Ricepaper Magazine https://ricepapermagazine.ca Asian Canadian Arts and Culture Tue, 20 Mar 2018 06:42:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.4 Migration by Manahil Bandukwala https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/03/migration-by-manahil-bandukwala/ https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/03/migration-by-manahil-bandukwala/#respond Sat, 17 Mar 2018 02:48:08 +0000 https://ricepapermagazine.ca/?p=14783 You would make me choose
to press autumn hues
between pages of The Invisible
Man, or to jump in piles of reds
and yellows but never
to turn two leaves over
for a vibrant red.

Maple glued in journal,more »

You would make me choose
to press autumn hues
between pages of The Invisible
Man, or to jump in piles of reds
and yellows but never
to turn two leaves over
for a vibrant red.

Maple glued in journal,
date lips first touched
pencilled in. I send
you spirits, Pacific water
mixed with vodka.

Bottle of Grey Goose,
you lick the rim.

Drunk off two drops of liquor. Stumble to
canal. Scream down skateway. Your hands
blue & eyes blue & tongue blue
but I don’t hear. Downtown, pigeons
roost, you ask: why fly north at all?

hell is snow hell is white hell is so cold you
feel hot hell will bury you deep in forest
clearings where no one ventures, and you will never
be a vibrant red between pages of my journal.

https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/03/migration-by-manahil-bandukwala/feed/ 0
Plucked by Manahil Bandukwala https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/03/plucked-by-manahil-bandukwala/ https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/03/plucked-by-manahil-bandukwala/#respond Fri, 16 Mar 2018 02:47:42 +0000 https://ricepapermagazine.ca/?p=14780

Image by Manahil Bandukwala

In Pakistan, grey smoke stacks curl up
to sun. Skin browns on roadside
as we throw makai into each

other’s mouths. Eyes sting from rising flame,
salt, chilli powder. Uniform shirts untucked
outside schools. At seventeen … more »


Image by Manahil Bandukwala

In Pakistan, grey smoke stacks curl up
to sun. Skin browns on roadside
as we throw makai into each

other’s mouths. Eyes sting from rising flame,
salt, chilli powder. Uniform shirts untucked
outside schools. At seventeen we cross over.
Return with ice-lolly stained shalwars. Papers

in hand (all A’s). Untouchable. Karachi envelopes
us. Dupattas loosely draped, motorcyclists holler.
Stride on. Ride waves on French Beach
by winter bonfire. Coffeeshop goodbyes

among newspapered walls. Black ink
tattoos the ridge where my pulse beats. Camel
carries me along coastlines, tassels adorn neck.
I pluck one, hang it on a keyring. In Canada,

blanketed white.

Manahil Bandukwala is a Pakistani born-and-raised artist and writer currently living and studying in Ottawa. Her work has appeared in In/Words, Bywords, re:asian, ottawater, Existere and where is the river, and is forthcoming in Room Magazine and the Puritan. She is currently an editor for In/Words Magazine & Press and curates the monthly reading series. You can find her work online at manahils.com, or on Instagram @manahil_art.

https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/03/plucked-by-manahil-bandukwala/feed/ 0
Lost in Hué by Helen Tran https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/03/lost-in-hue/ https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/03/lost-in-hue/#respond Thu, 15 Mar 2018 02:19:38 +0000 https://ricepapermagazine.ca/?p=14778

Illustration by Zixi Mu

A fallen giant of imperial industry,

with a toe in every peasant’s backyard,
lonely, despite the people living in it.
Lost rocks of an empire
litter the expanse of its own domain
like an uncomfortable welcome … more »


Illustration by Zixi Mu

A fallen giant of imperial industry,

with a toe in every peasant’s backyard,
lonely, despite the people living in it.
Lost rocks of an empire
litter the expanse of its own domain
like an uncomfortable welcome mat.
If the stones were alive, they would breathe
in time with my tiny steps, compose
love poetry to lotuses
who kiss the water in their wake,
blinking their sleepy petals as they wave in the fog,
daydreaming that the pollutive embrace of motorbike smoke
is sweet poison from the past.

Helen Tran has an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC. Her thesis project was a steampunk novel written under the supervision of Joseph Boyden. She is a professor at Niagara College and lives in the Niagara Region with her husband, daughter, and a very important housecat. Her work has appeared in Ricepaper Magazine’s Currents anthology and in Grey Borders Magazine. She has a forthcoming publication in Augur Magazine.

https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/03/lost-in-hue/feed/ 0
Anglophone Poetics and Singapore’s Cityscape: An interview with Theophilus Kwek https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/03/anglophone-poetics-and-singapores-cityscape-an-interview-with-theophilus-kwek/ https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/03/anglophone-poetics-and-singapores-cityscape-an-interview-with-theophilus-kwek/#respond Mon, 12 Mar 2018 16:14:09 +0000 https://ricepapermagazine.ca/?p=14776 Ricepaper is delighted to publish an excerpt from an interview co-conducted by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho and Jason Eng Hun Lee with the poet Theophilus Kwek. This interview is a part of a larger interview series on Anglophone poetics in more »

Ricepaper is delighted to publish an excerpt from an interview co-conducted by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho and Jason Eng Hun Lee with the poet Theophilus Kwek. This interview is a part of a larger interview series on Anglophone poetics in the cities of Hong Kong and Singapore.

Theophilus Kwek. Photo by Jon Gresham.

Theophilus Kwek is a writer, editor and researcher based in Singapore. He has published five volumes of poetry, most recently The First Five Storms (2017), which won the New Poets’ Prize and was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award. He was previously also awarded the Jane Martin Prize and the Berfrois Poetry Prize, and Shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize. His poems, essays and translations have appeared in The Guardian, The London Magazine, The Irish Examiner, EuropeNow, Asia Literary Review, and elsewhereA former President of the Oxford University Poetry Society, he now serves as Co-Editor of Oxford Poetry.

Can you identify certain poems/collections in your oeuvre that you think best represent your writing about your home city of Singapore?

How I write about Singapore keeps changing, so there isn’t really a representative set. But I think the four ‘National Day’ poems I’ve written are a pretty good indicator: ‘9th August 2013’, ‘Weight’, ‘Foreign Relations’, and ‘Fifty-One’. They’re all quite different poems, but they all compare the city and family in some way, and also try to measure the mutual gaze between the city and her children—are we looking past each other? Do we really recognize each other?

How do you think a city is best narrated?

Through its pasts. Cities are by nature modernizing inventions, and so in their growth and increasing sophistication they always set themselves up against what’s already happened. It’s the poet’s task (and the responsibility of all who are committed to complicating and exploring narratives) to give voice to those histories.

