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Wayson Choy

Wayson Choy

Former headquarters, Jin Wah Sing Musical Assn., 15 E. Pender St.

  • Author: Britt S. Baker
  • Date Posted: Feb 1, 2016
  • Category:
  • Address: Plaque is on lamppost in front of 1 E. Pender St.

Wayson Choy

Photo credit: Gary Gellert


Location: Plaque is on lamppost in front of 1 E. Pender St.

Wayson Choy emerged foremost among Chinese Canadian fiction writers for his novel The Jade Peony (1995), an inter-generational saga about an immigrant family, the Chens, during the Depression.

“There’s nothing to be done about the unknowable – the intricate shadows and silences between the facts that one feels so certain of – except to pause and be astonished. All lives are ten times ten
thousand secrets. Even those who are quite sure of themselves, they, too, are made up of mystery, defined by secrets old and untold.

From Paper Shadows: a Chinatown Childhood

Born in Vancouver in 1939, Choy was raised the only son of two working parents. His mother was a meat-cutter and sausage stuffer. He was told his father was a cook aboard CPR ships. At age six he moved to a house on Keefer Street. He was cared for in a variety of Chinese Canadian households in the Strathcona neighbourhood, dreaming of becoming a cowboy. At age 56 he accidentally discovered he had been adopted and that his biological father had been a member of the Cantonese Opera Company. Choy had often attended Chinese opera with his mother. He became the first Chinese Canadian to enroll in a creative writing course (taught by Earle Birney and Jacob Zilber) at UBC. There he began writing a short story set in Vancouver’s Chinatown that turned into his best-known novel, The Jade Peony, some 30 years later. He moved to Toronto in 1962. At the corner of Pender and Gore, in a park situated across from where Wayson Choy attended Chinese school, there is now a pair of bilingual ‘Bookmarks’ displaying an excerpt from The Jade Peony, his novel that received both the City of Vancouver Book Award and the Trillium Award in Ontario.

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Born in Vancouver in 1939, Choy was raised the only son of two working parents. His mother was a meat-cutter and sausage stuffer. He was told his father was a cook aboard CPR ships. At age six he moved to a house on Keefer Street. He was cared for in a variety of Chinese Canadian households in the Strathcona neighbourhood, dreaming of becoming a cowboy. At age 56 he accidentally discovered he had been adopted and that his biological father had been a member of the Cantonese Opera Company. Choy had often attended Chinese opera with his mother. He became the first Chinese Canadian to enroll in a creative writing course (taught by Earle Birney and Jacob Zilber) at UBC. There he began writing a short story set in Vancouver’s Chinatown that turned into his best-known novel, The Jade Peony, some 30 years later. He moved to Toronto in 1962. At the corner of Pender and Gore, in a park situated across from where Wayson Choy attended Chinese school, there is now a pair of bilingual ‘Bookmarks’ displaying an excerpt from The Jade Peony, his novel that received both the City of Vancouver Book Award and the Trillium Award in Ontario.

“There’s nothing to be done about the unknowable – the intricate shadows and silences between the facts that one feels so certain of – except to pause and be astonished. All lives are ten times ten
thousand secrets. Even those who are quite sure of themselves, they, too, are made up of mystery, defined by secrets old and untold.

From Paper Shadows: a Chinatown Childhood

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Learn more about Wayson Choy at ABC Bookworld