Transcript: Stirring Up my Chinese Family History | Jul 08, 2019

Nam sits in the studio. She's in her early forties, with shoulder length curly brown hair. She's wearing glasses, a black blazer over a blue shirt, and a golden chain necklace.

A caption on screen reads "Stirring up my Chinese family history. Nam Kiwanuka, @namshine, @theagenda."

Nam says IT MIGHT SURPRISE YOU TO LEARN
THAT EVEN THE SMALLEST CITIES
AND TOWNS IN THIS GIANT COUNTRY
OF OURS HAVE ONE CULINARY THING
IN COMMON: A CHINESE RESTAURANT.
ANN HUI IS THE NATIONAL FOOD
REPORTER FOR
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
AND SHE JOURNEYED FROM VICTORIA
TO FOGO ISLAND STOPPING AT MANY
OF THEM.
ALONG THE WAY SHE CAPTURED IT
ALL IN HER NEW BOOK:
CHOP SUEY NATION:
THE LEGION CAFÉ AND
OTHER STORIES FROM CANADA'S
CHINESE RESTAURANTS.
AND ANN
HUI JOINS US NOW.

Ann is in her thirties, with shoulder-length wavy brown hair. She's wearing a black blazer.
A picture of her book appears briefly on screen. The cover is red, with a picture of a plate of chop suey with a small Canadian flag pinned to it.

NAM SAYS HI.

Ann says HI.

Nam says SO WHEN YOU CAME BACK FROM
THAT TRIP, HOW LONG DID YOU WAIT
BEFORE YOU HAD
CHINESE FOOD AGAIN?

The caption changes to "Ann Hui. Author, 'Chop suey nation.'"
Then, it changes again to "Coast-to-coast cuisine."

Ann says I ACTUALLY WASN'T AS TIRED OF
THE FOOD AS YOU MIGHT IMAGINE.
TOWARDS THE END OF THE TRIP WE
STARTED GETTING PRETTY STRATEGIC
ABOUT NOT ORDERING TOO MUCH
FOOD, AND MY STANDARD ORDER
TOWARDS THE END OF THE TRIP WAS
PRETTY MUCH JUST A SPRING ROLL
AND AN EGG ROLL TO GO.

NAM SAYS YEAH.

Ann says SO IT ACTUALLY WASN'T THAT MUCH
LONGER, I THINK PROBABLY WITHIN
A COUPLE OF WEEKS WE WERE
PROBABLY GETTING
THE TAKE-OUT ORDER.

NAM SAYS YOU WERE DONE, YEAH.
AND THE "WE" WAS YOU AND YOUR
HUSBAND, YOU TRAVELLED ACROSS
THE COUNTRY.
AND THIS BOOK GREW OUT OF AN
ESSAY THAT YOU FIRST WROTE FOR
WRITING ABOUT THE PRESENCE OF
CHINESE
RESTAURANTS ACROSS CANADA.
WHY WAS THIS OF INTEREST TO YOU?

Ann says I GREW UP IN VANCOUVER WHERE
I HAD ACCESS TO SOME AMAZING
CHINESE FOOD... HUGE VARIETY,
HUGE DIVERSITY OF CHINESE FOOD.
AND WE WERE REALLY JUST KIND
OF OBSESSED WITH, YOU KNOW,
THE NEWEST ROAST PORK PLACE OR
WHERE WE COULD GET THE FRESHEST
SEAFOOD OR THE BEST DIM SUM,
THERE WAS JUST SO MUCH
CHINESE FOOD AVAILABLE.
BUT EVERY TIME WE LEFT
VANCOUVER... EVERY TIME WE LEFT
THESE CITIES... I WOULD ENCOUNTER
THESE CHINESE RESTAURANTS
THAT WERE SO DIFFERENT
FROM WHAT I WAS USED TO.
PRIMARILY IN SMALL TOWNS,
THEY... FOR THE MOST PART... ALL
SEEMED TO HAVE THE SAME NAMES,
THE SAME DÉCOR, AND THESE MENUS
THAT WERE FILLED WITH ALL OF
THESE DISHES THAT I... FOR THE
MOST PART... DIDN'T
EVEN RECOGNIZE.
SO THESE WERE DISHES LIKE CHOP
SUEY, SWEET AND SOUR CHICKEN
BALLS, LEMON CHICKEN, GINGER
BEEF; DISHES THAT I HAD NEVER
EATEN BEFORE LET ALONE HEARD OF.
AND SO OVER TIME I JUST BECAME
OBSESSED WITH WANTING TO KNOW
MORE ABOUT THESE RESTAURANTS.
WHY ARE THERE SO
MANY OF THEM?
WHY ARE THEY SO UNIFORM?
WHERE DOES THIS FOOD COME FROM?
AND EVENTUALLY AND IN 2016,
I PITCHED THE IDEA OF
A ROAD TRIP TO MY
GLOBE
EDITORS... THEY SAID YES... AND
WE SET OUT TO FIND ANSWERS
TO ALL THESE QUESTIONS.

Nam says AND THIS FOOD THAT YOU WERE
TALKING ABOUT, LIKE IN THESE
SMALL TOWNS, WAS THIS FOOD
THAT YOU LIKED OR DIDN'T LIKE?
I...

