Gunn, Genni 1949–

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Gunn, Genni 1949–

(Genni Donati Gunn)

PERSONAL: Born 1949, in Trieste, Italy; immigrated to Canada, c. 1960. Education: University of British Columbia, B.F.A., M.F.A., 1984.

ADDRESSES: Agent—Carolyn Swayze, Carolyn Swayze Literary Agency Ltd., WRP.O. Box 39588, White Rock, British Columbia V4B 5L6, Canada. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: Writer, novelist, librettist, musician, and translator. Played in numerous bands.

MEMBER: Writers Union of Canada (second vice chair), Literary Translators Association of Canada, PEN International.

AWARDS, HONORS: Burnaby Writers Society Scholarship, 1981–82; Multiculturalism Canada grant, 1988; Gerald Lampert Award finalist, 1994, for Mating in Captivity; Commonwealth Prize finalist for best first novel, 1990, for Thrice upon a Time; National Leadership Award for artistic achievement, 1991; British Columbia Cultural Services project grant, 1992; Telefilm Canada Cross-Over Writers Program award, 1994; Praxis film development fellowship, 1994–95, 1996–97; Canada Council Arts grant, 1999–2000; British Columbia Arts Council level II award, 2003.


(Translator) Dacia Maraini, Devour Me Too, Guernica (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1987.

Thrice upon a Time (novel), Quarry Press (Kingston, Ontario, Canada), 1990.

On the Road (short stories), Oberon Press (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), 1991.

(Translator) Dacia Maraini, Traveling in the Gait of a Fox, Quarry Press (Kingston, Ontario, Canada), 1992.

Mating in Captivity (poems), Quarry Press (Kingston, Ontario, Canada), 1993.

Tracing Iris (novel), Raincoast Books (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 2001.

Hungers (short stories), Raincoast Books (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 2002.

(Author of libretto) Alternate Visions, music by John Oliver, produced in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 2005.

Contributor to periodicals, including Amaranth Review, Antigonish Review, Black Apple, Event, Fiddlehead, Greensboro Review, Hong Kong Literature Monthly, Interior Voice, New Quarterly, Northern Review, Poetry Canada Review, Prairie Journal of Canadian Literature, Quarry, Story, Trois, Waves, and West Coast Review. Contributor to anthologies, including Best Canadian Stories, Oberon Press (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), 1988; Pens of Many Colors, Harcourt Brace (New York, NY), 1993; Breaking Free, Prentice Hall (Upper Saddle River, NJ), 1994; Cultures in Transition, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1995; and Brass Tacks, Prentice Hall, 1996.

Author's works have been translated into numerous foreign languages.

ADAPTATIONS: A feature film based on Tracing Iris was produced by Yaletown Entertainment.

SIDELIGHTS: Genni Gunn is a Canadian novelist, short-story writer, and translator. Before becoming a full-time writer, Gunn was a professional musician who did studio recording work and toured Canada with a variety of bands, playing bass guitar, piano, and providing vocals.

Gunn's novel, Tracing Iris centers around Kate, an anthropologist who seeks the mother who abandoned her years earlier. Kate's life is a shambles; now Only in her early thirties, she has been married and divorced, participated in several unsatisfying affairs, and has had an abortion. Pills and alcohol occupy too much of her time, and her behavior has cost her the teaching job that was sustaining her. A complicated intermingling of family begins to unravel when Kate learns that her stepmother Elaine has recently drowned. She heads back to her hometown of Twisp, Washington, which she left behind after moving to Canada when her father, Joe, married Elaine. While there, she learns that Elaine was more than a stepmother; she was also the eldest sister of Kate's absent mother, Iris. Unable to find out why Elaine had urgently wanted to talk to her before she died, Kate begins sifting through her mother's possessions, photographs, and other materials, looking for clues to her disappearance. When Elaine's daughter Patti disappears and is later found dead, there seems to be a link between her fate and that of Iris. Suspicion points to Danny, Iris's drug-addicted lover. As Kate investigates, long-hidden memories return, among them recollections of the day Iris left four-year-old Kate outside in the snow before heading off to meet Danny and disappear from Kate's life. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the book "a mix of overwrought plot, deep thoughts, and anthropology."

Hungers, a short-story collection, revolves around the title novella, a five-part piece that illuminates various periods in the lives of Claire and older sibling Marcia. In "Versions," different versions of a family story about young Claire being suspended out a window by Marcia become mythically important to the fabric of the family. "The Savage God" involves the two girls with a young boy at a lake, who may become the victim of foul play. "Family Reunion" makes humiliating use of the sisters' old predilections for self-destructive behavior. The sisters consider the repercussions of Marcia's first extramarital affair in "Inside Editions." Finally, their parents' forty-fifth wedding anniversary provides a reason for the family's final gathering in "Thicker than Water." Gunn "demonstrates versatility throughout the rest of the collection," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor, in stories such as "Fugue," in which a cat's tormenting of a mole serves as a musical metaphor for a dead relationship, and "Los Desperados," in which a sexually adventurous Mexican general seeks to impose himself on a newlywed couple honeymooning in Mexico. The Kirkus Reviews critic commented that Gunn's collection includes "stories that show narrative aptitude, a degree of experimentation, and a proclivity for the poetic turn."



Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2003, review of Tracing Iris, p. 162; July 15, 2003, review of Hungers, p. 927.


Banff Centre Web site, (October 18, 2005), biography of Genni Gunn.

Genni Gunn Home Page, (October 18, 2005).

Writer's Union of Canada Web site, (October 18, 2005), biography of Genni Gunn.