First review: “Fighting for Space should be read widely and heeded by citizens and policy-makers”

Today (November 15) Fighting for Space received its first review. (First review excluding the four blurbs we collected before publication for the cover.)

It’s from the Vancouver Sun and gave me the impression that the writer, Tom Sandborn, really got what I was trying to do with the book.

“Lupick is a highly competent researcher and elegantly deft writer, and his book tells stories about the emergence of the Portland Hotel Society and the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users,” the review reads.

“Lupick’s book is humanized by his closely observed and respectful portraits of some of the people who first championed the radical idea that drug users should have a leading voice in designing any government interventions in their lives.”

It concludes: “Fighting for Space should be read widely and heeded by citizens and policy-makers.”

Read the review in its entirety at the Vancouver Sun‘s website.

Today the Sun‘s sister paper, the Province, also published an article about Fighting for Space. It’s based on an interview that staff reporter Dan Fumano did with me. You can read it at the Province‘s website.

Taking part in Homewood Health panel discussion November 9

This Thursday (November 9), I’m taking part in a panel discussion titled “Trauma and Resilience.” The event is hosted by Homewood Health, a mental-health and addiction services provider with one location in Vancouver.

The organization has been kind enough to work the release of Fighting for Space into the afternoon. Here’s how Homewood Health describes its plans:

“On November 9th, join us for a discussion about Vancouver’s opioid crisis, trauma, and treatment as we celebrate the launch of Travis Lupick’s new book, Fighting For Space, and the launch of the trauma-support program at The Homewood Clinic in Vancouver.

“Featuring a panel discussion with: Travis Lupick (award-winning journalist and author); Lynn Noftle (staff sergeant in the mental-health portfolio of the Vancouver Police Department); and Richard Marquez (trauma specialist with the Homewood Clinic in Vancouver).”

A Homewood Health media release provides additional details about the Vancouver clinic’s new trauma-support program, describing it as providing, “immediate access to customized, intensive outpatient treatment for individuals struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.”

The event is this Thursday afternoon (November 9), beginning at 4:30 p.m. at Homewood Health’s Vancouver headquarters at 575 West 8th Avenue, suite 600. You can register to attend via Eventbrite.

I believe the event is aimed at health-care workers and related service providers but that anyone who registers can sit in the audience.

After the panel discussion, I’ll have books there for sale and will be happy to sign copies and answer any additional questions people might have.

Fighting for Space is in bookstores now

Amanda Siebert photo.

Today’s the release date.

Fighting for Space: How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City’s Struggle with Addiction is out with Arsenal Pulp Press.

Order now via, Chapters Indigo, or directly from the publisher. (American release in the spring.)

While North America is in the grips of a drug epidemic, Fighting for Space explains the concept of harm reduction as a crucial component of a city’s response to the crisis.

It tells the story of a grassroots group of addicts in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside who waged a political street fight for two decades to transform how the city treats its most marginalized citizens. Fighting for Space follows the lives of two women—Liz Evans, who founded the Portland Hotel Society, and Ann Livingston, who co-founded the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users—and the extraordinary lengths they went to help their community weather a crisis.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, this group of residents from Canada’s poorest neighbourhood organized themselves in response to a growing number of overdose deaths and demanded that addicts be given the same rights as any other citizen.

But just as their battle came to an end, fentanyl arrived and opioid deaths across North America reached an all-time high.

It’s prompted many to rethink the war on drugs. Public opinion has slowly begun to turn against prohibition, and policy-makers are finally beginning to look at addiction as a health issue as opposed to one for the criminal justice system.

The previous epidemic in Vancouver sparked government action. Twenty years later, as the same pattern plays out in other cities, there is much that advocates for reform can learn from Vancouver’s experience. Fighting for Space tells that story, with the same passionate fervor as the activists whose tireless work gave dignity to addicts and saved countless lives.

Join us for the book’s launch in Vancouver on November 16.