NAM SAYS NOT TO PUT ON YON
THE SPOT OR ANYTHING.

The caption changes to "Ann Hui. The Globe and Mail."

Ann says NO, NO... I DID LIKE THEM BUT I
HAD MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT THEM.
SO I REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME I
TRIED SOME OF THIS FOOD... I WAS
ABOUT SIX... AND THEY WERE
DELICIOUS TO ME, YOU KNOW,
A LOT OF THESE DISHES HIT THE
PERFECT NOTE... THE PERFECT
BALANCE... BETWEEN SWEET AND
SALTY, SOMETIMES SOUR,
SOMETIMES SPICY, THEY OFTEN HAVE
REALLY GREAT TEXTURES.

NAM SAYS BECAUSE YOU'RE WROTE ABOUT
AN INCIDENT WHEN YOU WERE
IN SCHOOL...
AND THEY HAD THIS DAY TO
CELEBRATE CHINESE CULTURE
AND FOOD, AND THEN WHEN YOU HAD
THE FOOD YOU WERE LIKE,
"THIS IS NOT THE FOOD THE
FOOD THAT I HAVE."

Ann says I WAS LIKE, "WHAT IS THIS,
WHOSE CHINESE FOOD IS THIS?"
SO, YOU KNOW, I RECOGNIZED THAT
A LOT OF THESE DISHES WERE VERY
DELICIOUS...
[CHUCKLES]
BUT AT THE SAME TIME I WOULD HEAR
EVERYBODY AROUND ME... NAMELY
MY FAMILY, RELATIVES,
OFTEN RESTAURANT WORKERS IN
THESE AUTHENTIC CHINESE
RESTAURANTS... KIND OF
DISMISS THIS CUISINE.
THEY VIEW CHOP SUEY CHINESE
AS BEING KIND OF LESSER THAN,
AS FAKE CHINESE.
IT WAS VERY COMMON TO
DENIGRATE THIS KIND OF FOOD.
AND SO I LIKED IT AND RECOGNIZED
IT AS BEING DELICIOUS,
BUT AT THE SAME TIME I
DEFINITELY INTERNALIZED A LOT
OF THESE MESSAGES OF IT BEING,
YOU KNOW, SOMETHING LESS THAN
WHAT I WAS USED TO.

Nam says ON THIS ROAD TRIP YOU FIND OUT
SOME SECRETS... WE'RE NOT GONNA
TALK ABOUT ALL OF THEM,
OBVIOUSLY... BUT SOMETHING THAT
CAME UP THAT YOU DIDN'T SEEM
TO REALLY BE... TO KNOW,
WAS THAT YOUR OWN FAMILY HAD A
HISTORY IN HAVING A RESTAURANT.
HOW DID YOU DISCOVER THAT?

The caption changes to "Ann Hui, @annhui."
Then, it changes again to "Family connections."

Ann says IT WAS ACTUALLY
AFTER THE ROAD TRIP.
SOME MONTHS AFTER WE'D COMPLETED
THIS, YOU KNOW, 9,000 KMS TRIP.
18 DAYS LIVING OUT OF A
SUITCASE,
DRIVING FROM COAST TO COAST,
MEETING ALL OF THESE FAMILIES,
LEARNING THEIR STORIES, STORIES
PUBLISHED IN
THE GLOBE.
I THINK THREE OR FOUR MONTHS
LATER, I'M IN VANCOUVER VISITING
MY PARENTS AND I WAS HAVING THIS
CONVERSATION WITH MY DAD
AND ALL OF A SUDDEN,
YOU KNOW, HE REVEALED
TO ME... ESSENTIALLY... THAT HE HAD
RUN A CHINESE RESTAURANT
WITH MY MOM IN THE YEARS BEFORE
I WAS BORN IN THIS SMALL TOWN
OUTSIDE OF VANCOUVER.
AND LEARNING THAT WAS... WELL,
SURPRISING, FIRST OF ALL... I
MEAN, I JUST FELT DUMB BECAUSE
I'D JUST FINISHED THIS TRIP AND
I HADN'T THOUGHT TO EVEN ASK
MY OWN FAMILY ABOUT
THEIR OWN STORY.
BUT ALSO IT JUST MADE IT CLEAR
TO ME HOW LITTLE I KNEW OF MY
OWN FAMILY'S STORY AND THAT LED
ME ON THIS ALMOST SECOND JOURNEY
TO WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT
WHERE WE CAME FROM AND HOW WE
SOMEHOW WOUND UP HERE.

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Nam says THAT WAS AN INTERESTING ANSWER,
BECAUSE ON THE FLIP SIDE FOR ME
I'M THINKING, "WHY DIDN'T
YOUR PARENTS TALK ABOUT IT?"
WHY DIDN'T THEY TELL
YOU ABOUT THAT BEFORE?

