The Year of Finding Memory
Judy Fong Bates
Growing up in her father's hand laundry in small-town Ontario, Judy Fong Bates listened to stories of her parents' past lives in China, a place far removed from their everyday life of poverty and misery. But in spite of the allure of these stories, Fong Bates longed to be a Canadian girl. Fifty years later, she finally followed her curiosity back to her ancestral home in China for a reunion that spiralled into a series of unanticipated discoveries. Opening with a shock as moving as the one that powers The Glass Castle, The Year of Finding Memory explores a particular, yet universal, world of family secrets, love, loss, courage and shame. This is a memoir of a daughter's emotional journey, and her painful acceptance of conflicting truths. (From Vintage Canada)
I loosened a faded brown envelope from underneath the thick pile of worthless bonds. I opened it, and found a green certificate with the words Dominion of Canada arranged in an arc of emphatic black type across the top. An ornate geometric pattern formed a border around the certificate's edge. The paper felt thick and smooth. All these things declared the importance of this document. In the lower right hand corner I saw a photograph of a man, a small black and white head-shot, similar to those in passports; except this one was on a certificate issued by the Canadian government, dated April 7, 1914 that had cost its holder five hundred dollars. The man was young, twenty-one years old, a year younger than I was as I sat looking at his image. His hair was parted at the side and neatly combed; his cheekbones were sharp and his ears stuck out. He wore a dark, loose-fitting Chinese jacket with a stand-up collar. He looked back at me with an expression that was impossible to read, perhaps because the task before him was so overwhelming that he was unable to communicate an emotion. The man in the photograph was my father and the piece of paper was his Head Tax certificate. How did this youth become the old man my mother found hanging from a rope in the basement of their house, the man whose death had struck us like a sudden explosion of glass?
From The Year of Finding Memory by Judy Fong Bates ©2010. Published by Penguin Random House Canada.