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A Tribute to the Life and Work of Teva Harrison

by Sarah MacLachlan, President and Publisher, House of Anansi Press 

 

Anyone who came into contact with Teva Harrison will be aware of how hard it was to resist her. Her innate goodness, her strong hugs, and her open heart were her hallmarks. She was in my view a force of nature — simply undeniable. And so I know that what was true for me must have been true for all of her dear friends and family when I learned, in 2014, of her diagnosis — Stage Four Metastatic Breast Cancer. It seemed ALL WRONG. It still seems all wrong. 

In December 2014, an article by Teva appeared in the Globe and Mail. She wrote about her cancer and how she was dealing with it — climbing Gross Morne in Newfoundland as it happens and reviving her work as an artist. There was mention of cartoons. And not long afterward the cartoons began to appear online on her blog, and then in March 2015 they were picked up by The Walrus. In early April 2015, four years ago now, I emailed Teva with the subject heading: Do You Want to Talk about Doing a Book? To which she answered almost immediately in what is signature Teva style: “Yes! Yes to EVERYTHING!” It took us about a month to arrange a meeting, and on May 1 Janie Yoon, Associate Publisher at Anansi, and I finally sat down with Teva to discuss what the book might be. We knew that we wanted the cartoons, but we also wanted her to write about what was going on in her life, what she was feeling, and how she was dealing with her illness. Just as she had been articulating so poignantly on her My Lifeline blog.

Teva took to creating this book with vengeance. We watched her style evolve as she produced 52 graphic panels over a period of less than 10 months — it was always a good day when Teva arrived to unveil her latest work. It was the first time that we had conceived of a graphic memoir from scratch, and Teva along with Janie worked out a design with Anansi’s very talented Senior Designer Alysia Schewchuk! Everyone LOVED working on In-Between Days, and I can say that the whole staff at House of Anansi had a personal interest in pushing this book out into the World — but no one more so than Laura Meyer, our Publicity Director, who worked tirelessly in making sure that every media outlet in the country paid attention! And what a tsunami of media love it received. And this was just the beginning. In the Fall 2017, we published The Joyful Living Colouring Book by Teva. She had always dreamed of being the creator and illustrator of a colouring book, and we were more than happy to help her realize that dream. And in the not too distant future we will be publishing a collection of Teva’s poetry, Not One of These Poems Is About You, again featuring her words as well as her art. I think that Teva found great purpose in her art, and we were happy to act as the amplifiers of her work. Both she and we have seen how much it resonates with readers around the world.

I am very grateful to Teva for agreeing to my offer four years ago and for so generously giving herself over to the creation of these books. We learned so much from her about what it means to be human, and how to live and love with an open heart, through good times and bad. We will miss her terribly but her spirit lives on in her work and for that we are grateful — Such Love.


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