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Asian Canadian Heritage Month: 2021

About this resource list


In celebration of Asian Canadian Heritage Month, this guide has been guest-curated by Camosun Library Technician, Lisa Takata.

Lisa earned her Bachelor's degree, with a major in Asian Studies, at the University of British Columbia. Throughout her career she has worked in heritage and knowledge organizations including the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre, the Coquitlam and Burnaby Public Libraries, the public school system in Japan, and – since 2014 – the Camosun College Library.

Lisa is an outspoken advocate for equality and diversity. Her perspectives and experiences as a Japanese Canadian and as a descendant of Japanese Canadians who experienced forcible internment by the Canadian government, inform and enrich her professional ethos and ability to effect change.

Lisa's list features works that celebrate the ideas, successes, creativity, and stories of Asian Canadians. These resources – and more – are available at the Camosun library.

Websites of interest


Media


Film still from

Sing Me a Lullaby

Written and Directed by Tiffany Hsiung
CBC Short Docs
2020

Film still from

Re:Location – Japanese Internment

Written and Directed by Sun-Kyung Yi
Sound Venture Productions
2020

Film still from

Everything Will Be

Written and Directed by Julia Kwan
National Film Board of Canada
2013

Film still from

Becoming Labrador

Directed by Rohan Fernando, Tamara Segura & Justin Simms
National Film Board of Canada
2018

Fil still from

They Think I'm Chinese!

Directed by Nicole Giguère
National Film Board of Canada
2011

Film still from

From Harling Point

Directed by Ling Chiu
National Film Board of Canada
2003

Film still from

Heaven on Earth

Written and Directed by Deepa Mehta
National Film Board of Canada
2008

Cover art from

One Big Hapa Family

Written and Directed by Jeff Chiba Stearns
Meditating Bunny Studio Inc.
2010

Fil still from

Continuous Journey

Written and Directed by Ali Kazimi
TV Ontario
2004

CBC Curio logo

Pride and Prejudice: Cultural Barriers to Coming Out

Stephen Quinn, Journalist interview with Shona Mistry & Adrian Zhang
CBC, Early Edition, Curio
2014

Asian Canadian writers online


Fiction

Cover art for The Conjoined

The Conjoined

Jen Sookfong Lee, 2016
E-book and in print: PS 8623 E442 C66 2016

On a sunny May morning, social worker Jessica Campbell sorts through her mother's belongings after her recent funeral. In the basement, she makes a shocking discovery – two dead girls curled into the bottom of her mother's chest freezers. She remembers a pair of foster children who lived with the family in 1988: Casey and Jamie Cheng – troubled, beautiful, and wild teenaged sisters from Vancouver's Chinatown. After six weeks, they disappeared; social workers, police officers, and Jessica herself assumed they had run away.

As Jessica learns more about Casey, Jamie, and their troubled immigrant Chinese parents, she also unearths dark stories about Donna, whom she had always thought of as the perfect mother. The complicated truths she uncovers force her to take stock of own life. Moving between present and past, this riveting novel examines the myth of social heroism and traces the often-hidden fractures that divide our diverse cities.

Cover art for Kim's Convenience

Kim's Convenience

Ins Choi, 2016
Call number: PS 8605 H63 K54 2016

Mr. Kim is a first-generation Korean immigrant and the proud owner of Kim's Convenience, a variety store located in the heart of downtown Toronto's Regent Park neighbourhood. There, he spends his time serving an eclectic array of customers, catching petty thieves, and helpfully keeping the police apprised of illegally parked Japanese cars. As the neighbourhood quickly gentrifies, Mr. Kim is offered a generous sum of money to sell – enough to allow him and his wife to finally retire. But Kim's Convenience is more than just his livelihood – it is his legacy. As Mr. Kim tries desperately, and hilariously, to convince his daughter Janet, a budding photographer, to take over the store, his wife sneaks out to meet their estranged son Jung, who has not seen or spoken to his father in sixteen years and who has now become a father himself.