Fighting for Space: Join us for the November 16 book launch in Vancouver

Our official launch is just three weeks away. (And the book is available for pre-order now.)

On November 16, we’re hosting a panel discussion in Vancouver in conjunction with the release of Fighting for Space.

The fentanyl crisis an where we go from here.”

The event will bring together a politician, a mother and advocate, a nonprofit service provider, a representative for the health-care system, a drug user, and a journalist, for a public discussion about B.C.’s fentanyl crisis.

Speakers will include: Nichola Hall, co-founder of From Grief to Action; Jennifer Breakspear, executive director of the Portland Hotel Society; Don Davies, member of Parliament for Vancouver Kingsway; Lorna Bird, president of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users; Dr. Bonnie Henry, deputy provincial health officer for British Columbia; Travis Lupick, author of Fighting for Space: How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City’s Struggle with Addiction and staff reporter for the Georgia Straight newspaper.

The evening will begin with a short performance of Illicit: Stories from a harm reduction movement. The theatre production by David Mendes and Kelty McKerracher shares the stories of residents of the Downtown Eastside who are working on the front lines of the community’s response to the overdose epidemic.

Then we’ll move to the panel. I’ll ask a few questions, keep things moving along, and then we’ll open the floor to questions from the audience.

Afterwards, the book will be available for purchase and I’ll be more than happy to sign copies and discuss further, if people want.

For complete details, visit the event’s Facebook page, and let us know if you’re coming.

Feel free to share this page on Facebook or Twitter.

We hope to see you there.

Fighting for Space hits the street in less than two weeks

We’re less than two weeks away from our release date. Fighting for Space will be in bookstores and begin shipping online orders on Wednesday, November 1.

Pre-order now via or Chapters Indigo. (American release in the spring.)

We’ve got a number of public appearances scheduled through November. I’ve added an “events” section to this website where you can find details on a couple of panel discussions I’m participating in as well as the book’s official release. The launch is happening in Vancouver on Thursday, November 16, and is open to the public.

The events page will be updated as additional appearances are scheduled so feel free to keep an eye there.

Sharing the cover of Fighting for Space: How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City’s Struggle with Addiction

Just a couple of months before publication, we finally have a cover selected for Fighting for Space.

The photograph was taken by Amanda Siebert, a staff reporter and colleague at the Georgia Straight newspaper. The design is by Oliver McPartlin, who works in-house at Arsenal Pulp Press.

We struggled for a while to nail down the exact look and feeling that we wanted. I think it was Amanda’s photograph that finally got us there. Then Oliver brought it together almost overnight.

We hope you like it.

Fighting for Space is available for pre-order now via Amazon or Chapters Indigo.

“An important book to read at a time when the opioid epidemic is killing a staggering number of people”

There were a lot of books that informed Fighting for Space but none more so than A Thousand Dreams: Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the Fight for its Future. Written by the Vancouver Sun‘s Lori Culbert (alongside Larry Campbell Neil Boyd), it’s a compelling history of a troubled neighbourhood that’s had a significant impact on the development of an entire city.

While Fighting for Space is set in the Downtown Eastside, A Thousand Dreams is about the Downtown Eastside, telling its story from start to finish (or at least up to the present day). Culbert literally wrote the book on the community that the characters of Fighting for Space call home. She’s also an amazing investigative reporter that’s covered the neighbourhood from every angle over the course of two decades. And so I was thrilled when Culbert said she would give my book a read and consider writing a blurb.

Here’s what the Vancouver Sun‘s Lori Culbert had so say about Fighting for Space.

“This is an important book to read at a time when the opioid epidemic is killing a staggering number of people across North America. Travis Lupick expertly illustrates how the marginalized yet determined residents of Vancouver’s tiny Downtown Eastside fought for harm-reduction services that would ultimately save many lives―a crucial lesson other North American cities can learn during this deadly crisis.” ― Lori Culbert, reporter, the Vancouver Sun; coauthor, A Thousand Dreams: Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the Fight for its Future

Fighting for Space is available for pre-order now via Amazon or Chapters Indigo.

