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Shani Mootoo

Shani Mootoo was born in Dublin, Ireland, and raised in Trinidad. She came to Canada at the age of nineteen and earned a fine arts degree from the University of Western Ontario in 1980. She established herself as a painter and video producer before turning her talents to writing. With her first novel, Cereus Blooms at Night, Mootoo found a larger audience and established herself as a literary figure to watch. In 2017 she was named co-winner of the the Jim Duggins, PhD Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize by the Lambda Literary organization. Now living in Prince Edward County, Ontario, Mootoo has returned to non-literary arts but has not abandoned writing, having just published the novel Polar Vortex in the spring of 2020.



Cereus Blooms at Night

Vancouver: Press Gang, 1996.
PS8576 .O622 C47 1996

Publisher’s Synopsis (Press Gang Publishers, 1996)

At the core of this haunting multi-generational novel are the shifting faces of Mala — adventurer and protector, recluse and madwoman. Told by Tyler, Mala’s vivacious male caretaker at the Paradise Alms House, the story is layered with unforgettable scenes of a world where love and treachery collide.

Awards and Honours

1997 in Canada First Novel Award (formerly Chapters/Books in Canada) (Nominated)
1997 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize (Nominated)
1997 Giller Prize (Nominated)
1997 James Tiptree Jr. Award (Nominated)



He Drown She in the Sea

Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2005.
PS8576 .O622 H4 2005

Publisher’s Synopsis (From its website)

Set on the fictional Caribbean island of Guanagaspar around the time of the Second World War, and in modern-day Vancouver, He Drown She in the Sea, fulfills the promise of Shani Mootoo’s internationally acclaimed debut novel, Cereus Blooms at Night.

At the centre of the story is Harry St. George, the son of a laundress, and the unrequited love he bears for a woman, Rose, the daughter of a wealthy man, whom he knew as a child. Looking back to his past, evoking the rich culture and texture of his Caribbean boyhood, and the life of his mother, Dolly, Harry reveals his friendship with Rose, and the events that will continue to haunt him across time and place. When Rose arrives suddenly in Vancouver, where Harry has built a hard-earned life for himself, the two embark on an impossible affair that will have tragic consequences.


Moving Forward Sidewise Like a Crab

Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2014.
PS8576 .O622 M68 2014

Publisher’s Synopsis

Jonathan Lewis-Adey was nine when his parents, who were raising him in a comfortable house on a tree-lined street in downtown Toronto, separated, and his mother Sid vanished entirely from his life. It is not until he is a grown man–a writer with two books to his name, a supportive girlfriend, and a promising career–that Jonathan finally reconnects with his beloved lost parent, only to find, to his shock and dismay, that the woman he knew as “Sid” has become an elegant man named Sydney living quietly in a well-appointed house in his native Trinidad.

In the nine years since then, Jonathan has travelled from Canada to pay regular visits to Sydney on his island retreat, trying with quiet desperation to rediscover the parent he adored inside this familiar stranger. And for nine years, as his own life and career stall, he struggles to overcome his confusion and repressed anger at the choices Sydney has made. As the novel opens, Jonathan has been summoned urgently to Trinidad where Sydney, now aged and dying, seems at last to offer him the gift he longs for: a winding story that moves forward sideways as it reveals the truths of Sydney’s life. But when and where the story will end is up to Jonathan, and it is he who must decide what to do with Sydney’s haunting legacy of love, loss and acceptance.

Awards and Honours

2015 Lambda Literary Award–Transgender Fiction (Finalist)


Fiction (Short stories)

Out on Main Street & Other Stories

Vancouver: Press Gang Publishers, 1993.
PS8576 .O622 O8 1993


Polar Vortex

Toronto: Book*hug Press, 2020.
PS8576.O622 P65 2020

Publisher’s Synopsis (From its website)

Priya and Alexandra have moved from the city to a picturesque Countryside town. What Alex doesn’t know is that, in moving, Priya is running from her past—from a fraught relationship with an old friend, Prakash, who pursued her for many years, both online and off. Time has passed, however, and Priya, confident that her ties to Prakash have been successfully severed, decides it’s once more safe to establish an online presence. In no time, Prakash finds Priya and contacts her. Impulsively, inexplicably, Priya invites him to visit her and Alex in the country, without ever having come clean with Alex about their relationship—or its tumultuous end. Prakash’s reentry into Priya’s life reveals cracks in her and Alex’s relationship and brings into question Priya’s true intentions.

