Monthly Archives: April 2009

Wayson Choy is “Not Yet” dead: story in the Georgia Straight written by Brandy Lien Worrall

Wayson Choy's new memoir “Not Yet” is now available. 

Brandy Lien Worrall wrote the related cover story for the Georgia Straight last week about Wayson.

Also check out Charlie Smith's sidebar cover story:

Wayson Choy's Chinatown memories inspire

featuring Jen Fooksong Lee, author of “The End of East”

Life and Death are linked.  Wayson Choy has defied death twice.  His memoir writings are just as important as his novels.

Brandy Lien Worrall is just finishing up the last courses and meetings for her Masters of Fine Arts, Creative Writing.  I got to know her during the Spring 2007 writing workshop she taught for the Chinese Canadian Historical Society, which produced the book Eating Stories: A Chinese Canadian & Aboriginal Potluck.  Just before the course was finished, Brandy was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She would fight and survive.  Check out Brandy's blog

In 1989, I was diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer tumor.  When I found myself questioning whether I would live or die, I knew I wasn't finished yet…  I didn't know what I still had to do, but I knew I wasn't finished…. not yet.

Wayson Choy also said “Not Yet.”

Not Yet is now the title of Wayson's newest memoir.  It follows the 1999 memoir, Paper Shadows, which was concerned with the ghosts and secrets of his adoption.

I got to know Wayson and his work while I was on the inaugural One Book One Vancouver program with his boyhood friend Larry Wong.  The Jade Peony was the perfect book and lent itself easily to create so many events to help make the book come alive for readers and participants.  We organized events for the library, coordinated with Asian Heritage Month, created “Jade Peony Tours” in Chinatown led by John Atkins, a reading at the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens with pipa player Qiu Xia He of Silk Road Music.

But one of my favorite events was the “Dim Sum With Wayson Choy” for which Larry brought together friends of Wayson, that had inspired some of the characters to speak to the audience.  And Larry even surprised Wayson with a video greeting from Carole Shields, who was unable to attend due to cancer treatment.

But even with the impending death of Wayson's teacher, Carol Shields, few people knew about how close Wayson had come to death.  Jade Peony almost wasn't chosen because Wayson almost wasn't available. 

In July 2001, Wayson Choy suffered a combined asthma and heart attack that would put him in a coma.  He would later suffer a second heart attack in 2005.

Wayson's public talks are very accessible and intimate.  He shares openly his brushes with death, and his time in a coma, his discovery of issues about his adoption and birth parents.  Wherever he speaks, he always connects with the audience and they walk away touched by his generosity of spirit, knowledge and insight.

In 2002, the Asian Canadian Writers Workshop held their inaugural Community Builders Dinner during which Wayson and Paul Yee were both recognized along with special Community Pioneer Roy Mah.  Wayson told stories about being both intimidated and inspired by Roy Mah, the founder of Chinatown News.  It was a very special evening.  I was proud to be one of the event organizers, and especially to have pushed ACWW to hold an event to recognize Wayson's achievements.

In 2005, Wayson Choy's novel All That Matters, was a runner up for the 2004 Giller Prize.  With that came a whirlwind of more publicity tours and speaking engagements.  In the fall of 2005, he suffered a second heart attack.

As Wayson has been inspired, he in turn inspires others.  I am truly looking forward to reading “Not Yet.”

 Not Yet, by Wayson Choy

Wayson will be reading in the Vancouver area on

May 4th, 2009, 7pm

Tix $18/15

Capilano Performing Arts Theatre (2055 Purcell Way, North Van)

Heather Pawsey, Leslie Uyeda, perform at Bloedel Conservatory for a FREE event for Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival

Heather Pawsey, Leslie Uyeda, perform at Bloedel Conservatory for a FREE event for Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival….

Heather Pawsey has been a performer at Gung Haggis Fat Choy events since 2004.  Sometimes she brings flautist Karen Cernauskas.

Heather has been a pioneer of New Music in New Spaces, performing in places as diverse as Brittania Mines, a wine vat at Calona Winery, the Vancouver Aquarium and the Vancouver Crematorium at Mountain View cemetary.

Last year, Heather performed Historic Joy Kogawa House, with poems by Joy Kogawa set to music by Leslie Uyeda.

This looks like a fun event… and Free… to get into the Bloedel Conservatory at Queen Elizabeth Park.

