I’m currently reading David Lam: A Biography by Reginald H. Roy. The following are 5 passages from the text that I considered impactful.
1. “It was a torture to study English and to study a lot of things, which, to my young mind, I considered totally irrelevant. We learned about Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Midlands – what the heck for? We learned about the Clyde, shipbuilding, London, the Thames. I kept asking myself, what for? We studied English and European history but never touched Asian history or geography. We studied like crazy and every day I asked – what for? It was really hard work , just transforming a person from totally Chinese educational and cultural background into an English-style one” (13).
- What I find interesting about this quote is how it challenges “English-style” educations systems being imparted on people of other descents. I was born to two Chinese parents, and I am a first generation immigrant to Canada. My initial education and cultural lifestyle was heavily influenced by the Chinese culture. As a young Chinese person in a English-style/Eurocentric education system, I have found myself pondering similar topics in the past. I have learned a great deal about Canadian and American histories, but I have scarcely touched on topics that I can proudly call my own history.
- This passage touches on one of the problems with “English-style” education systems, which is something that Canada primarily uses in its public education system. It reveals how it can feel irrelevant or uncomfortable to be a person of non-European descent learning in such an environment. I believe that Eurocentric education systems can be improved upon by becoming more inclusive of all world cultures and histories.
2.”I don’t have an ox. I have to use a horse” (24).
- This quote is a metaphor for David’s father asking him to help be a leader in the family, since the oldest son in the family, Daniel, was not present. It references the fact that a farmer uses an ox to plow the field, and would not usually use a horse, but since he doesn’t have an “ox”, he must use his second choice, the “horse”. I found it interesting because I have never heard this saying before for having to settle for second choice.
- In the biography, this is not an insight expressed by a Canadian; However, it was told to a man who would become Canadian and bring the influence of these words to his new nationality. It reveals the importance of being flexible and working with what you have, which is a value that we can hold presently.
3.”It was hard, but when there is no other way to handle it, you just let it go. When everyone is suffering the same, it’s okay” (28).
- This sentence is moving because it really highlights the resilience of humans in suffering. During significant events in history where a large group of people were facing tribulation together, knowing that they were not alone made them more resilient. Examples include the Holocaust and people fighting for LGBTQA+ rights.
- Maybe it’s not exactly “okay” that a large group suffers, but being with other people who understand and are also experiencing your situation can be really beneficial. I think this is a universal concept that doesn’t only apply to Canadian values/beliefs – it’s on a more individual level, and can be applied to almost any marginalized or suffering group.
4.”Everyone was lacking except enthusiasm and innovation” (32-33).
- This sentence refers to a time in Lam’s life during war when he was living at a school and community without much technology – it was rural, and there was no running water. No one had much. What I found interesting about this passage is how it reflects human resilience in tough times, working together to even when there is nothing.
- This can refer to Canadian resilience through hard times.
5.”For someone from a different culture […] it’s not easy to handle at times. How friendly is friendly, how warm is warm? How much is hot air and how much is not? AS a waiter, it was the best education about people and society” (54).
- The understanding of navigating through a different culture is very familiar to me, as the people closest to me, and I, have had to deal with it. Growing up in a non-Canadian household and being introduced to western values and customs is always a difficult change, which can go undervalued.
- This shows the acceptance of places like Canada of people from different cultures who experience culture shock when moving to a new place. Canada is known for being multicultural and welcoming, and that is reflected in how new people are accepted.
Theme: Grow and learn with new environments.