"at your library" in the north island eagle: celebrate asian heritage at your library

As I mentioned here, I'm posting three of these columns each week until I'm caught up.

May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada, and the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) invites you to celebrate. 

People of Asian heritage have lived in Canada since before Confederation, and have contributed to every aspect of Canadian society. This year’s Asian Heritage Month has special meaning, as there has been a sharp rise in acts of racism against Asian Canadians. 

Your library has curated many resources related to Asian heritage in Canada, yours to read, watch, and explore. Here are just a few highlights; you can see the full menu at virl.bc.ca/asian-heritage-month.

*** Have you heard of Paldi? Paldi was a mill town near Duncan, established in 1916 by Sikh immigrants from India. The town was a thriving, multicultural community, also home to immigrants from China, Europe, and Japan. Today, all that remains of Paldi is a Sikh temple, designated an Historic Site in 2014.

On our website, you can learn more about how Asian heritage intersects with Vancouver Island. There are short, interesting stories, with links to more information.

*** Fiction by Asian Canadians

The Library of Legends, by Janie Chang: In this historical novel set in China in 1937, a group of students flee the university when Japanese bombs fall. But it’s not just the students who are at risk: they have been entrusted to safeguard a 500-year-old collection of folklore known as the Library of Legends.

The Conjoined, by Jen Sookfong Lee: This page-turner is part family drama and part mystery. After the recent death of her mother, Jessica is cleaning out her mother’s home, when she comes upon a shocking family secret.

Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje: The latest novel by this award-winning Canadian author  follows two siblings in the period after World War II. Abandoned by their parents, they are educated and cared for by a mysterious man who may be a criminal. Years later, one sibling investigates everything they didn’t understand at the time.

*** Nonfiction about the Asian experience in Canada

Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related, by Jenny Heijun Wills: In this memoir, Wills writes about re-connecting with her Korean birth family after having been adopted as an infant by a white family in Canada, exploring family, kinship, and culture.

Chop Suey Nation, by Ann Hui: Hui took a cross-Canada road trip, visiting small-town Chinese restaurants and talking to the people who own them. The author blends journalism with memoir, and discovers more about her own family history.

Secrets from My Vietnamese Kitchen By Kim Thúy: This cookbook by celebrated Vietnamese Canadian novelist Kim Thúy explores her cultural heritage through food. The easy recipes are interspersed with stories about the “many mothers” in Thúy’s life from whom the recipes came.

*** Movies: On Kanopy, you can watch a wide variety of movies – both fictional and documentary – exploring Asian Canadian heritage. Kanopy is always free; all you need is an internet connection and a device. 

Here are a few titles you might want to check out.


One Big Hapa Family: A loving, life-affirming documentary about Japanese-Canadian culture, and how each successive generation perceives and expresses their heritage.

Painted Nails: Van Hoang, a Vietnamese nail salon owner, never intended to be an activist. When you meet Hoang, her employees, and her clients, you can’t help but cheer her on.

The Donut King: Cambodian refugee Ted Ngoy builds a multi-million dollar empire by baking donuts. A story of fate, love, survival, and redemption.

Fictional Film

Old Stone: A psychological thriller about a taxi driver battling bureaucracy and legal manipulation in China.

Ploy: A tale of love, jealousy, and danger, set in Thailand.

The Third Wife: This period piece, set in the 19th century, follows a 14-year-old girl who becomes the third wife to a wealthy landowner in rural Vietnam.

For many more choices, visit virl.bc.ca/asian-heritage-month.

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