Under Heaven's Dome

REVIEW: “The C-Word” play is full of c-words: Chinese, Canadian, colou-blind, change, characters… “C” it for yourself!

What is the C-Word that is the meaning of life?

The C-Word cast
(Foreground, from left): Preet Cheema (Akesh Gill), Grace Chin (Kelly Cho), Sheryl Thompson (Ashley Hennessey).
(Background, from left): Fane Tse
(Steve Chung), Raahul Singh (Pal Prasad). Photo by Terry
Wong, courtesy of The C-word.

The C-Word
  April 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 2009
written by Grace Chin

at the
Playwrights Theatre Centre on Granville Island, Vancouver

The C-Word is an engaging play… even before you sit down in the seats.  What is the C-Word?  Is it for  Chinese?  Or the derogatory Chink word?  Does it mean Coloured?  Is it a four letter word that belongs below the belt?  One for male appendage, or for female anatomy?

Is the C-Word something more abstract, profound and perhaps “Complicated”?

Or is it “Compassion” or “Cheating”?

In the opening scene, “The Love Guru” is giving a seminar on how to get some action for his male clients.  Pal Prasad (played by Raahul Singh), gives a short talk about goals, and what it takes to follow through.  It's about intention and going after what you want.  It could be any personal development seminar, but this is about the C-word.

Next we meet girlfriends Kelly Cho and Akesh Gill played by Grace Chin and Preet Cheema.  They are on a shopping trip and talking about Kelly's upcoming wedding plans.  Soon we learn that Kelly has a live-in boyfriend named Steve Chung (Fane Tse) who is a yellow guy, while Akesh is single, but she doesn't like brown guys.

Things become complicated when Steve goes to see his old friend Pal to ask for some advice, and compare his relationship and impending marriage with Kelly to Pal's long term “open relationship” to a blonde woman named Ashley (Sheryl Thompsson).  What follows becomes an intercultural Vancouver-style dramedy of errors, innuendo, suppositions on the study of relationships. 

Excuse me… the proper words are cheating, commitment, compassion, change, comic and consolation – after all this is “The C-Word.”

“The C-Word” is the third play by Grace Chin.  Twisting Fortunes was co-written with her TF Productions partner Charlie Cho, and was a delightful comedic romp, set to Vancouver's caffeine drive.  “The Quickie“, Chin's first solo playwright experience, explored multicultural speed dating.  “The C-Word” goes to the next level, exploring a search for meaning in relationships.  This is Chin's most frank and sexual play to date, and hints at the darker sides of relationships and human nature, not to mention weddings.

In all three productions, Vancouver's multicultural society is the setting, but it is the intercultural nature of the characters where the culture clashes occur.  It's not just a Chinese-Canadian 2nd generation immigrant experience that is explored, but also South Asian this time around too.  And somehow this is juxtoposed with what might be mainstream Canadian or possibly alternative sexual lifestyles.

From the beginning, the characters are all interesting and engaging.  The topics are easily relateable to the audience… unless you don't have any friends of a different ethnicity, or have never dated.  The pacing is good, and the diaglogue never flags.

The casting all works.  Raahul Singh has fun being the egotistical “Love Guru” and his character makes reference to the Mike Myers movie.  More cultural references abound as character development exploration occurs when Kelly and Ashley try to figure each other out, and what their men may see in each other.  Here the extremely self-critical Kelly tries to get a handle on the brazen Ashely, she labels a “Samantha” compared to her “Miranda” – or is she really a Carrie Bradshaw?  Grace Chin actually displays a bit of each of the Sex in the City characters in her role of Kelly.

Much of the action revolves around Kelly and Pal, but while Steve's character seems stalled and doesn't give Fane Tse a big range to play with, Preet Cheema gets to push her character Akesh in the 2nd Act.  Supporting actors Lili Lau Cook and Vincent Cheng provide wonderfully surprising turns as Kelly's parents.  Mel Tuck directs this ensemble cast.

Previous productions

a take-out love story

an accidentally Asian romantic dramedy


See previews in Review Vancouver and

Robert Burns in a Transatlantic Context: SFU events FREE to the public

SFU Centre for Scottish Studies hosts a global Robert Burns conference
2009_January 178 by you.
The 250th Anniversary of Robert Burns birth, was celebrated at the Burns statue in Stanley Park with an small informal celebration organized by Todd Wong (red vest) and Dr. Leith Davis (2nd row with purple shawl, behind her front row daughter in red skirt) – photo T. Wong

How does the poetry and songs of Robert Burns affect Canadians in West Coast Vancouver?

