If you have always wanted to try dim sum but never got around to it, then here’s a good reason to go: May is designated as Asian Heritage Month. The Canadian Government’s web site (where you can download the poster above) says “Asian Heritage Month is an ideal occasion for all to celebrate the beauty and wisdom of various Asian cultures.” Of course, you can celebrate anytime of the year, but what better excuse to order Chinese take-out and indulge in a marathon of Bruce Lee or Ang Lee films?
Need some more ideas? Here are a few from my shelf of Canadian books and film:
I’m currently reading A Cowherd in Paradise – From China to Canada by May Q. Wong and am loving it. It’s the story of Wong’s parents who were forced to live apart for 25 years because of Canada’s exclusionary immigration laws. It is a well-written account with family photos and it brings to life the price the Chinese paid when Canada enacted the Chinese Immigration Act. I met Wong when she came to Montreal to do a reading of her book. You can read about it here.
The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son and a Suit by J.J. Lee was a finalist for the Governor General’s literary award for non-fiction in 2012. This book deserved all the accolades it received. This memoir about a son who decides to become an apprentice to one of the last great tailors in Vancouver’s Chinatown in order to alter his father’s suit learns invaluable lessons about life instead.
The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy is, in my opinion, a classic. It’s the story of the children of an immigrant family living and growing up in Vancouver’s Chinatown in the 1930s and 1940s.
Midnight at the Dragon Cafe by Judy Fong Bates is about Su-Jen, a young girl who arrives in small-town Ontario with her mother to join her father who runs the only Chinese restaurant in town. Life in Canada is not what her mother expected and she becomes bitter and depressed. When Su-Jen’s half brother arrives and moves in with them, there are devastating consequences. I couldn’t put this book down.
Ru by Kim Thuy was the winner of the Governor General’s Award in 2010. Originally written in French and then translated into English, it’s a beautifully written story of a young Vietnamese girl who immigrates to Quebec and her chance to live the American dream.
Out of the Blue, a Memoir of Workplace Depression, Recovery, Redemption and, Yes, Happiness by Jan Wong is a fascinating memoir about her fight with The Globe and Mail which triggered her clinical depression and Manulife Insurance Company’s attempts to withhold her insurance benefits.
Passage to Promise Land: Voices of Chinese Immigrant Women to Canada is written by Dr. Vivienne Poy who was instrumental in having the month of May declared Asian Heritage Month in Canada. It tells the story of 28 immigrant women from the end of the Second World War to present day. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m sure it’ll be as interesting as the author herself. Read my blog about her book launch here.
The Canadian Children’s Book Centre has a list of children and young adult books about the culture and people of Asia and Asian-Canadians. There are too many for me to list here, but you can read about them on their website.
Being Chinese in Quebec: A Road Movie (2013) a bilingual (French & English) film by Malcolm Guy and William Ging Wee Dere examines how young Chinese feel about themselves and their place in the community. Watch the trailer on YouTube.
In the Shadow of Gold Mountain (2004) by Karen Cho tells the stories of the last survivors of the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act. You can watch it on the National Film Board web site.
Up The Yangtze (2007) by Yung Chang follows the Yu family whose life is turned upside down when they learn that their home and land will be flooded after the Chinese government decides to build the Three Gorges Dam. Watch the trailer on the National Film Board web site.
Double Happiness (1994) directed by Mina Shum starred Sandra Oh before she was cast in Grey’s Anatomy. Oh plays a young Chinese-Canadian trying to find a way to balance her own needs and desires with those of her parents.
Dim Sum Funeral (2008) directed by Anna Chi. This comedy drama is the story of estranged siblings who reunite for their mother’s funeral.
Bulletproof Monk (2003) directed by Paul Hunter is based on an underground comic book about a monk who mentors a street kid to protect a scroll. It stars Yun-Fat Chow and Montreal actor, Russell Yuen.
So have a Happy Asian Heritage Month, everyone! How are you celebrating? What’s your favorite Asian book or film?