Category Archives: Literary Events

Bamboo Lettering at Writers Festival with Jen Sookfong Lee, Kevin Chong and Ling Zhang

To Be Or Not To Be… a Chinese-Canadian Writer…

Bamboo Lettering
– event #55 at the Vancouver International Writers Festival
Saturday Oct 22nd, Arts Club Revue Theatre, Vancouver

photo photo T.Wong
This is my favorite photo of the three writers Jen Sookfong Lee, Ling Zhang and Kevin Chong. They each displayed wonderful humour.  Jen is of course the most expressive with subtlely outrageous statements about her mother, food, and her writing habits.  Ling Zhang is the most melodramatic, in a classic Chinese self-denying sort of way, while she claims she doesn't want her writing to be so melodramatic.  Kevin Chong is straight-ahead deadpan humour with insightful observations.

Festival organizer Hal Wake titled this event “Bamboo Letters” because author Kevin Chong is reported to have said he would never want to have “bamboo lettering” on the cover of one of his books.  And so this is the situation posed by moderator Catherine Gretzinger: “Three authors, who could be labelled “Chinese Canadian” if you were keen
to apply labels, talk about the tension between avoiding your heritage
and embracing your heritage.”

Chong admitted that he never really wanted to originally be a classic style “Asian-Canadian writer”, since he came to Canada in the late '60s from Hong Kong with his parents.  And to some extent he has avoided the familiar storylines of head-tax survivors toiling in Chinatown for meagre salaries, and triumphantly integrating into Canadian society (or not) in spite of racism.  Chong instead has opted to write a different kind of Asian Canadian character for his new novel “Beauty and Pity” that is about a post-1967 post-modern immigrant-slacker.  But it is still an update of the clash of generations and how the character must reconcile an Asian-Canadian identity for himself.  I bought “Beauty Plus Pity” at the Word On The Street Festival, because I arrived late (due to a previous engagement) at Chong's book launch held at The Penthouse Nightclub, because I was too busy chatting with others when they packed up the books for sale.

Jen Sookfong Lee is a familiar voice on CBC Radio with her “West Coast Words” segment for “On The Coast”.  She has revealed previously little known characters from Asian Vancouver for her latest novel “The Better Mother”.  Set during the 1980's, Danny is a gay Asian, who recalls meeting characters from Chinatown's burlesque era in the late 1950's.  It is a rich juicy setting that juxtaposes taboo subjects for conservative immigrant families, and Lee's attention to details makes for a colourful read.  I really like this book – but I keep borrowing it repeatedly from the library, because I have been too busy to sit down and read anything… so I keep renewing it and renewing it…and re-reading the beginning chapters because they are so re-readable!

Ling Zhang is an unknown quality.  She has written 5 books, but nobody in Canada has really read any of them, because they were all published in China and only available in Chinese…. until now.  Zhang's newest novel is Gold Mountain Blues, translated from the Chinese publication because Zhang writes in Chinese.  She has written an epic novel spanning 150 years of Chinese Canadian history, 5 generations of a family, detailing the struggles of early Chinese pioneers coming to Canada to work on the the Canadian Pacific Railroad and integrated into the Canadian cultural mosaic.  It is interesting that Zhang is in some sense a recent immigrant, arriving in Canada in 1986 – part of the most recent wave of Mandarin speaking Chinese immigrants whose growing numbers now outnumber the Cantonese speakers of earlier immigration periods.  It is yet a new kind of Chinese-Canadian identity, that has arrived prosperous and assured, without the burden of decades of negative self-identity imposed by decades of systemic racism in Canada caused by Colonial racist superiority, head tax policies (1885-1923), The Chinese Exclusion Act (1923-1947), and limited immigration policies (1947-1967).

