During the 80s, there were few memorable Asian female characters in the mainstream media and certainly any Asian male characters on TV were always reduced to the geeky nerd with the thick accent who made a fool of himself. The protagonists from the movies I saw were the opposite of Asian. TV heroes were almost always tall and blond white boys.
"It's a totally brand new city. I don't recognize anything," my mom says, gazing wide-eyed out of the decades-old tram and into the chaotic streets of Hong Kong. It's been 33 years since she moved from Hong Kong to Toronto and four months since I did the opposite. This is how I became my mother's tour guide in her own hometown.
My mother calls me a banana. In her words, I'm white on the inside, but yellow on the outside. She's not wrong. As a Chinese-Canadian, I often call myself the whitest Asian you'll ever meet. While this used to stem from a rejection of my Asian culture, being a banana has become my identity as a child of a Chinese immigrant.
I didn't grow up in Chinatown. Neither did my mother and father. My ancestors didn't come to North America to pan for gold or build the railroad. No one in my family paid a head tax. Chinatown was just a place we visited every weekend to stock up on supplies. Even still, this neighbourhood, this community, this place we call "Chinatown" has become very near and dear to my heart.
A somewhat awkward, bespectacled Chinese man by the name of Xiao Wang wandered onto the stage of Holland's Got Talent. The PhD student announced he would perform a rendition of "La donna è mobile" from Verdi's Rigoletto. And that's when Judge Cornelis Willem Heuckeroth, who goes by the nickname Gordon, cracked his first joke: "Which number are you singing? Number 39 with rice?"
Obviously, the face of B.C., quite literally, is changing. Immigrants account for 45 per cent of the population in Vancouver, 52 per cent in Surrey, 59 per cent in Burnaby and 70 per cent in Richmond. Immigrant populations are rising everywhere, even in the whitest regions of the province. And they aren't buying what the NDP is selling. Big government. Vast social programs. Union allegiance.
I had spent a whole afternoon scribbling on the entry hall wall, up the staircase wall and onto the second floor sitting room wall. In those days, the discipline of choice for Chinese families was the bamboo cane feather duster. That too, I remember painfully well. So it is with much affection that I open and dedicate my graphic novel, Escape to Gold Mountain, to Granny with her words: "David! Stop drawing on the walls! When you grow up, you had better still not be drawing cartoons!"