How does your writing contribute to the narratives of your city?

As a young, English-speaking man from the city’s cultural majority, there are always several gaps that must be crossed before I can contribute in a way that nuances, resists, or rebalances the city’s dominant narratives—and always the risk of doing so imperfectly and insensitively. I also instinctively distrust narratives that stake a claim to a place, especially where that place is also a young state that claims an outsize presence on the world stage—and accommodates relatively little dissent. I suppose what I am saying is that though I cannot escape being a Singaporean poet, I am very reluctant to be a Singapore poet.

Do you see Singapore as an inclusive or alienating place, or both?

The city makes no secret of the fact that any outsider’s experience of inclusion or alienation depends on one’s race, education, skill-set, and political position—very much actually the same metrics applied to citizens, but in different ways.  In this sense, there are very clear ways to ‘earn’ inclusion; there are also very clear boundaries beyond which one will always be alienated. This is baldly visible in the city-centre, where there are clear zones of interaction for expat bankers, foreign domestic workers, Singaporean ‘heartland’ shoppers, etc—and the various groups rarely mingle in public life.

What issues or difficulties have you faced in writing about Asian identity?

I’ve responded to a similar question recently here, and my thoughts haven’t changed much, except of course to stress that the ‘Chinese experience’ doesn’t even begin to cover the ‘Asian’ one. Two added thoughts: First, as I mentioned in the Cha interview, every writer has (and rightly so) a different ethic of responding to her ethnicity, and this is a diversity we should celebrate. Second, the broader the term is (e.g. ‘Asian’), the more it begins to be defined by what it is not—‘Asian’ writers thus have to navigate what it means to be not-European, not-African, and at the same time not-just-Singaporean or not-just-diaspora, etc.

If the city of Singapore could answer your questions, what would you ask it?

‘Why do you keep looking in the mirror?’ For me, many of Singapore’s issues come down to how self-obsessed it is as a city: from a brash sense of exceptionalism on the world stage to a curt refusal of its obligations towards others, especially refugees in the region. Even the more critical and reflective currents of thought within the city are directed inward, in the hope of creating an organic local identity or making the city’s internal space a more egalitarian one. These are important motivations, but in pursuing them the city never escapes its own narrow orbit.

Also let’s consider the reverse. What would your city ask you? Why?

‘Why don’t you want to stay?’ The city has always had a sense of insecurity towards ‘losing its people’: whether to physical emigration, or to external cultural influences, a waning sense of patriotism, the rise of transnational identities (including religious ones), etc. Every outward gaze is registered with a lover’s envy.

Do you find that living in a city nurturing of or stifling to your creativity?

I love cities, because I love people. There are so many lives to learn about and explore in an urban setting—so it almost seems there are more layers of history in a city than elsewhere, even though that’s obviously untrue, and the product of a deeply unequal history in itself. That said, there’s a bit of me that needs to be outside of the/a city, looking in, both geographically and metaphorically, to be able to process my observations about it.

https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/03/anglophone-poetics-and-singapores-cityscape-an-interview-with-theophilus-kwek/feed/ 0
#ThrowBackThursday: A Brief History of the ACWW by Jim Wong-Chu https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/03/a-brief-history-of-the-acww-by-jim-wong-chu/ https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/03/a-brief-history-of-the-acww-by-jim-wong-chu/#comments Wed, 07 Mar 2018 04:58:01 +0000 https://ricepapermagazine.ca/?p=14767

Paul Yee, SKY Lee, Jim Wong-Chu (photo taken in early 1980’s in Vancouver, BC)

The Asian Canadian Writers Workshop can trace its origins to the late sixties during the time of the Vietnam War, the Afro-American movement and other Third more »


Paul Yee, SKY Lee, Jim Wong-Chu (photo taken in early 1980’s in Vancouver, BC)

The Asian Canadian Writers Workshop can trace its origins to the late sixties during the time of the Vietnam War, the Afro-American movement and other Third World minority movements. In Vancouver, the Cultural Revolution in China influenced local politics and unleashed the first of a series of Asian immigrant waves beginning with those who fled the 1967 riots of Hong Kong. During those heady times, a group of UBC students, inspired by a radicalized visiting Asian American professor began the process of re-examining their history and identity. They formed the Asian Canadian Coalition, hosted a conference and created historical exhibitions on campus. The ACC’s Chinese component was called Gao Hing, the Japanese component was the Wakayama group.

During the Seventies, some of the Wakayama group started the Powell Street Revue and produced “Images for the First 100 Years”, a slide show which later became a documentary film. The Chinese Canadian Writer’s Workshop formed to publish Gum San Po (1974) as a way to educate the community and provide a creative outlet for its writers. Gum San Po lasted only two issues but saw the debut of Sean Gunn’s satirical piece, “Lofaantown “, a tour guide’ s view of ‘Occidental’ Vancouver in response to numerous tiresome tourist articles about visiting (inscrutable and exotic) Chinatown.

Some members went on to establish Pender Guy, an En­glish language Chinese Canadian radio program on Co-op Radio (1976-1981). The program provided coverage of up-to-date events and issues in the community as well as locally produced music, historical documentaries, and creative skits. During this period, much of the leadership was provided by Garrick Chu who unfor­tunately passed away late 1979.

In 1976, The Chinese Canadian Writers’ workshop and Powell Street Revue join forces to develop Inalienable Rice, an anthology project which was finally published in 1979. The Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop was established towards the end of 1979. Its earliest membership included Paul Yee, Sean Gunn, SKY Lee, Rick Shiomi and Jim Wong-Chu.  During this period, the group functioned more as a means for internal communication and to nurture ideas and legitimate each other’s projects (Larissa Lai and Jean Lumb, from “Neither Guests Nor Strangers “- Yellow Peril Reconsidered). Following Inalienable Rice, ACWW went on to develop a special Vancouver edition of Asianadian magazine (vol. 3 No 2, Fall 1980) and followed-up with a special edition of The West Coast Review (Vol. 16/1/Summer 1981) and assisted in Many­ Mouthed Birds, Contemporary Writing by Chinese Canadians (Douglas & McIntyre, 1991).

Inaugural issue of Ricepaper Magazine, originally a newsletter to its ACWW membership.

The ACWW has since seen many of its original members produce important plays and books in poetry and prose. We currently have over seventy members across Canada. The bulk of our membership is in British Columbia, although we have repre­sentation in Calgary, Edmonton, and Toronto. We are currently working on cross-affiliation with other existing writing organizations throughout North America

The ACWW is a collective. We do not solicit membership dues. We are staffed entirely by volunteers and financed by donations and other forms of fundraising. Our mandate is simple: to assist our members to publish or showcase their work and talent. We aim to provide a supportive and culturally sensitive environment for writers from a common Pacific Rim Asian heritage, a place for more established writers to guide emerging writers through the difficulties of the publishing field. We are committed to the accessing of new performing and publishing venues and relevant information on behalf of our writers. All those who contact us and show a desire to share and learn become part of us.

At present, our collective has since broadened to three disciplines: Poetry, Prose (fiction and source group which in addition to writers, non-fiction) and Performing Arts. This is to include actors, producers, directors, editors serve the unique requirements of each area and production and design people in all areas of more effectively. Performing Arts is for stage, film, and audio-video. The intent is to members whose works have a performance allow writers better access and interaction with component, such as poetry, songwriting, all elements of the process. This group has a drama and screenplays. This group has a new name to more accurately define itself: The Asian Canadian Performing Arts Resource.

This #ThrowBackThursday article “The History of the ACWW” was written by Jim Wong-Chu, originally published in Ricepaper Magazine’s inaugural Fall Issue, Issue 1, Number 1. Would you like to read more of these retro pieces? Stay tuned for more.

https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/03/a-brief-history-of-the-acww-by-jim-wong-chu/feed/ 1
Interview: FOONYAP, musician, Polaris 2017 Award nominee https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/02/foonyap/ https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/02/foonyap/#respond Sun, 25 Feb 2018 03:49:44 +0000 https://ricepapermagazine.ca/?p=14758 I first heard of Calgary musician FOONYAP from editor/author friend Jen Frankel who had attended FOONYAP’s concert in Guelph as part of the Kazoo! Concert Series and told me I really had to interview her. FOONYAP’s debut full-length album Palimpsestmore »

I first heard of Calgary musician FOONYAP from editor/author friend Jen Frankel who had attended FOONYAP’s concert in Guelph as part of the Kazoo! Concert Series and told me I really had to interview her. FOONYAP’s debut full-length album Palimpsest had been released in October 2016 to much critical acclaim, drawing comparisons to Björk, described by CBC as “a stunning, colossal work that’s as disconcerting as it is captivating” and was named #6 in the 2016 Top 30 Albums of The Year by the Toronto Star. Palimpsest also made it on the Polaris Music Prize Longer List in 2017. Polaris is a music award annually given to the best full-length Canadian album based on artistic merit, regardless of genre, sales, or record label.

In an interview with the Asian Heritage Foundation, FOONYAP talks about struggling to be a female independent thinker while growing up in the patriarchies of Catholicism, traditional Chinese culture, and classical music. FOONYAP started violin lessons at the young age of four, entering the Mount Royal Conservatory of Music by at age eleven. When she was young, she muted her desire to be an artist because the family disapproved. However, she was also enrolled in the conservatory for classical violin and expected to excel.

FOONYAP’s story struck a chord with me because similar to hers; I had a desire to be a writer but was told I would starve to death. Read books, but make a living in a more “safe” occupation. Her story is the story of many immigrant/next generation Asian children in North America and abroad.

In February 2018, FOONYAP gave a series of concerts around Ontario and that’s when I caught up with her.

JF Garrard (JFG): Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us at Ricepaper Magazine! Your story really resonates with a lot of us who are attempting to build careers in the arts. In the Asian Heritage Foundation interview, it was mentioned that you had a day job and then quit to pursue music. Where were you working and what was the catalyst for leaving it to take your artistic leap?

FOONYAP (F): I worked in the non-profit sector. For various reasons, it became clear my position was no longer a good fit. Concurrently, ‘Palimpsest’ was gathering momentum in the press. I knew that the time was ripe for me to take the risk.

JFG: Your name is FOONYAP – what does it mean and why did you choose this name versus picking a more “Westernized” stage name?

F: FOONYAP is the union between a part of my Chinese middle-name and Hakka surname. Easily pronounceable in English, it presents my Asian Canadian heritage in a mononymous stroke. I was inspired by Chinese calligraphy, in which the way a word looks is just as important as its meaning. Every time you see FOONYAP on a page, you witness my artistic statement.

JFG: Your album Palimpsest was a therapeutic reconciliation with your sheltered Chinese-Catholic heritage and the intense classical music training of your childhood. Can you describe a little bit about what memories you were thinking about when you wrote the music?

F: I actually drew a web comic about my specific experiences that inspired the album. To summarize, I was processing the overwhelming guilt and shame I felt for disappointing my family.

The collectivism of traditional Asian cultures creates a context in which one’s actions reflect not only upon oneself, but one’s family. Strong emotions, especially by a female of a younger generation, are not tolerated and one learns to hide their inner desires that would disrupt group cohesion. One also learns to excel at any cost, bringing honour to the family. I found that the classical music world and Catholicism, with their rigid guidelines for what they deem socially-acceptable, reinforced the collectivism I grew up.

Not only did I fail as a classical violinist, I dropped out of high school and developed a mental illness. It took me a long time to ask for help because I felt like admitting something was wrong would have reflected poorly upon my parents. I felt ashamed- no one else in my family struggled, what was wrong with me? Why was it so difficult for me to just do what was expected, and not cause my family undue stress?

It has taken me a long time to embrace this artist-self that was unacceptable to these patriarchal authoritarian systems.

JFG: After participating in so many festivals, do you feel any pressure as a female, Asian musician given so few are on center stage?

F: No. Sharing this project has taught me how universal pain can be. People from all backgrounds relate to my work and I believe that our struggles connect us.

JFG: What has been the most thrilling moment of your musical journey?

F: So much of my life is spent in the past and the future. When I’m on stage, nothing else matters. I can sense when the audience is with me in the present; when we’re all feeling together and savoring the totality of our shared human experience.

JFG: In an interview with the CBC about music that reminds one of Canada, you mention that “Canadahood” is a dream. What do you mean by that?

F: Canada and ‘nationhood’ only exists in the minds of humans, manifested in the physical world. I don’t think we can escape the myths we construct for ourselves, but I think it’s important to acknowledge how real they are and question which ones are worth protecting. We must remember ‘Canada’ is the stories we tell about it, think about who gets to do the telling, and not get so defensive when the stories change.

JFG: Your presence on the internet, social media and Canadian music scene has been expanding since your 2016 debut album. Are your parents proud of your creative accomplishments now? Have they attended any of your concerts?

F: Yes! My family is extremely supportive of my career. In spite of the sensitive material, they feel my success is theirs.

JFG: After creating Palimpsest, what have you learned and what will you be applying to your next album?

F: A ‘palimpsest’ is a manuscript in which traces of the original can still be found. I’ve learned that I must build my sense of self from my struggles and rewrite my own way forward.

