Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Victoria-based cancer survivor to publish first non-fiction book at the end of August

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Book lovers — especially memoir enthusiasts — this is for you! 

On August 29th, local Victoria writer Jason Jobin will officially release his new book The Wild Mandrake, published with Dundurn Press, detailing his journey with cancer, recovery, and relapse.

Told with raw honesty and prose-like description, this harmonious blend of beauty and pain encapsulates a life under the pressures of illness and the fight to remain strong.

And although the official release date is set for August 29th, a soft launch is in progress and his book can be purchased at bookshops around Victoria, such as Munro’s Books.

(The Wild Mandrake book cover)

Victoria Buzz had the opportunity to speak with Jobin, where he dove into his inspirations for the book and recalled what it was like to relive the memories dotted throughout the pages.

He mentioned that he had started as a novelist, and that was the focus of his MFA at the University of Victoria. 

“I was still very focused on writing fiction, but I wasn’t getting the kind of joy I was looking for from writing a novel,” Jobin said.

“I feel like I always had it in the back of my head that I would write a memoir or write something related to [cancer].”

So, after his agent recommended he write nonfiction to encapsulate his experience with cancer, a sense of newfound passion pushed him to memoir.

He found himself able to dive into those memories and in the process, find new ways to understand and cope with what he went through.

(Jason Jobin / Photo by Chelsey Warren

We asked him about a particular line that reads, ‘I am mustard gas and platinum now, alchemical, inhuman. I curl into the blankets and pull them over my face…cold IV tubes wrapped around me like kelp, and I don’t know what the lesson is.’

He noted that it details his experience with the bone marrow transplant during his second cancer relapse and he remembers it being one of his most miserable moments.

“Some of those memories were pretty painful to get into…I really had to sink into those sensory details to remember how I experienced it at the time,” Jobin confessed.

“It changed my perspective, I would say…it changed my world view…and it always makes you feel a little outside the regular order of things.”

He also laughed about it not making him as prolific as you might hope.

“It can be easy to take advantage of good health even after beating cancer,” Jobin said.

He noted that recovery can mean you’re not so acutely aware of your body anymore and can function more or less normally.

With that, he was happy to confirm he is currently cancer free and is living as normally as he can — including the continuation of his fiction writing, day job, and planning a potential book tour in Calgary down the road.

“Trying to be well and live well is a great remedy for trying not to get lost in painful memories.”

For other writers who are interested in his story and are hoping to write something of their own, he hopes that his story will remind others to keep going despite challenges. 

“You really have to turn down the volume on your uncertainty,” Jobin said.

According to his website, Jobin has had his non-fiction longlisted for the CBC prize, published in Cleaver Magazine, Pithead Chapel, and The Sun Magazine.

His stories have won a National Magazine Award and featured in the 2018 and 2019 Writers Trust/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize anthology. 

He was a finalist for American Short Fiction’s Halifax Ranch Prize in 2019, and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize in 2020. 

Previously, he’s won The Malahat Review’s Jack Hodgins Founders’ and Far Horizons awards for fiction. 

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