About Leslie Shimotakahara

Leslie’s memoir, The Reading List, won the Canada-Japan Literary Prize in 2012, and her fiction has been shortlisted for the KM Hunter Artist Award. She has written two critically acclaimed novels, After the Bloom and Red Oblivion, both published by Dundurn Press. These novels blur between fiction and non-fiction. After the Bloom draws upon her grandmother’s teenage experience of the Japanese-American Internment, during the Second World War; it was commended by Booklist as “personal and entrancing, unflinchingly shining a light on this difficult part of history.”

Her more recent novel, Red Oblivion, released in Fall 2019, is a literary thriller set in Hong Kong, inspired by the time she spent living there with her Chinese-Canadian husband and his elderly father. Red Oblivion was The Word On The Street’s Book of the Month for January, included in the 49th Shelf’s “Great Books for the Moment,” and praised by Kirkus Review for showing “virtuosity in this subtle deconstruction of one family’s tainted origins.” In 2018, Leslie served on the jury for the Governor General’s Non-fiction Award. During the month of March, Leslie will be Open Book’s writer-in-residence.

Leslie has a PhD in English from Brown University, where she wrote her dissertation on the relationship between American regionalism and modernism. At present, she and her husband live in the west end of Toronto.

Visit Leslie’s website.

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From the publisher:

When Jill Lau receives an early morning phone call that her elderly father has fallen gravely ill, she and her sister, Celeste, catch the first flight from Toronto to Hong Kong. The man they find languishing in the hospital is a barely recognizable shadow of his old, indomitable self.

According to his housekeeper, a couple of mysterious photographs arrived anonymously in the mail in the days before his collapse. These pictures are only the first link in a chain of events that begin to reveal the truth about their father’s past and how he managed to escape from Guangzhou, China, during the Cultural Revolution to make a new life for himself in Hong Kong. Someone from the old days has returned to haunt him — exposing the terrible things he did to survive and flee one of the most violent periods of Chinese history, reinvent himself, and make the family fortune. Can Jill piece together the story of her family’s past without sacrificing her father’s love and reputation?

To learn about Leslie’s other books, visit her website.


Red Oblivion is one of the most masterful narratives I’ve ever read about a horrific chapter in China’s history, told through an intricate, mesmerizing tale of family and identity.”

Janie Chang, author of Dragon Springs Road

“Haunting and true to life, Red Oblivion will captivate readers. Shimotakahara skillfully weaves history and imagination to tell a story about a daughter’s quest to unravel her father’s complicated past so that others can understand its far-reaching influence on their present lives.”

Ann Y.K. Choi, author of Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety

“I started reading Red Oblivion in an airline waiting room with a storm brewing outside and found myself welcoming a flight delay because I might be able to keep reading for an extra couple of hours. In other words, it’s a very compelling book!” 

Maria Meindl, author of The Work