Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Reader's Diary #2044- David H.T. Wong: Escape to Gold Mountain

I'd heard but whispers of stories of the Chinese who first came to Canada, usually tied to their exploitation in order to finish the Canadian Pacific Railroad. It was ashamedly missing from the history I'd learned in school. I wonder if it still is? I'd like to think that Canada's at a slow turning point in acknowledging our racist, colonial, murderous past; a necessary turning point if we can ever get even an inch toward the ideal Canada a good many of us had been led (shockingly off-mark) to believe had already been achieved.

When I came across David H.T. Wong's Escape to Gold Mountain: A Graphic History of the Chinese in North America I thought it could serve as a good primer on the topic.

That it did. I'd thought from the name that it would have more to do with one of the gold rushes than it did, but Gold Mountain was the Chinese nickname for North America at the time. While following the fictional Wong family, the book is still largely steeped in facts, facts unbeknownst to me (such as head taxes, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Opium Wars, relationships with indigenous people, and so on). It's not exclusive to Canada, but also the U.S.. The family angle does provide an emotional hook but seeing some of the more graphic scenes (hangings, crushings) I'd like to think readers would have had an emotional reaction anyway. Perhaps the family helps the more optimistic takeaways of the story; resilience and overcoming great odds.

I wasn't overly enthusiastic about the art though. The character-work looked amateurish and the backgrounds, while more more realistic, look like they may be line tracings of old photos. It would also have benefited from colour.

Nonetheless, the story telling is well-done and it's a story that needs to be shared.

No comments: