generation’s parents told us to ignore or strike back, but today’s ostracised, oppressed and unfairly targeted have found a far better way to respond to bullies: turn their hate into beauty and take ownership of it.
Death Threat: Text © 2019 Vivek Shraya. Illustrations © 2019 Ness Lee. All rights reserved.

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