Unfamiliar with Zhang's work, and unavailable at the Vancouver Public Library, I googled her name and was surprise to discover that there were numerous news articles concerning the possible plagiarism of her new book, from the works of Asian Canadian literary icons Paul Yee, SKY Lee and Wayson Choy.  In her defense, she stated in The National PostGold Mountain Blues is the result of years of research and
several field trips to China and Western Canada. The research data
obtained over the years is voluminous enough to allow me to write
another complete novel if I chose to. A hundred and fifty years of
Chinese Canadian history is a “common wealth” for all of us to share and
discover. I have not read The Jade Peony, Disappearing Moon Cafe, The Bone Collector’s Son or Tales from Gold Mountain.  Zhang has also said in the Calgary Herald that “I am quite ignorant about what’s going on in the Canadian literary circles,” she says. “This is why it’s so outrageous . . . ‘Excuse me, no
offence to you, but I haven’t read your book. Not because you’re not
great, but because I have been writing in Chinese all the last 13

Maybe these issues of different conceptualizations of Chinese Canadian identity is reflected in the author's own experiences of being Chinese Canadian. Over 150 years of immigration, under different circumstances has produced different experiences.  Lee's ancestors probably left China when it was still the Qing Empire of the Last Emperor Pu-Yi, Chong's family possibly left Mainland China for Hong Kong while it was a Republic under Chiang Kai Shek or soon after, and Zhang came to Canada long after Mao had led the Communist Party to power.

Is it therefore possible to consider that there is a common Chinese Canadian literary identity? Is Zhang appropriating the pioneer Chinese Canadian culture and history to tell a universal story, similar to how WP Kinsella told the stories of his First Nations characters from a Reserve in Central Alberta?  Are Lee and Chong broadening the pantheon of Chinese-Canadian characters with their stories?  Or are they still all writing the universal story of identity struggle and reconciliation – but with new settings and and characters.

Unfortunately these questions never really came up.  Discussion topics dwelled on the joys and pitfalls of dealing with editors, agents and publishers, as well as finding their characters. Jen emphasized that the burlesque dancers of Chinatown have never been written about before.  Zhang said that she found her inspiration for her novel by visiting a grave site for Chinese pioneer workers outside of Calgary.   

But the audience had great fun in hearing that the one major common element in each of the passages read by the authors was “food”.   Maybe the moral of this literary question is simply that EVERYBODY LIKES CHINESE FOOD!

See my pictures from the event:


Read more:

National Post: Ling Zhang addresses Gold Mountain Blues plagiarism allegations

Calgary Herarld: The hard road to Zhang's Gold Mountain

upcoming events for Historic Joy Kogawa House



Writer-in-Residence Susan Crean with Evelyn Lau + life size photo of author Joy Kogawa – photo Todd Wong

so far you have missed newly appointed Poet Laureate of City of Vancouver Evelyn Lau Oct 2nd, and incredible adventure writer Eric Enno Tam Oct 16th.


Kogawa House

1450 W. 64th Ave @ Granville

To reserve a seat email 

Blogging at


Don't miss the following writers!


Tara Beagan  — Writing for Social Change

Tara is a multi-talented and prolific young theatre
artist, best known for her plays which have won numerous awards and
nominations. A “proud halfbreed of Ntlakapamux (Thompson River Salish) and
Irish Canadian heritage”, she is part of the new generation of Native artists
creating ambitious work that is edgy, funny and very smart. Tara is currently
artistic director of Native Earth Performing Arts, the oldest professional
Aboriginal performing arts company in Canada.  

This Sunday,
October 30th


Betsy Warland    Writing for Social Change

Poet, author and editor, Betsy Warland has been
writing on the cutting edge of feminist literature for thirty years. She has
been active in the feminist literary community, a mentor to many, and is currently
the director of the Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University. Her poetry, and
latterly her non-fiction, has pushed the boundaries of genre, even while she
engages in 

Sunday, November


Fauzia Rafiq     Writing for Social Change

Fuazia Rafi’s long-awaited novel, Skeena, was published in Punjabi in Pakistan in 2007, and in Canada
last Spring. It is the story of a Muslim Canadian woman, written in Skeena’s
own voice, which follows her journey from village, to Lahore, to Toronto and,
finally, Surrey.  Novelist Tariq Malik, a
member of the Kogawa House Board , will host the event with me.

