Carra Noelle Simpson

It’s easy to lose sight of individuals when we group people within a single assumption. In Vancouver the people who live in the Downtown Eastside are often considered one homogeneous group of addicts, or outcasts. Cathleen With’s book of short stories, Skids (Arsenal Pulp Press), takes a closer look at the human beings who inhabit this community and other communities like it. The stories are a jarring and dedicated reminder that “those people” are individuals with their own understanding of things and their own reasons for being who and where they are. Skids gets to the core of its characters, exposing the humanity and vulnerability in each of them. The book is not an easy read—it has violent and disturbing moments, into which the reader is drawn by With’s tightly crafted prose. I was rattled by the content, but it reminds me not to make assumptions about people, like the man who walked past me on Pender Street pushing a shopping cart and cursing people that no one else could see.

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