Vancouver graphic novelist featured at ExplorAsian

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Reprinted from LaSource magazine
by  // ArtCulture // Volume 14, Issue 7 – April 29 — May 13, 2014

Historical events, usually geared towards adults, can gain new interest from a younger generation of readers by telling the stories as graphic novels. David H. T. Wong, born and raised in Vancouver, wrote and illustrated a 2012 best-seller about the Chinese journey to North America. It is the collective story of every immigrant and no one in particular. Wong will guide a graphic novel workshop on May 10 at the ExplorAsian 2014 festival and he challenges British Columbians to celebrate their own culture through storytelling and comic narratives.
“Every family has a story. It is an opportunity to encourage people to talk about where they come from,” says Wong. “At a time when digital technology is changing how people interact, the need for a better understanding about communities and cultures can be enhanced by storytelling.” Comics might be criticized as having too many pictures, too few words and lack intellectual or emotional core to be taken seriously. Escape to Gold Mountain is nothing like that.

“Most young people say they don’t like history because it’s very boring,” Wong says. “I wanted to present it in a way which was interesting, dynamic, and engaging.” The story is heavily researched, referencing historical documents and interviews with elders. It is a history narrated through the eyes of Wong’s own family, who came to North America from China 130 years ago. Only one year after its publication, it attracts both the reluctant reader and the bookworm by using pictures to lure kids and retain the expected qualities beloved by adults.

Aiming to create an environment of shared experiences

The history of Chinese immigration to Canada and the US is especially engaging through the Wong family’s story, as they navigate political injustice, racial violence, and social change over 100 years and three generations. “A comic book can help build on the gift of imagination,” says Wong. “Human progress is about ideas, and they might come from art and culture. Synergy of ideas is the engine of innovation.” Cultural heritage is unique and irreplaceable. The responsibility of preservation is placed on the current generation. A good story can become the foundation to learning. ExplorAsian, celebrating its 17th year of Canada’s Asian Heritage month, encourages people at the workshop and the festival to appreciate history and culture through story-telling. And everybody can get really valuable information at the best place: ask a grandparent.

Jim Wong Chu, a published author and local Chinese historian, is one of the founders of ExplorAsian and says there is so much value to be found in attending the festival and its workshops. “ExplorAsian aims to teach people how to tell stories, since history is a legacy,” explains Chu. “The festival is moving towards education with workshops that help informing the community about sharing their own history.”

“History so often repeats itself, and personal biases and prejudices influence how people relate to each other” says Wong. By sharing personal stories, the organizers think this can be changed by building knowledge and education within the community. The first published North American comic was in 1842 (although comic strips have been collected from as early as 1833). But “it is not strange for the Asian people to use visual arts, graphic arts and history all-together,” says Chu. In Asia, for millennia, illustrations have been used for story-telling and mirth-making. Illustrations have enlivened Asian walls, scrolls, books and public and private places.

Apologies for ‘contact info’ glitch

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We had switched web service providers last Fall, and didn’t properly connect up our image links, nor “contact info” emails properly.

If you had sent an email to the author, David Wong, and did not receive a response, David apologizes for missing your communication. Please re-send your email or just send a quick note with on our Contact page.

Thank you!

How I Completely Changed My Mind

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by Christine Mowat

reprinted from the PLAIN Language 2013 Conference website

I’ve had an interesting change of heart and mind over the last two weeks. And it came out of a session I was facilitating at the PLAIN 2013 Vancouver Conference.

When Cheryl asked me to facilitate speakers who were writing narratives but were cartoonists, I mentally rolled my eyes. Then I muttered to myself, “Cartoonists presenting at a plain-language conference? Now, the dumbing-down is real!” But it was late in the planning and I didn’t want to ask for another session.

Good thing that I didn’t! Here’s the story.

The first “cartoonist” was David H.T. Wong, author of Escape to Gold Mountain, A Graphic History of the Chinese in North America (2012).
I finished reading his 239-page book a few days ago. Yes, it’s that long. And this over-150-year history of how the Chinese have been treated, and how they endured, is a stunning history book. In fact, I learned about all kinds of mistreatments and discriminations and cruelties that I knew nothing about. Yes, I had heard of the legislation restricting Chinese immigration in both Canada and the USA, I had heard of the Head Tax, and our PM’s apology to the Chinese a couple of years ago. But the significance of these racist decisions and other behaviours I didn’t know. The absence of this kind of information in our educational system saddens me.

In fact, in Canada, it is parallel to the educational vacuum we have about First Nations people and their significance and value to our history. When I read John Ralston Saul’s A Fair Country, I felt I had been waiting all my life to have a more balanced view of colonial history and the role First Nations played.

