Canyon Sam is a Chinese-American writer, activist and performance artist from San Francisco, California. The middle child of three, she is the daughter of a former social worker from San Francisco’s Chinatown and a nurse from Fresno, California. Sam shares stories of her intersectional experiences as a lesbian Chinese-American, recounting: her parents’ attempts to teach her Cantonese by turning off their television set, her various relationships with women, and her struggle to identify herself as a lesbian. Soon after “coming out”, Sam became actively involved with the lesbian community. Meeting women who identified themselves as “lesbians” after dropping out of UC Berkeley, she describes this as a major moment of politicalization in her life. Her lesbian activism led her move to Oregon to join a lesbian feminist “return-to-the-land” group called “Women Share,” where she further developed her feminism. Sam also discusses how her various romantic relationships allowed her to grow into her identities and her community.
Canyon Sam has an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Currently she is involved as a Tibetan rights activist, having performed a one-woman show called The Dissident, in which she details her travel and work in China and Tibet. She has also written a book on the lives of Tibetan women entitled Sky Train: Tibetan Women on the Edge of History.
We were never taught to have fun. In my family’s home, we didn’t have any kind of music player, radio, they didn’t read books, there was no sense of the arts. Which is why by the time I wanted to be an artist, it was “over my dead body”.