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Richmond’s Asian community preserve stories of immigration

The event organizer said many immigrants live a vibrant life in Canada and their stories are worth telling.
Event host Jimmy Yan said many immigrants in our community are interesting characters. It would be sad if their stories got lost after 20 years.

For many, immigration is a courageous act that often means leaving loved ones behind to establish a better life in a new country. 

However, the remarkable tales of those journeys are often forgotten over time, according to some local writers and community organizers.

On Jan. 16, organizers held an online panel discussion titled 'Voice for the Voiceless' to encourage more first-generation immigrants to share their stories. 

Jimmy Yan, the event host and treasurer of Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society (VAHMS), said some first-generation immigrants prefer to not speak for themselves but let their children tell their stories, often due to a language barrier.

"However, we can't just count on our next generation. Otherwise, our stories would be completely forgotten. We need to tell our stories by using our own voices," said Yan, adding that it’s not just migration stories he wants to hear but also the current realities of first-generation immigrants. 

Award-winning Vancouver playwright, Loretta Seto, who was one of the panelists, said it's understandable that writing isn't an easy task for non-writers. But those interested could consider using technology, such as a phone recorder, to share their journeys. 

Seto, whose parents moved from China to Canada in the 1950s, said her family's history has influenced her writing significantly. 

"It's hard to separate my culture from my work. My work has been influenced a lot by hearing my parents' experiences. I haven't written specifically about their individual stories, but what I’ve learned from them influences the stories I write," said Seto, author of The Ones We Leave Behind, Dirty Old Woman and the children’s novel Mooncakes. 

Another panelist, Ally Wong, who is also a writer, said writing a memoir could be a great way for a non-professional immigrant to start writing. 

Memoirs allow others to read the first-hand experiences of those who may have lived in very different cultures. 

"But, the most important thing is that memoirs can give a voice to people who are often overlooked and underrepresented," said Wong. 

The panel discussion, which was held last weekend, was part of VAHMS's annual general meeting.  



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