Struggle and Hope: The Story of Chinese Canadians
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
Sheree Haughian is an elementary-school teacher-librarian with the
Dufferin County Board of Education.
The notion of the Canadian mosaic is a familiar one, generally used to
describe the way Canada has allowed its new citizens to retain their
cultural identity. The term is usually spoken with a sense of pride, the
Canadian immigrant experience being considered superior to the American
trend of the melting pot. Be that as it may, the experience of many
early immigrants to Canada is hardly a study in tolerant welcome. Paul
Yee, a respected writer of fiction, tells the story of Chinese
immigrants in Struggle and Hope.
The early years of Chinese immigration are a saga of struggle,
beginning in 1858 with the arrival of miners to work the gold rush—at
wages considerably lower than white workers received. The next decades
chronicle the racial prejudice against them—the newspaper
illustrations of immigrant “warrens,” the destruction of a laundry
alleged (falsely) to be the source of smallpox, and the complete ban on
Chinese immigration in 1923.
Yet throughout these troubled years, Yee also presents glimpses of
hope—and even glory—as the Chinese respect for individual enterprise
and education succeeds in a Western society devoted to the same
principles. In the postwar years,
when images of the Holocaust were fresh in the memory and newcomers were
necessary to the national work force, the Chinese community came of age
in Canada, providing examples of excellence in the arts, science,
business, and other endeavors.
Yee’s clearly organized, comprehensive, and well-documented study of
this important group of Canadians certainly illustrates this point with
vigor. Highly recommended.