Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gold Mountain

Vancouver: New Star Books, 1983
Racism from the Inside Out
By Patricia Maika
Vancouver Sun 1983

Chinese immigrants to Victoria in the 1880s endured stone throwing and taunts of "chinky, chinky Chinaman." Scrawled on an elevator wall at British Columbia's second largest university in March, 1983, is the scholarly observation "chinks stink." Anthony Chan, author of Gold Mountain, asserts truly that "no Chinese, then or now, has been immune from such street racism."

Gold Mountain is a history of the Chinese in Canada written from the inside by one of those whom it is about. In 1887 Anthony Chan's grandfather Chan Dun came to Victoria where he owned and operated various businesses, the last of which, the Panama Cafe, a restaurant catering to working-class whites, closed in 1947, the year the Chinese were allowed to vote.

Three generations later his grandson, a university history professor, in Canada is viewed as Chinese; in Peking, where he lived for a year, he is seen as Canadian, a foreigner. Chan's family history reflects the history of Chinatown in Canada; a Chinatown whose inhabitants, now they have come of age, can begin to describe their experiences. Looking at the past they can make sense of and give meaning to the present.

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