cover image All Our Ordinary Stories: A Multigenerational Family Odyssey

All Our Ordinary Stories: A Multigenerational Family Odyssey

Teresa Wong. Arsenal Pulp, $21.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-55152-949-3

Wong (Dear Scarlet) explores her Chinese immigrant parents’ history with gentle curiosity, wry humor, and moments of aching regret. The language gap is an overarching theme: Wong’s parents don’t speak English and she isn’t fluent in Cantonese, making her “my parents’ lousy translator since I was a small child.” The narrative opens in the present day, as Wong struggles to concisely translate a doctor’s verdict to her mother (“stroke not too sharp,” she fumbles in Cantonese). From there, she flashes back to when she and her brother chose Saturday morning cartoons over Chinese language school: “So excited about winning our freedom that I could not imagine what I might be losing.” Loss and the “family history of separation” are also explored, as Wong depicts her parents’ separate, harrowing escapes from China during the Cultural Revolution, while lamenting how little they opened up to her about these and other experiences. Elsewhere, she delves into the history of Chinese immigrants in Canada and how centuries of migration have shaped Chinese culture since the Ming Dynasty. Wong employs simple line drawings to convey complex emotions, choosing just the right imagery and details to depict visiting an old Chinese Canadian cemetery, touring Kowloon, or hanging out at “a second rate Calgary mall” in the 1980s. It’s a resonant journey into the past. Agent: Carly Watters, PS Literary. (Sept.)