Sunday, May 23, 2010

Immigrant experience

An Immigrant Story

The big news of the summer festival scene is that the Multicultural Festival is leaving Dartmouth and going over to Halifax this year. They are changing the date and place. It will be taking place July 2nd, 3rd and 4th on the Halifax Waterfront, Marginal Road opposite Pier 21. Given that many of our immigrants arrived through Pier 21 it seems like a proper place for the event but Dartmouth surely will miss it.

There are a number of immigrant stories around, both non-fiction and fiction. I have chosen to focus on the fiction since that is what I am currently reading.

The Amazing Absorbing Boy by Rabindranath Maharaj

Seventeen year old Samuel is forced to leave Trinidad after his mother dies. In Toronto Samuel joins his father, whom he has not seen since he was 6. His father is not welcoming and has not been successful in this new land. His innocent wide-eyed experience and view of the big city ways of Toronto are both tender and comical. What I found great was how he survives this foreign country and his emotional distant father with wisdom he culled from reading super-hero comic books.

No New Land: a novel by M.G. Vassanji

The Lalanis family moves from Dar, East Africa to the suburbs of Toronto. As soon as they arrive in the snowy airport the family realizes that the clothes they wear are not appropriate for this new country. The theme of ill-fitting continues throughout the book to describe both the outfits and the family itself. What clothing defines a person as a Canadian. Is it the flannel shirt, jeans and a t-shirt? So where does a sari, burka or a kimono (and the people who wear them) fit into Canadian society. Does the pressure to fit in have to mean the loss of traditions and culture? These are the questions that the Lalanis family face.

The Young Icelander: the story of an immigrant in Nova Scotia and Manitoba by Johann Magnus Bjarnason

The author has earned the reputation as one of Iceland’s leading writers. The Parliament of Iceland awarded him its highest honor, The Order of the Falcon, on his 70th birthday. As the subtitle states this is a fictional account of a young Icelandic boy who is stranded on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia at the end of the 19th century is hardly the same place as the Toronto of present day that the previous novels feature. Bjarnason writes wonderfully about the immigrant experiences in rural Nova Scotia and Manitoba. An Immigrant Story

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