Well, what can I say about David’s “graphic history”? To me it was a very fine academic surprise. As an illustrated history (more accurate than “cartoons”), it contains:

  • a Table of Contents (aptly titled Contents)
  • a Preface
  • Introductions by (1) a professor and founding member of the Canadian Historical Society of BC, (2) an American Ethics Studies Senior Lecturer at University of Washington, and (3) a third with the Chinese Expulsion Remembrance Project at an Asian Pacific Museum
  • a glossary of Chinglish
  • an illustrated timeline
  • a travel map and introduction to David Wong’s family
  • 13 chapters powerfully and cleverly illustrated with developing characterization and plot
  • an Afterword
  • Notes and References

David Wong personalizes this history by writing about his own family’s story of hardship, courage, and triumph over five generations. But most interesting of all was my realization that the visual portrayal of such a painful and sensitive story turned out to be such a success. Rather than degrading or dumbing down the substance, it inspired me to keep “reading”. Yes, it was reading. Some of the conversation balloons were bigger than usual cartoon speech holders, but the details were concrete and clear and in plain language. The combination of historical facts and people combined with the pictures spellbound me in a way that mere text would never have done.

I began to wonder whether some emotional topics, for example, in fields such as history, education, health and medical fields might at times be more effectively portrayed with graphic narratives.


Christine Mowat is a Founder and Past President, Wordsmith Associates, and Past Chair, Plain Language Association InterNational (PLAIN)

Review of Escape to Gold Mountain, by Asian Affairs: An American Review

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Asian Affairs: An American Review, 40:156–162, 2013
Copyright C  2013 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 0092-7678 print / 1940-1590 online
DOI: 10.1080/00927678.2013.817266

Wong, David
Escape to Gold Mountain: A Graphic History of the Chinese in North America
Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press
240 pp., $19.95, paperback ISBN 978-1-55152-476-4
Publication Date: 2012

It is a mark of the success of a national community when there is convenient leisure time for non-academic writers and non-government scribes to enhance the quality of its national community existence by writing about the community’s people and events. One such national community, a nation within a larger nation state, is Chinese Canada. As Benedict Anderson in his Imagined Communities (1991) surmised: a “nation is an imagined political community– and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign” (6).
Chinese Canada is not a nation state as it lacks a formal government, foreign policy, and thus a military presence. But it is a nation because it has a critical mass of 1.3million people that began to rise with the influx of Chinese refugees fromVietnam in 1979. Chinese Canadians now live mainly in Vancouver and Toronto. It has wealth in the personage of Li Ka-shing who became the first Chinese entrepreneur on a global scale when he bought controlling interest of Hutchison Whampoa in 1979. He and his sons, Victor and Richard, along with Michael Lee-Chin, Caleb Chan, the Louie family and others are the economic elites of Chinese Canada.

Chinese Canada has a strong political sense of self as a result of the 156 Book Reviews 157 successful anti-W5 civil rights movement (1979–1980). Most important, it has families, businesses, and school ties throughout the world as Chinese Canada is part of the burgeoning Chinese diaspora of 60 million people. It connects with the people of China and thus the 5,000-year continuous history of that nation. When Deng Xiaoping visited Jimmy Carter in 1979, this signaled a new respect not only for the Chinese in China, but the Chinese in the diaspora. It also has a diverse and varied cuisine unrivaled anywhere in the world.

Illustrating the cultural richness of Chinese Canada in recent years is a bevy of histories written by librarian Arlene Chan, public servant May Q. Wong, and architect David Wong. That these non-academics and nongovernment scribes have provided us with their thoughts and wonderment of the world known as Chinese Canada (and Chinese America) reveals a penchant to expand the historical horizon of this 21st-century nation. This is not academic history but a people’s history, written not only from the mind, but more importantly from the heart.

Of the three, Arlene Chan’s (no relation) The Chinese in Toronto from 1878 follows a conventional and chronological format. Her task is even more daunting because she must intersect the many Chinese in Toronto within the general history of Chinese Canada. That she does this successfully attests to her acumen in storytelling. Chan has a deftness in assembling the many personalities, events, and policies so that a coherent story emerges. The history of the Chinese in Toronto, like the history of the Chinese in Canada, is one filled with systemic racism in the Head Tax, Exclusion Act of 1923, and immigration policies denying equal access for the Chinese in Canada. It is a story of a European Canadian media bent on criminalizing the Chinese as drug smugglers, amoral sexual perverts, greedy pimps, corrupt merchants, and “cheating” students taking over entrance positions in professional schools in universities. But it is also a story of immigrants and Canadian-born Chinese who overcame these negativities and fought in World War II, even though the 600 men and women were not citizens of Canada. It is also a saga of women like Chan’s mother Jean Lumb who along with Chinese Canadian men met Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in 1957 to argue for more transparent and non-discriminatory immigration policies, especially in family reunification.

There are heart-warming stories about the development of laundries and where chop suey originated. Likewise, Arlene Chan understands the differences between a Chinese Cafe and a Chinese restaurant. She chronicles how the Toronto municipal government destroyed part of the old Chinatown without conferring with the Chinese Canadian residents there. Illustrating the history is a vast array of photos, including many from the Toronto archives and family collections.