Sunday, November


Joy Kogawa –
Book Luanch

Sheena Wilson launches her collection of essays on the
life and work of Joy Kogawa, Joy Kogawa,
Essays on Her Works
(Guernica). Wilson has contributed three articles and
an extensive Kogawa bibliography to the book. Several of the writers will be
present, as will Joy Kogawa.

Sunday, November


Wade Compton  — Writing for Social Change

Wade Compton is a well-known writer and activist who
is currently the writer-in-residence at the Vancouver Public Library. He is an
experimental poet (49th
Parallel Psalm, Performance Bond
), a DJ, who branched into non-fiction in
his most recent book After Canaan: Essays
on Race, Writing and Region.
His work is deeply imbued with history and

Sunday, November


Shirley Bear — Writing
for Social Change

Maliseet visual artist and writer Shirley Bear is from
the Tobique reserve in New Brunswick. Her work is in many collections and in
2009 the Beaverbrook Art Gallery mounted a retrospective of her work. She is who
also a writer who blurs the genres, and her book Virgin Bones  – Belayak Kcikug’nas’ikn’ug,
combines story, poetry, and prose. Shirley lived in Vancouver through the
1990s and was the Aboriginal Advisor at Emily Carr College.

Sunday, December

Writers Festival + Vancouver 125 Poetry Conference

Here is what I am attending at the Vancouver Writers and Readers Festival + Vancouver 125 Poetry Conference

I try to attend lots of literary events through the year.  My roles as president of Historic Joy Kogawa House and vice-president of Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop introduce me to a lot of events and writers.

Bamboo Lettering

British Columbia
British Columbia

Revue Stage

I am going to Friday Night's Literary Cabaret
– Evelyn Lau is one of the poets

+ Douglas McIntyre 40th Birthday

is significant because they will have a drink called “The Jade Peony”
also published Many Mouthed Birds – the first anthology of
Asian-Canadian fiction – co-edited by Jim Wong Chu
ACWW gave the 2005
Community Builder Award to publisher Scott McIntyre, along with Joy

125 Conference Reception, Closing Remarks and Vancouver Poet Laureate

5:00 pm
Simon Fraser University at Harbour
Centre, 515 West Hastings Street
Brad Cran outgoing Poet Laureate
Representatives from City Hall – Mayor Gregor Robertson
and introducing Vancouver’s third Poet Laureate – EVELYN LAU

ACWW and Ricepaper had a good presence at Word On The Street

Asian Canadian Writer's Workshop had some of their best contributions at Word On The Street Festival


Here I am at the Ricepaper Magazine booth, organized by our managing editor Patricia Lim (right) and assisted by volunteer Jerry Tang (left).  Ricepaper is published by Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop for which I have been a director since 2000-2005 + 2008-2011.

Kudos to director Anna Ling Kaye for moderating on Saturday at Carnegie Centre,
and for managing editor Patricia Lim for organizing and staffing the Ricepaper booth on

  • 12:00 :: Ricepaper Magazine with
    Anna Ling Kaye

    recent Green Issue (16.2) features creative writing and non-fiction
    that revolves around nature, the environment, and landscape. Ricepaper
    magazine is a national quarterly magazine devoted to showcasing Asian
    Canadian artists, writers, performers, and innovators, and is published
    by The Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop. Writers and poets from Ricepaper will read and share their creative writing.

Usually I will spend some time behind the Ricepaper booth as an ACWW director, but I also helped to staff the booth for Historic Joy Kogawa House where I am president. 


Joy Kogawa is
currently in town, and made a late surprise appearance at the end of the
day to attend a talk by Susan Crean – the new
writer-in-residence at

Tetsuro attended JJ Lee's reading and gave BIG RAVES!…. I attended
readings by Jen Sookfong Lee, Wayde Compton, and Susan Crean. 


Kevin Chong signed a copy of his
new book “Beauty and Pity” for me, and I chatted with Evelyn Lau
afterwards (we are having dinner next week, following her reading at
Kogawa House on Sunday).


