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Lydia Kwa

Poet and novelist, Lydia Kwa was born in Singapore and came to Canada in 1980. She received a B.Sc. in psychology from the University of Toronto and a M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. She now lives in Vancouver where she continues to write and to work as a therapist.


A Dream Wants Waking: A Novel

Hamilton: Buckrider Books, 2023.
forthcoming October 2023

Publisher’s Synopsis (From its website)

In 2219 CE Luoyang, a city patched together after the great cataclysm, the half-human, half-fox spirit Yinhe moves through their most recent incarnation. The city is watched over by No. 1, an artificial intelligence housed in a giant brain created by the scientists of Central Government, which entertains and monitors all the inhabitants of the city, both human and chimerical. But No. 1 is starting to behave erratically and the power of the Spirit Supreme Assembly, with its demand for pure bloodlines, is growing. Yinhe is summoned to the Dream Zone, where the chimerical creatures formed by the scientists are contained to do the most dangerous jobs of the city. There Yinhe is given information that will give them the chance to create great change in the city, to stave off an ancient enemy and, perhaps, to reunite with their soulmate, lost many lives before.

Weaving a silken web of Chinese myth, speculative fiction and storytelling Lydia Kwa has brilliantly realized a future where questions of sentience, of personhood and of the truth of dreams wrap around a timeless quest for freedom and for love.


Oracle Bone: A Chuanqi Novel

Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2017.
PS8571 .W3 O73 2017

Publisher’s Synopsis (From its website)

Life in seventh-century China teems with magic, fox spirits, and demons; there is a fervent belief that the extraordinary resides within the lives of both commoners and royalty. During the years when the empress Wu Zhao gains ascendancy in the Tang court, her evil-minded lover Xie becomes obsessed with finding and possessing the oracle bone, a magical object that will bestow immortal powers on him. Standing in his way is Qilan, an eccentric Daoist nun who rescues an orphaned girl named Ling from being sold into slavery; Qilan takes her under her wing, promising to train her so she may avenge her parents’ murders. In another part of the city, a young monk named Harelip questions his faith and his attraction to other men as he helps the elder monk Xuanzang to complete his translation of the Heart Sutra, the sacred Buddhist scripture. Meanwhile, as the mysteries and powers of the missing oracle bone are revealed, it remains to be seen whether Qilan will be able to stop Xie from gaining possession of the magical bone, and at what cost.



Pulse: A Novel

Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2010.
PS8571 .W3 P84 2010

Publisher’s Synopsis (From its website)

The story begins in the summer of 2007 in Toronto’s Chinatown. Natalie is thrown into recollections of her native Singapore when she receives the devastating news that Selim, the son of her childhood friend and lover, has died suddenly. Selim left behind clues that suggest his death may have something to do with Natalie’s own past, and she decides to return to Singapore to uncover the truth. Bound up with this tragedy is the relationship between Natalie and her father, a domineering man whose treatment of his daughter may be the key to understanding Selim’s death.



This Place Called Absence

Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 2000.
PS8571 .W3 T48 2000

New York: Kensington Books, 2002.

Publisher’s Synopsis (Turnstone)

Kwa transports us between the past and present, merging tradition and modern life in a way that is reminiscent of Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club. This is a heart-breaking tale of despair and hope and the transformational power of the imagination.

Awards and Honors

2000 in Canada First Novel Award (Nominated)
2002 Lambda Literary Award – Lesbian Fiction (Nominated)



The Walking Boy: A Novel

Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2005.
PS8571 .W3 W34 2005

Revised edition, issued as The second novel in the Chuanqi trilogy.
Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2010
PS8571.W3W34 2019

Publisher’s Synopsis (From the Key Porter Books website)

… Set in 8th century China during the Tang Dynasty, The Walking Boy is a vivid and compelling novel inspired by true historical events during the final years of the reign of the country’s only female emperor. …

Awards and Honours

2006 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize (BC Book Prizes) (Nominated)

Anthology (Short story)

The Spirits Have Nothing to Do with Us

Kwa, Lydia. “Foggy Days, Foggy Ways.” In The Spirits Have Nothing to Do with Us: New Chinese Canadian Fiction, edited by Dan K. Woo. Hamilton: Buckrider Books, 2023, 137-145.


The Colours of Heroines

Toronto: Women’s Press, 1994.
PS8571 .W3 C68 1994



Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 2013.
PS8571 .W3 S56 2013

Publisher’s Synopsis

Through the mind’s eye Lydia Kwa charts the path of the stranger in a new land, the immigrant seeking escape, and transformation from the suffering of the past.  Sinuous is a journey toward self-realization and acknowledges that through the fiery trials of life it is possible to find renewed strength and purpose for the future.

Selected Criticism and Interpretation

Fu, Bennett Yu-Hsiang. “Differing Bodies, Defying Subjects, Deferring Texts: Gender, Sexuality, and Transgression in Chinese Canadian Women’s Writing.” Ph.D. diss., Université de Montréal, 2004.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Goellnicht, Donald C. “”Forays into Acts of Transformation”: Queering Chinese-Canadian Diasporic Fictions.” In Culture, Identity, Commodity: Diasporic Chinese Literatures in English, ed. by Tseen Khoo and Kam Louie. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005, [153]-182.
PS153 .C45 C85 2005

Khoo, Gaik Cheng. “Lydia Kwa.” In Asian American Poets: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, ed. Guiyou Huang, [179]-183. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.
PS153 .A84 A826 2002

Ty, Eleanor, “Recuperating Wretched Lives: Asian Sex Workers and the Underside of Nation Building,” chap. in Unfastened: Globality and Asian North American Narratives. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010, 20-40.
PS153 .A84 T9 2010 (also available as an e-book)


Lydia Kwa’s personal website

Publisher Arsenal Pulp Press

Publisher Turnstone Press has information about Kwa.

Publisher Kensington Books

Publisher Key Porter Books