Ann says I'M STILL NOT
ENTIRELY CLEAR ON THIS.
I THINK PART OF IT MAY JUST HAVE
BEEN A MISUNDERSTANDING,
I THINK MAYBE THEY THOUGHT
THAT WE KNEW,
OR MAYBE I KNEW,
I DON'T KNOW.
BUT IN GENERAL IT WASN'T COMMON,
AT LEAST FOR MY DAD,
TO TALK ABOUT HIS PAST... AT ALL.
THERE WERE... YOU KNOW,
I KNEW THE BARE DETAILS.
I KNEW, YOU KNOW,
WHERE HE WAS BORN,
I KNEW WHEN HE HAD
COME TO CANADA,
BUT THERE
WERE A LOT OF DETAILS
ABOUT WHAT HAD HAPPENED IN
BETWEEN THAT HE JUST NEVER
SEEMED VERY EXCITED
ABOUT SHARING.
IN FACT, EVEN WHEN I DID ASK
QUESTIONS HE WAS OFTEN VERY
RELUCTANT TO TALK
ABOUT HIS PAST.
AND THE MORE THAT I TALKED TO
OTHER CHILDREN, ESPECIALLY OF
MORE RECENT IMMIGRANTS, MANY
CHILDREN OF PARENTS WHO HAD
MAYBE BEEN THROUGH A CERTAIN
LEVEL OF TRAUMA OR CERTAIN TYPES
OF EXPERIENCES, I FOUND THAT
THAT IS VERY COMMON,
IS THIS RELUCTANCE TO
TALK ABOUT THE PAST.
THIS RELUCTANCE TO
SHARE THOSE STORIES.

NAM SAYS DO YOU THINK THAT THEY'RE
TRYING TO PROTECT THEIR CHILDREN
BY NOT SPEAKING
ABOUT THIS STUFF?

Ann says I THINK THAT IT COULD BE A
NUMBER OF THINGS,
INCLUDING PERHAPS THAT.
THAT WAS ONE THING THAT MY AUNT
TALKED ABOUT, IS NOT WANTING
TO MAYBE BURDEN IN THE NEXT
GENERATION WITH THIS KNOWLEDGE
OF MAYBE SOME OF THE PAST PAIN
AND SOME OF THE EXPERIENCE
THAT THEY'VE BEEN THROUGH.
I THINK THAT MAYBE TRAUMA HAS
SOME PART TO DO WITH IT,
MAYBE UNPROCESSED TRAUMA AND
UNWILLINGNESS TO WANT
TO KIND OF DIG DEEPER INTO IT.
SOME OF IT MAY BE CULTURAL,
YOU KNOW, THERE ARE DEFINITELY
ELEMENTS WITHIN CHINESE CULTURE
THAT DON'T NECESSARILY CONDONE
SHARING LESS-THAN-PLEASANT
STORIES OR KIND OF AIRING
DIRTY LAUNDRY.
SO I THINK THERE ARE A LOT OF
DIFFERENT ELEMENTS.
BUT WHAT LEARNING MY OWN FAMILY
STORY TAUGHT ME IS THAT IT'S SO
IMPORTANT TO NOT FIGHT THAT,
BUT TO REALLY INSIST ON LEARNING
THESE STORIES,
BECAUSE... YOU KNOW... WE ARE
AT RISK OF LOSING THEM,
AND I THINK THAT THESE STORIES
ARE THE ONES THAT ARE JUST SO
ESSENTIAL TO UNDERSTAND AND
TO KNOW ABOUT, YOU KNOW,
WHO WE ARE AS CANADIANS
AND WHERE WE ALL COME FROM.

Nam says SO, JUST TO GO BACK A
BIT... BECAUSE I'M TRYING NOT TO
REVEAL...
[CHUCKLING]
ONE OF
THE SECRETS IN THE BOOK.
YOUR GRANDFATHER WAS THE FIRST
PERSON TO COME TO CANADA,
AND THEN YEARS LATER YOUR
GRANDMOTHER...
AND THEN YOUR DAD.
HOW DID YOUR DAD
COME TO BE IN CANADA?

Ann says SO FROM THE TIME MY GRANDFATHER
CAME TO CANADA,
WHICH HAPPENED WHEN
MY DAD WAS ONE.
SO MY GRANDFATHER LEFT CHINA,
HE LEFT BEHIND HIS WIFE
AND HIS TODDLER SON... HE
CAME HERE TO WORK.
THERE WERE NOT A LOT OF
OPPORTUNITIES IN THE VILLAGE
IN GUANGDONG, WHICH IS IN
SOUTHERN CHINA... THERE WERE
NOT A LOT OF OPPORTUNITIES TO
EVEN PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE.
SO COMING TO CANADA FOR HIM
WAS AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE ABLE
TO SEND SOME MONEY BACK
HOME, BACK TO HIS FAMILY,
BACK TO HIS WIFE AND HIS TODDLER
SON, AND JUST FOR THEM
TO BE ABLE TO FEED THEMSELVES,
ESSENTIALLY.
SO HE CAME FIRST.
AGAIN I DON'T WANT TO
REVEAL...
[CHUCKLES]
EVERYTHING
THAT'S IN THE BOOK, BUT BECAUSE
OF A VARIETY OF DIFFERENT KIND
OF POLICIES THAT WERE IN PLACE
HERE IN CANADA AT THE TIME,
IT TOOK I THINK 13 YEARS
BEFORE HE WAS ABLE
TO BRING HIS WIFE... MY
GRANDMOTHER,
MY DAD'S MOM... TO CANADA.
AND THEN AFTER THAT IT WAS
ANOTHER, I THINK,
11 YEARS BEFORE THEY WERE ABLE
TO BRING MY DAD TO CHINA.
SO HERE IS A FAMILY THAT WAS
SEPARATED FOR 23 YEARS
ACROSS CONTINENTS.

