“I wondered how a person earned both forgiveness and a paycheque in these complicated times…When my sister moved on to high school, I continued at Strathcona Elementary, walking in loops through Chinatown and the DTES, past the crumpled men and wizened women living in the streets and alleyways. It was as if they, and we, had all been collected here, and we were parts of the same branch. I, too, spoke to myself and to imaginary people. I, too, was hungry and longed for things I could not obtain. “
Madeleine Thien’s deeply moving story, “The Fire Before,” describes how she found her “spiritual core” while growing up in Strathcona, Vancouver, and is part of the anthology V6A: Writing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.