The series finale of Kim's Convenience aired recently on CBC. And it reminded me how I've been thinking so much more about Asian Canadian (and Asian American) voices in books, movies, and TV.
We keep saying "representation matters" because it does. Growing up, I didn't "see myself" in popular entertainment. While I enjoyed movies from Hong Kong, for example, the characters didn't resonate with me. Not really, because I was born and raised here in Vancouver. For Canadian-born Chinese (CBC) like me, the experience and culture are different from those who grow up in Asia.
The closest we ever got was All-American Girl with Margaret Cho. It wasn't until decades later that we got Fresh Off the Boat, inspired by Eddie Huang's memoir, and Kim's Convenience, about a Korean-Canadian family running a convenience store in Toronto. But these stories matter and they need to be told. And I want my kids to "see themselves" in the books they read and the shows they watch.
That's a big part of the reason why we got Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho from the library for our daughter. There are age-appropriate conversations we can have about individual differences, cultural identity and love for who we are. "With eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea."
I'm lucky in that there is a large Chinese population in Vancouver, but I know that for a lot of Asian Canadians and Asian Americans, that's not the case. And it's another reason why we need to seek out these kinds of stories, both to read ourselves and to read with our kids.
Among the books I've recently read myself:
- All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
- The Woo-Woo by Lindsay Wong
- Useful Phrases for Immigrants by May-Lee Chai
- Chop Suey Nation by Ann Hui
- Eat a Peach by David Chang
- New Kid by Jerry Craft
If you have any other book suggestions, I'd love to hear them!
Michael Kwan is a writer, editor and work-at-home dad blogger from Metro Vancouver. Over on Beyond the Rhetoric, Michael explores the worlds of fatherhood, food and the pursuit of a life fulfilled. Fueled by caffeine and WiFi, he asserts it’s not a dad bod; he prefers the term “father figure.”