Cover art for

Warlight

Michael Ondaatje, 2019
Call number: PS 8529 N283 W37 2019

In 1945, just after World War II, fourteen-year-old Nathaniel, and his older sister, Rachel, stay behind in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and they grow both more convinced and less concerned as they come to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women joined by a shared history of unspecified service during the war, all of whom seem, in some way, determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) the siblings. But are they really what and who they claim to be? And what does it mean when the siblings' mother returns after months of silence without their father, explaining nothing, excusing nothing? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all that he didn't know and understand in that time, and it is this journey – through facts, recollection, and imagination – that he narrates in this masterwork from one of the great writers of our time.

Cover art for

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Madeleine Thien, 2017
Call number: PS 8589 H449 D6 2017

Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two generations – those who lived through Mao's Cultural Revolution in the mid-20th century; and the children of the survivors, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square in 1989, in one of the most important political moments of the past century. At the centre of this epic tale, as capacious and mysterious as life itself, are enigmatic Sparrow, a genius composer who wishes desperately to create music yet can find truth only in silence; his mother and aunt, Big Mother Knife and Swirl, survivors with captivating singing voices and an unbreakable bond; and headstrong, talented Kai, best friend of Sparrow and Zhuli, and a determinedly successful musician who is a virtuoso at masking his true self until the day he can hide no longer. Here, too, is Kai's daughter, the ever-questioning mathematician Marie, who pieces together the tale of her fractured family in present-day Vancouver, seeking a fragile meaning in the layers of their collective story.

Cover art for

Everything Was Good-bye

Gurjinder Basran, 2012
Call number: PS 8603 A789 E93 2012

The youngest of six daughters raised by a widowed mother, Meena is a young Indo-Canadian woman struggling to find her place in the world. She knows that the freedom experienced by others is beyond her reach. But unlike her older sisters, Meena refuses to accept a life dictated by tradition. Against her mother's wishes, she falls for a young man named Liam who asks her to run away with him. She must then make a painful choice – one that will lead to stunning and irrevocable consequences. Heartbreaking and beautiful, Everything Was Good-bye is an unforgettable story about family, love, loss, and the struggle of living in two different cultural worlds.

Cover art for

A Tale for the Time Being

Ruth Ozeki, 2014
Call number: Paperback


"A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be." In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there's only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates' bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who's lived more than a century. A diary is Nao's only solace – and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox – possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao's drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.

Cover art for

The Selector of Souls

Shauna Singh Baldwin, 2012
Call number: PS 8553 A4493 S44 2013

In Shauna Singh Baldwin’s enthralling novel, two fascinating, strong-willed women must deal with the relentless logic forced upon them by survival: Damini, a Hindu midwife, and Anu, who flees an abusive marriage for the sanctuary of the Catholic church. When Sister Anu comes to Damini’s home village to open a clinic, their paths cross, and each are certain they are doing what’s best for women. What do health, justice, education and equality mean for women when India is marching toward prosperity, growth and becoming a nuclear power? If the baby girls and women around them are to survive, Damini and Anu must find creative ways to break with tradition and help this community change from within.

Cover art for

The Hero's Walk

Anita Rau Badami, 2000
Call number: PS 8553 A33 H47 2000

Set in the dusty seaside town of Toturpuram on the Bay of Bengal, The Hero's Walk traces the terrain of family and forgiveness through the lives of an exuberant cast of characters bewildered by the rapid pace of change in today's India. Each member of the Rao family pits his or her chance at personal fulfillment against the conventions of a crumbling caste and class system. Author Anita Rau Badami states, "The Hero's Walk is a novel about so many things: loss, disappointment, choices and the importance of coming to terms with yourself and the circumstances of your life without losing the dignity embedded in all of us. At one level it is about heroism – not the hero of the classic epic, those enormous god-sized heroes – but my fascination with the day-to-day heroes and the heroism that's needed to survive all the unexpected disasters and pitfalls of life."