That Toronto-born and raised Arlene Chan is able to include almost all aspect of Chinese Canadian life, politics, economics, and culture in a book of 206 pages is commendable. While it whets the appetite for more, nevertheless it is absolutely a must read for those interested in knowing more about the largest Chinese Canadian population inCanada’s largest city. The Chinese in Toronto from 1878 is indeed a stellar example of a people’s history at its best.

Whereas Arlene Chan concentrates on a panoramic view of a large group of Chinese Canadians in Toronto, May Q. Wong’s A Cowherd in Paradise is a more intimate family portrait of her own family in Montreal. For those interested in writing their own family histories, Wong’s A Cowherd in Paradise is a classic, textbook formula with a beginning, middle, and end that exudes passion, vision, and sensitivity. At the beginning of the story, it is not difficult to be drawn into the pathos of the author’s father Ah Dang being sold to another family. Her mother, Ah Thloo, spent her early years as a cowherd girl in China.

Like all histories of the Chinese diaspora, the opium wars, the beginning of the republic, Sun Yat-sen, Yuan Shikai, and the warlords are evoked as a background to the arranged marriage between Ah Dang and Ah Thloo. This marriage act was accomplished in China after Ah Dang had spent most of the 1920s in British Columbia working as a laborer. By the time Ah Dang left China and Ah Thloo in 1930, he was invited to work in Montreal from a new benefactor, Ah Ngay Gonge. Ah Dang toiled in a laundry and as a cook for a European Canadian family. By 1935, the couple gave birth to a daughter and then a son in 1948, and finally, to the author in 1955.

In 1949, Ah Dang made a move to acquire Canadian citizenship, two years after the Chinese in Canada were granted the franchise. The aim was to then apply for his family to emigrate from China under the sponsorship of a Canadian father. Even with Canadian citizenship in 1951, it took Ah Dang three years to bring his family together in Montreal.
As a successful operator of a restaurant in Montreal, Ah Dang personified a typical Chinese immigrant: industrious, family-oriented, and patriotic. But the marriage of Ah Dang and Ah Thloo was not an easy one. They both had bad tempers and large egos (194).When her father dies in 1983, the author writes, “Ah Dang’s passing enabled Ah Thloo to soften her carapace of anger” (215). In another remark, “With widowhood came freedom for Ah Thloo and in 1985, she returned to China for a long visit” (218). Many of the photos of Ah Thloo are restrained without any hint of joy. What this couple endured has been retold for centuries. It could be a story of a Cambodian, Greek, Korean, or Macedonian immigrant family. There is nothing new. What is new is how May Q. Wong tells it, with verve, good pacing and a flare for the dramatic.

In many ways, this book could be anyone’s journey from the old country to a new one. The need to discover an identity lost through emigration is apparent. How does an immigrant deal with a new language, a new marriage partner, and a new culture? Wong’s portrayal reveals the inevitable setbacks and many triumphs.

Of the three books under review, the most stunning and gripping is David Wong’s Escape to Gold Mountain: A Graphic History of the Chinese in North America.

Capturing the Canadian and American reading market with its deft writing and the many line drawings, it not only illustrates but also delineates the many women, men, and machines that populate the history of the Chinese in North America. The drawings are so life-like that many resemble people in my family or people in my many work places. The Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor is exquisitely captured as bombs rain down and Franklin Delano Roosevelt is depicted as if he were a painting. Likewise Chinese Canadian and American military men and women are accurately portrayed in dialogue as well as in graphic design. David Wong writes his dialogue with panache and precision.

Chinese North American icons, Woon Foon Sien, Jean Lumb, Wing Luke, Hiram Leong Fong, March Fong Eu, Judy Chu, and even National League Hockey player, Larry “King” Kwong, are drawn so eerily accurate that they almost jump out at you. Even Sun Yat-sen and Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie looked exactly like their official portraits.

After a very cursory, but needed Timeline, Travel Map (from China to North America), and Prologue, the opening chapter evokes the Iron Chink as the penetrating technological protagonist able to can fish, thus laying off hundreds of Chinese workers in New Westminster, British Columbia. The wide shots of the cannery and the anguish on the close-ups of the workers demonstrate the use and abuse of Chinese workers that, in fact, continues to this day in many sweatshops in some Chinatowns of North America.

Chapter Two cuts to China where Wong depicts the sorrow of opium in 1835 on a Chinese family where the mother says to the addicted father, “You beast, you sold our only child, damn you.” This is the author’s segue to the Opium Wars where a British merchant says to an officer, “Opium is a brilliant success.” This then begins the narrative of the Chinese to the United States where Chinese miners dig for gold and Charles Crocker builds the railroad with Chinese labor. What follows the final construction of the westernmost portion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 is a well-documented history of lynching, burnings, and the taking of Chinese queues as trophy. With Wong’s meticulous drawings, this history is raw, brutal, inhumane, and barbaric. The author does not mince his words or pen.