Sharing my work with audiences all over the world has also taught me that the isolation of suffering is an illusion and that our emotions connect us to one another. For my next album, I’m fearful of what I would rather leave unsaid, but I now know that others are probably feeling it too.

JFG: Do you have any advice to Asian peers who want to follow the road to become an artist but are afraid?

F: Your family may never understand or approve of your work and that is okay. Learn how to set healthy boundaries.

Fear is normal. Allow yourself to feel afraid. Great art is made by those who feel afraid but do it anyway.

JFG: Thank you again for taking the time to let our readers learn more about you and best of luck on your journey as an artist!

For more information about Foonyap’s music and the latest news about her, please visit her website – FOONYAP.COM.

https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/02/foonyap/feed/ 0
‘River Dark’ by Choi Suchol, translated by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/02/river-dark-choi-suchol-fulton/ https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/02/river-dark-choi-suchol-fulton/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 18:16:57 +0000 https://ricepapermagazine.ca/?p=14300 Note from the editor: The forth selection in our ongoing translated Asian literature series is Choi Suchol’s River Dark, is a quiet meditation on memory and place. Under Choi’s pen, a remote island becomes a potent metaphor for the fall more »

Note from the editor: The forth selection in our ongoing translated Asian literature series is Choi Suchol’s River Dark, is a quiet meditation on memory and place. Under Choi’s pen, a remote island becomes a potent metaphor for the fall of man and the destruction of nature. – NS

Illustration by Kyla Yin

Early last summer he took a solitary vacation on Ullŭng Island.  Instead of the fancier and faster charter boat he went by ferry, arriving after several hours of pitching and rolling on the East Sea. Dumping his bag in the hotel room he’d reserved, he went out onto the balcony. Free at last!  Off to his right was Sŏngin Peak, high point on the island. His eye followed the ridgeline down to the indigo-blue water lapping at its base like a dragon thirsting for the mountain’s vital energy.

He had long wanted to set out all by his lonesome on an off-season trip. Several opportunities had arisen, but each time, the necessities of day-to-day living had tripped him up and he’d had to reschedule.  His family were well aware of these false starts, and at the revelation of his latest plan they had sent him off with expressions that were equal parts “good for you” and “be my guest.” But neither his family nor he himself could have explained why Ullŭng was his destination—why there? Simply put, he’d been quite the romantic when he was much younger, and although that facet of his temperament had pretty much eroded, in the whirl of daily life he’d become blindly attached to his youthful dream.

He was at his absolute leisure on Ullŭng.  A hike up Sŏngin Peak? No thanks. A pleasure-boat cruise around the island? Who needs it?  What mattered was that he had finally made the trip here, alone. He desired only a lack of desire for anything; all he wanted was to be as lazy and lethargic as possible.

A typical humdrum day started with a late breakfast at the hotel, after which he’d mosey about the island, returning around sundown to the dock in front of the hotel for a bottle of soju and a taste of the local seafood. He learned from the proprietor of the eatery that the deep blue color of the sea owed to the abundant seaweed and to the strong sun that left it so pulpy and buoyant.  The man also related a tapestry of legends about the island as well as tales of the islets nearby.

Dusk found him back at the hotel, in the bar off the lobby.  He sometimes drank coffee, but mostly beer or highballs.  The bar had the ambience of a countryside tearoom–when the waitress brought him his beverage, whether soft or hard, she would park herself next to him and strike up a conversation, ultimately dropping hints that he should buy her a drink. At first he was fazed—how could a self-respecting hotel countenance blatant wheedling by the waitresses?  But then his lethargic game plan kicked in again and he decided it didn’t matter. If it was tea she wanted, fine; if a drink, he’d buy that for her too.  But because he wasn’t interested in her, he answered her sporadic questions half-heartedly and didn’t initiate conversation. Inevitably she’d grow bored, dutifully toss down her drink, and move to another table.

She looked to be in her mid-thirties. She had a broad, swarthy face, lusterless skin and hair, and fleshy forearms and legs and a flabby midriff–so much for keeping herself up. He could count on her for a blank, seemingly unwary expression or, more frequently, a frown of mild irritation that might have been a ploy to entice the guys.

But sometimes he found himself staring at her, and the next thing he knew he’d be hankering to ask her questions.  He convinced himself she’d drifted in on the tide after leaving her ancestral village on the mainland at a young age and shuttling from place to place. What ferry of fate had brought her here, and which vessel of destiny would deliver her?  If at some point the locals tired of her she’d have to leave. He imagined her on some old rust-bucket riding the currents to islands even smaller than Ullŭng.

None of these questions escaped his lips. What could the curiosity or compassion of others, their favor or disdain, add to the fabric of her life beyond a few stray threads?  But on his last night he found himself wavering as she sat there across from him.  Not because of her.  Rather he felt he’d come face to face with an expanse of sea grass that shimmied back and forth with the movement of the water, and he imagined that grass beckoning him closer and himself responding by forging his way through it and past the woman.


For as long as he could remember, water and rivers had been a familiar presence. He’d grown up in a city where the two streams of a great river came together; nearby there were lakes. Many were the hours he spent by the river with friends and family during the summer and winter school breaks.  He lived with the river and it became part of him. But when after many years he returned home for a visit and sought out the river that had been flowing all that time in his memory, invested with recollections from his youth, he found it ailing.

It was a late spring day when he drove out to the riverside. The river stank to high heaven. A new dam upstream had lowered the water level, and the surface was coated with black scum. The fouled water barely moved, flowing in fits and starts, like a long-bedridden man struggling to turn over.

Witnessing the river he’d neglected, already polluted beyond hope, he felt a storm surge of regret and pent-up anger spill into a stream of sorrow as all together his recollections of the past and his hopes for a future that kids could savor there turned black along with the river.

When grade school was out for the summer his family had liked going down to the river for picnics.  The water was clear and cool, the sand soft and clean. The only lack, if one could call it that, was of shade trees. Back then anyway beach parasols weren’t common, so once settled at the riverside you were at the mercy of the sun. Some tried to make do with an umbrella or a sunshade; others took refuge in the pine groves off at a distance.

Then one summer day his father fashioned a canopy of sorts, in reality an awning, out of four posts and a blue tarpaulin, and it became a fixture at the riverside outings.  It wasn’t much to look at but offered pleasant shade the summer through.  Before long, similar shelters were being erected.

Late in the season, after one last frolic at the riverside, his family decided to bury the canopy and retrieve it the following summer.  They chose an abandoned sesame patch for the purpose. No worries about the vinyl tarp, but would the wooden posts rot? Thankfully the soil was dry and sandy.

