Finding Mr. Wong

Finding Mr. Wong

by Susan Crean
Finding Mr. Wong

Finding Mr. Wong

by Susan Crean


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Susan Crean’s memoir Finding Mr. Wong chronicles her effort to piece together the life of the man she knew as Mr. Wong, cook and housekeeper to her Irish Canadian family for two generations. Reminiscing, Crean writes, “I grew up in Mr. Wong’s kitchen …”

A Chinese Head Tax payer hired by Crean’s grandfather in 1928, Wong Dong Wong remained on the job following Gordon Crean’s death in 1947. Mr. Wong eventually retired in 1965 and moved to Chinatown. Crean’s homage weaves the various strands of her memories of and discoveries about Mr. Wong during the last 25 years of his life; she travels the streets and histories of Chinatowns in Vancouver and Toronto, Canada, and twice she visits Guangdong, China, where she located his home village, found descendants of his father’s brother, and learned the beginning of his story: orphaned as a newborn, then brought to Canada by his uncle, Wong YeeWoen.

At the core of the narrative are Crean’s observations of the blurred lines between numerous socio-cultural dynamics (worker/employer, family/servant, child/adult). She particularly considers relationships that cross race as well as class. Beginning with the partnership formed by Crean’s grandfather and Mr. Wong – a partnership whose long alliance and evident mutual regard guaranteed Wong’s presence in Crean’s own story – she relates her own experience grappling with racism as a small child in the Vancouver of the 1950s and 1960s. Crean’s exploration also considers memory and its role in the writing and researching of a book such as this. She meditates on the ways socio-cultural issues are represented (or not) in film and literature, ultimately combining fiction with historical recreations and memoir.

Finding Mr. Wong is an important contribution to a growing body of writings that illuminate the lives of people silenced or otherwise negated by myopic history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781772011944
Publisher: Talonbooks, Limited
Publication date: 06/15/2018
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.75(d)

About the Author

Susan Crean was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, and is of Scots-Irish descent. Her articles and essays have appeared in magazines and newspapers across Canada, and she is the author of seven books, the first, Who’s Afraid of Canadian Culture, appearing in 1976. Her most recent book, The Laughing One: A Journey to Emily Carr, was nominated for a Governor General’s award and won a B.C. Book Prize in 2001. Crean currently lives in Toronto.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xv

Map of Wong's Journey xviii

Note on the Language xxi

1 The Meeting in Rosedale 3

Chance and the Chinese

The House at Number 13

2 The Orphan from Xinning 21

Journey from Shui Doi

Half a World Away

3 Chinatown Bachelor 39

Gam Saan (Gold Mountain)

Two Chinas

4 Riotous Roscommon 55

Resistance or Emigration

The Belfast of Canada

5 On His Own 69

East to Toronto

"If these Stairs Could Talk…"

6 Domestic Service 91


Cooking for the Gweilo

7 Backstairs 113

Wong, Gran, and the Pigeons

Crossing Lines

Out of the Shadows

8 A Maginot Line of Unwritten Rules 133

9 The World According to Wong 145

The Plum Stone Buddha

Life Lessons

10 "One of the Family" 163

11 The Swinging Door 177

12 Digging to China 189

Dundas Street Rooms

Home to Taishan

13 Where the Bones Lie 209

Afterword: Minding the Gaps 215

Acknowledgments 223

Notes and Commentary 227

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