Are we ever free from our pasts? Can we ever truly know the people we are closest to? Seductive and tension-filled, Polar Vortex is a story of secrets, deceptions, and revenge

Awards and Honours

2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize (finalist)



Valmiki’s Daughter

Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2008.
PS8576 .O622 V35 2008

Publisher’s Synopsis (From its website)

The story circles around a well-to-do Trinidadian family, in particular, Valmiki, a renowned doctor and loving if confused father, and his youngest daughter, Viveka, lively, intelligent, and intent on escaping the gilded cage that protects but also smothers her. Father and daughter conceal painful secrets about their sexual identities, and it is Viveka’s struggle to discover the truth about herself that threatens to unmask her father and shake the foundations of her family and her delicately calibrated society.


Cane / Fire: Poems

Toronto: Book*hug Press, 2022.
PS8576.O622 C36 2022

Publisher’s Synopsis (From its website)

Throughout this evocative, sensual collection, akin to a poetic memoir, past and present are in conversation with each other as the narrator moves from Ireland to San Fernando, and finally to Canada. The reinterpretations and translation of this journey and its associated family history give meaning to the present. Through these deeply personal poems, and Mootoo’s own artwork, we begin to understand how a life can not only be shaped, but even reimagined. 


Oh Witness Dey!

Toronto: Book*hug Press, 2024.
forthcoming spring 2023



The Predicament of Or

Vancouver: Polestar, 2001.
PS8576 .O622 P73 2001

Publisher’s Synopsis (Polestar, 2001)

In haunting and astonishing language, shot through with the speech and rhythms of Trinidad, Mootoo walks a breathtaking tightrope–between cultures and identities, between geographical locations, between memory and desire.


Cross-Dressed Caribbean: Writing, Politics, Sexualities

PR9205.05 .C76 2013

Mootoo, Shani. “On Becoming an Indian Starboy.” In Cross-Dressed Caribbean: Writing, Politics, Sexualities, edited by Maria Cristina Fumagalli, Bénédicte Ledent, and Roberto del Valle Alcalá.  Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013, 167-172.


Desire in Seven Voices

PS8367 .D47 D47 2003

Mootoo, Shani. “Photo Parentheses.” In Desire in Seven Voices , edited by Lorna Crozier. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1999, 105-124.


Trinidad Noir

PR9272.8 .T74 2008

Mootoo, Shani. “The Funeral Party.” In Trinidad Noir, edited by Lisa Allen-Agostini & Jeanne Mason. New York: Akashic Books, 2008, 52-71.


Writing Life

PS8367 .A8 W75 2006

Mootoo, Shani. “Poetry Lesson .” In Writing Life: Celebrated Canadian and International Authors on Writing and Life, edited by Constance Rooke. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2006, 288-296.

Selected Criticism and Interpretation

Brüning, Angela. “The Corporeal and the Sensual in Two Novels by Shani Mootoo and Julia Alvarez.” In Beyond the Blood, the Beach & the Banana: New Perspectives in Caribbean Studies, edited by Sandra Courtman. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle, 2004.
F2175 .B49 2004

Choudhuri, Sucheta Mallick.  “Transgressive Territories: Queer Space in Indian Fiction and Film.”  Ph.D. diss., University of Iowa, 2009.

Corr, John. “Diasporic Sexualities in Contemporary Canadian Fiction.” Ph.D. diss., McMaster University, 2007.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Cummings, Ronald Bancroft. “Queer Marronage and Caribbean Writing.” PhD diss., University of Leeds, 2012.
Available soon from White Rose E-theses Online

Datta-Kimball, Shompaballi. “Post-colonial Re-presentations of Gendered Diasporic Indian Identity in the Fictions of Suniti Namjoshi and Shani Mootoo.” Ph.D. diss., University of Alabama, 2004.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Donnell, Alison. “Living and Loving: Emancipating the Queer Caribbean Citizen in Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night.” In Sex and the Citizen: Interrogating the Caribbean, edited by Faith Smith. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011.
PN849 .C3 S49 2011