Nam says AND THEN THEY HAD TO... ONCE
THEY WERE REUNITED... HAD TO LEARN
HOW TO BE A FAMILY AGAIN.
YOUR GRANDFATHER DIDN'T WORK IN
A RESTAURANT.
SO HOW DID YOUR DAD
END UP WORKING IN
A RESTAURANT

Ann chuckles and says WELL, LIKE YOU SAID, WHEN MY DAD
FIRST CAME TO CANADA THEY HAD
TO KIND OF LEARN... WELL, FIRST TO
EVEN GET TO KNOW ONE ANOTHER.
MY DAD HAD NEVER MET HIS FATHER
BEFORE, SO HE WAS MEETING HIS
DAD FOR THE FIRST TIME
WHEN HE WAS 24 YEARS OLD.
SO THERE WERE... THAT DIDN'T GO
MAYBE AS SMOOTHLY AS THEY WOULD
HAVE LIKED TO.
THE ORIGINAL PLAN HAD BEEN FOR
MY DAD TO WORK IN CONSTRUCTION
WITH HIS DAD, BUT BECAUSE THERE
WAS, YOU KNOW, A LITTLE BIT OF
TENSION THERE, IN THAT
RELATIONSHIP, SO HE WAS
ESSENTIALLY PLACED IN THE
RESTAURANT WORLD BY ONE OF HIS
ENGLISH TEACHERS, OR ONE OF THE
ORGANIZERS OF THE ESL PROGRAM
THAT HE WAS IN.
EVERYBODY, AS PART OF THE ESL
PROGRAM AS A NEWCOMER TO CANADA,
HAD TO PARTICIPATE IN
A WORK-STUDY PROGRAM.
AND SO THEY SAID, YOU KNOW,
"WHAT ARE YOUR SKILLS,
DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?"
AND BASED ON HIS ANSWERS THEY
WERE LIKE,
"WELL, WHY DON'T YOU JUST WORK
IN A RESTAURANT."
IT WAS SOMETHING THAT WAS VERY
COMMON FOR NEWCOMERS FROM
CHINA AT THE TIME.
IT WAS A GOOD PLACE FOR PEOPLE
WHO DIDN'T SPEAK ENGLISH,
WHO DIDN'T HAVE A TON OF
TRANSFERABLE SKILLS,
AND IT WAS JUST AN INDUSTRY THAT
A LOT OF CHINESE MEN WOUND UP
IN AT THE TIME.

Nam says WAS IT A GOOD FIT FOR YOUR DAD?

Ann says I THINK IN SOME WAYS
IT WAS A GOOD FIT.
MY DAD WAS A VERY
CREATIVE PERSON.
HE TOOK A LOT OF PRIDE IN,
KIND OF, CRAFTSMANSHIP
AND WORKING WITH HIS HANDS.
SO, IN THAT SENSE, I THINK IT
WAS A GOOD FIT, HE WAS ALSO
EXTREMELY CLEVER AND VERY GOOD
AT KIND OF FIGURING OUT HOW
TO DO THINGS, SO EVEN THOUGH HE
WAS THROWN INTO THESE KITCHENS,
SOMETIMES ASKED TO COOK DISHES
THAT HE'D NEVER HEARD OF OR EVEN
TASTED BEFORE, AND HAD TO KIND
OF FIGURE HIS WAY OUT THROUGH
THAT, I THINK IT WAS, IN
SOME WAYS, A REALLY GREAT FIT.

Nam says HE ALSO SOUNDS VERY RESILIENT,
BECAUSE HE STARTED OUT WORKING
IN A KITCHEN AND THEN
ENDED UP OWNING A RESTAURANT.
EARLY IN THE BOOK YOU REFER TO
CHINATOWNS AS HAVING STARTED OUT
AS BACHELOR SOCIETIES,
WHY WAS THAT?

The caption changes to "A picture of Chinatown."

