In 1995, during the publicity tour for his much-acclaimed first novel The Jade Peony, Wayson Choy received a mysterious phone call from a woman claiming to have just seen his mother on a streetcar. He politely informed the caller that she must be mistaken, since his mother had died long ago. "No, no, not that mother," the voice insisted. "Your real mother."
Inspired by the startling realization that, like many children of Chinatown, he had been adopted, Choy constructs a vivid and moving memoir that reveals uncanny similarities between his award-winning first novel and the newly discovered secrets of his Vancouver childhood. From his early experiences with ghosts, through his youthful encounters with cowboys and bachelor uncles, to his discovery of family secrets that crossed the ocean from mainland China to Gold Mountain in the form of paper shadows, this is a beautifully wrought portrait of a child's world from one of Canada's most gifted storytellers. (From Penguin Canada)
From the book
"I saw your mother last week."
The stranger's voice on the phone surprised me. She spoke firmly, clearly, with the accents of Vancouver's Old Chinatown: "I saw your mah-ma on the streetcar."
Not possible. This was 1995. Eighteen years earlier I had sat on St. Paul's Hospital bed beside Mother's skeletal frame while she lay gasping for breath: the result of decades of smoking. I stroked her forehead and, with my other hand, clasped her thin, motionless fingers. Around two in the morning, half-asleep and weary, I closed my eyes to catnap. Suddenly, the last striving for breath shook her. I snapped awake, conscious again of the smell of acetone, of death dissolving her body. The silence deepened; the room chilled. The mother I had known all my life was gone.
From Paper Shadows by Wayson Choy ©1999. Published by Penguin Canada.