I just finished the book “Chop Suey Nation.”
I enjoyed it even though it was fixed font, low contrast and had no back-light.
It was a ‘real’ book – with paper pages, fold-able page corners, front and back covers. It was the first physical book I’ve read in years.
It’s not that I don’t read. On the contrary, I average a book a week in summer and twice that in winter. Sometimes I’ll read two books concurrently. The thing is, I read digital books. Books that I can carry on my phone, tablet and e-reader.
I’ve alienated friends and colleagues by saying that I love e-books. They’re lighter, portable and ergonomically easier to read. Years ago e-books saved my sanity.
It started when I was in Beijing on a two year work assignment. Although I’m Chinese by heritage, I and my great grandparents are North American born. I have no real familiarity with the language nor people of present day China. Living in Beijing was a total cultural immersion. At times it felt like a total submersion. It was exhilarating but exhausting. Then and now, my favorite form of escapism was reading.
But 2009 Beijing was a difficult place to find English reading material – be it books, magazines, journals or newspapers. Bookshops for foreigners were cramped little stores, located in expat neighborhoods and stocked for an eclectic international audience. Social media was fairly nascent and newspapers were still feeling their way around the internet. In any case, China’s Great Firewall put a choke-hold on many international websites. Facebook was already locked out and Google was on the road to being banned.
Meanwhile Amazon had launched its first Kindle and was building momentum as the provider of e-books. On one of my home trips I tried it out. Suddenly I had access to a vast library of reading material. Suddenly I could read whenever and wherever I wanted. My sanity was saved. I’ve been a dedicated Amazon customer ever since.
Fast forward to 2019. I have an online library of over 700 books. I use my Overdrive account to borrow books online and I haven’t stepped into a brick and mortar book store for two years. Occasionally I do buy books. Typically, they are reference books or books available only in print.
Which brings me back to “Chop Suey Nation.” I suppose it will eventually be e-printed but I wanted to read it right away.
On the surface, it looks like a cook book but it’s really a memoir about Chinese families immigrating to Canada in the 1970’s. The central story is about Ann Hui’s Toisan father and her parents’ Canadian Chinese, chop suey style restaurants. It’s a well written, braided story that moves between her family and the people interviewed on her trans-Canada trip. This is not my story but it’s relatable with it’s emphasis on family, hard work and sacrifice.
If you have an interest, I’d recommend it. You can buy it on Amazon, of course. They’ll deliver it to your door. Even if you live on an island on the wild side of the Pacific North West.
Ucluelet, Vancouver Island. August 2019