For the first time in Chinese North American history, a graphic history of such proportion helps reader 13 years and older grapple with the complexities of the opium war, famine, poverty, depravity, racism, imperialism, Chinese gold seekers and railroad workers, and the bachelor society. Canada is not spared David Wong’s insight into its own racism and the portrayal of the Chinese in the European North American media as criminals, slave traders, and sexual perverts.

Andrew Onderdonk is Canada’s Charles Crocker. In his building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, there is the gripping story in 1882 in Hell’s Gate, Fraser River Canyon, of Chinese workers killed while planting dynamite to blast mountain sides in British Columbia. This is not new in Chinese Canadian history.

What is new is Wong’s introduction of Native or First Nations people nursing injured Chinese workers back to health thus forging a bond that endures until today. The First Nations-Chinese liaison is a bold idea as other books have merely hinted at this symbiosis.

The author even evokes a marriage between the son of one Chinese family and his new bride from the Nootka people near Ucluelet, British Columbia.

The other bold stroke is how David Wong is able to intersect similar histories of the Chinese in the United States and Canada in such a digestible manner. The simplicity of the drawings and spare dialogue are forceful techniques that help the reader navigate through much of the complex historical issues. First-time readers of the Chinese in North America will find this book to be a marvel. Many will find it difficult to set the book down once they begin reading the dialogue and absorbing the graphic designs.

Escape to Gold Mountain is a tour-de-force artistic and conceptual achievement that will redefine how the Chinese in North America and others perceive our common history. Along with Arlene Chan’s The Chinese in Toronto and May Q. Wong’s A Cowherd in Paradise, David Wong’s Escape to Gold Mountain reveals that Hugh MacLennan’s Two Solitude (1945) is a mid-twentieth century anachronism. There are now many “solitudes” in Canada and Chinese Canada is one of the most prominent. Likewise, Chinese America as an Asian Pacific American nation continues to evolve into a distinct entity.

ANTHONY B. CHAN
University of Washington
Copyright © 2013
Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

Background of graphic novel, and book launch

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Escape to Gold Mountain from Urbantreefrog on Vimeo.

Released in fall 2012, this short video include interviews with the Author, David Wong, with clips from a RTHK documentary, the book’s launch and slideshow, and a news clip.

Published by Arsenal Pulp Press. ISBN 9781551524764

‘Escape to Gold Mountain’: an Immigrant Story

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The following article, courtesy of The Tyee. Feature article originally published July 6, 2013. Please visit The Tyee for original article (link here)

David Wong puts a human face on the history of Chinese people in North America.

By  Tyee Staff and Contributors, 6 Jul 2013, TheTyee.ca

Escape to Gold Mountain, A Graphic History of the Chinese in North America
David H.T. Wong
Arsenal Pulp Press (2013)

David Wong, a successful architect, was at the peak of his career when his father passed away in 1995. For years, Wong — always preoccupied with building the “biggest, baddest” firm — had put off fulfilling his dad’s dream of visiting their ancestral village in China together. Suddenly, it was too late.

Wong wanted to make it up to his father by writing the story of his family. But slowly it became something much bigger.

Based on historical documents and interviews with elders,Escape to Gold Mountain, A Graphic History of the Chinese in North America, is the story of every immigrant and no one in particular. It is the collective story of the thousands of Chinese who came to North America over the past 100 years, making incredible sacrifices in order to give the next generation a better life. The novel was published last fall to outstanding reviews, and has gone through its third printing.

Wong sat down with The Tyee this past winter to discuss the novel, and the messages it conveys about the Chinese experience in North America and British Columbia. Here are excerpts from that interview.

Why did you choose the graphic novel format?

“I grew up in a very tough neighbourhood. Drawing cartoons was my way of staying out of trouble. But I got in trouble a lot. I was locked in my house to prevent me from making trouble.

“Because of that I wanted to be a cartoonist. Asian parents have this vision that you will become a professional. So I became an architect. But I never gave up on my youth. Even when I had an architectural firm we were doing animation. So when it comes to that question — why did you decide to put it in graphic novel format? — I was just waiting for the right opportunity.

“It came along about five years ago. I sold my firm to my partner, and I couldn’t practice architecture for five years because I signed a non-competition agreement. So during that time I decided to follow one of my dreams– to do a book.”

How did you distill 100 years of history and thousands of stories into one book?

“It wasn’t easy. I had a very good editor (Susan Safyan). She helped me focus my story… helped me balance the content. I had to pick and choose which stories would be most relevant, that would resonate the most with the reader.

“One of the stories I really wanted to convey across was the head tax, and the Exclusion Act, which was government or institutionalized racism dating back almost a hundred years ago.

“To many people, it’s just a thing that happened, and it was a bad thing, and everyone says ‘Okay, well now the Canadian government and the American government have apologized, and that’s very nice.’