Next summer came around and one day he suddenly began fixating on the canopy.  It was early in the season but he couldn’t wait; he had to find that sesame patch. But there were only windswept mounds of sand with a straggling of weeds. Where was the canopy? Here he dug, there he dug, and finally he found it! The blue tarp was crumpled, ripped, and faded, the posts a bit punky and wasted, but the boy’s sense of wonder, the pleasant surprise of it all, was undiminished.  Young as he was, he felt truly grateful that there were objects buried in nature,  undergoing transformation along with it, that actually waited for people to discover them!

But all too soon those same people had polluted the river beyond redemption.

Now that he thought about it, hadn’t he been traipsing the island with the image of the decaying river lodged in his mind?  He understood now why he had wanted to come here: he had to, before it was too late! If there were a place of unspoiled nature, not yet polluted by human hand, perhaps it would be Ullŭng. And if he were to pass the time here doing nothing and desiring nothing, then perhaps the living river, now moribund, that used to flow inside him might come back to life and transport him in its flow.

But here too the situation was iffy.  With feverish voices the islanders were wont to proclaim that their lives would improve with all the development projects soon to begin. Hearing such talk, he imagined the river about to revive inside him suddenly fouled for all time and gasping for dear life, an aortic vessel obstructed by a vile growth. He understood people’s fretfulness at the irony of their fleeting lives in steadfast nature, but didn’t that fretfulness block the passage of time within them, bringing their lives to a standstill?

He was wrenched from his reveries as the woman sprang to her feet. She eyed the door, perhaps checking for footloose, would-be customers. Observing her, he realized why a sound night’s sleep was proving as elusive here as at home: the river of his childhood was repeating a painful cycle, resurrecting to clarity but the next moment reverting to a decaying trickle. Turn by turn the river wended its way toward the woman. Where would it empty–into radiant purity once it reached her, or into dark decay once it enveloped her? Before he could answer, the river and her life merged in a single flow.

Late the previous night he’d seen her emerging from a second-floor guest room.  Who knows, maybe deep down inside she was waiting for him to invite her to his room tonight.

Without a word he rose and left.  He found open-air seating at the humble eatery at the dock and had a bottle of soju with fresh raw squid on the side.  Add this to the bottle of soju with which he’d washed down his dinner, and by the time he paid the bill he was pleasantly drunk.

Back at the hotel he found the bar closed for the night. Gazing at the dark window, he felt an urge to talk with the woman.  But she was nowhere to be seen.  Like the polluted river that had disappeared into the gloom of his darkened memories, she had strayed off into the deep of the night.

Step by ponderous step he climbed the stairs to the third floor. Listing toward the wall, he was nearing his room when the door to the VIP suite at the far end of the hall banged open and a throng of people burst into the corridor. “Come on, hurry, we don’t want to keep him waiting!” someone called out.  The group rushed past him, a mix of middle-aged men and women—the hotel staff along with the woman from the bar bringing up the rear as she worked her arms into her jacket.  Spotting him, she slowed down and with a twinkle in her boozy eyes said, “Oowee, steady there, mister, you’re almost home. Gotta go, it’s party time—big spender, you know!”

And then she was chasing down the group.  It took a moment for it all to register.  By then she’d disappeared to the lower level.  Standing askew, he gazed at the dim light at the end of the hall, where the stairs went down and around the corner. The river was following in her course, decaying as it went, and he never did learn her name.


Choi Suchŏl (b. 1958) is the author of more than two dozen volumes of fiction. He is the recipient of South Korea’s Yi Sang and Tongin literature prizes and teaches creative writing at a university near Seoul. He appears in English translation in Hayden’s Ferry Review; Land of Exile: Contemporary Korean Fiction (M.E. Sharpe, 2007); and Acta Koreana.

Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton are the translators of numerous works of modern Korean fiction, most recently Moss by the graphic novelist Yoon Taeho (serialized at The Huffington Post, 2016-17) and Sunset: A Ch’ae Manshik Reader (Columbia University Press, 2017). Their translations have appeared in a variety of anthologies and literary journals.

Kyla Yin is an illustrator based in Vancouver, BC.  Follow her on Instagram at @kyinskies.
https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/02/river-dark-choi-suchol-fulton/feed/ 0
Working Outside of the Office: a Profile of Alli Chung https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/02/working-outside-of-the-office-a-profile-of-alli-chung/ https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/02/working-outside-of-the-office-a-profile-of-alli-chung/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 06:33:02 +0000 https://ricepapermagazine.ca/?p=14753

Alli Chung

Getting an interview with Alli Chung has been an act for the ages.  After Chung’s publicity representative approached Ricepaper for an interview of the rising actress, Chung agreed and sent her press kit twelve days later.

Chung is … more »


Alli Chung

Getting an interview with Alli Chung has been an act for the ages.  After Chung’s publicity representative approached Ricepaper for an interview of the rising actress, Chung agreed and sent her press kit twelve days later.

Chung is apologetic, though.  “Sorry I’ve been crazy busy!” she writes in an email.  “Literally an audition every day since we spoke [sic].”

Ricepaper is eager to support this new talent, as it does with Asian Canadians in all fields, and especially the arts—a discipline which traditionally has been one of the hardest for Asians to break into, in North America.  Although still relatively an emerging actress, Chung has already guest-starred on a number of TV shows, such as The Expanse and Dark Matter.   In Saw 3D: The Final Chapter, Chung had a brief role and appearance as well, a small but studious start in the American film industry.

Chung had just spent the last three months in Vancouver shooting UnREAL, Lifetime’s drama TV series about a fictional reality TV show.  Once she arrived home to her native Toronto, Chung’s management team contacted Ricepaper.

Working with Chung’s busy audition schedule,  we finally had a chance to interview Chung.  Born and raised in Toronto to a Cantonese dad and a mom of mixed Swedish and Irish descent, Chung says she has a modelling background and had always taken acting classes, but only for fun; she says she never seriously considered becoming a professional actress.

In fact, she was taking an acting class for fun, she says when her acting teacher suggested that Chung work as a session runner, or casting assistant.  Session runners help casting directors field herds of actors auditioning for various projects.

At the time, Chung had graduated with a degree in marketing from Concordia University and was working as a temp in an office job.

“I hated it,” she says.

So she jumped at the opportunity to earn an income outside of working in an office.

Alli Chung

One day, her casting director-boss noticed that Chung fit the “specs”—industry jargon for casting requirements—and suggested Chung audition for the commercial.  She did and eventually won the part.  More commercials followed, and Chung soon found herself with an agent and auditioning for film and TV roles.  The rest is history.

