Denison Avenue

by Daniel Innes and Christina Wong

Denison Avenue cover

Nominated for 2023 Toronto Book Award
Nominated for the 2024 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction

What happens when home moves further away from you? How do you find it again?

Weaving memories, the past, and the present, graphic novel-novella Denison Avenue folows 71-year-old Wong Cho Sum, living in Toronto’s Chinatown-Kensington Market. Following the death of her husband Henry, she decides to take up collecting bottles and cans, as a way to deal with her grief.

On her walks through Toronto, Cho Sum reflects on the life that she had with Henry and the one she must rebuild without him, all the while navigating language barriers, how seniors are viewed, and the changes taking place in her neighbourhood and community.

Told in the form of a double-sided book that encompasses a graphic narrative (wordless images) on one side and a series of vignettes, on the other, Denison Avenue combines fiction with local history, weaving past and present, a poignant meditation on grief, loss, and memory.

Publication: Spring 2023

ECW Press

Rights sold:

  • World: ECW Press

“In Denison Avenue, we watch a recent widow desperately tread water in a city drowning under waves of gentrification. This tender lyrical novel is an anthem of grief, a swan song to cities as we know them and the loved ones we lose along the way.”
–Catherine Hernandez, author and screenwriter of Scarborough, the novel and film

“Christina Wong writes from the perspective of an elderly immigrant widow who collects bottles and cans in the streets and alleys of Toronto. It’s a thoughtful account of a difficult journey in a vanishing neighbourhood, complete with time capsule illustrations of Chinatown and Kensington Market by Daniel Innes. Denison Avenue is designed for people like me who fall in between the cracks of culture. I enjoyed reading the phonetic Cantonese and Toisan dialect translations in English that connected me to familiar languages and my neighbourhood.”
–Sook-Yin Lee, filmmaker, musician, and broadcaster

“What is a city but its stories? In Denison Avenue, Christina Wong’s elegant prose and poetry are accompanied by beautifully rendered illustrations by Daniel Innes, bringing to life the portrait of a Chinatown that is both disappearing and emerging. Through Mrs. Wong’s eyes, we witness a rapidly changing city. We travel with her through streets with names like Nassau, Cecil, Ulster, pass familiar noodle joints and Chinese bakeries, follow her cart from bin to bin. And yet Mrs. Wong shows us with keen observation the small joy one can have by eating a doong on a park bench or the delight in bumping into an old friend at Honest Ed’s, shopping for deals. I can hear her voice in Toisan, a song of love, kinship, and a collective memory of Chinatown. What is a city but its stories? Denison Avenue is a Toronto story.” –Carrianne Leung, author of That Time I Loved You

“With its intricate line drawings and poignant story, Denison Avenue transports me to a place I’ve never been, but also to a place that feels like home. From canned fried dace and butter cookie tins to the sonorous tones of the Toisanese dialect, this is the world of my ancestors — the lo wah kiu who flourished in Chinatowns all over Canada. And as we walk alongside Wong Cho Sum in her personal journey through grief, we grieve, too, for past generations and the loss of a once-thriving community.” –Teresa Wong, author of Dear Scarlet

“I spent my formative years in Kensington Market. I still go to Chinatown multiple times a week to eat. I love it so much, it’s a place that truly brings me so much joy. Denison Avenue shows us the realness of how the buildings are changing, the restaurants are changing, and the love that has slowly been taken away in the process. A beautiful book that shares stories of love and loss.”
–Matty Matheson, celebrity chef