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The Language We Were Never Taught to Speak

The Language We Were Never Taught to Speak

By Grace Lau

The poems in The Language We Were Never Taught to Speak explore the many identities, both visible and invisible, that a body contains. With influences from pop culture, the Bible, tech, and Hong-Kongese history, these pieces reflect and reveal how the stories of immigrants in Canada hold both universal truths and singular distinctions. From boybands that show the way to become “the kind of girl a girl could love” to “rich flavours that are just a few generations of poverty away,” they invite the reader to meditate on spirituality, food, and the shapes love takes.


Guernica Editions (First Poets Series)


70 pages |

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Lau’s work lurches off the page and seizes your hand like an old friend that cannot wait to catch up with you; you learn of the speaker’s romantic escapades, their family, their hurts old and new. Reading this collection makes you feel reached out to, and that is no small feat in a time everything and everyone can seem very, very far away.

Canthius Magazine

Ripe with intention and embroidered with the tiny pinpricks of pain, her language, the one she discovers alone in the dark, where we have all been left for so long, is naked, free of ballast as a sinking ship that does not sink but sails into the next sunrise, truth.

The Ormsby Review

Grace Lau’s debut poetry collection is blessed by fine details—fine details that hold immense meaning. Multi-generational histories steep in Grandma’s cup of cha. A lifetime of queer desire knits along with the poet’s own skinned knees. Lau’s refined poetic lines and crisp stanzas ask us to slow down the pace of our reading, so we too can discover the deep substance of each image and word.

Amber Dawn, author of My Art Is Killing Me and Other Poems

Grace Lau’s poetry will saunter into a room inside of your heart, take a seat in the front row, and stay there for weeks. These poems bravely make their way into the lonely corners and abandoned underbellies of some very painful places: a childhood closet, a complicated inheritance, forsaken faith, queer love, and family, to name just a few, and somehow render these memories into heirlooms. I read these poems once to discover what this poet has given us, and will now read them again and again, in order to truly unwrap and cherish her gifts.

Ivan Coyote, storyteller and author of Rebent Sinner

The poems in Grace Lau’s debut collection, The Language We Were Never Taught to Speak embody wryness, curiosity, and care.

Leanne Dunic, The Capilano Review


Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry

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About the author

Grace is a Hong-Kong-born, Chinese Canadian writer raised in Vancouver and currently living in Toronto. She enjoys Harry Styles’ fashion choices, swaying to music, and sushi. Find her on social media @thrillandgrace.