This includes Chung’s starring role as The Instructor on Mariner, Thyrone Tommy’s 2016 short film that was selected to the Toronto International Film Festival.   Another project was Chung’s recent appearance on Season 4 of UnREAL, a fictional show about a reality TV series, and the tactics the producer utilizes to manipulate the actors, in order to create drama.  Chung plays the first Asian female contestant on the fictional show.  She is proud of being part of this project and working with the predominantly female production team.

Chung says the entertainment industry, more so in television than in film, is beginning to move away from limited Asian roles.  Also, the industry shows increased awareness of diversity within Asian ethnicities.  For example, in past years, Chung would receive casting roles asking for “an Asian”.  Now Chung has noticed that roles will be more specific in what type of Asian ethnicity, such as asking for “mixed race”.

Opportunities for Asian actors are definitely growing, but still not ideal.

“There’s not a lot of room for more than one Asian,” says Chung, of film and TV roles.  Chung says when she finds out that an Asian actor has already been cast in a project, she knows it is unlikely a second Asian will be cast, and thus narrows her own hopes of getting something on the same production.

Chung was impressed with a recent casting call she auditioned for, with an Asian animation series:  Producers would only audition Asian actors for the roles.  This was significant because even though the actors would not be shown onscreen, the producers wanted authenticity in the casting.

Alli Chung

Chung is in the same artistic dilemma of many Asian actors:  Traditional, stereotypical Asian roles in big films bring exposure, but not the satisfaction of exploring dramatic range.  Chung doesn’t want to just do the traditional stereotypical “Asian roles”, like being the “the doctor, the engineer, or the mathematician”.  Chung wants to be able to play different roles that are not related to ethnicity.

But she is savvy about the realities of the entertainment industry.  In the end, it’s about making profits.  Reliable storylines with reliable stereotypical characters, such as the current trend of superhero films, also yield reliable profit margins.

Films exploring intriguing storylines and diverse roles are an actor’s dream, but creative risks equal profit risks for movie producers, who are eager to deliver profits to financial investors.

This is why some actors, she explains, will invest their own money in producing their own projects.

Chung does have a project in the works with a writing partner.  Informally, she describes the plotline and concept to Ricepaper.  Chung asks that its working title not to be named in this article, as it is still in development.  Respectful of Chung’s creative work, we won’t yet divulge details about Chung’s upcoming project.  Chung offers to email Ricepaper her official synopsis, so we will find out soon enough.  Or perhaps not.  It’s Alli Chung’s call, just like her career.

Article by Jo-Ann Chiu.  Jo-Ann Chiu is a Vancouver writer.  She is working on a children’s novel for middle grades.

https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/02/working-outside-of-the-office-a-profile-of-alli-chung/feed/ 0
#ThrowBackThursday: the Jen Lam Experience https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/02/throwbackthursday-the-jen-lam-experience/ https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/02/throwbackthursday-the-jen-lam-experience/#respond Thu, 15 Feb 2018 09:04:26 +0000 https://ricepapermagazine.ca/?p=14735

I picture Jen Lam living a dual existence. By day she’s trapped in a cluttered office cubicle or a windowless law library perusing some obscure statute as a researcher for the Vancouver Association of Chinese Canadians (VACC). She’ll be wearing

more »]]>

I picture Jen Lam living a dual existence. By day she’s trapped in a cluttered office cubicle or a windowless law library perusing some obscure statute as a researcher for the Vancouver Association of Chinese Canadians (VACC). She’ll be wearing a white blouse and navy skirt circa 1962, perhaps a wig to hide her shaved head, maybe even horn-rimmed glasses. By night though, the demon-poet/entertainer within her will spread its leathery wings and she’ll break free. Forget the conservative clothes, the wig and glasses­ she’ll be wearing a black bustier, mini skirt and jungle boots as she hits the stage to alternately seduce and assault her audience.

Of course, I’m exaggerating–I hereby admit to spending years obsessed with bad horror/sci-fi comic books. So let’s explore the real Jen Lam experience.

Lam was born in Vancouver, December 26, 1973. Her parents emigrated here from Hong Kong via southemChina, and shehastwo younger sisters. Ruining my above mind picture, she actually does most of herVACCworkat home by computer. A Van Tech high school grad, she’ll be studying urban archeology at Simon Fraser University in the fall. She’s also just self-published a chapbook called Serial Cockroach.

Garrett Eng: In terms of your creative work, do you consider yourself a performance artist?

Jen Lam: No! No. I hate that term…spoken word artist is the only thing I can actually put on my shoulders and live with.

GE: But isn’t there an aspect of performing in what you do?

JL: Generally, for my readings–you know, when I’m doing open mike and all that–it just happens spontaneously. I do very little in terms of constructing a performance and rehearsing. I certainly learn the pieces by heart and work through them, but that’s also part of my writing process.

GE: What got you into poetry?

JL: I started doing this whole writing thing in high school, except I was like all into sci-fi. You know, I wrote sci-fi short stories. That was my thing. I was a totally big Philip K. Dick fan. I took creative writing but I just kinda dicked around. I had like forty poems due by the end of the term, so I did them the night before and totally aced the course. It wasn’t anything I took all that seriously.

GE: Does science fiction still get into your work or is it something you’ve grown out of?

JL: Every now and then I’ll find myself playing mad scientist. My first non-science fiction prose piece was like a combination of Douglas Coupland and Amy Tan–just to see how people would respond. It was actually written for a college creative writing class. I was the only non-white student in there-up in North Van at Cap College. I was supposed to be, like, this representative of the Chinese community. So I decided to do this Douglas Coupland/Amy Tan story and the class ate it up. They would not let me end the story where I ended it, they wanted me to keep writing. And I was like, you fuckers, I’ve got better things to do.

GE: So you never had a plan to become a poet?

JL: Who does? What poor sap actually plans to be a poet? No! I was in a band called Tank and we did fast metal be-bop. Wewould do like,”Welcome to the Jungle” as a polka, and shit like that. After awhile I just got tired of it and so in the middle of a song I started throwing in my poetry and everyone got pissed off. So I thought I’ll be my own band, dammit!

GE: What was your first reading like? You’d already been onstage with your band…

JL: My writing teacher in college was Bob Sherrin, who’s the editor of The Capilano Review, and he wanted to print that Douglas Coupland/Amy Tan story. So I got into The Capilano Review without realizing what it meant! My first reading was actually the launch of that issue. Before that, I’d never seen a poetry reading. i was there, just hangin’ out with my friends. Drinkin’ beer. The editors of sub-TERRAIN were there, the whole English department of Capilano College was there–and I didn’t know who the hell these people were. I thought they had nothing better to do on a Saturday night but go to a poetry reading. Losers! And so like everybody else was reading prose. I hate reading prose. I hate listening to people reading prose. So I did two minutes of my story and then I said fuck it, I’m going to read my poetry. So I read my poetry and it went really well and I was totally amazed. Somebody from sub-TERRAIN came over and asked me to submit stuff. And I was like, cool! I haven’t submitted any­ thing yet but…

GE: You’d rather publish your own chapbook?

