Open Letters and Closed Doors:

How the Steven Galloway open letter dumpster fire forced me to acknowledge the racism and entitlement at the heart of CanLit


By Jen Sookfong Lee

Stress rashes. Insomnia. Blind rage. This is how I spent a good portion of 2016.

It’s a funny thing: last year, in most ways that were personal and intimate, was a good one for me. My latest novel, The Conjoined, was published by the wonderful ECW Press and reviewed well. I finished writing two non-fiction books. I started writing a poetry collection. I became the Fiction Mentor at The Writers’ Studio Online. My son and I marked our first full year in a new home.

But when the UBC Accountable open letter was published, my entire professional world disintegrated.

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HLR #6 is here!

When the HLR collective decided to publish its first themed issue, the decision as to what that theme would be was an easy one: mental health.  

It’s no secret that through sharing our stories, we connect to and better understand each other. But, too often, we silence or ignore the narratives–really, the realities–of those who, for whatever reason, make us uncomfortable. Thankfully, many artists seek to splinter boundaries, and want to live, and love, in a world in which being made uncomfortable is most often a step toward a deeper knowledge. This is exactly why we wanted to provide a forum for such ardent perspectives. Our only regret in putting together this issue is that we could not include more. 

We did not do it alone: we are proud to have partnered for this issue with Workman Arts. It is through this relationship that we were lucky to find Lisa Walter, a compelling, self-taught artist, writer and educator whose rich and resolute work is featured throughout the print magazine, and as you’ll notice, on our website as well. We also have an original, and very moving, comic by visual artist Teva Harrison, bestselling author of the graphic memoir In-Between-Days. (Get your tissues out, people.) 

This issue is our most ambitious to date, but we know that what we offer here is just a sample of the many viewpoints on such a crucial and universal topic. Every piece of writing and art showcased here at our online home–and also in our print issue (where you will find even more original work on the theme of mental health)–contributes, we hope, to an ongoing, essential search for understanding.  

Warmly, 
The HLR Collective 



HLR is the creation of Humber College’s Department of English, and its collective includes writers, academics, critics, visual artists, and linguists. Our goal is to share our enthusiasm for work that provokes, excites, and entertains — writing that makes you want to read more.