Bob Sung and Hayne Wai – are both are included in the book
“Chinese Canadian and Aboriginal Pot Luck” (along with ACWW co-president Allan Cho and
myself). Also – I saw local Chinatown historian
Larry Wong, with his new book @ the booth for Chinese Canadian
Historical Society – which I bought from Larry last week.  Larry's book features praise on the back cover, from his childhood and lifetime friend, Wayson Choy.


Myung Lee, publisher of Diverse Magazine, holds up an article about Gung Haggis Fat Choy that I co-wrote with my friend Allan Cho.  Allan also recently submitted
an article about Hapa Palooza, with some quotes from my blog.


When I saw Anna Ling Kaye, I called her over to introduce Marisa Alps,
an editor at Harbour Publishing.  Marisa is a former long time ACWW
director, and formerly shepherded the ACWW Emerging Writer Award.  She
is also a poet, and contributed to “Swallowing Clouds” the first
Chinese-Canadian poetry anthology, edited by Jim Wong-Chu, that sees its
12th anniversary this year.

Then I introduced Anna to Tradewinds publisher  Michael Katz… Michael
was a driving force behind the young adult anthology “Henry Lee and
Other Stories”.  Michael was immediately taken by Anna's young daughter
Pacific, and he pulled the Paul Yee book “Bamboo” out of my hands to
give to Pacific (saying to me “I'll give you another book”).

My friend Tetsuro Shigematsu (and ACWW board director) was especially affected by JJ Lee's reading today.  Tetsuro wrote on this FB that :

Today at Word on the Street, JJ Lee along with Sheryl MacKay
took a reading and raised it to a new level. The shivering audience
laughed and cried, as JJ spoke entertainingly and insightfully about his
new book, The Measure of a Man, a memoir about his stormy relationship
with his father reconstructed around the rebuilding of his father's
suit. Buy this book. You will love it. I guarantee it. And by
guarantee, I mean I will personally buy the book from you if you don't
love it. (JJ ran out of books to sign afterwards, so I couldn't buy one)
But I know because I read an advance copy!

Word On The Street – is almost swept up by the wind, but prevails!

Great Day at Word On The Street today…

Adrianne Carr, Green Party politician, came by the Historic Joy Kogawa House booth, and told me that her daughter had shared with her Joy's children's book “Naomi's Tree.” “It's a great book” said Carr, as we chatted about the importance of saving historically significant landmarks (such as Kogawa House), and conserving sensitive and important environments – okay, I told her I was a director for The Land Conservancy of BC.

It's always great to see literary friends such as Evelyn Lau, George McWhirter, Renee Saklikar, Brad Cran, Charles Demers, Wayde Compton, Marisa Alps, Kevin Chong, Ariadne Sawyer, Alejandro Mujica + more… Lots of great books and magazines! I did my Christmas shopping to support local book publishers!

Susan Crean and Hal Wake (Vancouver International Writers Festival) chat in front of the Historic Joy Kogawa House booth – photo T.Wong

Also great to see my friends at the booths such as Historic Joy Kogawa House, Ricepaper Magazine, Chinese Canadian Historical Society of BC, CUPE BC, Tradewind Books, Harbour Publishing, Vancouver Review, BC Book Prizes, VPL Foundation + more!

It was a busy busy Sunday, starting at 10am, because we had moved the dragon boat practice for Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team one hour early to encourage paddlers to attend events at WOTS.

Deb & I arrived shortly around 1pm to see that the tents for Poetry and Childrens events were flat on the ground.  We later learned that the wind tunnel on Hamilton St had threatened to lift the tents into the air.  After past years of rain, road closures, and a library strike, this will be forever known as the Year of the Wind.

Storyteller Mary Gavan wrote on FB that:

Storytelling in Word in the Street tent. Wind blew. Wind blew and blew; tent flew up; chairs fell down; Persian carpet went into orbit, as per its history.
Storytelling at Word on Street terminated. Area evacuated. All in a
day's story!!!
time in 25 years that anyone can recall the wipe out of part of Word on
the Street (ed. note: tents were taken down for safety and programs moved to other locations). Library staff outstanding in ensuring safety and rehousing
organisations inside with tables to replace their booths. Will write
as a story shortly.