Ann says SO THE FIRST CHINESE PEOPLE WHO
ARRIVED IN CANADA CAME HERE
FOR ONE OF TWO REASONS
ESSENTIALLY:
IT WAS EITHER TO PARTICIPATE
IN THE GOLD RUSH
OR IN THE RAILWAY INDUSTRY.
AFTER THESE TWO INDUSTRIES KIND
OF ENDED OR WOUND DOWN,
SOME OF THESE CHINESE MAN
STARTED VENTURING OUT
AND SEEKING EMPLOYMENT
ELSEWHERE.
BECAUSE OF THAT, MANY
LOCAL CANADIANS... MANY WHITE
CANADIANS... FELT THREATENED BY
THAT, THEY FELT THAT THEIR JOBS
WERE PERHAPS AT RISK AND THEY
VIEWED THESE CHINESE MEN
VERY MUCH AS A THREAT.
SO AROUND THAT TIME... SO IN THE
LATE 19TH CENTURY, EARLY 20TH
CENTURY... THERE WERE A NUMBER OF
DIFFERENT POLICIES THAT WERE
PUT IN PLACE ESSENTIALLY
RESTRICTING THE NUMBER
OF CHINESE PEOPLE WHO ARE
ALLOWED INTO THIS COUNTRY.
SO AT FIRST IT WAS A HEAD TAX,
SO THAT WENT FROM BEING A 50 dollar
CHARGE FOR ANY CHINESE MAN... OR
WOMAN... TO COME TO THIS COUNTRY.
AND THAT WAS EVENTUALLY RAISED
TO 500 dollars, BECAUSE... AGAIN, I MEAN,
THIS WAS A PROHIBITIVE FIGURE
AT THE TIME, IT JUST DIDN'T MAKE
SENSE TO BRING WOMEN OVER,
THE WHOLE POINT OF
BRINGING CHINESE MEN OVER
WAS FOR EARNING POTENTIAL.
AND SO, BECAUSE OF THAT WE SAW
PRETTY MUCH ONLY MEN... CHINESE
MEN... IN CANADA FOR
A VERY LONG TIME.
AND THESE CHINATOWNS BECAME KIND
OF HAVENS FOR THESE CHINESE MEN,
YOU KNOW.
ON ONE HAND THEY WERE CONSTANTLY
UNDER THREAT FROM EITHER RIOTING
FROM, AGAIN, THESE LOCALS WHO
DID NOT SEE THESE CHINESE MEN
AS A WELCOME PRESENCE.
THEY WERE OFTEN BEING TARGETED
BY LOCAL POLICE, AGAIN BASED
ON THESE SAME KIND OF FEARS
ABOUT THESE CHINESE MEN.
SO PART OF IT WAS SAFETY,
WANTING TO STAY WITHIN,
YOU KNOW, CONFINED AREAS AND
STICKING TOGETHER:
SAFETY IN NUMBERS.
BUT PART OF IT WAS
ALSO JUST BECAUSE...

NAM says IT WAS THE ONLY WAY
THEY COULD STAY, RIGHT?

Ann says YES, AND ALSO JUST BEING SOCIAL,
IT WAS BEING AROUND OTHER PEOPLE
WHO HAD BEEN THROUGH A SIMILAR
EXPERIENCE,
WHO SPOKE SIMILAR LANGUAGES.
SO, AS YOU SAID, THESE BECAME
THESE COMMUNITIES
THAT WERE PRETTY MUCH ONLY MEN
FOR THE LONGEST TIME.

NAM SAYS AND CHINESE RESTAURANTS
WERE IN THESE COMMUNITIES,
BUT EVENTUALLY THEY PLAYED A
ROLE IN BRINGING PEOPLE OVER
FROM CHINA... HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

The caption changes to "A recipe for emigration."

Ann says SO WHAT YOU STARTED SEEING, AS
THESE RESTAURANTS BECAME MORE
ESTABLISHED, WAS... YOU
KNOW... MAYBE THE ORIGINAL OWNER
OF THAT RESTAURANT, OR WORKERS
IN THAT RESTAURANT, HAD FAMILY
BACK IN CHINA THAT THEY WANTED
TO BRING OVER, YOU KNOW,
WHO ALSO HAD FAMILIES THAT THEY
WOULD WANT TO SEND MONEY
BACK TO AND SUPPORT
IN THE SAME WAY.
AND SO YOU STARTED SEEING A LOT
OF THAT, KIND OF,
GENERATIONS WOULD BRING OVER THE
NEXT GENERATION OF YOUNG MEN.
THEY WOULD TRAIN THESE YOUNG
MEN, THEY WOULD EMPLOY THESE
YOUNG MEN, AND THEN EVENTUALLY
THESE YOUNG MEN WOULD BE READY
TO START THEIR OWN
CHINESE RESTAURANTS.
AND SO YOU STARTED TO SEE THESE
RESTAURANTS SPREAD, KIND OF... YOU
KNOW... MAYBE FROM A TOWN THAT'S
40 MINUTES OUTSIDE OF VANCOUVER,
THEIR NEPHEW OR THEIR SON OR
THEIR GRANDCHILD WOULD OPEN
A RESTAURANT IN THE TOWN NEXT
TO THAT, AND THEN THEIR NEXT
GENERATION WOULD OPEN UP A
CHINESE RESTAURANT IN TOWN NEXT
TO THAT, AND THEN YOU WOULD SEE
THESE RESTAURANTS KIND OF SPREAD
OUT OF ALL OF THESE TOWNS
AND CITIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

Nam says I'M INTERESTED TO TALK MORE
ABOUT HOW THE RESTAURANTS CAME
TO BE, BECAUSE I THINK AT THAT
TIME MOST PEOPLE WOULD THINK
THAT WORKING IN A RESTAURANT IS
WOMEN'S WORK:
SO-CALLED WOMEN'S WORK.
WAS THAT PART OF THE REASON WHY
THEY WERE ABLE TO, I GUESS,
BE ABLE TO CREATE THOSE
RESTAURANTS AND CREATE
THOSE JOBS FOR OTHER PEOPLE?

