Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Jim Wong-Chu R.I.P.

July 14, 2017

I was very sorry to learn about the death earlier this week of Vancouver writer Jim Wong-Chu. I knew that Jim had suffered a stroke a few months ago but not that he was so seriously ill.

Jim published his first book of poetry, Chinatown Ghosts, in 1986. He was a tireless advocate for the Asian-Canadian writing community, helping to found the Asian-Canadian Writers' Workshop in 1976 and the literary magazine Ricepaper in the 1990s. A full account of his career is here.

Jim was also an historian of Vancouver's Asian community. Of special interest to my own work over the years was his published time-line, A Brief History of Asian North America (2001).

His presence will be missed.

July 1, 2017

A Vancouverite visiting Montreal, as I did recently, cannot help but feel that he is witnessing the giant bullet that Vancouver dodged back in the 1960s.

Driving in from the West Island, one discovers that Autoroute 20 is under reconstruction (and has been for some time apparently). The vehicle moves slowly (because it is always gridlock) through an appalling scene of destruction. Giant diggers and dump trucks lumber to and fro, carrying dirt and rock from one place to another across...

June 5, 2017

This year is a busy one for centenaries, and sesquicentenaries: Vimy, the Russian revolution, Canada 150, to name but three.

Here in BC we are commemorating a couple of hundredth anniversaries: women's suffrage and prohibition. Both came into effect in 1917. On the face of it they are an unlikely pairing. What were voters thinking? The vote for women was one of the most significant progressive reforms of the 20th century, while prohibition was probably the worst attempt at social...

May 29, 2017

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In case you've been waiting for the news,  the ballots have been counted and my history of North Vancouver, Where Mountains Meet the Sea, has won the community history prize awarded by the BC Historical Federation at its annual meeting, this year held in Chilliwack.

The Federation threw a great banquet on Saturday night and Sunday morning I got a chance to have breakfast...

May 24, 2017

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Next week, May 29-June 4 is Bike to Work Week in Vancouver. 

Everything old is new again, including bike commuting. The inaugural bicycle in the city was owned by Dr. Robert Mathison, a dentist, who imported it from Ontario in 1887. According to the first archivist, Major James Matthews, by 1900 a bicycle "craze" had swept the city. "Almost every family...

May 22, 2017

Congratulations to Rolf Knight who has been named this year's winner of the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for a BC writer with a long and meritorious career.

I keep two of Knight's books close to hand. His Indians at Work is a compendious account of the Aboriginal labour force in BC, pathbreaking when it first...

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