“But they don’t realize that there are families attached to what had happened in the past; that what was more wrong was the tearing up of families.

“I had to convey a story which was based on a true story I heard from my grandmother, of family members who were separated because of these racist laws in Canada and also in the U.S. During the Second World War, when they tried to bring their family over to try to save them from what was happening during the war, they couldn’t because both governments did not allow people of Chinese ancestry to come over here.

“So they were left behind in China and when the war happened, they were killed. And, you know, when you think about the man who was here, was essentially here working to send funds back to China to raise a family and hope for a better future for his family. All that work that this person did was all for nothing.

“At the end of the day, he lost his family anyway.”

What can you tell us about the relationship between Chinese immigrants and First Nations?

“One of the things I tried to infuse into my book was the long history of the Chinese and Aboriginal peoples throughout North America. Many of the Chinese men married First Nations people, because there were no Chinese women here at the time.

“In my afterword, I talked about stories I heard as a young person, and how the very strong relations between the Chinese and First Nations was repeated again as an adult when I was doing my research up in the Cheam nation up by Hope and Chilliwack.

“They used to be very, very close and have a very harmonious, joyful relationship.

“I have a story here that talks about some rail workers who were injured and were left to die near Castlegar. The Aboriginal people took them in and nursed them to health.

“I have a very dear friend, his name is Leonard George from Tsleil-Waututh Nation. He said, ‘Did you know, David, that the nation all the way up to the Rocky Mountains, they all have rice as a staple in their diet. And that was because some of the early miners and railway workers had this as a staple and introduced them to the Aboriginal people.’

“There was an exchange of sharing food, medicine and knowledge. That first wave of people developed interesting support for each other’s community. I thought that was really, really cool. That history can go a long ways to help heal and things like that.”

What are your hopes for the book as an educational tool?

“What I would like schools to do is to have the young ones look at this and then realize that all of them have ancestors who migrated from their place of origin to North America.

“For the young ones to essentially go back home and ask their parents and grandparents, ‘Why did we leave our place of origin? Was it because of unrest or because of economic opportunities?’

“And then to understand why people migrate. What I want is for them to stop using their cell phones or computers and things like that and to start talking around the dinner table. I’m hoping it will be a catalyst to encourage family talks around the dinner table and then they’ll share their stories with friends at school.”

What has been the response from the Chinese community?

“My book tour down the West Coast was really an eye-opener for me, because I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve never written a book before and I really have no clue what goes into these things.

“I found that the common theme going through everything was that this is what they all wanted for a long time. The folks who are most interested are multi-generational North Americans. Because the stories of nation-building are usually lost within the first two generations. A lot of young men and women actually died serving for Canada even though they were not recognized as citizens. They had to prove that they were actually loyal to this nation that didn’t look at them as human beings.

“When I wrote this thing up and when I drew it up, it made it much easier to present to the new generation of young people. So they’re very happy that it was presented in a format that can be well received by young ones. I’ve got lots of folks just coming up to me, thanking me.”

How have others responded to the novel?

“Charlie Smith at the Georgia Straight forwarded me a letter to the editor from a person who said, ‘Here we go again. The white guys are the bad guys pickin’ on the poor Chinese, why’s it always the white folks who are the racists?’ And I didn’t want to reply back, never did reply back, but my thought is that it’s interesting to say that.

“For example, I was really upset when a lot of these folks from Hong Kong after Expo ’86 were moving to Vancouver, and the first thing they did was cut down trees.

“[They said] they’re cutting down trees because it’s bad luck, it’s a cultural thing — you know, ‘You’re being a racist by saying you don’t respect our feng shui…’ — things like that.

“This wonderful article came out in the New York Times… they interviewed a lady from the Dunbar and Kerrisdale Women’s Committee, tree committee. Her name was Johanna Albrecht. She said, ‘These people come into our city and chop down our trees. That’s wrong. And we have to stop it. And if they call me a racist, then so be it.’

“When I read that article I called Johanna. ‘Let me help you.’

“Because the way to stop this thing was to work from within, and shame them into not cutting down the trees. You have to give them a vested interest.

“We actually held a conference at city hall, had a rally there called Save our City. I went to the Chinese media and said, ‘I bet the first thing you did on this hot summer day is park your car underneath a tree, so it gets some shade. And you talk about feng shui. I did my thesis on feng shui in university. The first concept of feng shui is embracing nature, and have the trees to block the wind. So don’t give me this bullshit story about the feng shui being bad. You guys are cutting down trees because you’re too damn lazy to look after it and you want a bigger house and the tree gets in the way. So call a spade a spade.’

“You fight racism not by saying that racism hurts, because it doesn’t make any sense. But you show them the value of the culture of these things by letting both sides of the fence look at each other’s perspectives.

“The wholesale embracing of multicultural society is a real double-edged sword. You tell people to accept and to be tolerant, but you don’t really inform people why it’s good for society to do that.