Ann says YEAH, IT'S EXACTLY THAT.
SO, ON TOP OF, YOU KNOW, THE
HEAD TAX, THERE WERE ALSO... IN
CERTAIN PARTS OF THE
COUNTRY... ACTUAL LAWS AND
POLICIES IN PLACE THAT
FORBADE... FORBID CHINESE MEN
FROM ENTERING PRETTY MUCH ANY
PROFESSIONAL INDUSTRY
AT THE TIME.
SO THAT LEFT BASICALLY THREE
OPTIONS... WHAT WAS CONSIDERED
WOMEN'S WORK AT THE TIME... SO
THAT LEFT FOR CHINESE MEN JOBS
IN LAUNDROMATS, IN CONVENIENCE
STORES, AND IN RESTAURANTS.

Nam says LEARNING THAT... I GUESS WHEN
YOU'RE WRITING THE BOOK,
DID YOU KNOW THAT HISTORY
BEFORE OR DID YOU UNDERSTAND IT
MORE AS YOU WROTE IT,
AND HOW DID IT IMPACT YOU?

Ann says I KNEW SOME PARTS
OF THAT HISTORY.
SOME OF THE STORY HAS BEEN
DOCUMENTED VERY WELL IN THE U.S.
WHERE A LOT OF THESE SIMILAR
EVENTS HAD TAKEN PLACE,
BUT I DON'T THINK THE
STORY HAS BEEN TOLD
IN THE SAME WAY... AT
LEAST IN AS COMPLETE OF A
WAY... HERE IN CANADA TO THIS
POINT.
THERE'VE BEEN A FEW BOOKS ON
THE SUBJECT, BUT WHAT I CAME
TO UNDERSTAND FROM TAKING THIS
TRIP, AND FROM SPEAKING
TO PEOPLE HERE IN CANADA,
IS THAT WE HAVE A STORY THAT
IS VERY DISTINCT AND UNIQUE,
AND IN MANY CASES DIFFERENT,
FROM WHAT HAPPENED
IN THE STATES.
AND AGAIN, IT JUST GAVE ME A
NEW APPRECIATION, I THINK,
UNDERSTANDING ALL OF THESE
BARRIERS THAT THESE MEN HAD HAD
TO FACE IN COMING HERE, AND THEN
IN STARTING THESE RESTAURANTS,
AND BUILDING THESE NEW LIVES FOR
THEMSELVES, IT JUST GAVE ME THIS
NEWFOUND SENSE OF APPRECIATION
FOR THE FOOD AND FOR THAT
CUISINE THAT WAS BORN OUT OF IT.

Nam says AND ALSO IT FEELS LIKE
A LOT OF THESE PEOPLE WERE
VERY... LIKE AN ENTREPRENEURSHIP
DRIVE TO CREATE THESE
RESTAURANTS AND TO CREATE
ALL THESE DIFFERENT JOBS.
AND IN YOUR BOOK YOU WRITE ABOUT
BING'S RESTAURANT,
WHICH IS IN STONY PLAIN,
ALBERTA.
AND YOU WRITE THAT IT WAS A
LAUNCHING PAD FOR ITS OWNER
WILLIAM CHOI?

ANN SAYS CHOI.

Nam says CHOI.
COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT HIS
CAREER A LITTLE BIT PLEASE.

Ann says SO WILLIAM IS THE THIRD
GENERATION CHOI IN STONY PLAIN
TO RUN THE LOCAL
CHINESE RESTAURANT.
AND WILLIAM GREW UP
WORKING IN THE RESTAURANT.
HIS DAD WAS THE OWNER AT THE
TIME AND HE HAD THE VERY TYPICAL
KIND OF CHINESE RESTAURANT KID
EXPERIENCE, WHERE HE WOULD RUN
TO THE RESTAURANT DURING RECESS
AND LUNCHTIME AT SCHOOL,
HELP OUT WITH... YOU KNOW... LUNCH
SERVICE AND THEN
RUN BACK TO SCHOOL.
AFTER SCHOOL HE WOULD DO HIS
HOMEWORK IN THE KITCHEN,
OR HE WOULD... YOU KNOW... HANG OUT
IN THE BASEMENT AND RUN AROUND
WITH HIS FRIENDS.
HE GREW UP IN THE RESTAURANT.
AND IN STONY PLAIN, JUST LIKE
WITH SO MANY OF THESE SMALL
TOWNS ACROSS CANADA, THESE
RESTAURANTS ARE VERY MUCH THE
HEART OF THE COMMUNITY, THESE
RESTAURANTS ARE... YOU KNOW... DE
FACTO COMMUNITY CENTRES,
OR MEETING PLACES,
THIS IS WHERE PEOPLE GO
AND HANGOUT,
LEARN WHAT'S GOING
ON IN THE TOWN.
SO BING'S IS VERY MUCH THAT.
SO BECAUSE HE WAS ALWAYS THERE,
HE VERY MUCH BECAME THIS FIXTURE
OF THE COMMUNITY.
AND SO WHEN WILLIAM WAS... YOU
KNOW... HAD GRADUATED FROM
UNIVERSITY AND WAS RUNNING
THE RESTAURANT ON HIS OWN,
AND THIS FIXTURE OF THE
COMMUNITY,
WHEN THE CHANCE TO RUN ON THE
LOCAL CITY COUNCIL CAME
UP... I THINK IN 2007,
I THINK THAT'S RIGHT.
HE TOOK IT, HE WAS ELECTED.
AND NOW, WILLIAM CHOI IS
ALSO THE TOWN'S MAYOR.
SO IN STONY PLAIN, THE OWNER OF
THE CHINESE RESTAURANT IS ALSO
THE MAYOR OF STONY PLAIN.

