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Reviewed by:
  • The Transcultural Streams of Chinese Canadian Identities by Jessica Tsui-Yan Li
  • Jacqueline Ng
Jessica Tsui-Yan Li. The Transcultural Streams of Chinese Canadian Identities. Quebec: McGill Queen's University Press, 2019. 204 pp. Images. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $34.95 sc; $110.00 hc.

Affirming the momentous impact of Chinese Canadians on socioeconomic power and cultural imprints in Canadian society, The Transcultural Streams of Chinese Canadian Identities, edited by Jessica Tsui-Yan Li, presents a timely, far-reaching book discussing how Chinese Canadians have been undergoing acute challenges of social survival and negotiating their ethnic identities and power relations in Canada over the past decades. The term "Chinese Canadian" refers to anyone of Chinese descent who settles, lives, or works in Canada and has a transcultural and transnational identity. To review the postcolonialist stereotypical definition of Chinese Canadians as immigrants of expatriation or deracination, Transcultural Streams adopts an interdisciplinary approach to study the multiple collective identities of Chinese Canadians, suggesting an imperative need to rethink the identities of Chinese Canadians who are perceived as "socially privileged" in their homeland but are yet devalued or marginalized as the "so-called Other" (6) in Canada. The compelling arguments of this volume are strategically arranged in: Part 1: Revisiting migrant transcultural identities; Part 2: Re-evaluating challenges and struggles of Chinese Canadians; and Part 3: Reshaping and Re-positioning Chinese Canadian identities.

This book uses a multidisciplinary, mixed-method approach to explore the intersectionality and heterogeneity of Chinese Canadian identities from the critical lenses of renowned scholars, academic researchers, cultural producers, poets and literary writers who jointly contribute to the "intersectional discourse" in order to highlight the "diversity and fluidity of Chinese Canadian identities in the face of various forms of subjugation and power imbalance" (10). Part 1 (Chapters 1–3) revisits the transcultural identities of Chinese Canadians, mainly those early immigrants from Hong Kong around the late 1960s, from historical, sociocultural, linguistic, and literary perspectives. A dramatic influx of Hong Kong immigrants to Canada resulted mainly because they foresaw political uncertainties in their home country as the handover of Hong Kong's sovereignty was approaching, and their worries about the colony's future was intensified by the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. These Chinese immigrants, however, were found to have low attachment to Canadian society as they had to endure cultural conflicts and institutional racism in [End Page 135] the new country. They were expected to consistently negotiate their job opportunities, lifestyle, and power relations with local residents. In light of their detachment from the mainstream in Canada, many Hong Kong immigrants decided to remodel their family structure to "astronaut" families (13), with one parent (usually the father) returning to Hong Kong to work and financially support their families, while the mother and the children were left in Canada to receive Western education and maintain their Canadian citizenship. They were perceived by Canadian society simply as Chinese foreigners living in Canada, while in their homeland, "they were considered sojourners, or Huaqiao, Chinese living temporarily outside of China" (175). These Chinese Canadians could hardly find strong roots in their cultural identities when they were exposed to different values, perceptions, traditions, customs, and practices across cultural and national boundaries.

Part 2 (Chapters 4–6) re-evaluates the prevailing challenges of Chinese Canadians by articulating their persistent struggles in the social, economic, gender and cultural contexts. Although most Chinese Canadians were reassured that they were not obligated to assimilate into a melting pot, they still encountered tough integration problems during identity transition. Upon their arrival to Canada, many Chinese Canadians, particularly immigrant women, have experienced "downward social and occupational mobility" (102). Regardless of whether most Chinese Canadians were wealthy investors or well-educated professionals in their homeland, they were marginalized with overflowing impediments in the new country including limited employment opportunities, non-recognition of earned qualifications, low household income, language barriers and racial discrimination which have all made it difficult for Chinese Canadians to achieve social engagement and acculturation. They consequently preferred staying within their comfort zone in which they were less likely to experience social isolation, exclusion, and racism. The idealism of preserving dual identities for Chinese Canadians is still a long...


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pp. 135-137
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