JL: Yeah, publishing on my own. The whole, you know, getting into magazines and journals is not high on my list. They’re not how I really want to reach people. The community I met when I first started going onto poetry stages–everybody had their day jobs, you know, their real lives, and a lot of them were working with chapbooks. And I saw that this was how you left a bit of yourself with your audience.

GE: What’s it like being onstage?

JL: I have this awful stage fright. It’s like I’m always on the verge of puking. It’s really hard to explain why…it’s not so much being onstage that gets me, it’s that walk from my chair to the stage. I’m so aware of the audi­ence. Everyone has their eyes on me and they’re watching me walk up to that stage–and they’re waiting for me to fuck up! I just know they are, the fuckers! And when I get up on the stage and I turn and look at the audience, there’s a split second where I know I’m in danger of fainting, I know I’m in danger of blowing chunks. I’ve just gotta keep myself composed for that split second. As soon as I get into the words, I’m fine, I’m flying.

GE: Do you take on some sort of onstage persona? Does your personality change once you get started with the words?

JL: It’s sort of a magnification of certain aspects of my personality. I become more obnoxious–if that’s even possible! I get louder, nothing embarrasses me. In “The Dogs Have Taken a Sabbatical” I talk about some ex-boyfriend pissing in my lap…

GE: Are you saying you wouldn’t be comfortable talking about that kind of stuff if you weren’t onstage?

JL: Not with the energy I do it with up there…there’s a rush that comes with being able to get people into the words with you. It’s totally a power thing.

GE: I’ve heard strippers talk about that sort of control/power thing, too…

JL: Totally. When I first started doing it, all I was doing was “sex savage poetry”. At that point, I had a number of friends who were doing phone sex, a couple who were peelers, and I had one friend in particular who was an escort. Women in the sex trade know that they have power and they’re willing to use it. They watch their power change people right in front of their eyes.

GE: Is sexuality still a big part of your writing?

JL: A lot of times when I talk about sex and write about sex it isn’t done to turn people on. There are a couple of pieces like “Mindfuck,” which plays with titillating people to that point and then turning around and slapping them in the face with a one-line joke.

GE: So you’re using the language of sexuality to provoke something in the audience…

JL: It’s a tool for me–especially being an Asian woman. I’m not even supposed to be able to spell the word “sex,” let alone enjoy it.

GE: Is being an Asian woman important to your work?

JL: It’s one of the reasons why I prefer readings, rather than people coming to me from the page. They can’t ignore the fact that I’m Asian. They see me and that’s that. Excuse the pun, but it colours the words differently.

GE: So what exactly are you trying to do to an audi­ence? Is trying to provoke them more important than entertaining them?

JL: Of course I’m trying to entertain them. But part of entertaining them includes provoking them and getting them a bit pissed off at me. When people come back to see me, they have an expectation that this is not going to be a nice poetry reading. They’re going to be walking away disturbed sometimes–especially when I do hardcore shows.

GE: Hardcore in what way?

JL: Like Henry Rollins hardcore, like thrash metal …

GE: You take off your shirt and get a sweat going?

JL: I’m out there kick-boxing!

GE: So music’s still important to you?

JL: Everything I know about poetry I learned through music–how to use a melody, how to use rhythm to my advantage, how to bring an idea through a piece. Poetry is an oral tradition, you’ve gotta remember that. You know, I do not go up there and speak in a mono­tone. Delivery is a really big part of what I do. I mean, to be totally honest, I’m a decent writer–but I am not an incredible writer. The way I get remembered is through my delivery.

GE: If somebody just has your chapbook, would you suggest that he or she read it out loud?

JL: Yeah, it’s important to hear the rhythms. It’s the reason why I choose the words I do, why I construct my lines the way I do–it has to do with feeling the rhythm, feeling the movement from one sound to another. Not that that dictates what I write, but it dictates how I write. All my editing is done out loud.

GE: Do you use a tape recorder?

JL: No…if you just hang out with me at my house you’ll hear me chanting stuff over and over. For me, it’s a matter of playing around with words, hearing them.

GE: A lot of times when I read poetry I find I have to read it out loud because otherwise it’s kind of lifeless. It’s interesting to think that if someone takes your book and reads your poetry and gets your rhythms right, then they’re actually breathing and making sounds the same way you are, so that they’re really connecting to you on a physical level.

JL: Yeah, I read everybody’s stuff out loud. And the writers that I like, their words feel right in my mouth…I don’t understand a damn thing that Dylan Thomas says, but I love the way his words work!

GE: You were talking about chanting around the house, is there a typical way you write a piece?

JL: It comes and I grab it and I run with it. A lot of times I’ll be like passing the television and I’ll hear a couple of words, like at the end of a sentence. And they’ll trigger something and I’ll run to the nearest piece of paper to write them down. I have a shoebox filled with these little pieces of paper. I just play around with them until a piece works itself together…I try to stay away from a word processor until I’m ready to do a final draft.

GE: You do all your revisions by reading the piece out loud?

JL: Yeah, I’ll just read it out loud over and over again and make changes based on how I hear it, as opposed to how I want to present it.

GE: And your family’s used to this?
JL: They’re used to me yelling at the top of my lungs!

This #ThrowBackThursday article “The Jen Lam Experience” was written by Garrett Eng, originally published in Ricepaper Magazine’s Summer 1995 Issue, Volume 4, Number 2.  Would you like to read more of these retro pieces? Stay tuned for more.

https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/02/throwbackthursday-the-jen-lam-experience/feed/ 0
Paul Nguyen – Ghetto Blaster Revisited & the Rise of Jane-Finch.com https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/02/paul-nguyen-jane-finch-com/ https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/02/paul-nguyen-jane-finch-com/#respond Sat, 03 Feb 2018 02:52:32 +0000 https://ricepapermagazine.ca/?p=14700 No one chooses the circumstances they are born into – not their birthplace, ethnicity, socio-economic status, none of these. But that does not stop a dark side of humanity from using what is outside one’s control against them. To combat … more »

No one chooses the circumstances they are born into – not their birthplace, ethnicity, socio-economic status, none of these. But that does not stop a dark side of humanity from using what is outside one’s control against them. To combat selfish attempts to withhold and restrict, nature has given rise to counterweights like decency, compassion, courage, determination, creativity, activism, and justice. Paul Nguyen and his team at Jane-Finch.com embody all these and more as they work to deliver change that will empower their misunderstood, marginalized, and beloved community Jane-Finch, Toronto neighborhood of 85,000, nexus of 120 different nations, home to speakers of 100 different languages, and a hotbed for some of the finest examples of cross-cultural collaboration and multi-culturalism in the world.