“I like the word diversity better [than multicultural], because it includes cultures, communities, partnerships; how people select their lifelong partners and things like that. That brings a lot of fresh ideas and knowledge. You get this engine of creativity and the innovation that comes from it.

“That’s why I think the very positive thing about diversity is the sharing of ideas and of knowledge. That’s what’s really in it for humanity. If we really embrace this notion of acceptance then we can progress much quicker as a group.”  [Tyee]

Read more: Rights + Justice

Tyee editor-in-chief David Beers, along with former Tyee interns Rachel Bergen, Emma Smith, Sebastian Salamanca, Jimmy Thompson and Joel Barde, contributed to this interview.

“CLOSE ENCOUNTERS” Celebrates Diversity in Richmond, BC

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Richmond BC| In keeping with the festive spirit of the season, Cinevolution Media Arts Society will be presenting “Close Encounters: A Celebration of Diversity in Richmond” on:
Saturday, December 15, 2012
from 11am to 3:30pm
at the Richmond Cultural Centre, 7700 Minoru Gate, Richmond, BC

While both the film and the book explore the Chinese experience, we hope these two opening stories will serve to spark a broader conversation about shared experiences of migration, as well as the challenges and benefits of intercultural exchange.

Event Details

Date Saturday December 15
Venue Performance Hall @ Richmond Cultural Centre
(7700 Minoru Gate, Richmond, BC)

Program

11:00am Screening and DVD release:
Lost Years: A People’s Struggle for Justice
(in English w/Chinese subtitles)
an epic documentary touches upon 150 years of the Chinese diaspora in Canada, USA, New Zealand and Australia
1:15pm Book launch & presentation:
Escape to Gold Mountain: A Graphic History of the Chinese in North America
by author David H.T. Wong
1:45pm Community dialogue on the “power potential” of intercultural engagement and exchange.
2:45pm Book signing, Book & DVD sale

About Escape to Gold Mountain

(逃往金山)
UntitledEscape to Gold Mountain is the first graphic novel to tell the story of Chinese immigration to Canada and the US over the past 100-plus years. Based on historical documents and interviews with elders, this is a vivid history of the Chinese in their search for “Gold Mountain” (the Chinese colloquialism for North America) as seen through the eyes of the Wong family. They traverse the challenges of seeking out an existence in their adopted homeland with hope and determination, creating a poignant immigrant’s legacy for their sons and daughters.

“Escape to Gold Mountain is a graphic history book about the experiences of the Chinese people in North America. It’s written by Vancouver architect David H.T. Wong and is full of beautiful drawings and comic book style dialogue and text. Together, the pictures and words tell the incredible story of struggle and perseverance.” – Sheryl MacKay (CBC radio – North by Northwest)

“It’s engaging, fast-paced, and at some points, hilarious […] If someone had given me a history of Chinese people in North America in comic book form when I was a kid, I’d have loved it. With its easy-to-read format and gripping illustrations, this book provides an appealing avenue to learn history.” – Kelly Yang (Asian Review of Books)

“(The book) as a tool to promote not only Chinese American and Chinese Canadian history, but also social justice and anti-racism, David Wong revealed that he intends to continue to use his book as an educational opportunity for teachers and students alike.” – Asian Canadian Writers Workshop Society

“The First Nations people have a great oral tradition, and David H.T. Wong’s comic book is a wonderful way to continue that tradition, along with his illustrations. This is a book for new and future generations that will create pride in the rich cultures we share.” – Leonard George (Chief, Tsleil-Waututh Nation)


About Lost Years

(失去的歲月)
Lost Years tells a similar story in a different medium. This epic documentary touches upon 150 years of the Chinese diaspora in Canada, USA, New Zealand and Australia, covering four generations of racism as revealed through the journey and family story of Kenda Gee.

The film packed the house during its Vancouver premiere earlier this year. This second screening will give other members of the community the chance to witness a poignant part of Canadian history that is often overlooked in textbooks.

“A beautifully told story of Chinese immigration to Canada … a tribute to the early Chinese immigrants who left all they knew to begin a new life on Gold Mountain” – Vernon Morning Star

“emotive composition, great archival sources, and overall reverent” – Schema Magazine

“an examination of the larger Chinese immigrant experience”- Edmonton Journal

“chronicles 150 years of Chinese diaspora history in Canada and beyond … a film that illuminates” – Georgia Straight


Panelists

David H. T. Wong

David H.T. Wong was born and raised in Vancouver. He is an accomplished Architect and a respected Asian-Canadian activist whose family first came to North America from China 130 years ago.

David is a founding Director for the Pacific Canada Heritage Centre Society, the Chinese-Canadian Historical Society, the Chief Dan George Centre for Advanced Education, and ExplorAsian: Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society. Trained as a Biologist, he continues his love for nature with his on-going efforts to save frogs, highlighted in 2009 with Vancouver’s Mayor proclaiming “Save the Frogs Day”, the first city in the world to do so. David was named by the Vancouver Sun as one of BC’s “100 most influential Chinese-Canadians”. In 2012, he was a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal in recognition of his championing of causes for environmental preservation, cultural harmony and community building. His first book, Escape to Gold Mountain is a graphic novel that documents the history of the Chinese in North America.