George McWhirters steps off the “Poetry In Transit” bus, where Poetry Tent events were moved to after the tents were “put down” for safety.  George told me that he had arrived at the Poetry Tent 10 minutes before his scheduled event to find the tents flat on the ground!


Rob Taylor read his poems on the “Poetry In Transit” bus, which didn't have any lights because of a dead battery.  Transit attendants had to herkily-jerkily back up the bus while previously reading poets and host Evelyn Lau were still on the bus chatting with audience.


Christine Lowther reads her poems – not on the bus, but in the outdoors –  from her collection “My Nature” at another location instead of the Poetry Tent.

Despite the early morning rain, and the sudden windstorm, this year was lots of fun.  Great programming at WOTS this year.  I was able to help out at the booth for Historic Joy Kogawa House, check in at Ricepaper Magazine, drop in at lots of author readings, chat with friends at the publisher tents, and buy lots of books, as well as scoop up some deals at the silent auction prizes.

I was able to see Jen Sookfong Lee, Wayde Compton, Susan Crean, and many other authors.


The elegant Jen Sookfong Lee read from her new book “The Better Mother” and also suggested to aspiring writers to never give in to Writers Block, nor interrupt their writing time.  She admitted that she doesn't answer the phone even when she knows her mother is calling.


Wayde Compton is the current writer-in-residence at Vancouver Public Library.  He spun a particularly captivating story about mixed races.

My friend Tetsuro Shigematsu was especially affected by JJ Lee's reading today.  Tetsuro wrote on this FB that

Today at Word on the Street, JJ Lee along with Sheryl MacKay
took a reading and raised it to a new level. The shivering audience
laughed and cried, as JJ spoke entertainingly and insightfully about his
new book, The Measure of a Man, a memoir about his stormy relationship
with his father reconstructed around the rebuilding of his father's
suit. Buy this book. You will love it. I guarantee it. And by
guarantee, I mean I will personally buy the book from you if you don't
love it. (JJ ran out of books to sign afterwards, so I couldn't buy one)
But I know because I read an advance copy!

Word On The Street Fair features most Asian-Canadian authors yet!

WOTS is featuring the largest number of
Asian-Canadian authors
I have ever seen at this event

Word On The Street – book and magazine Fair

Friday – come to Kogawa House and meet author Susan Crean
Sunday – join us for Ricepaper booth @ Word On the Street

I always attend WOTS – and can sometimes be found:
1) staffing the ACWW Ricepaper Magazine booth
2) staffing the Historic Joy Kogawa House booth
3) hosting an event
4) listening at an event
5) searching for good book deals
6) searching for good silent auction deals
7) visiting my fellow library co-workers at CUPE 391 and VPL booths
8) one year I played accordion at CUPE 391 booth

is a list of Asian-Canadian writers – + First Nations and Afro-Saxon
(as Wayde Compton describes himself). 
I know each of them – except
Sachiko and Richard.  I have made the list in chronological order, so you can start at 11am with Kevin Chong, and finish at 4:10 with Wayde Compton.

author headshot

Kevin Chong was born in Hong Kong in 1975. He is the author of Baroque-a-Nova, Neil Young Nation, and a forthcoming memoir on horseracing. Beauty Plus Pity is his first novel in ten years.

Kevin Chong is at the Canada Writes at 11:00

author headshot

JJ Lee is the menswear columnist for the Vancouver Sun
and broadcasts a weekly fashion column for CBC Radio in Vancouver. For
years, journalist and amateur tailor JJ Lee tried to ignore the navy
suit that hung at the back of his closet—his late father’s last suit. JJ
Lee will read from The Measure of a Man and…

JJ Lee is at the Authors Tent at 11:30

author headshot

Richard Wagamese is Ojibway but was separated from
his people for 20 years. When they reconnected, elders told him that he
was to be a storyteller. This has led to an award-winning career as a
writer and a journalist.

