Judy Fong Bates
Judy Fong Bates, writer, teacher (born at Kaiping County, Guangdong, China 22 Dec 1949). Judy Fong Bates IMMIGRATED to Canada with her mother in 1955. Meeting her father in Allandale (now Barrie), Ontario, Fong Bates discovered she and her parents were the only ASIAN citizens in the area. Speaking very little English, though fluent in the near-extinct Four Counties dialect of her ancestral village, Fong Bates found school was her gateway to reading and belonging. It was after school, when she worked beside her parents at their hand laundry, that the marginalizing effects of RACISM and DISCRIMINATION isolated her. Fong Bates' parents, both educated and cultured, struggled with their new and different status; they were determined their children would live middle-class lives, and prepared them for "brain careers" with books and learning.
After graduating with a degree in Education from the UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO, Fong Bates pursued a career in teaching before publishing her first collection of SHORT FICTION, China Dog and Other Tales from a Chinese Laundry (1997). In "My Sister's Love" Fong Bates writes a resonating description of a family's hand laundry, revealing the narrator's mixture of pride and humiliation: "The first thing that caught my sister's eye was the washing machine. It stood in a drainage pan in the middle of the floor. It was a monstrous steel barrel, held up horizontally by four posts looking like some mythical headless beast." The collection was named a Barnes and Noble Discover New Writers selection in 2002.
Midnight at the Dragon Café (2004) is Judy Fong Bates' first NOVEL. Set in small town Ontario in the 1950s, the story is told by Su-Jen, the daughter of a CHINESE immigrant family. Fong Bates elaborates on her themes of humiliation and loneliness to reveal the pain of relentless isolation and invisibility: "You must not think so much about China ....You must concentrate on Su-Jen... life here really is better." Fong Bates creates characters who cannot see their own future but are willing to endure for their children's futures. Critically acclaimed, Midnight at the Dragon Café won the One Book Community Read for the city of Toronto in 2011 and was shortlisted for the 2005 Ontario Library Association Evergreen Award. It won the 2005 American Library Association Alex Award.
The Year of Finding Memory (2010), one of the GLOBE AND MAIL's 100 Best Books of 2010, is Judy Fong Bates' bestselling memoir (seeAUTOBIOGRAPHICAL WRITING) describing her first trip to China since arriving in Canada. While her goal was to discover her parents' history, Fong Bates learned much more: that friends and family who remained in China had no concept of the reality of life in Canada. The shame of lost careers, isolation and discrimination are personalized here as Fong Bates traces the roots of her father's familiar despair from the memoir's opening sentence: "Not long after my father hanged himself in the summer of 1972, I found a small cardboard box tucked far beneath his bed." This plain-spoken revelation stands in stark contrast to the tragic, silent reality of the fact. Fong Bates believes "If we only remember the good then we are not looking at our humanity - the light, the dark."
Judy Fong Bates reflects that although a child can never truly know the depth of immigrant parents' sorrows and sacrifices, as a storyteller she has the privilege of "telling the story that validates their lives, their sacrifices. My parents are part of Canada, their story must not disappear." Fong Bates continues to write and live outside Toronto.