International bestselling author of
The Concubine's Children
, Denise Chong returns to the subject of her most beloved book, the lives and times of Canada's early Chinese families.
In 2011, Denise Chong set out to collect the history of the earliest Chinese settlers in and around Ottawa, who made their homes far from any major Chinatown. Many would open cafes, establishments that once dotted the landscape across the country and were a monument to small-town Canada. This generation of Chinese immigrants lived at the intersection of the Exclusion Act in Canada, which divided families between here and China, and 2 momentous upheavals in China: the Japanese invasion and war-time occupation; and the victory of the Communists, which ultimately led these settlers to sever ties with China. This book of overlapping stories explores the trajectory of a universal immigrant experience, one of looking in the rear view mirror while at the same time, travelling toward an uncertain future. Intimate, haunting and powerful,
Lives of the Family
reveals the immigrant's tenacity in adapting to a new world.
A note from the author:
Among the handful of families that weave through my book are the Johnstons from Perth. Harry Fong (the church changed his surname to "Johnston) arrived at turn of
20th century; first a laundryman, he would open Harry's Cafe (pictured on the back
cover) on Gore Street but it came to tragedy when a parked --driverless -- car rolled
and pinned him against a building by the bridge on Gore, crushing his leg; his widow
would die a millionaire, in part because Harry wisely bought property and had among
his tenants, Eaton's. A few months ago, I went to a funeral in Perth for Harry's son-inlaw;
the reception was in the former premises of Harry's Cafe, and upstairs, where the
family lived. It's now The Stone Cellar restaurant.