In our class, we have done literature circles, not only to improve our novel interpretation skills, but also to understand certain aspects of multiculturalism in Canada. As mentioned before in the Multiculturalism post, Canada is one of the top countries that receives the highest number of immigrants. The two books I have read this year, Obasan and What Happened This Summer, are both about immigration and the lives of these newly landed immigrants in this nation.
Obasan is a book that describes the story of a Japanese Canadian and her family. Most of the book is like a diary: a recollection of memories by a young Japanese woman in Vancouver named Noami. She discusses the “systematic racism” society had against Japanese people, in that they were referred to a negative term, “Japs.” Not only that, Noami talked how about the possessions of Japanese Canadians were confiscated and then they were sent to labour camps. Some fled their homes and moved to ghost towns to escape this persecution. In general, this book discusses about the treatment the Japanese Canadians received by the “white” Canadians and how they faced racism throughout their lives.
What Happened This Summer is an interesting book, depicting the lives of several Chinese immigrants and how they adapt to Canadians lifestyles. Throughout the book, the Chinese kids continue to “fit in” as much as possible and to become more like Canadians. They drink, do drugs, do poorly at school, whatever it takes for them to fit into society. They are struggling between whether to accept the new Canadian cultures and values or uphold their old Chinese cultures. For instance, in Canada, you can do almost any occupations and still be looked upon as an admirable person. However, in Chinese culture, if you don’t become a doctor or engineer or an occupation with so called “great prestige” then you are regarded with disrespect and through of very poorly. For instance, in one of the chapters, there was a girl who wanted to go the Arts College in New York to study photography. However, her dad is absolutely adamant about not sending her there. He wants her to pursue an occupation of great “prestige” such as doctorate. This book was set in a time period after Obasan, so there wasn’t as much racism, but the Chinese students still faced the difficulties of adapting into the Canadian society.
Canada used to be very racist and only preferred people that were “the whitest of the white.” In other words, Canada preferred immigrants from Britain, Germany, France, etc. When the Japanese and the Chinese began to come, the Canadians were extremely unjust to them. For instance, the Chinese were required to pay a head tax to be able to come to Canada. Being admitted into Canada was hard enough, but staying in Canada wasn’t much better. They faced racism everywhere, from working in a factor to just plain walking on the street. These two books reflect Canadian history, and how the immigrants from China and Japan faced a huge amount of racism by the white people (systematic racism). By reading these books, not only can we improve our reading and interpretation skills, but also appreciate how Canada has changed so much to become a multicultural society.