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Chinese/Canadian writing series builds bridge for cross-cultural understanding

May 21, 2021

As an immigrant to Canada from China, Shuyu Kong, SFU professor in the department of humanities and the Global Asia Program, has always been passionate about teaching Asian/Canadian literature and culture.

Outside of the classroom, she also co-directs the David Lam Centre which engages in Asia-related research and frequently works with local communities to promote understanding of Asian-Pacific cultures to the Canadian public. Thanks to an invitation from Diann Xu of the Vancouver Public Library (VPL) last year, Kong is currently in the midst of co-hosting a unique online series of events: the “Chinese/Canadian Writing Speaker Series”, with the David Lam Centre and VPL.

“Because of COVID-19,” Kong says, “people haven’t had the opportunity to communicate in-person, but it has given them more time to do private things like reading.” With the rising number of incidents of hate and hostility towards different ethnic groups, particularly, Black and Asian minorities in Canada and the USA, Kong says she felt that it was important to showcase the variety of Chinese Canadian writing and explore the possibilities of bridging different worlds through language, history and imagination.

The first and second events in the series, held in March and April, were a resounding success according to Kong and Xu. March’s event looked at the hidden history of Christian missionaries in modern China through the eyes of a Chinese Canadian writer, and April’s event hosted Toronto-based award-winning writer Ling Zhang, whose novella Aftershock (2010) was adapted into China’s first IMAX movie. Zhang’s most recent novel, A Single Swallow (2017), which explores the pain of war from both Chinese and American perspectives, is a Kindle bestseller on Amazon.

Kong and Xu said both events have had substantial international reach with viewers from Canada, China, the U.S., Australia, and Singapore. “I wanted to do a series that discusses the identity, inspiration and purpose of cross-cultural writing,” Kong explains, “by people from outside China who provide new perspectives on Chinese history, who contacts with the outside world, and who have had their works read widely by the Chinese public.”

Kong also highlights reading and writing as a bridge that connects people in different places, especially for immigrants to connect back with their ‘homeland’.

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