Richard Wagamese is at the Poetry Tent at 11:30

author headshot

Sachiko Murakami’s first poetry collection, The Invisibility Exhibit,
was a finalist for the Governer General’s Award for Poetry and the
Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. She is a past member of Vancouver’s
Kootenay School of Writing collective and now co-hosts the Pivot Reading

Sachiko Murakami is at the Poetry Tent at 11:45

author headshot

C. E. Gatchalian is the author of three books of
drama and one book of poetry. His plays have appeared on stages
nationally and internationally, as well as on radio and television. His
most recent undertaking, Crossing and Other Plays contains three plays: Crossing, Diamond and Ticks, that explore themes of sexuality…

C. E. Gatchalian is at the Authors Tent at 12:00

author headshot

Jen Sookfong Lee was born and raised in
Vancouver’s Eastside and is now the voice behind “Westcoast Words,” a
weekly writing column featured on CBC Radio One’s On the Coast and All Points West.

Jen Sookfong Lee is at the Canada Writes at 12:20

author headshot

Evelyn Lau is the author of four volumes of poetry, two works of non-fiction, two short story collections and a novel. Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid was a Canadian bestseller and was made into a CBC movie starring Sandra Oh in her first major role. Living Under Plastic won the 2011 Pat Lowther Memorial Award for Poetry.

Evelyn Lau is at the Carnegie Centre at 1:45

author headshot

Wayde Compton is a Vancouver writer whose books include After Canaan: Essays on Race, Writing, and Region, Performance Bond, Bluesprint: Black British Columbian Literature and Orature and 49th Parallel Psalm. Compton is also a co-founding member of the Hogan’s Alley Memorial Project, an organization…

Wayde Compton is at the Authors Tent at 4:10

Hapa-Palooza literary event with Fred Wah, Joanne Arnott and Tanya Evanson

Hapa-Palooza poets helps celebrate Vancouver 125

The largest meeting room at the downtown Vancouver Public Library was full.  Anna Kaye Ling was moderating questions from the audience to poets Fred Wah, Joanne Arnott and Tanya Evanson.  Ling is one of the co-founders of the brand new Hapa-Palooza Festival, and is also a director for Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop – the sponsoring organization, that helped submit the grants to Vancouver 125.

Each of the poets grew up from mixed race ethnic backgrounds.  Wah is Swedish/Chinese/Scottish/Irish, Evanson is Black/Mixed Caucasian and Arnott is Metis/Mixed.  I've known Fred Wah since 2003, when Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop presented him with the ACWW Community Builder Award.  A few years later, I invited Wah to be the featured poet at the 2005 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.

It would be simple if as the last person from the audience to ask a question, suggest that we forego all labels of race or ethnicity and simply “recognize each other as human beings.”  But poetry and experience that addresses growing up mixed-race isn't that simple.  Humankind has always created a sense of “otherness” to shun those “not like us.”  Wah's award winning poetry books “Diamond Grill” and “is a door” both address the joys and pitfalls of “looking different”.

While the topic of racism, and not fitting in on both your mother's side, and your father's side, was upsetting to some members of the audience, there was a larger sense that this was community.  It was a community of recognition.  It was a community of meeting other people like themselves.  It was a community that was saying “our time has come,” as Canada's first Festival celebrating Mixed Ancestry kicked off it's first of 4 days.

Hapa is a Hawaiian term meaning Half.  It is historically used to describe somebody as hapa haole (half white), but recently it has been used to describe somebody who is half Asian or Pacific Islander.  But now it being used to describe a new emerging tribe of Hapa-Canadians, and their culture – similar to the use of the word Metis.  Historically, Metis was used to describe anybody of First Nations and European heritage.  These people were not fully accepted in either culture, and thus created their own.  And today Hapa is doing the same.

I looked around the room, and saw many Hapa Canadians that I knew, didn't know, and some who were my friends.  Rema Tavares, founder of had flown out from Toronto to excitedly attend this festival.  Brandy Lien Worrall was holding her new 4 month old Hapa baby, born of Hapa-Vietnamese-Chinese-Pensylanvian Duth, and Hapa-Filipino parents.  Ricepaper Magazine (published by ACWW) was there with our managing editor Patricia Lim, and intern Cara Kuhane – who is a Hawaiian born Hapa.