Ferrante, Allyson Salinger. “Emperors of Invisible Cities: The Sovereignty of the Imagination in Caribbean Literature.” Ph.D. diss., University of Southern California, 2011.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Fox, Linda Christine. “Queer Outburst: A Literary and Social Analysis of the Vancouver Node (1995-1996) in English Canadian Queer Women’s Literature.” Ph.D. diss., University of Victoria, 2009.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Gagnon, Monika Kin. “Out in the Garden: Shani Mootoo’s Xerox Works.” In Other Conundrums: Race, Culture and Canadian Art. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2000, 146-155.
N6549.3 .G34 2000

Gopinath, Gayatri. “Queer Diasporas: Gender, Sexuality and Migration in Contemporary South Asian Literature and Cultural Production.” Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1998.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses
Also 7th floor HQ76.25 .G67 2005 “Nostalgia, Desire, Diaspora: Funny Boy and Cereus Blooms at Night“, chap. in Gayatri Gopinath, Impossible Desires: Queering Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures (Durham: Duke University, 2005), 161-186.

Hong, Kyungwon. “The Histories of the Propertyless: The Literatures of United States Women of Color.” Ph.D. diss., University of California, San Diego, 2000.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Howells, Coral Ann . “Changing Boundaries of Identity: Shani Mootoo, Cereus Blooms at Night.” In Contemporary Canadian Women’s Fiction: Refiguring Identities. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.
PS8089.5 .W6 H67 2003

Iovannone, Jeffry J. “Transperformance: Transgendered Reading Strategies, Contemporary American Literature.” M.A. thesis, State University of New York at Buffalo, 2006.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Kaleel, Rhonda A. “An Ecocritical and Metaphorical Analysis of “Cereus Blooms at Night”.” M.A. thesis, Florida Atlantic University, 2005.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Kandiuk, Mary. “Shani Mootoo.” In Caribbean and South Asian Writers in Canada: A Bibliography of Their Works and of English-language Criticism. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2007, 94-97.
PS8089.5 .C37 K36 2007

Khan, Aliyah R.  “”Calling the Magician”: The Metamorphic Indo-Caribbean.”  Ph.D. diss., University of California, Santa Cruz, 2012.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses
Available as an open access dissertation from

Kim, Christine. “Troubling the Mosaic: Larissa Lai’s When Fox is a Thousand, Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night, and Representations of Social Differences.” Chap. in Asian Canadian Writing Beyond Autoethnography, eds. Eleanor Ty and Christl Verduyn. Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2008,  153-178.
PS8089.5 .A8 A84 2008

Kyser, Kristina. “Tides of Belonging: Reconfiguring the Autoethnographic Paradigm in Shani Mootoo’s He Drown She in the Sea.” Chap. in Asian Canadian Writing Beyond Autoethnography, eds. Eleanor Ty and Christl Verduyn. Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2008,  71-86.
PS8089.5 .A8 A84 2008

Layne, Prudence. “Towards and Erotics of Hybridity: Bodies at the Crossroads of a Nation.” Ph.D. diss., University of Miami, 2004.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

McKeown, Judith Antoinette Jeannette.  “Si(gh)t[e]-ing and (Re)writing Home(lessness): African and Indian Caribbean Women En/gendering Multiple Migratory Identifications in Canada.”  M.A. thesis, York University, 2005.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Morgan, Paula. “From a Distance: Territory, Subjectivity, and Identity Construction in Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night.” In Caribbean Literature in a Global Context, ed. Funso Aiyejina & Paula Morgan. San Juan, Trinidad & Tobago: Lexicon Trinidad, 2006, 104-130.
PR9210 .A515 C37 2006

Morguson, Alisun. “All the Pieces Matter: Fragmentation-as-Agency in the Novels of Edwidge Danticat, Michelle Cliff, and Shani Mootoo.” M.A. thesis, University of Indiana, 2013. Accessed August 30, 2013.
Available as an open access thesis from

Mootoo, Shani. “Shani Mootoo”. Interview by Kofi Omoniyi Sylvanus Campbell.  In his The Queer Caribbean Speaks: Interviews with Writers, Artists, and Activists.  New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, [135]-145.
PR9205.4 .C36 2014

Neti, Leila Bhanu.  “Dialogues Across Diasporas: Postcolonial Continuities in Literatures of the Global South.”  Ph.D. diss., University of California, Irvine, 2006.

