Speaking the Unspeakable: Black Migration, Living Transformations

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Speaking the Unspeakable: Black Migration, Living Transformations

An evening of conversation in celebration of Suzette Mayr’s new award-winning book The Sleeping Car Porter.

By Massy Arts Society

When and where

Date and time

Starts on Wednesday, April 19 · 7pm PDT


The Beaumont Studios 326 West 5th Avenue Vancouver, BC V5Y 1J0 Canada

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About this event

  • 2 hours
  • Mobile eTicket

On Wednesday, April 19th at 7pm, join Massy Arts Society, Massy Books and the Beaumont Studios for Speaking the Unspeakable: Black Migration, Living Transformations, an evening of conversation in celebration of Suzette Mayr’s Scotia Giller Prize winning book, The Sleeping Car Porter.

A thrilling, visceral novel that explores labour, desire and memory, The Sleeping Car Porter highlights an often overlooked part of the past through the perspective of a queer Black man. In conversation with Wayde Compton, author of The Blue Road, the two will speak on the topic of unspeakable histories – unspeakable in how racism in the razing of Hogan’s Alley was guised under “urban renewal” and in the ways Black queerness was untold and hidden from our past. This illuminating evening, moderated by poet and spoken word artist, Brandon Wint with an opening by award-winning musician Khari Wendell McClelland, invites us to consider invisibility/visibility and to re-examine what has been forgotten.

This project has been made possible by the Government of Canada. Ce projet a été rendu possible grâce au gouvernement du Canada.

This project is supported by the British Columbia Arts Council.

Header Image Credit: Library and Archives Canada (PA-212572). From left to right: Shirley Jackson, Pete Stevens, Harry Gairey and Jimmy Downes.


Tickets for this event are $15. There are also tickets at $10 available for Indigenous, Black, queer, disabled and community members with intersections that typically exclude them from accessing literary events. If paid tickets are an access issue, please email info@massybooks.com for free tickets.

Venue & Accessibility

The event will be hosted at Beaumont Studios at 326 West 5th Avenue. The building is located 2 blocks east of the Olympic Village skytrain station with bus stops running along 2nd Avenue.

This venue has ramps, with approximately 6 feet of astroturf-like flooring at the entryway which some wheelchair users may find difficult. Staff will be available to provide assistance. There is a wheelchair-accessible and gender-neutral washrooms on-site. Please refrain from wearing scents or heavy perfumes.

Covid Protocols: Masks keep our community safe! While masks are mandatory at Massy Books & Arts Society, we cannot enforce this protocol at The Beaumont. We encourage N95 masks as they offer the best protection and will have masks available at the door. If you are showing symptoms, please stay home—thank you kindly.


Suzette Mayr is the author of six novels including her most recent, The Sleeping Car Porter, winner of the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Award, and longlist nominee for the Republic of Consciousness Prize (US and Canada). Mayr’s other novels have won the ReLit Award and City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize, and been nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Prize for Best Book in the Canada-Caribbean Region, the Writers' Guild of Alberta's Best First Book and Best Novel Awards, and the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction. Mayr has done inter-disciplinary work with Calgary theatre company Theatre Junction, visual artists Lisa Brawn and Geoff Hunter, and she was a writer-in-residence at Widener University, Pennsylvania. She is a former President of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta. Mayr teaches Creative Writing at the University of Calgary.

In conversation with:

Wayde Compton has written five books and has edited two literary anthologies. His collection of short stories, The Outer Harbour, won the City of Vancouver Book Award in 2015 and he won a National Magazine Award for Fiction in 2011. His work has been a finalist for two other City of Vancouver Book Awards as well as the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. In 2006 Compton co-founded Commodore Books, western Canada’s first Black Canadian literary press. Compton has been writer-in-residence at Simon Fraser University, Green College at the University of British Columbia, and the Vancouver Public Library. From 2012-18, he administrated the Creative Writing Program in Continuing Studies at SFU, including the award-winning Writer’s Studio. His latest book, The Blue Road, a fantasy graphic novel for young adults, illustrated by April dela Noche Milne, was called a “touching allegory of the unexpected and burdensome trials of migration” in a starred Kirkus review. He is currently working on a re-imagining of The Argonautika by Apollonius of Rhodes as surrealist slave narrative set on the west coast of North America in the 18th century. Compton is currently the chair of Creative Writing at Douglas College in New Westminster, BC.

Moderated by:

Brandon Wint is a poet, spoken word artist, educator and emerging musician based in western Canada. For more than a decade, Brandon has been a sought-after touring performer, educator and collaborator. He has shared his work internationally, including in festivals and showcases in Latvia, Lithuania, Australia and Jamaica. His poetry has also been published in The Puritan, Arc Poetry Magazine and Write Magazine, among others. He is currently the artistic director of Tree Reading Series. His debut collection of poetry is Divine Animal (Write Bloody North, 2020).

Musical Opening by Khari Wendell McClelland:

Imaginative. Bold. Genuine. Hopeful. Khari Wendell McClelland is an award-winning musician and creative facilitator who uses the arts and experiential activities for transformational learning.

Based in Vancouver, Canada, Khari has worked with communities across Africa, Australia, Europe, Turtle Island and the Caribbean.

This Event is Supported By:

Breathing Space Creative Literary Studio

Breathing Space Creative Literary Studio works with individuals looking to transform their writing & publishing experience. Whether via custom coaching packages, free workshops, or the revolutionary membership space, The Forever Writers Club, we help clear the path along the often fraught journey that is writing and publishing, through mindset work, stress reduction, support, knowledge sharing, and care. We help you discover what is important to you as a creator.

About the Book:

The Sleeping Car Porter (Coach House Books)

When a mudslide strands a train, Baxter, a queer Black sleeping car porter, must contend with the perils of white passengers, ghosts, and his secret love affair.

The Sleeping Car Porter brings to life an important part of Black history in North America, from the perspective of a queer man living in a culture that renders him invisible in two ways. Affecting, imaginative, and visceral enough that you’ll feel the rocking of the train, The Sleeping Car Porter is a stunning accomplishment.

Baxter’s name isn’t George. But it’s 1929, and Baxter is lucky enough, as a Black man, to have a job as a sleeping car porter on a train that crisscrosses the country. So when the passengers call him George, he has to just smile and nod and act invisible. What he really wants is to go to dentistry school, but he’ll have to save up a lot of nickel and dime tips to get there, so he puts up with “George.”

On this particular trip out west, the passengers are more unruly than usual, especially when the train is stalled for two extra days; their secrets start to leak out and blur with the sleep-deprivation hallucinations Baxter is having. When he finds a naughty postcard of two queer men, Baxter’s memories and longings are reawakened; keeping it puts his job in peril, but he can’t part with the postcard or his thoughts of Edwin Drew, Porter Instructor.

On Sale at the Event

Wayde Compton:

After Canaan: Essays on Race, Writing, and Region

The Blue Road: A Fable of Migration

Bluesprint: Black British Columbian Literature and Orature

Suzette Mayr:


The Sleeping Car Porter

Khari Wendell McClelland:

Moving the Centre

About the organizer

Organized by
Massy Arts Society

Massy Arts Society is a community hub dedicated to supporting the practices of Indigenous and underrepresented artists.

From CA$11.98