Paul Nguyen (2017)

I discovered Paul’s work in a piece by Sam Lee for Ricepaper from spring 2006. I thought with all the new friends we have made over the years since then and the progress we have seen with inter-cultural relations, this would be a great time to (re)introduce Paul’s world. Check out our interview below where Paul recounts his beginnings as a shy kid who first found a voice in Hip Hop, then a vehicle in film, and then a platform in the world wide web, all of which would become instrumental in his campaign to bring to light the indomitable spirit, vibrancy, and successes of his community that is so often found defending itself and pushing for ways to level the proverbial playing field. Jane-Finch is proof that change is possible when there are people willing to fight for it.

RP: Thank you for connecting with us, Paul. We admire the work you and your team do in Toronto, specifically the Jane-Finch area and we are so proud of all the awards you and the team have received throughout the years including the Governor General and Prime Minister’s Diamond Jubilee for fighting stereotypes and being a role model and mentor for at-risk youth. To start, you have referenced shyness at a young age. Are there any external factors that contributed to this and do you have any advice for others looking for ways to manage this?

PN: I was naturally an introverted and shy kid. I carry those traits today. I was lucky to have many public speaking opportunities through my website, Jane-Finch.com. Whenever I speak to youth, I encourage them to find their own voice. They don’t have to be the loudest person in the room to be heard. They can express themselves through art, music, writing, or they can use the Internet.

RP: As a child, how is it that you found yourself comfortable with Hip Hop culture as opposed to others? What was there that appealed to you that was not elsewhere?

PN: As a child, Hip Hop found me by accident. I studied film at York University and I needed to do a project, so I decided to do a music video. Someone introduced me to a Vietnamese-Canadian rapper called Chuckie Akenz. Hip Hop music and culture is prevalent in my community. You could call it the voice of the streets. It became a natural fit and the roots of Jane-Finch.com.

RP: Can you remember the day when you decided to get involved in social issues? What was that event that got this ball rolling?

PN: Growing up in a neighbourhood with a bad reputation, I’ve always found myself defending where I came from. I would think most residents are activists by default. However, I began to cover social issues through my website because some locals demanded it. I experimented with different types of video coverage and became enthralled by the many important issues concerning the area, such as racial inequality, socio-economic challenges, and the roots of youth criminal behaviour.

RP: What have you worked on recently?

PN: We always have small or big projects on the go. But I am personally focused on doing stuff outside of the neighbourhood. For example, I was invited to Regina, Saskatchewan to speak at the Saskatchewan Visible Minority Employees Association (SVMEA) about diversity. In the past, I participated in national projects such as for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, and I have also served on various judging panels for government or industry awards.

RP: I discovered there is now a new subway station, “Finch West.” Improvements to infrastructure and technology can greatly improve the well-being of a neighborhood. What problems existed before that necessitated this station? What solutions do you think this will bring?

PN: Transit was always a big problem in Jane-Finch. Many residents rely on public transit to get to work and school. With the new Finch West Station, there’s shorter travel times, and also more people can come to experience the area. There should be greater connection to the rest of the city for us, and I think local businesses will benefit from the increased convenience as well.

Canada Day Parade with Vietnamese Community in Toronto in 2017

RP: Some communities claim to be diverse where they have a lot of different cultures present but members keep to their own groups and there is not a lot of interaction or collaboration. The feeling I get is that Jane-Finch is not like this. What are your thoughts?

PN: Many areas claim to be diverse, but the proportions are lopsided. Jane-Finch is truly a vibrant mix of people from different racial origins and religious backgrounds. The best example is at various plazas.

Yorkwoods Plaza has a Vietnamese Pho restaurant, beside a West Indian eatery, also next to a Jamaican Fusion restaurant. We have the flavours of the world at our doorstep.

RP: What is on your wishlist?

PN: In a first world country, there are many opportunities, but also many barriers for various people – especially those of colour and people with disabilities. For example, persons of colour feel it can be difficult to climb the corporate ladder, and we don’t have many visible minorities represented in government. Typically, leadership positions are dominated by a homogeneous group. We also have issues in a big city like Toronto where people of colour feel mistreatment or are profiled by authority figures. The list goes on. The fight for justice and equality continues. I hope that society will be fair to everyone. We’re heading there but we have a lot of work to do. I hope people will work together with their governments to eliminate all discrimination.

CBC Toronto Interview – Marivel Taruc (host, left) | Paul Nguyen, Kevin Douglas, Blacus Ninja

RP: When do race issues stop being relevant? What needs to happen?

PN: Race issues become irrelevant when we stop talking about it. Hopefully one day, people will judged by their actions not by their appearance. Jane-Finch.com is just my small way to help break down racial stereotypes and get people to understand each other better.

RP: In your 2006 article, you mentioned wanting to see an accurate portrayal of Asians in western media. More than a decade removed from that piece now, what is your opinion of that media landscape today? Is there anything you want to see changed?

PN: It may seem like things have improved for Asians in the mainstream media. We have a few more characters and shows with Asians. However, stereotypes still persist and we need more Asians to get involved in the decision-making and creative control aspect. There’s more work to do and I am excited to see the new voices who are paving the way.

Music video for artist, Sun

RP: Do you have some favorite posts from Jane-Finch? Which ones would you say “There is a lot on here, but this needs to be seen first!”? Why?

PN: Our rap videos receive the most attention. However, there are so many gems on the site. I don’t have a favourite, but some videos stand out as informative even though we filmed them years ago. One to check out is when the UN’s Gay McDougall visited Jane-Finch to talk to residents about minority issues. It was very interesting to see a high level international perspective on our local issues.

RP: Last, the web is about a lot of things and one of those things is food, a topic especially effective in bringing people together. What are your favorite eats around Jane-Finch?

PN: Jane-Finch has many great food spots and the deals are amazing. We used to have a Greek take-out spot at Yorkgate Mall that served a souvlaki meal for five bucks. Prices went up a bit since then, but it’s still a steal. We have jerk chicken, and many other staples. Just head to the mall and you will find something pleasing!

RP: Thank you, Paul! We look forward to continued success and more great stories from Toronto!

https://ricepapermagazine.ca/2018/02/paul-nguyen-jane-finch-com/feed/ 0