Dr. Leith Davis, director of the Centre for Scottish Studies, Simon Fraser University, has organized a conference about the global Robert Burns – titled “Robert Burns in a Transatlantic Context.”

Leith loved attending the 2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner, and how we blended and juxtaposed Scottish, Chinese cultures with a Canadian twist and a seasoning of First Nations.  In planning her conference for Tartan Week, we wondered how to give a “Gung Haggis” experience to her conference attendees.  So for the Tuesday night evening of Robert Burns songs and poetry, A Musical Celebration of Burns in North America, she has invited Toddish McWong and Gung Haggis Fat Choy performers to give our “Rap to a Haggis”, a Chinese claper tale performance by Dr. Jan Walls set to a Robbie Burns poem, and a performance of Auld Lang Syne (with the first verse sung in Mandarin Chinese) augmented with our parade dragon and Chinese Lions.  Deep-fried haggis wontons will hopefully be served along with haggis on Tuesday evening. 

On Wednesday afternoon, I will be part of the Community Research Forum of “Burns in BC.” – where I will talk about the history and development of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, and how it inspired both a CBC TV television Gung Haggis Fat Choy performance special and the SFU Gung Haggis Fat Choy Festival.

2009_January 261 2009 SFU Gung Haggis Fat Choy Festival features “dragon cart racing” invented by yours truly – photo Todd Wong.

How did I first meet Dr. Davis?

After brief email introductions, I called her with the idea of a wreath laying ceremony at the Burns statue in Vancouver's Stanley Park to mark the 250th Anniversary of Burn's birth.

We emailed and talked by phone and organized some activities, but we didn't meet in person until after she had spent 2 weeks in Scotland for the 2009 Homecoming activities, and arrived back in Vancouver on January 25th, and came to Stanley Park for our planned event, which her husband and two children were already present at.

That evening she and her husband were guests of honour at the 2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner.  Leith gave “the immortal address” and marvelled at all the songs, guests, food and performances at the Gung Haggis Dinner, and especially at the impromptu ceremonial cutting of the haggis by Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson.

Please check out the free public events for the:

SFU's Centre for Scottish Studies presents

“Robert Burns in a Transatlantic


Public events:


Tuesday, April 7th

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; concerts starts at 7:00

A Musical Celebration of 
Burns in
North America

Jon Bartlett and Rika Ruebsaat, 
“Burns Songs in BC”

Kirsteen McCue and David Hamilton, 
“Burns Songs Set by Serge Hovey”

Gung Haggis Fat Choy Performers

Scottish Cultural Centre,
8886 Hudson Street , Vancouver


Wednesday, April 8th, 3:00 – 3:30 p.m.

Michael Russell, Scottish Minister for Culture,
External Affairs
and the Constitution

Scotland and
the Scottish Diaspora”

Room 1425
SFU Harbour
Centre, 515 West Hastings Street ,

Wednesday, April 8th, 3:45 – 5:00 p.m.

Community Research Forum on 
“Burns in BC”

Room 2200
SFU Harbour
Centre, 515 West Hastings Street ,


Wednesday, April 8th, 7:00 p.m.

Lecture: Dr. Robert Crawford, 
“Writing Burns’s

Room 1400,
SFU Harbour
Centre (reception to follow)


Thursday, April 9th, 3:00-4:30 p.m.

Workshop: “Connecting Diasporas: 
Scotland, Asia and the Caribbean ”

Room 2200, Harbour Centre,
515 West Hastings Street , Vancouver


All events are free and open to the public. 

Please contact Ron Sutherland to reserve a seat:;


Sponsored by SFU’s Centre for Scottish Studies;
the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; and the
Vancouver Burns Club

A Musical Celebration of Robert Burns in North America – organized by SFU Centre for Scottish Studies

Tuesday, April 7th

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; concerts starts at 7:00 p.m.