Palmer, Paulina. “Place and Space.” Chap. in her The Queer Uncanny: New Perspectives on the Gothic. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2012, 105-151.
PR830 .T3 P35 2012

Pecic, Zoran. “Shani Mootoo’s Diasporas.” Chap. in his Queer Narratives of the Caribbean Diaspora: Exploring Tactics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, 36-101.
PN849 .C3 P43 2013

Phukan, Atreyee.  “East Indianness in the West Indies: Representations of Post-indentureship in Indo-Trinidadian Literature.”  Ph.D. diss., Rutgers The State University of New Jersey – New Brunswick, 2006.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Pirbhai, Mariam. “An Ethnos of Difference, a Praxis of Inclusion: The Ethics of Global Citizenship in Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night.” Chap. in Asian Canadian Writing Beyond Autoethnography, eds. Eleanor Ty and Christl Verduyn. Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2008,  247-266.
PS8089.5 .A8 A84 2008

Reid, Mary. “”Nowhere if not Here”: The Ethics of Queer Experimentation in the Global Novel Form.” Ph.D. diss., University of California, San Diego, 2012.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Sarbadhikary, Krishna. “Imaginary Landscapes, Permeable Borders: Shani Mootoo.” In Surviving the Fracture: Writers of the Indo-Caribbean Diaspora. New Delhi: Creative Books, 2007, 237-271.
PS8089.5 .S68 S37 2007

Sarnelli, Laura. “Poetics of Memory and Migration: Shani Mootoo’s The Predicament of Or and Out on Main Street.” In The Expatriate Indian Writing in English. Vol. 1, ed. T. Vinoda and P. Shailaja.  New Delhi: Prestige Books, 2006, 209-223.
PR9489.6 .E96 2006 v.1

Shani Mootoo: My Dinner With Shani
Produced and directed by Frances-Anne Solomon. 24. min. Leda Serene Films, 2005.
Audio-visual PS8576 .O622 Z75 2005

Singh, Jaspal Kaur, “Queering Diaspora in Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night, Nisha Ganatra’s Chutney Popcorn, and Deepa Mehta’s Fire.” In her Representation and Resistance: South Asian and African Women’s Texts at Home and in the Diaspora.  Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2008, 163-176.
PN56.5 .W64 S563 2008

Sudhakar, Anantha.  “Conditional Futures: South Asian American Cultural Production and Community Formation, 1991–2001.”  Ph.D. diss., Rutgers The State University of New Jersey – New Brunswick, 2011.
Available as an open access dissertation from

Tagore, Proma. “Witnessing as Testimony: Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eyes and Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night.” Chap. in her The Shapes of Silence: Writing by Women of Colour and, the Politics of Testimony. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009.
PN471 .T33 2009

Taylor, Emily L.  “Rewriting the Mother/Nation: No Telephone to Heaven, In Another Place, Not Here and Cereus Blooms at Night.” Chap. in The Routledge Companion to Anglophone Caribbean Literature, ed. Michael A. Bucknor and Alison Donnell.  Abingdon: Routledge, 2011.
PR9205 .R68 2011

Urbistondo, Josune.  “Caribbean Bodyscapes: The Politics of Sacred Citizenship and the Transpersonal Body.”  Ph.D. diss., University of Miami, 2012.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Villarini, Juan M Salome. “Male Monstrosity or Failed Masculinity? Shani Mootoo’s Literary Oeuvre.” In Confluences 3: Essays on the New Canadian Literature, ed. Dannabang Kuwabong. Toronto: Mawenzi House, 2021.
PS8117 .C66 2021

Wall, Natalie.  “Mixing in the Postcolonial Diaspora: Writing Race as fiction in the Works of Lawrence Hill, Shani Mootoo, and Danzy Senna.”  M.A. thesis, University of Calgary, 2009.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Shani Mootoo portrait and biographical note from ArQuives National Portrait Gallery

Publisher Book*hug Press

Publisher House of Anansi Press

Publisher Penguin Random House Canada

Publisher McClelland and Stewart

Interview with Daniel Perry of the Brockton Writers Series July 3, 2013

Author Profile by Shazia Hafiz Ramji in Quill & Quire website, 27 April 2022

Shani Mootoo Fonds at Simon Fraser University Library