Nam says I MEAN, ONLY IN CANADA, RIGHT?
WELL, BECAUSE EVEN LOOKING AT
YOUR FAMILY'S HISTORY, WHEN YOU
LOOK AT HOW YOUR DAD CAME TO BE
HERE, HOW YOUR GRANDFATHER CAME
TO BE HERE, AND THEN YOU THINK
ABOUT THE OPPORTUNITIES THAT YOU
HAVE AND YOUR SISTERS HAVE,
WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND
TO REALIZE THAT ALL OF THIS
STARTED IN THE WAY IT STARTED,
AND THIS IS STUFF THAT YOU'VE
LEARNED BY WRITING THIS BOOK?

The caption changes to "Coming to Canada."

Ann says I THINK IT'S... I MEAN, IT'S
PRETTY ASTOUNDING THAT WITHIN
THE SPAN OF TWO GENERATIONS YOU
CAN SEE SO MANY CHANGES IN TERMS
OF, YOU KNOW, WHERE IT WHERE MY
GRANDFATHER WAS STARTING FROM
AND THE EXTREMELY PRIVILEGED
LIVES THAT MY SISTERS
AND I HAVE.
YOU KNOW, WE GREW UP IN THIS
COUNTRY, WE GREW UP SPEAKING
ENGLISH, WE WERE GIVEN THE
OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE, YOU KNOW,
MULTIPLE ADVANCED DEGREES,
I HAVE THIS GREAT JOB WHERE
I GET TO WRITE FOR A LIVING... IT
JUST SPEAKS TO THESE AMAZING
OPPORTUNITIES THAT WE, JUST... I
FEEL LIKE I JUST KIND OF LUCKED
INTO BECAUSE I
HAPPENED TO BE BORN HERE.
IT'S THAT WHOLE IDEA OF, YOU
KNOW, THE CANADIAN DREAM... THE
AMERICAN DREAM, THE CANADIAN
DREAM... I AM A LIVING EXAMPLE
OF THAT.

Nam says AND THIS IS NOW HISTORY THAT CAN
BE PASSED DOWN TO YOUR FAMILY,
WHICH IS PRETTY INCREDIBLE.
I'D LIKE FOR YOU TO
READ SOMETHING FOR US.
AND THIS IS THE PASSAGE OF WHEN
YOUR FATHER IS REUNITED WITH HIS
PARENTS AFTER MANY
YEARS... I THINK 20 YEARS?

Ann says 23 YEARS WITH HIS DAD.

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Arrival." The quote reads "For years, he had dreamed about this day, about coming to this new country. He had imagined himself here, living under one roof with his parents and sisters. The past few months and weeks had been occupied with planning, filling out paperwork and gathering documents. And for the past week he'd only thought about getting here. Boarding the train, then plane, to arrive in this new place.
After all of that, he was finally here. He was under the same roof as Ah Ngeen and Ye Ye. They'd all had dinner together, talking and eating around one table just as he'd imagined. What they hadn't talked about was the years they'd been separated, or why. He wondered how much they even wanted him here. He thought about the blank faces on the two girls -his sisters who hadn't even known he existed."
Quoted from Ann Hui, "Chop Suey Nation." 2019.

Nam says I MEAN, THAT MUST HAVE BEEN
REALLY SHOCKING FOR YOUR FATHER
TO DISCOVER WHEN
HE FIRST GOT HERE.
I KNOW WE TALKED ABOUT IT
EARLIER, BUT IN THE END WHAT
IMPACT DID THE SEPARATION
OF YOUR FAMILY THROUGH THE
IMMIGRATION PROCESS HAVE ON
YOUR DAD AND HIS PARENTS?

Ann says IT WAS HUGE... IT WAS HUGE.
MY DAD WAS NEVER ABLE TO
REALLY GET TO KNOW HIS FATHER.
THEY WERE NEVER REALLY... THEY
NEVER REALLY HAD THE OPPORTUNITY
TO BUILD THAT RELATIONSHIP.
I DIDN'T REALLY GET TO KNOW
MY GRANDPARENTS AS A RESULT.
SO THERE ARE ALL THESE QUESTION
MARKS THAT ARE STILL THERE AND
THAT WILL CONTINUE TO EXIST,
BECAUSE OF THIS...

[CHUCKLES]

NAM SAYS THE PROCESS.

ssays THIS EXPERIENCE, YEAH.

Nam says DID YOUR PARENTS EVER
SPEAK TO YOU ABOUT THAT?
DID THEY EVER EXPRESS ANY
FRUSTRATION OF, YOU KNOW,
HOW THEY WERE TREATED
AS IMMIGRANTS?

The caption changes to "Canada's role."

Ann sighs and says I DON'T THINK
FRUSTRATION WOULD BE THE RIGHT
WORD, AT LEAST NOT FROM
MY DAD'S PERSPECTIVE.
SO EVEN THOUGH HE HAD BEEN
THROUGH THIS EXPERIENCE OF BEING
SEPARATED FROM HIS FAMILY,
HE NEVER SAW HIMSELF
AS A VICTIM OF ANYTHING... HE
WOULD NOT BE ON WITH THAT.
MY DAD WAS PROBABLY THE PROUDEST
CANADIAN THAT YOU WOULD EVER
HAVE ENCOUNTERED.
EVERY CANADA DAY HE WOULD PUT
UP THIS OBSCENELY LARGE CANADIAN
FLAG UP ON HIS FRONT LAWN,
JUST LIKE WAVING AT LIKE
THE CARS THAT WOULD DRIVE BY.
HE ALWAYS HAD ON HIS BALL CAPS,
LITTLE MAPLE LEAF PINS OR
LITTLE CANADIAN FLAG PINS.
HE LOVED BEING A CANADIAN,
HE LOVED HAVING THE OPPORTUNITY
TO LIVE HERE AND TO
BUILD HIS LIFE HERE.
HE DIDN'T... HE
WASN'T A VICTIM, NO.

NAM SAYS DO YOU THINK THE COUNTRY
HAS DONE ENOUGH TO ADDRESS THE
HARM THAT THE GOVERNMENT POLICY
INFLICTED ON CHINESE IMMIGRANTS
FROM THOSE TIMES?

Ann says I THINK THAT... BEYOND JUST
GOVERNMENTS, I THINK THAT WE AS
CANADIANS IN GENERAL HAVE... I
THINK IT'S IMPORTANT FOR US AS
CANADIANS TO KNOW THIS HISTORY,
TO UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS
A PART OF OUR COUNTRY AND
WHO WE WERE IN THE PAST.
I THINK THAT, YOU KNOW,
THE QUESTION OF IMMIGRATION
HAS BECOME A VERY TOPICAL
ONE AGAIN.
AND I THINK THAT THERE ARE
A LOT OF LESSONS FROM OUR PAST
THAT WE CAN PROBABLY
CONTINUE TO LEARN FROM.

Nam says HAS UNCOVERING YOUR OWN FAMILY
HISTORY SHIFTED YOUR FEELINGS
OF HOW YOU MAYBE
FEEL ABOUT CANADA?

Ann says YOU KNOW, FOR A LOT OF
CHILDREN OF... ESPECIALLY RECENT
IMMIGRANTS... OUR PASTS AND OUR
HISTORIES ARE... OFTEN WE HAVE
GAPS MISSING, WE DON'T QUITE
KNOW ALL OF THE ANSWERS BEHIND
WHERE WE COME FROM, YOU KNOW.
I HAD A LOT OF CLASSMATES
GROWING UP WHERE WHEN WE WERE
ASSIGNED TO PUT TOGETHER OUR
FAMILY TREE, THEY CAME TOGETHER
WITH LIKE PERFECT DOCUMENTS,
AND THEY HAD ALL THE NAMES
AND ALL THE FACES AND ALL THE
DATES... THEY HAD ALL OF THAT.
AND IT WASN'T UNTIL I WROTE THIS
BOOK AND LEARNED THAT HISTORY
WAS FINALLY ABLE TO FILL IN ALL
OF THOSE BLANKS AND THOSE GAPS
DID I UNDERSTAND THAT
SENSE OF... SOME PEOPLE CALL IT
PEDIGREE, I THINK MAYBE IDENTITY
OR THAT SENSE OF BELONGING THAT
COMES WITH
UNDERSTANDING YOUR OWN STORY.
AND THEN BEYOND THAT TO
UNDERSTAND HOW OUR STORY FITS
WITHIN THE LARGER
CANADIAN STORY,
HAS DEFINITELY
SHIFTED MY THINKING.

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

NAM SAYS IN WHAT WAYS?

Ann says WELL NOT ONLY IN UNDERSTANDING
THAT OUR STORY HAS VALUE AND
DESERVES TO BE TOLD, BUT ALSO
IN UNDERSTANDING THAT OUR STORY
ACTUALLY TELLS A VERY ESSENTIAL
PART OF CANADA'S HISTORY.

NAM SAYS AND DO YOU THINK MAYBE
YOU... BECAUSE IN THE BOOK,
AT THE BEGINNING,
YOU WRITE ABOUT WHAT IT WAS LIKE
TO BE THE OTHER, DOES IT MAKE
YOU MAYBE STAND A BIT TALLER
AND MORE PROUD IN
YOUR OWN HISTORY?

Ann says I THINK THAT'S A VERY NICE
WAY OF PUTTING IT.

[LAUGHTER]

The caption changes to "Producer: Gregg Thurlbeck, @GreggThurlbeck."

NAM SAYS ANN HUI, THANK YOU
SO MUCH FOR BEING HERE.

Ann says THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

Nam says YOUR BOOK IS FANTASTIC.

Ann says THANK YOU.

Nam says AND CONGRATULATIONS.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Ann says THANK YOU.

Watch: Stirring Up my Chinese Family History