Midnight at the Dragon Cafe - Judy Fong Bates

We had come to Canada because of me, but I was the only one who had found a home. I reminded myself many times that I must honour my family and what they had done for me, that I must be em jee seng, not talk too much, be obedient, and not cause trouble, work hard at school.

Su-Jen "Annie" Chou is a young immigrant girl, recently arrived in Canada with her mother in the 1960s. Her father runs the Dragon Cafe in Irvine, a small town in Ontario, and together they scrape together a living. There is a plot that meanders through Annie's first few years in Irvine, particularly involving the arrival of her half-brother Lee-Kung and resulting family tensions, but the novel is more concerned with painting a picture of an immigrant family and the challenges they face.

Annie's mother doesn't speak English, and her father's English is limited, so they increasingly rely on Annie to translate. Her mother feels trapped in her life; she went from being trapped by the war in China to trapped in a world she can't understand. Her father works hard to provide for his family but they live humbly, always saving up for something. And her half-brother is expected to take over the business, but he feels it's hardly worth it and is tempted to take off for the big city.

There is some humor and joy, but overall it's a bit dreary. It's a beautifully written tale about a pretty miserable family, and it definitely makes me appreciate how much easier my childhood was, how fortunate I am that my own immigrant parents didn't have to slave away at a restaurant so I could grow up in America.

Fed to jonathan's brain | May 12, 2007 | Comments (0)


Post a comment

Remember Me?