Finding Mr. Wong

Finding Mr. Wong

by Susan Crean


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Finding Mr. Wong, true to its title, chronicles the author’s search for Wong Dong Wong as she attempted to piece together his life beyond what she knew of him as a cook and housekeeper and her experience growing up in Mr. Wong's kitchen. Crean’s search for Mr. Wong took her to Chinatown in Vancouver and Toronto, and twice to Guangdong, China, where she located Wong’s home village, found descendants of his father's brother, and the story of his beginnings. (Orphaned within a few months of his birth, and brought to Canada by his uncle, Wong YeeWoen.) In writing his life Crean has combined fiction with historical recreations, and memoir. The section on the 1919 Chinatown riot in Toronto, for instance, was suggested by author Paul Yee. The saga of night-life in Chinatown came from historian Elise Chenier's work on lesbian history and culture. One sub-theme of the book concerns the relationship between children and servants (typically nannies) which Crean explores in literature and film. She looked particularly at instances when the alliance crosses race as well as class, and she relates her own experience grappling with racism as a small child. A second sub-theme is memory and its role in the writing and researching of a book such as this.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781772011944
Publisher: Talonbooks, Limited
Publication date: 08/14/2018
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

Susan Crean was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario and is of Scots-Irish descent. She is a freelance writer and activist who has lived, besides Toronto and Paris, in Florence and New York City, and in Vancouver and Gabriola Island in British Columbia. Crean has worked as a current affairs producer for CBC-TV, an arts management consultant, a magazine editor (This Magazine), teacher, and broadcaster. Susan holds two degrees in art history and a diploma in museology from the École du Louvre in Paris, and since her return to Canada in 1970 has had academic appointments at six Canadian universities. She was the first Maclean-Hunter Chair in Creative Non-Fiction at UBC in 1990 and taught at the School of Journalism at Ryerson University from 2000 to 2006. Susan is a former chair of the Writers’ Union of Canada and a founding co-chair of the Creators’ Rights Alliance / Alliance pour les droits des créateurs (CRA/ ADC). She served on the Minister’s Advisory Committee on the Status of the Artist in British Columbia from 1993 to 1994 and on the board of Access Copyright from 1992 to 1995. She has represented creators on copyright issues for over thirty years, latterly at the international level through the CRA/ADC, attending meetings at the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva and Hong Kong. She has written and lectured extensively on the subject of intellectual property. 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 BC Book Prize in 2001. She serves on the board of Native Earth Performing Arts and, in 2007, was awarded a Chalmers Fellowship. She is currently based 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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