And I saw my cousin Tracey.  We are both descended from Rev, Chan Yu Tan, our great-great-grandfather who came to Canada in 1896.  Her father is Anglo-Canadian.  When she graduated from high school, as a present, I took her to see the play Mixie and the Half-Breeds, written by my Hapa friends Adrienne Wong and Julie Tamiko Manning.  Tracey enjoyed it tremendously, as it addressed issues of mixed race identity.  Afterwards we went out to eat with Julie and Adrienne.  It was one of the first times Tracey got to meet Hapa artists who actively developing Hapa culture!  Tonight, my little cousin Tracey, is in 3rd year university, and embracing her Hapa-ness by volunteering as a photographer for the festival. 

I introduced Tracey to poet Fred Wah, then in the audience we said hello to poets Roy Miki and Daphne Marlatt.  I introduced her to the co-founders of the Hapa-Palooza, my Hapa friends Jeff Chiba Stearns, Zarah Martz and Anna Kaye Ling.  This is my community, which recognized and embraced her as Hapa.  They commented how wonderful it was that Gung Haggis Fat Choy was one of the inspirations for Hapa-Palooza, and how my Hapa cousin was possibly one of the inspirations for me creating Gung Haggis Fat Choy, as I had wanted to create an event that was inclusive for my family members who were Scottish and Chinese and Hapa.

If more families had members who were of diverse ethnic ancestry, and had more Hapa children – then hopefully there would be less racism.  Because if everybody is related and inclusive to every other race, then it would be harder for politicians to pass laws and legislation such as the Chinese head tax, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Potlatch Law, the internment of Japanese Canadians, and excluding First Nations from voting until 1960… as Canada did in the 19th and 20th Centuries – because you're gonna hear it from your in-laws!

Early media stories on Hapa Palooza – we got a buzz!

Early media stories on Hapa Palooza

– we got a buzz!

Hapa-Palooza challenges mixed-race stereotypes

Vancouver Sun – Vivian Luk – ‎Sep 7, 2011
The nickname Super Nip – partly derived from a Second World War term to
describe Japanese people – and racial jokes followed Jeff Chiba Stearns
everywhere when he was growing up in Kelowna.

Hapa-Palooza showcases Vancouver's 125 years of cultural passion

The Province – Tom Harrison – ‎Sep 7, 2011‎
This is especially true of Vancouver, where just boarding a SkyTrain is
a multi-cultural experience, or walking the streets can be an
eye-opening exercise in cultural diversity and acceptance.

Hapa-Palooza revels in fest of ethnic mashups – Jessica Werb – ‎14 hours ago‎
Here's to mixed heritage: circus artist Chris Murdoch will be among the
performers at the Hapa-Palooza event's wildly diverse Friday cabaret
night. Growing up, Zarah Martz never felt like she fully belonged.

Hapa-palooza hype builds, but will it deliver?

Open File – Meghan Mast – ‎Sep 6, 2011‎
It wasn't until this year, at age 56, that Jonina Kirton connected her
story with that of other mixed-race women. “I hadn't really put two and
two together that someone else could have almost the same experience as I
had,” says Kirton, who identifies

The Georgia Straight presents Hapa-Palooza – staff –  ‎Sep 6, 2011‎
Hapa is a Hawaiian word to describe someone of mixed heritage from
islands in the Pacific Ocean. And in recent years, it has gone on to
become a term to describe people of multiple ethnicities from around the
world. The following night in the same room

Interracial identities part of the mix at Hapapalooza Festival's Mixed – Craig Takeuchi – Sep 5, 2011

Interracial identities part of the mix at Hapa-palooza Festival's Mixed Flicks Anyways?” are part of the Mixed Flicks program at Hapa-palooza.

Check out the Hapa-Palooza Festival – featuring Mixed Race artists

Hapa-palooza Festival: September 7-10, 2011
A Vancouver Celebration of Mixed-Roots Arts + Ideas

This is an exciting idea whose time has come.  The seeds were planted at the 2011 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner – which featured Hapa-Canadians Jeff Chiba Stearns, Jocelyn Pettit, Patrick Gallagher, and Jenna Chow as artists and co-hosts.

