Saturday, May 1, 2010

Asian Heritage Month

**by Dalhousie student guest blogger Matthew**

May is Asian Heritage Month! This is a time for Asian Canadians to celebrate and share their heritage and for Canadians to reflect on and commemorate the contributions of Asian Canadians to the growth and prosperity of our nation. There is a long and rich history of Asians in Canada and what better way to share cultural diversity than through the pages of our local public library. I will be drawing attention to three books in the library's catalogue to encourage insight into the experiences of Asian immigration to Canada and North America.

The first book is a Grandfather’s Journey, a children’s book suitable for ages 4-8 by Allen Say. This Caldecott award winning picture book is the story of Say’s own grandfather who moved from Japan to California and back again. The pictures are hauntingly beautiful watercolours steeped in the loneliness felt by the characters as strangers in strange lands. Even returning to Japan is no respite for the isolation that surrounds Say’s Grandfather who is perpetually caught between wanderlust and homesickness. Say’s writing is concise, yet powerful; it won’t overwhelm children, but rather absorb them. While casting a scant storyline Say does not avoid major historical events, describing the effect of Hiroshima on his grandfather and father as “scattering their lives like leaves in the wind.” Say is both the author and illustrator and it may be this personal involvement in the work that is responsible for the capacity of this book to show the reader their world through another’s eyes.

The Dragon’s Child: a story of Angel Island by Laurence Yep is for older readers, aged 9-12. Once again this is the story of a male Asian immigrant, this time from China to California. The main character is 10 year old Gim Lew Yep, who is left-handed and stutters. The story focuses on him and his father leaving China and struggling to prepare for the immigration process that awaits them when their ship reaches California. Whereas Say portrayed the difficulties of immigration through illustrations of an ethereal nature, this difficulty is what drives the plot of Yep’s book. Although the story takes place in 1922, it maintains it’s relevance recounting how painful, and complex the immigration process is and how vulnerable potential immigrants are to the whims of bureaucracy. Since Canada draws on it’s multiculturalism as a source of identity, stories such as this are essential for our inclusive progression. Printed in 2008 this book has already been included in the list of New York Public Libraries "One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing."

The last book I am going to mention is Sky Lee’s Disappearing Moon Café. This book is written for adults, but can probably be enjoyed from the ages of 16-18 onwards. While the first two books are about Asian immigration in days gone by, Lee’s book is a modern day account of a Chinese Canadian woman trying to retrace her family’s history from when her grandfather first immigrated to British Columbia in 1892. To continue the progression of the intensification of detail this book is rife with intricate issues. Racial, family, and personal crisis, sexual entanglement, and a plot that jumps from modernity to the past from chapter to chapter makes Lee’s work a complex, but compelling read. Lee won the Vancouver City Book Award for this work in 1990.

>please note that the Halifax launch of Asian Heritage Month will be taking place at the Keshen Goodman Public Library , Saturday, May 1st. All are Welcome!

No comments:

Post a Comment