Zee Zee Theatre offers an intimate story-telling experience in its latest project Queer Asian Stories Collection. On Nov. 18, 19, 25 and 26 in the Vancouver Public Library, participants will be given the opportunity to ‘check out’ a human book for a personal, 20-minute conversation about their life, beliefs and struggles. The project will run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the specified dates and welcomes all those interested in participating at no cost.
For the 13th time, Zee Zee Theatre brings the Copenhagen-originating concept of the human library to Vancouver, this year with queer Asian voices at the centre. The focus of this year’s project was chosen following the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes that occurred during the pandemic. The project seeks to platform unique and important perspectives through intimate conversation, offering their storytellers or ‘books,’ a safe environment to talk about their experiences.
“Because Asia is still comparatively conservative on that side of sex and gender expression or identity, people are not very open. So even in Vancouver, Asian queer [people] are not as visible as compared to other ethnic groups,” says one of the project’s co-curators, Yanting Qui.
Storytelling as a tool of community building
This is not Qui’s first experience using storytelling as a tool to support those in marginalized groups. With the hope of giving power and voice to first and second-generation immigrants, they co-founded the Zee Zee Theatre as a Second Language Society with another of the project’s curators, Jaylen Han. Qui recognizes the power of art as a way of community building.
“For immigrants who use English as their second language, we want theatre to also be the second language, which we use to connect with the rest of the community. To be part of Canada,” says Qui.
The Queer Asian Stories Collection is brought together by Qui, Han and Shay Dior, mother of the acclaimed all-Asian drag family, House of Rice. Through previous projects and workshops, the curators have assembled a team of storytellers with a diverse range of backgrounds and stories to tell. Though most of the project’s voices will be those of queer-identifying individuals, participants can expect to hear the perspectives of allies and family members too.
Audience members will have the opportunity to hear from ‘books’ with a range of thought-provoking titles such as My Children of the Revolution, Maroon Mountain, Content Warning: Real Hot Girl S—, and The Boy’s Department.
The books will be available in the afternoon for three hours with six shifts in every day. If readers are keen, they can read six books in one day. Qui encourages participants to be open, curious and ready to enjoy these wonderful stories.
“I would say that we have a very good collection of all unique but universal stories of self-finding,” says Qui. “It’s not just something that uniquely happened to only queer or Asian people. It’s a journey that every one of us as human beings on this planet are going through in a way.”
For Qui, building community is at the heart of this project, with listening and understanding being the key to connecting to one another. Though the concept of the human library brings people together who may have never otherwise crossed paths, finding common ground through conversation is often the result.
“We are trying to find a story that could be relevant to everyone. So, [that includes] the storytellers, their cultural background and their queerness, but also their personal journey, how they find themselves, how they find peace and how they get support from the community,” says Qui.
For more info about the event, visit www.zeezeetheatre.ca