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Vivek Shraya Is A Powerful Artist Who Needs More Recognition

By Veronica Letourneau

July 11th, 2022

Photo: CBC- Source

A perfect way to describe Vivek Shraya is that she does not limit herself to one medium of art. Shraya, who is a Creative Writing Assistant Professor at University of Calgary, has published several writings, including a set of poetry collections entitled, “even this page is white”, an essay called “I'm Afraid of Men”. She has also worked on a comic book called “Death Threat”, created a theatrical play and book ensemble called “How to Fail as a Popstar”, and has written novels such as “She of the Mountains”, “The Subtweet”, and “People Change”. However, her work doesn’t stop at writing. The multi-talented 41-year-old has also released solo albums, “If We're Not Talking” (2007), “Keys & Machines” (2009) and “1:1” (2011). In addition, Shraya has released two other albums with her band, Too Attached, entitled “Bronze” (2015) and “Angry” (2018). Considering that Shraya has been in the industry for so long, and has achieved so much, she deserves more recognition.

Her work talks about her experience being a gay South Asian Canadian, trying to create art in Canada. One thing she does in her book, “The Subtweet”, is to examine the dramas and complications that having a social media career creates. This book tackles jealousy, celebrity parasocial relationships, and the toxic complications that a friendship like that can entail. In the novel, Shraya does an incredible job at not revealing to the readers that one of the characters is a trans-woman until halfway through the story. As a reader, you are “conditioned” into thinking that this character is simply a woman without labeling them in your mind as a “trans-woman”. This clever technique normalizes one’s way of thinking, without even realizing it’s happening.

Shraya does not merely create art, but she also helps other young artists by being a mentor with the goal of helping young Indigenous, Black, South Asian, and other people of color who want to write and create art get published. Shraya told CBC Books that she is inspired to help other artists, because she knows how difficult it was for her as an artist starting out. She says agents would tell her “[...] no one's going to sign a brown and gay Canadian artist in Canada.” And she continues to say that she’s beginning to see minor changes in the industry, and that she wants to further contribute to these positive changes. She goes on to say, “The hope is that the work that I'm doing makes it a little bit easier for someone else.” Regardless of her challenges in the industry, it’s evident that Shraya wants to use the knowledge and experience she’s gained, as an artist, to help and encourage others.

As an artist, Shraya has a healthy relationship with art and has said that the idea of getting better at her art excites her. Testing her skills to see where they take her allows Shraya to keep pushing forward while enjoying the art she is creating in the process. And that thought process is a great attitude to bring into the world, especially for the young artists she is mentoring as well as for the fans who wish to tackle their own art. After all, art is about honing one’s skills, cultivating taste, generating ideas, and improving oneself in the meantime. There’s no such thing as perfection. Your first draft is always going to need fixing, as will the second, third, fourth and so forth.

In the end, Shraya has not only shown to tackle important social issues in her art, but she also clearly demonstrates that she wants to build a safe and inspiring community for artists. And that is why Vivek Shraya is so powerful. Simply put, we need more artists and human beings like her!


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