May Wong with her book

May Wong with her book

Library celebrates Asian Heritage Month

Author will read from her book, A Cowherd in Paradise: From China to Canada

May is Asian Heritage month. In its honour, the Sooke Library Branch has invited  Victoria author May Q. Wong to read from her book, A Cowherd in Paradise: From China to Canada on Saturday, May 18.

May was born in the Montreal community around St. Urbain Street and Saint Lawrence Boulevard, known colloquially as “The Main,” an immigration-based community made famous by Mordecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. This context nurtured Wong’s strong sense of community and interest in social justice, along with a personal commitment to remember past injustices to create a better future.

Wong now lives in Victoria, her home since 1980. Her book tells her parents’ stories from both countries, China and Canada, and how they were affected by Canada’s Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, which was in effect until 1947.

The context of Wong’s community in Montreal gave her an empathetic multi-cultural understanding of immigrants fleeing their home countries in pursuit of a better future for their own families. In Wong’s case, her father, Wong Guey Dang, immigrated to Canada, and the Act of 1923 prevented him from bringing his wife, Jiang Tew Thloo. She raised her two children (Wong’s older sister and brother) in rural China, barely eking out an existence until the rise of communism in 1949. In 1954, Wong’s mother made the difficult decision to leave her 19-year-old daughter (Wong Lai Quen) in China in order to accompany her six-year-old son (Wong Yuet Wei, “Robert”) to Canada.

As described by the Vancouver Island Regional Library, “In this remarkable account, May Q. Wong follows the lives of Wong Guey Dang (1902-1983) and Jiang Tew Thloo (1911-2002). Married for over half a century, the couple was forced to live apart for 25 years because of Canada’s exclusionary immigration laws. In China, Ah Thloo struggled to survive natural disasters, wars, and revolutions: while in Canada, Ah Dang overcame discrimination to become a successful Montreal restaurateur.”

Wong will be at the Sooke Regional Libraryand (hint for aspiring authors), in addition to her expertise on this fascinating history, also brings with her a wealth of experience in both writing and publishing a book.

Wong’s visit to Sooke will also appeal to Sinophiles (people with a passion for anything Chinese) as her expertise includes a peek at life in China, behind the bamboo curtain, and what life was like for early Chinese immigrants in Canada.

Following is a set of questions we put to Wong:

SNM: How long did it take you to write your book?

Wong: I started in 2004, after I retired from the Public Service. I completed a first draft in 2008 and started looking for agents (only three responded and none were accepting new clients). In 2009, I started looking for publishers (all three were interested). In 2010, I was told to chop 20 per cen, so I hired an editor. I submitted my manuscript in May 2010 and by July, had a contract. This led to several more months of  editing. The book was published and released in April 2012.

SNM: What inspired you to actually record these stories?

Wong: My mother had been telling me these family stories all my life. She came to live with my husband and me and stayed for over 16 years, until the end of her life. She actually planted the seed to write the stories down, and we started recording her. The Harper government apology was being considered (she missed hearing it and receiving any compensation by a few years) and she wanted the next generation to know what it was like to be excluded from Canada and to have her family separated for a quarter of a century. My mother inspired all who met her.

SNM: What authors have inspired you?

Wong: I have very eclectic reading tastes. Early on, I was inspired by Han Suyin and Pearl S. Buck, whose stories of China reached such a wide audience. I love mysteries – P.D. James, Louise Penny; fantasy – Anne McCaffrey, Guy Gavriel Kay; Jasper Fforde; epic fiction – Bryce Courteney  – mostly books that are well-written and deal with the human condition and the personal struggle to do the right thing.

SNM: What was the most difficult story to tell?

Wong: The most difficult story to tell was my parent’s wedding night. It was not easy to admit that my father beat his wife.

SNM: What was the most personally pleasing?

Wong: I love the story about my mother’s relationship with her grandmother and the lessons she learned.

SNM: How has your own family received this book?

Wong: It has been very positively received. My sister is a main character, as much of the book is about how she was left behind. She was very pleased with the book and was proud to have had the family’s story told.

My parents are both deceased, but I think they would be proud of me.

SNM: Are you planning on writing another one?

Wong: Yes, I have been researching another social justice, human interest story, and there are a couple of irons in the fire.

 

On May 18 Wong will be at the Sooke library, 2065 Annamarie Rd. between 1 and 2:30 p.m.

Everyone is welcome.

To register, or for more information, please call the Sooke Library at 250-642-3022.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

The application proposing to rezone Western Speedway was passed by Langford’s planning, zoning and affordable housing committee Feb 8. A petition has since been started by residents of Trudie Terrace, hoping to stop the proposed residential portion of the development plan. (CBRE Victoria)
Petition opposing Western Speedway development proposal gains steam

Save Thetis Heights Neighborhood petition aims to stop extension of Trudie Terrace

The City of Victoria filed a petition with the Supreme Court of B.C. March 2 to have it clarify whether, under the Trustee Act, Beacon Hill Park can be used for temporary sheltering. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria asks court to clarify if Beacon Hill Park can be used for sheltering

City of Victoria filed petition to Supreme Court of B.C. March 2

Boma Brown won the Emerging Leader Award for her work founding the Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour. (Courtesy of Boma Brown)
Victoria SNIWWOC founder up for national women’s award for volunteer efforts

Victoria’s Boma Brown is a semi-finalist in the running for the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth award

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

.
LETTER: Anti-semitism definition lacking

Re: We must identify anti-Semitism and combat it (Online, Feb. 26) I… Continue reading

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

Most Read