I carry this book around with me like an open wound. It’s been almost a month since I finished it, but I’m still reeling from it—I feel naked after having read this book, my insides completely exposed for the world to probe.
I have mentioned before that I often feel culturally displaced in this big ol’ beautiful country. While Canadian society is hailed as a multicultural mosaic, Canadian laws and policies do not often reflect the progressive views of its citizens towards immigrants and refugees. And it’s a reality I’ve been battling with since undergrad–that, and coming to terms with the fact that I had internalized racism for much of my life.
This collection of stories filled with young, urban Asian-Canadians resonated with me in a way that no other literary work has before.
And I don’t necessarily think it’s solely because Lau is a brilliant story teller (which she is, don’t get me wrong), but because she is ushering in a new literary voice that has been missing in Canadian literature for far too long: second-generation Asian-Canadians.
Most of us would have learned in our history classes the role Chinese-Canadians played in helping shape this country’s national identity by building its railroads. We’ve heard about the traumatic experiences of immigration, internment, etc. But in Lau’s literary offering of young Asian-Canadians, we hear a new voice, we open ourselves to the experiences of second-generations and the burden we carry to blend into our new environment while carrying on the traditions of our ancestors.
Themes of anti-Asian Racism, internalized racism, and colonization run deep in many of her stories full of heart and warmth.
I also loved this book because it not only touched on the political and social issues I often struggle with, but because Lau masterfully captured and portrayed my own experiences as a twenty-something urbanite, navigating the capricious nature of my twenties.
I can’t quite put into words what it was like reading through Lau’s short stories—each one resonated in a different way, conjuring up memories of my childhood as a young Filipina immigrant from a low-income family, to a 20-something university graduate overwhelmed by the world around me.
I’m exceptionally excited for her new emerging voice in Can Lit, and I sincerely hope many more follow in her wake.
Verdict: it’s a great series of short stories, it deserves every praise it has received, and I personally believe it’s an important piece of literature in the wider narrative of Canadian literature.