A Musical Celebration of 
Burns in North America

Jon Bartlett and Rika Ruebsaat, 
“Burns Songs in BC”

Kirsteen McCue and David Hamilton, 
“Burns Songs Set by Serge Hovey”

Gung Haggis Fat Choy Performers

Scottish Cultural Centre, 8886 Hudson Street, Vancouver




1st Writer-in-residence reading at Joy Kogawa House with John Asfour and guest Ann Diamond on April 6th

Writer-in-residence John Asfour welcomes novelist, playwright, and essayist Ann Diamond to read excerpts from My Cold War, stories from 1950s Montreal

2009_March 095 by you.

Montreal writer John Asfour met the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society at a board meeting March 23.  John (with dark glasses) stands beside life-size photo of Joy Kogawa used in the Royal BC Museum exhibit “Free Spirit.” – photo Deb Martin.


Monday, April 6, at 7:30pm, by donation


Historic Joy Kogawa House, 1450 West 64th Avenue, Vancouver


Ann Diamond's best-known work is a long poem, A Nun's Diary
(1989), which was adapted for theatre by Robert Lepage and became the
subject of a National Film Board documentary, “Breaking a Leg” directed
by Donald Winkler. Her first novel, Mona's Dance, was chosen by CBC as the best small press novel of 1988. In 1994, a story collection, Evil Eye, won the Hugh MacLennan Award for fiction. As an experiment, she self-published her novel Static Control after it had been accepted by DC Books and Les Editeurs XYZ.


Since 2002 when Diamond began work on her memoir, My Cold War,
she has reincarnated as a researcher and haunter of libraries,
fine-tooth-comber of documents and files, and explorer of a forbidden
chapter in recent Canadian history. This ongoing project has been, in
many ways, about reclaiming her own history as the daughter of a
Canadian Air Force intelligence officer, who came to Quebec from Sea
Island, BC, in 1943 to “hunt for Nazi spies.” Learning of her father's
secret activities led her inevitably into a wide-ranging study of the
history of that period, some of which remains classified to this day.


has also changed Diamond's relationship to the community she came
from–Anglo Montreal. It was a mixed blessing to live in a city with a
rich cultural tradition and a multi-layered history. By the mid-1980s,
when I began publishing fiction and poetry, Montreal had wandered off
the literary map of Canada. Diamond waged a personal campaign to change
that, writing for the Gazette, Books in Canada, Canadian Forum, CBC, Montreal Mirror, Room of One's Own, Geist, and so on.


Diamond continues to study the history of Cold War experiments on
children, a secret program that spanned the country. Her birthplace,
Montreal, was the epicentre of a project that has altered our future in
countless ways which need to be faced. After five years of research and
writing, Diamond is pleased to shared those stories with a Vancouver
audience at Kogawa house.


Join us on Monday, April 6, at 7:30pm at Historic Joy Kogawa House, 1450 West 64th Avenue in Vancouver. Admission by donation.

The C-Word… new play by Grace Chin opens April 2 at Playwrights Theatre Centre

The C-Word is a new play by Grace Chin…

Gung Haggis members saw her first play Twisting Fortunes and the 2nd play “The Quickie”

Both were featured as sneak preview excerpts at Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinners in 2007 and 2008.

Check out Grace's play “The C-Word

The C-Word cast (from left): Preet Cheema
(Akesh Gill), Sheryl Thompson (Ashley Hennessey), Grace Chin (Kelly
Cho), Fane Tse (Steve Chung), Raahul Singh (Pal Prasad). Photo by Terry


If cheating is colour blind, so is commitment, increasingly a “C-word”
to both sexes. How do you deal with intercultural cheating, commitment,
and consequences? The C-Word,
a contemporary, set-in-Vancouver dramedy directed by Mel Tuck, invites
an intimate in-and-out of the bedroom view of four friends' lives when
infidelity and unforeseen consequences force them to choose to whom,
and to what, they must commit. More

… a contemporary, set-in-Vancouver dramedy directed by Mel Tuck, invites an intimate in-and-out of the bedroom view of four friends’ lives when infidelity and unforeseen consequences force them to choose to whom, and to what, they must commit.

Playwrights Theatre Centre, Granville Island
1398 Cartwright Street, Vancouver, BC

Thurs Apr 2 – Sat Apr 4
Thurs Apr 9 – Sat Apr 11
All shows 8 pm

$18 online (PayPal)
“2 for $30” Thursday April 9
$20 at the door


To buy tickets in advance and for more information:

Picture of Toddish McWong appears in Vancouver Sun article about Jason Kenney's views on Canadian identity, diversity and not giving money to specific immigrant cultural groups

“Toddish McWong”- the creator of “Gung Haggis Fat Choy.” 
What are Canadian values?  and Canadian diversity?