Cover art for

A Fine Balance

Rohinton Mistry, 1997
Call number: PS 8576 I853 F5 2001

The setting is India in 1975-76, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, defying a court order calling for her resignation, declares a state of emergency and imprisons the parliamentary opposition as well as thousands of students, teachers, trade unionists and journalists. These events, along with the government's forced sterilization campaign, serve as backdrop for an intricate tale of four ordinary people struggling to survive.

Cover art from

Nostalgia

M.G. Vassanji, 2017
Call number: PS 8593 A87 N68 2017

From two-time Giller Prize winner Moyez Vassanji comes a taut, ingenuous, and dynamic novel about a future where eternal life is possible, and identities can be chosen. In the indeterminate future, the threat of the brain's storage capacity being overwhelmed, people want to be free from redundant, unwanted, and interfering memories. All traces of a person's past are erased. On occasion, cracks emerge, and reminders of discarded lives seep through. Those afflicted burrow in the conscious mind threatening to pull sufferers into an internal abyss.    

Cover art for

Paper Teeth

Lauralyn Chow, 2016
Call number: PS 8605 H7 P37 2016

Chow's debut, Paper Teeth, follows the lives of the Lees, a Canadian-Chinese family and their friends who reside in Edmonton, Alberta. While playing with time and place, from Edmonton in the 1960s and 70s up to present-day Calgary, Chow creates a world of walking dolls, family car trips, fashion and frosty makeup, home renovations inspired by pop culture, and moving up to big, new houses. The interconnected stories found in Paper Teeth are fun, funny, and heart-warming journeys about the pursuit of identity and the crafting of home.

With domestic tomfoolery and through deft observation and prismatic-voiced humour – including ironic asides – Lauralyn Chow reveals how family nourishes hope.

Cover art for

Ru

Kim Thúy, 2012
Call number: PS 8639 H89 R813 2012

Written with piercing clarity, sharp observation and sly wit, Ru carries us on an unforgettable journey from a palatial residence in Saigon to a crowded and muddy Malaysian refugee camp, and onward to a new beginning in Quebec. Moving seamlessly from past to present, from history to memory and back again, Ru is a book that celebrates life in all its wonder: its moments of beauty and sensuality, brutality and sorrow, comfort and comedy.

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Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains

Yasuko Thanh, 2016
Call number: PS 8639 H375 M97 2016

In 1908, the French rule Saigon, but uneasily; dissent whispers through the corridors of the city. Each day, more Vietnamese rebels are paraded through the streets towards the blade of the guillotine, now a permanent fixture in the main square and a gruesome warning to those who would attempt to challenge colonial rule. It is a warning that Dr. Nguyen Georges-Minh will not heed: he is obsessed by guilt over his material wealth and nurses a secret loathing for the French connections that have made him rich, even as they have torn his country apart. With a close group of friends, Georges-Minh plots revenge on the French. It falls to him to poison a garrison of French soldiers, but the assassination attempt goes horribly wrong. Forced to flee into the deep jungles of the outer provinces, Georges-Minh must care for his infant son, manage the growing madness of his wife, and elude capture by the hill tribes and the small – but lethal – pockets of French sympathizers.

Cover art for

The Headmaster's Wager

Vincent Lam, 2013
Call number: PS 8623 A467 H42 2013

Percival Chen is the headmaster of the most respected English school in Saigon. He is also a compulsive gambler and womanizer. He is accustomed to bribing government officials in order to maintain the elite status of the Chen Academy. He is fiercely proud of his Chinese heritage, and quick to spot the business opportunities rife in a divided country. He devotedly ignores all news of the fighting that swirls around him, choosing instead to read the faces of his opponents at high-stakes mahjong tables. Only when his son gets in trouble with the Vietnamese authorities, Percival faces the limits of his connections and is forced to send him away. In the loneliness that follows, Percival finds solace in Jacqueline, a woman of mixed French and Vietnamese heritage, and Laing Jai, a son born to them on the eve of the Tet offensive. Percival's new-found happiness is precarious, and as the complexities of war encroach further and further into his world, he must confront the tragedy of all he has refused to see.