I met Canyon Sam at a “Blogging For Authors” class in the summer of 2009 at the Book Passage bookstore in Corte Madera, California. She took the class to learn how to promote her first book, Sky Train: Tibetan Women on the Edge of History, which was due out in the fall, the culmination of nearly twenty years of effort to bring the world the untold story of the lives of Tibetan women after the Chinese invaded their country in 1959.
Sam, a third-generation Chinese-American born and raised in San Francisco, went to Tibet to work on an oral history project in 1990. For many years following that journey, she tried in vain to find an agent and publisher who would help her turn that project into a book and get it into the hands of the readers.
At a friend’s urging, Canyon returned to Tibet in 2007 by taking the Sky Train from Beijing to Lhasa, traveling at elevations over 16,000′ above sea level along the world’s highest railroad line. The story of her two trips merged with that of four the Tibetan women she came to know, and was published by the University of Washington Press.
She received a 2010 Open Book Award for Sky Train from the PEN American Center and was given a huge ovation from a packed-house audience when she read from the book at the December 2010 Left Coast Writers literary salon meeting at Book Passage. Just before last Christmas, Canyon e-mailed me with even more exciting news: “I won a fellowship from the film arts organization, the Center for Asian American Media, to work with a film professional to write a screenplay [based on Sky Train].”
I have just learned that a short documentary about her entitled A Woman Named Canyon Sam by Quentin Lee will be shown at during the 22nd Annual Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival (May 12-15, 2011). Here’s the trailer for that film:
The story of Sky Train, from conception, to birth, to literary prominence, demonstrates what a author who is firmly committed to telling a story can accomplish, with a little support from Book Passage.
When I write about Canyon Sam in future, I except to be reviewing Sky Train: The Movie, and then announcing that she has won an Oscar for Best Screenplay.