Who makes them: Canadian citizens? Immigrant Canadians?

or Jason Kenney – minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism?

Jason Kenney is the federal minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism.  He presided over the Chinese Canadian Head Tax redress, that resulted in Prime Minister Stephen Harper giving a parliamentary apology for a racist tax but only gave an ex-gratia payments that recognized less than 1% of head tax certificates, because it was limited to only surviving head tax payers and spouses… most have long since died since Margaret Mitchell first brought up the the issue of Head Tax Redress in the Canadian Parliament back in 1984.

Recently, Jason Kenney waded into the discussion about Canadian identity, and immigration language classes, when he talked with editors at the Calgary Herald:

New Canadians, says Kenney, “have a duty to integrate.” Further, he
says, “We don't need the state to promote diversity. It is a natural
part of our civil society.”

To that end, the government has
sensibly ceased funding programs such as heritage language classes. Why
should the federal government pay for children to learn the language of
the country their parents and grandparents come from? It's the family's
responsibility to teach children about their heritage, including the

The original story appeared in the Calgary Herald on March 20th.

Kenney right person for immigration minefield

The same story appeared in the Ottawa Citizen on March 30th (with comments)

Kenney stands for Canada

Today, the same story appeared in the Vancouver Sun on April 1st, with a new title:

Immigration minister is right to stand up for Canadian values.

But this time, it appeared with a picture of Todd Wong aka “Toddish McWong” with the caption:

Now, that's heritage: 'Toddish McWong' combines Robert Burns Night and Chinese New Year.

I have to be flattered that my picture has appeared in the news media. 

But while the original story never mentioned “Toddish McWong” or “Gung Haggis Fat Choy,” a picture of Wong is used mainly to capture the reader's attention and draw them to the article. 

But I am a bit confused as to what the picture is meant to represent?

Is it because:

1  “Being Canadian means being everything to everyone who comes to our shores?”

2 – “People want to define Canada by how many politically correct contations this country can do to accomodate others?”

3 – “New Canadians have a duty to integrate,” says Kenney. “We don't need the state to promote diversity.  It is a natural part of our ciivl society.”

The article, by Naomi Lakritz of the Calgary Herald, goes on to share Kenney's views that: “the government has sensibly ceased funding programs such as heritage language classes [other than english or french].” 

“I think it's really neat that a fifth generation Ukrainian Canadian can speak Ukrainian… but pay for it yourself,” Kenney says.  Kenney's right… it is neat.  If you can speak your family's mother tongue, your life is just that much more enriched.  But such immersion in heritage shouldn't come at the expense of you identifying yourself as a Canadian first… and it certainly shouldn't come at Canadian taxpayer's expense.”

The article also goes on to give an example of how Kenney says that a grant for language training to the Canadian Arab Federation will not be renewed: “The government should support moderate mainstream voices, not people on the fringe.” 

The Gung Haggis Fat Choy events that I have created since 1998 have never received any federal grant money. 

I am a fifth generation Chinese Canadian that speaks better French than Chinese. 

I am a descendant of Chinese head tax payers.

I have travelled to Oak Bay in Nova Scotia, walked the Plains of Abraham in Quebec, stood on Point Pelee in Ontario, skiied in Banff Alberta, visited totem poles in Haida Gwaii, and even stood on the corner of Portage and Main in Winnipeg during windchilled Winter. 

I have been the guest speaker at a Terry Fox Run in Beijing, China.

By creating Gung Haggis Fat Choy events, my aim is to recognize both the pioneer histories of Chinese Canadians and Scottish Canadians, as well as the future of Canadians born with these shared ancestries.

I believe that culture evolves, and is not stagnant.

I believe that all Canadians should read “How to Be a Canadian” by Will Ferguson and his brother Ian Ferguson.

If it is a Canadian value to laugh, make fun of ourselves and not take ourselves too seriously, then maybe this book should also be mandatory reading when all new immigrants apply to become Canadian citizens, along with learning English or French.

And that's what Gung Haggis Fat Choy also encourages us to do… laugh and make fun of ourselves, by flipping stereotypes of Scottish and Chinese tradional customs into juxtapositions of cultural fusion.