Alan Hill

Alan Hill works for Diversity Services at The City of Richmond. He emigrated to Canada from the UK in 2005 after meeting his Vietnamese- Canadian wife while working on a two year contract in Botswana. He has Masters Degree from the University of Leeds (UK) in International Development. He has a keen personal and professional interest in intercultural communication and how all cultural groups can work together to create a vibrant and inclusive community life. He also has a passionate interest in the literary arts and earlier this year published his first collection of poetry.

Susanne Tabata

Susanne Tabata is a documentarian, digital media producer, and instructional designer whose passion is to elevate west coast stories into the arts.

She recently created Bloodied But Unbowed and thepunkmovie.com – the documentary film and on-line site which chronicle the Vancouver punk scene of the late 1970s (Knowledge Network, TVOntario, Superchannel and SCN broadcasters). The film is being exhibited around the world and just completed a 28 day theatrical run in Tokyo. Under the company moniker of Tabata Productions, this project is the third in a series of films which explore worlds on the edge of mainstream culture. Skategirl is a film about the parallel journeys of professional women’s skateboarders (FOXFuel LosAngeles) and 49Degrees is the west coast surfing subculture film (CBC/FOXFuel LosAngeles). She also produced the Nettfilms Jason Priestley directed “Barenaked in America” which chronicles the US tour Canadian band The Barenaked Ladies.

Tabata grew up in a bicultural family and was educated in Tokyo, Nanaimo and Victoria before moving to Vancouver in 1978 to study International Relations at UBC. In 2012 she produced a tribute video to honour UBC Japanese Canadian Students whose studies were interrupted during World War II. Tabata also designed, wrote, produced and

directed the 10 part ethnography series for the Japanese Canadian National Museum called Ohanashi: Stories of Our Elders – a detailed examination of the experiences of Japanese Canadians who were interned during World War II – a story familiar to her father whose experiences are shared in the series.

Tabata has a background as an instructional designer, creating learning resources which advance the discussion of social justice. Programs for all ages on topics of racism & immigration, First Nations, poverty & prejudice, homophobia, bullying, learning disabilities, the environment and media literacy have been used throughout North American learning centres. Noteworthy are: “Us&Them: Canadian identity & Race Relations”; “U-turn” featuring Severn Cullis-Suzuki; “Talk to Me” the first classroom resource in Canada which examines racism, homophobia, social prejudice, and gender inequality , “Shaking the Tree: Social Responsibility in Education” starring Noam Chomsky; “Focus On Bullying”; the “Transitions” series of programs for students with LD or ADHD. These programs are produced in partnership with private and public organizations.

Yun-Jou Chang

Yun-Jou Chang is currently the Managing Director at Cinevolution Media Arts Society. She was born in Belgium, but largely grew up between the metropolitan vibe of Taipei and the small town charm of Prince Rupert. Though by no means an expert, her mixed upbringing has given her a unique vantage point from which to navigate the murky waters of cultural identity. Drawing upon her background in English and Sociology from UBC, Yun-Jou seeks to empower members of the community by recognizing and documenting the artistry intrinsic to daily practices of culture. Ask her about her project on grandma’s recipes some time.

Michael Yue (host)

Michael Yue serves on the Board of the Cinevolution Media Arts Society. He has many years of experience in community voluntary work, having been involved with civic education and community engagement programs such as Active Citizenship Training and Study Circles. As an educator, Michael believes in the power of learning in any forms as a way of developing a better society. He works as Senior Project Coordinator at the Vancouver Community College and holds a Master of Education degree from the University of British Columbia.

Co-presented by

Presenting Partners

Community Partners

.   .  

We’re extremely excited to be presenting David’s book and Kenda’s film in Richmond where the population is so diverse.  Through dialogue, we want to explore the possibilities opened up by those moments of encounter when the story of the Chinese also becomes the story of the First Nations people, the Japanese, the South Asians, and the white settlers.

Yun-Jou Chang, Managing Director
Cinevolution Media Group

Media Relations:  Yun-jou Chang
yunjou.chang@cinevolutionmedia.com

Vancouver is Awesome: David H.T. Wong

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The following article is reprinted from VANCOUVER IS AWESOME: READ ALL OVER — DAVID H.T. WONG
by: Liisa Hannus  (Originally published by VIA November 7, 2012)

Read All Over celebrates the bookworm in all of us, showcasing readers in Vancouver and the books they love most.


David H.T. Wong is a multi-generational Vancouverite. He is an Architect who, for the past 30 years, has been fortunate to work with clients who’ve embraced green design. A biologist by training, David continues his love for nature with his efforts to save frogs, and is proud to have had our city’s Mayor and Council proclaim “Save the Frogs Day” in 2009, the first city in the world to do so.