Following the end of the last singalong to Auld Lang Syne, some of our performers and organizers met and discussed the idea of a Hapa-oriented festival or event.   ACWW directors Anna Ling Kaye and Tetsuro Shigematsu (co-host for the evening) were very enthusiastic. 

It was Anna who followed up on the idea and quickly arranged a meeting with Jeff Chiba Stearns.  Zarah helped her as they made an application for Vancouver 125 funding.  I am very pleased that many of the performers featured have also been featured at past Gung Haggis Fat Choy events such as poet Fred Wah, fiddler Jocelyn Pettit and film makers Jeff Chiba Stearns and Ann Marie Fleming.

Wednesday, September 7th, 7:00 –
Location: Alice McKay Room
Vancouver Public Library Central Branch


Writers, poets and spoken-word artists in dialogue!

Thursday, September 8th, 7:00 –
Location: Alice McKay Room
Vancouver Public Library Central Branch

Explorations of mixed identity in film with mixed actors panel and film
screenings with Q&A from the filmmakers!

Friday, September 9th, 7:00 –
Location: Roundhouse Performance Space

A delightful evening of mixed entertainment and celebration!
* tickets available at

Saturday, September 10th
Location: Robson Square


Installations by mixed artists and booths from community partners and
related causes.

12:30 to 2:45pm

Amazing performances by mixed talent of the future!

3:30pm to 7:00pm

Prepare to be blown away by Vancouver’s incredible mixed talent!

Marty Chan is coming to Kogawa House Wednesday – special price tickets for The Forbidden Phoenix

Special Marty Chan Reception at Historic Joy Kogawa House
on Wednesday March 30th

The Forbidden Phoenix

Playwright Marty Chan (Mom, Dad, I'm Living With A White Girl) is coming to Historic Joy Kogawa House.

This is a special reception, hosted by Kogawa House Society.  Marty is coming, and so is the costume designer.  They will talk about this new exciting play about the Chinese immigration to Canada, and how Monkey King is involved.

The evening is moderated by Todd Wong, creator of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, and who is active on the executive boards of Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop, Historic Joy Kogawa House Society and The Land Conservancy of BC.  Todd loves is a 5th generation Chinese Canadian, and loves Monkey King stories and Asian Canadian history.

Wednesday, March 30th.  7:30 to 9pm

Discount tickets to Marty Chan's
The Forbidden Phoenix

Marty Chan's The Forbidden
opens next month at the Gateway Theatre in Richmond. Become a
member of the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society and get the discount
ticket price.

Bonus: Meet the playwright this Wednesday, March 30, 7:30 to
at Historic Joy Kogawa House, 1450 West 64th Avenue, Vancouver.

$25 = Tax-deductible one-year membership in Historic Joy Kogawa House

$39 = One ticket to any production of The Forbidden Phoenix,
running April 7 to 23 at the Gateway Theatre in Richmond

$64 total

This event is a fundraiser for our writer-in-residence program at
Historic Joy Kogawa House, which September 15, 2011, to April 15, 2012.

For tickets, email email

About the play
The Forbidden Phoenix, combines adventure and martial arts to
present an eye-popping musical that tells the story of a father who
comes to Canada looking for a better life. High drama and visual
spectacle combine for a unique evening of family entertainment.
Performed in English with Chinese surtitles. The play runs April 7 to 23
at the Gateway Theatre in Richmond.

About the event
On Wednesday, March 30, please join us in the living room of Historic
Joy Kogawa House, childhood home of the author Joy Kogawa, for a rare
opportunity to sit with this master author, hear him read from the
playscript, and discuss the issues of history and mythology he raises in
his work.

About the playwright
Marty Chan explores the tensions between opposing forces of assimilation
and the search for heritage and cultural roots.

Marty Chan is an award-winning playwright. His Mom, Dad, I’m Living
with a White Girl
won the Sterling Award for Best New Play and Best
Sound Design, and Harvard University’s A.C.T. Award. The Forbidden
won the Alberta Literary Awards Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award
for Drama in 2004.

For tickets, email email