Wayson Choy gives “spirited” reading for Vancouver Cultural Olympiad

Not Yet

Wayson Choy came back to Vancouver to read from his upcoming book, “Not Yet a memoir of living and almost dying,”  Wayson is famous for his first novel “Jade Peony” and its' subsequent prequel “All That Matters“which was nominated for a Giller Prize.

Recently Wayson received the Order of Canada, and Jade Peony made the Literary Review of Canada's Most Most Important Books.

His books describe growing up in Chinatown, whether fictional or his memoir Paper Shadows.  He says that his books are also about secrets, and secrets reveals.  Paper Shadows addressed the unknown secret that Wayson had been adopted, which he didn't learn until he was 57 years old.  Not Yet, reveals secrets about near death, and not being ready to die, and coming to terms with death.

When Wayson came to Vancouver in 2002 to celebrate Jade Peony being selected as the inaugural choice for the One Book One Vancouver program at the Vancouver Public Library, few people knew then that Wayson had recently been in a coma due to a heart attack.

On Tuesday night, Wayson talked about his second heart attack, and his conversations with ghosts.

“Gracious” is always the word I use to describe Wayson, and he certainly embodied the word during his talk.  It's important to recognize what we have in our lives, because when we almost lose what we take for granted, we value it so much more.  This is what Wayson and I both know, as he has now survived two heart attacks and I survived a near fatal cancer tumor.  How we deal with our challenges is important to how we live our lives.

Wayson described how after each heart attack, he had moments of clarity and meaningfullness – what I asked he might describe as “satori” in zen buddhism or what Abraham Maslow called “self-actualization.”  Wayson answered by talking about having a “knowingness that what you do matters.”

Oh… about the ghosts.

He described meeting ghosts after one of the heart attacks.  When he talked to a friend who was familiar with ghosts and spiritual matters, they confirmed the tell-tale signs and signatures.  But I will let you read the book to find out what went on.

It was great to see so many familiar faces attending the reading at the UBC Robson Square event.  I sat down beside friends Elwin Yuen and Fanna Yee.  Elwin had been on the ACWW board with me, when we honoured Wayson at the 2002 ACWW Community Dinner.  Sitting in front of us were Steven Wong with his parents Zoe and Bill Wong – subject of the CBC documentary Tailor Made.

After the book signings, I joined my cousin Janice Wong, author of Chow: From China to Canada, to help celebrate Dr. Henry Yu's birthday eve with his wife, Brandy Lien-Worrall.  Brandy edited the anthology Eating Stories which was produced in the writing workshops she led for the Chinese Canadian Historical Society.  Joining us for drinks and nachos was Leanne Riding, my co-president for Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop. 

Great stories… Great people… and inspired by Wayson.

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