David has just published his first book, a graphic novel on the history of the Chinese in North America, Escape to Gold Mountain (Arsenal Pulp Press). The book will be launched November 18th at the Dr Sun Yat-sen Classical Chinese Garden.

What are you currently reading? Your thoughts on it?

Voices from the Sound: Chronicles of Clayoquot Sound and Tofino 1899-1929, by Margaret Horsfield (2008, Salal Books).

I love the stories of the way it used to be, especially documented in the form of personal correspondence. I think a lot can be gleaned from how letters had been written. It was a much simpler life back then, but with the same issues as we have today – interactions between people with their struggles, aspirations, and prejudices. I’m afraid today’s world of convenience and instant communications (email, text messaging) has destroyed the art of letter writing. Receiving an email is not the same as one that had been handwritten and enriched with printed photographs, assorted scribbles, and handscript on the letter.

What books have changed your life?

Classics Illustrated Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Carl Barks’ (Disney) Donald Duck (the epic titles– i.e. “Lost in the Andes”, “Magic Hour Glass”), and Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. All these books allowed me to drift into my own world. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was my introduction to racism and empathy, an illustrated book that taught a difficult history in a format that appealed to both young and older readers. Carl Barks was a master story teller. He used the comic book format to create delightful adventure stories in far away places where the imagination was always set free. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is every child’s dream come true. It was and still is my all-time favourite book. I read it numerous times as a child, have read it to my kids, and now I can’t wait to read it to my future grandkids!

How did these books change my life? I wanted to become a cartoonist. But my parents gave me the thumbs down in a career choice as a cartoonist, but I still loved drawing… so I became an Architect.

How do you like your books served up best – audio books, graphic novels, used paperbacks, library loaner, e-reader…?

Served up on paper as Graphic Novels. Reading is more than just seeing words. It’s as much a tactile and visual experience. Drawings can provide an immediate impact– inviting readers’ imagination to explore and experience a scene (e.g. what’s behind a character’s “look”).

The one book you always recommend is…

Dropsie Avenue by Will Eisner! A 200-year life history of a New York street told in comic book format. Think about that… it sounds like, and is, an intriguing tale.


(right) David’s drawing studio. Photo courtesy David H.T. Wong

Favourite Vancouver/Lower Mainland writer?

Chuck Davis. He is one of our city’s greatest sons… an extraordinary historian who spent his life documenting our beautiful city’s history – sharing stories from a city of communities, of ordinary people from all walks of life. I hope Chuck will never be forgotten.

What is the most cherished item in your library?

My dad’s Chinese poem. He presented it to me during my high school graduation back in the 1970s. I can’t read Chinese, but I believe my dad inscribed, “filial piety, respect and love leads to a meaningful life.”

Your life story is published tomorrow. What’s the title?

‘The Urban Treefrog.’ I love frogs. I love their songs, and I love the joy of watching young ones discover natural urban habitats in our complicated cities. Frogs contribute much to the betterment of humanity with valuable medicines. I want people to know that. It’s important that we save frogs and their habitats.

David H. T. Wong with his frogs. (right) David’s backyard frog pond, where he does most of his daydreaming.


The launch of David’s book Escape to Gold Mountain is Nov. 18 2-4:30 pm at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Gardens. Preview the book and read more about it at www.escapetogoldmountain.com.

George Strombo likes E2GM!

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Escape to Gold Mountain made radio and TV personality George Stroumboulopoulos’s roundup of good reads!  Please visit his link here, and check out his selection of other fabulous books!

TURN OVER A NEW LEAF: SOME BOOKS TO KICK OFF THE SCHOOL YEAR RIGHT
September 3, 2012

Well, summer’s almost done. For students, it’s time to get back into the classroom and hit the books. But as important as it is to keep up with your reading for class, there’s always room for another book or two in everyone’s life.

Here’s a roundup of some good reads, with a good mix of education and entertainment, to take the edge off the back-to-school blues.

‘Escape To Gold Mountain’
by David H.T. Wong

The story of Chinese immigration to Canada and the United States has never been told like this. ‘Escape To Gold Mountain’ is an illustrated novel – the publisher says it’s “the first graphic novel to tell their story” – focuses on the Wong family’s challenges and triumphs as they try to find “Gold Mountain,” the Chinese colloquialism for North America. It shines a light on the immigrant experience and the often difficult history of Chinese immigration to this country and the States, while telling an engaging visual story. It’s coming out in early October.

Win one of 15 copies of E2GM!

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Book Giveaway For Escape to Gold Mountain: A Graphic History of the Chinese in North America

Thanks to publisher Arsenal Pulp Press, 45th Parallel Communications, and Goodreads, our first E2GM book giveaway effort!

Please enter to win at www.goodreads.com ! Hurry… contest ends on October 15, 2012. Good luck!