Globe and Mail’s André Picard says Fighting for Space a book from which other cities can learn

The Globe and Mail‘s André Picard is Canada’s top health columnist. One of his regular articles in the country’s newspaper of record is enough to put an issue on the national agenda.

Picard and I have had a friendly relationship on Twitter for while and have bumped into each other at a few conferences over the years. He’s always been nothing but gracious with his time and expertise. And so, a couple of months, I reached out and asked if he would be in interested in reading a draft of Fighting for Space. Despite a hectic schedule—in addition to his column in the Globe, Picard is also usually on a speaking engagement somewhere and also has a new book, Matters of Life and Death: Public Health Issues in Canada, out last April—he replied, “Sure.”

Here’s our blurb from André Picard:

“Travis Lupick has covered the overdose crisis from its earliest stages, and he’s done so with passion and compassion. His articles have helped push an invisible health crisis into the spotlight, and forced public-health officials, policy-makers, and politicians to act. In Fighting for Space, Lupick expands and enriches his journalistic work with much needed context, helping readers understand how and why the overdose crisis occurred, why cities like Vancouver are hit particularly hard, and why even the skeptical have come to embrace harm reduction. But perhaps his greatest achievement is that this is ultimately an uplifting tale about a community, the Downtown Eastside, kept alive by street-level heroes.  Other cities in the grips of the opioids crisis can, and should, learn from their stories.” ― André Picard, health columnist, the Globe and Mail; author, Matters of Life and Death: Public Health Issues in Canada

Fighting for Space is available for pre-order now via Amazon or Chapters Indigo.

Dr. Gabor Maté: Fighting for Space does justice to Downtown Eastside’s “courageously maverick characters”

Our second blurb for Fighting for Space came in today. It’s by Dr. Gabor Maté, who played a significant role in shaping my views on addiction, drug use, mental health, and the consequences of prohibition.

Maté’s 2009 book, In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction, recounts his time working in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, during the 1990s. Employed by the Portland Hotel Society, the nonprofit housing-provider that I’ve written about in Fighting for Space, he pioneered a new theory of addiction. Rather than explaining drug use as a choice or the result of moral weakness, he emphasizes the role of early experience, environment, and childhood trauma. Hungry Ghosts entirely changed the way that I look at addiction and people who use drugs.

I’ve known Maté  for years through my work as a journalist in Vancouver and was honoured when he said he would consider writing a blurb for us. Here’s what Maté had to say for the book jacket:

Fighting for Space is a colourful, fast-paced, well-researched account of the unique circumstances, tragic and inspiring events, and the courageously maverick characters that established Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside as North America’s harm-reduction capital. Also ranging across the continent, from Ohio to California to Florida, Travis Lupick’s fascinating book should help inform a more rational understanding of addictions treatment and drug policies everywhere.” ― Gabor Maté M.D., author, In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction

Fighting for Space is available for pre-order now via Amazon or Chapters Indigo.

Johann Hari calls Fighting for Space “beautiful and haunting….essential history”

Today (July 9), Fighting for Space received its first short review. It’s a blurb for the back of the book jacket written by Johann Hari.

Hari is the author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. He also has a book coming out January 2018 called Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions.

Chasing the Scream is one of my favourite books. I wrote a review for Vancouver’s Georgia Straight newspaper when it was released back in January 2015. I was thrilled when Hari said he would read an early draft of my book and consider writing a blurb for us.

Here’s what Hari wrote for the back of Fighting for Space:

“The story of the Downtown Eastside is one of the most inspiring, moving, and enraging stories of our time. This beautiful and haunting book finally does it justice. This is essential history―and it isn’t over.” ― Johann Hari, author, Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War On Drugs

Fighting for Space is available for pre-order now via Amazon or Chapters Indigo.