FINDING MR. WONG

On Canada's History's 2018 Top 10 Bestsellers List

Susan Crean’s memoir Finding Mr. Wong chronicles her effort to piece together the life of the man she knew as Wong, cook and housekeeper to her Irish Canadian family for two generations. Reminiscing, Crean writes, “I grew up in Mr. Wong’s kitchen …” A Chinese Head Tax payer hired by Crean’s grandfather in 1928, Wong Dong Wong remained on the job following Gordon Crean’s death in 1947. Mr. Wong eventually retired in 1965 and moved to Chinatown. Crean’s homage weaves the various strands of her memories of and discoveries about Mr. Wong during the last 25 years of his life; she travels the streets and histories of Chinatowns in Vancouver and Toronto, Canada, and twice she visits Guangdong, China, where she located his home village, found descendants of his father’s brother, and learned the beginning of his story: orphaned as a newborn, then brought to Canada by his uncle, Wong YeeWoen.

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At the core of the narrative are Crean’s observations of the blurred lines between numerous socio-cultural dynamics (worker/employer, family/servant, child/adult). She particularly considers relationships that cross race as well as class. Beginning with the partnership formed by Crean’s grandfather and Mr. Wong – a partnership whose long alliance and evident mutual regard guaranteed Wong’s presence in Crean’s own story – she relates her own experience grappling with racism as a small child in the Vancouver of the 1950s and 1960s. Crean’s exploration also considers memory and its role in the writing and researching of a book such as this. She meditates on the ways socio-cultural issues are represented (or not) in film and literature, ultimately combining fiction with historical recreations and memoir. Finding Mr. Wong is an important contribution to a growing body of writings that illuminate the lives of people silenced or otherwise negated by myopic history.

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WHAT REVIEWERS ARE SAYING

"[Crean] has shone a light on a little-known part of the story of the Chinese in Canada, and she has done so with love."

"[An] elegantly written and fiercely felt account of a love that crossed the boundaries of race and class."

TOM SANDBORN

"[Finding Mr. Wong] is a meditation on discrimination, the blurred lines between family and servant and worker and employee and the complex role of memory."

Susan G. Cole

"The narrative hinges on [Crean’s] memories, enriched by lovingly detailed evocations of domestic details and personal interactions."

READ MEDIA COVERAGE & REVIEWS

"Invisible Canadians" — Judy Fong Bates, Literary Review of Canada
"Finding Mr. Wong: Exploring the ambiguities of race and class" — Tom Sandborn, Vancouver Sun
"18 must-read books for fall 2018" — Susan G Cole, Now Toronto
Honourable Mention in "The 10 Best Books of 2018"— Susan G Cole, Now Toronto
"Most Anticipated: Our 2018 Spring Nonfiction Preview," Kerry Clare, 49th Shelf
"Historic Head Tax Unites Canadians at Book Fair" —  Shan Qiao, New Canadian Media
"2018 Book Gift Guide" — Canada's History
"Chinese Shadows,"  — Phyllis Reeve, The Dorchester Review, V.8, N.2, 2018.
"The First English Novel About Head Tax: "Finding Mr. Wong" is Now Available (首部人頭稅英文小說 《找到黃宗旺》面世)" — Sing Tao
"Huang Zongwang paid 500 Canadian dollars to land in BC (黃宗旺付500加元登陸卑詩)" —  Jennifer Yip, Sing Tao
"加华人人头税苦主去世40年 白人老雇主赴华代寻亲"  — China News
"加拿大华人去世多年 白人雇主赴广东代其寻亲" New Zealand Herald News Chinese Network
"White female writer went to Taishan to find the roots of domestic helper  (白人女作家赴台山 圓家傭尋根遺願 加國男版《桃姐》 主僕情深)" Hong Kong Yahoo News
"The Ties Between A House Boy And His Employer" — Sing Tao
"In Search Of A Head Tax Payer’s Past" — Sing Tao

WHAT READERS ARE SAYING

 

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Author: Susan Crean
Pages: 272
Subjects: Non-fiction, Canadian Biography, Canadian Historical Biography, Canada Post-Colonialism, Racism, Discrimination

Publisher: Talonbooks Limited

Publication Year: 2018

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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Read an interview with author Susan Crean at Read Local BC:

"Journalist and Author Susan Crean Turns to Memoir in Search Of Mr. Wong" — Read Local BC

Read a 'background' article to Finding Mr. Wong written by Susan Crean at This Magazine.

"Writing Mr. Wong" — This Magazine

Read Susan Crean's article Finding Mr. Wong: A Tale from Canada’s Exclusion Era at New Canadian Media.