Straight Talk about Race

So now you get to see what my Cover Girl experience was all about. The CBC officially launched Real Talk on Race today. For the next two weeks, CBC Montreal’s radio, television and social media platforms will be discussing and encouraging people to talk about race and racial identity. Ten Montrealers,  including me, contributed personal stories which you can read on their web site. My story will roll out on Wednesday, but you can have a sneak peek here.

Listen to CBC radio’s Daybreak and Radio Noon. You can join the conversation by texting or calling into the show. You can also like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CBCMontreal/ or follow them on Twitter and Instagram: @CBCMontreal.

 

 

 

How to Tell if You Were Raised in a Chinese-American (or Canadian) Family

Photo from iStock

Photo from iStock

Read this hilarious post by LiAnne Yu and see how many of these signs you can identify with. I can identify with every one except #7 and 10.

17 signs you were raised in a Chinese-American family

1. You speak Chinglish fluently.

You and your parents have developed your own, unique language, made up of some parts English and some parts Chinese. Every Chinese-American family has their own version of Chinglish. Some of my family favorites: “I bought hen duo (a lot) of your favorite snacks.” “It’s too mafan (troublesome).” And: “That’s so diu lian (humiliating).” When you were younger you felt embarrassed to speak Chinglish in public, but now that you’re older, you cherish having such an intimate language that you share with only a few other people in the world.  Continue reading

Bagg Street Shul

Walking Tours with the Museum of Jewish Montreal

Doing research for a project can either be a chore or a pleasure. It was the latter for me recently. I’ve been researching Jewish history in Montreal when a friend mentioned that the Museum of Jewish Montreal gives walking tours. It sounded like a lot more fun than just reading about it, so I signed up for “Making Their Mark,” a tour of the Jewish community that existed in the Plateau area from the turn of the 20th century until the 1950s.

I met Laura, my tour guide, at the corner of St. Laurent and Milton. Since I was the only one who signed up for that day, it would be a private tour. We spent the next two hours viewing buildings that were formerly synagogues, schools and hospitals which Laura brought to life as she talked about the immigration of Eastern European Jews and how they established their community, culture and what was once Montreal’s thriving schmatta industry.

Continue reading

Canada Day Cake 2014

Canada’s 147th Birthday

My friends, Celia and Pauline, had volunteered to barbecue hamburgers at a Canada Day celebration in Montreal West. Being the good and loyal friend that I am, I decided to support their efforts by eating one. It was a hot, muggy day perfect for relaxing in the park listening to live music and taking advantage of the ice cream carts. Here are a few photos of the festivities. Happy Canada Day, everyone!

The Fitting Room by Cheryl Sim

Chinese Fever

Looking for some free things to do around Montreal? Head towards Chinatown and take a look at a couple of exhibits by local artists.

Cheryl Sim

Cheryl Sim

La Cabine d’Essayage (The Fitting Room) by Cheryl Sim is aptly located in a small corner of a shopping mall in Chinatown amid clothing and accessory boutiques.

Sim examines the cheongsam, which according to her, is a dress that has become an internationally recognized symbol of Chinese cultural identity. She asks Canadian-born Chinese women how they feel about the dress and if they have a desire to wear it. You get to listen to their answers through headphones and feel as if you’re a part of their conversation. Also part of the exhibit is a video-sculptural work that evokes the classic Chinese screen on which photos and videos showing the evolution of the cheongsam are displayed, and a transparent, plexi-glass fitting room which projects clips from Hollywood films onto the visitor’s body.

Continue reading

Celebrate Asian Heritage Month

Asian Heritage Month 2014

 

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:

Books

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. Continue reading

The Potato Wars: A Story About an Unfair Food Fight

The Potato Wars is a true story about how in 1935, a group of Chinese potato farmers fought The BC Coast Vegetable Marketing Board for the right to sell potatoes. The Board had implemented a system of quotas and fixed prices that prevented the Chinese from selling their produce in Vancouver. It’s a piece of Chinese-Canadian history that graphic artist, Joanne Hui, examines in a unique way and in the process, makes learning history fun.

Check out Joanne’s blog here  or take a look at her work and profile at En Masse.

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Lion Heads waiting to welcome 2014

Enter the Lions – Welcoming the New Year Chinese Style

The pounding beat of a drum, the clash of cymbals and the sound of firecrackers rang through Montreal’s Chinatown Sunday afternoon to scare away evil demons. The lions had arrived to celebrate the New Year. The lions are members of The Montreal Chinese Lions Dance Club, a martial arts and lions dance club. Dressed in colourful, shimmering costumes, they visit stores, restaurants and tong associations in Chinatown to wish them luck and prosperity in the New Year.

Thank goodness the deep, freezing cold temperatures broke this weekend. It was a balmy -1 Celsius. The snow was turning to slush. A small cloud of smoke billowed as firecrackers exploded in Sun Yat-Sen Square. The lions bowed and pranced in front of guests of honour, each of whom dangled a head of lettuce and a red envelope from a pole.  According to tradition, the lion eats the lettuce and the envelope. Then, it tosses the pieces of lettuce in the air to wish the person and the establishment prosperity in the coming year.

The crowd followed the lions up Clark Street to their first stop. Someone on the second floor dangled a head of lettuce and a red envelope from a pole high over the sidewalk. The lions leaped and danced and successfully grabbed both items.

Le Cristal was packed with customers having dim sum when the lions made their entrance into the restaurant located on the sixth floor. Cameras and cell phones snapped photos as the lions wound their way around the tables and headed towards the far end. The owners hung the lettuce and red envelope from the ceiling which was more of a challenge since it was so high. Customers cheered as the lions made several attempts and then burst into applause when they succeeded.

For the next three hours, the lions made their way into shopping centers and stores. They stopped at doorways marked by a head of lettuce and a red envelope hanging from the top, or where someone waited with a pole. The crowd grew as the small parade made its way along La Gauchetière Street, chasing away evil spirits to ensure the community a happy and prosperous new year.