________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 21 . . . . June 20, 2003


Letters From Home.

Colleen Leung (Director). Selwyn Jacob (Producer). Graydon McCrea (Executive Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2001
45 min., VHS, $49.95.

Subject Headings:
Immegrants - British Columbia - Biography.
China - Social conditions - 1949- .
Chinese Canadians - British Columbia - Vancouver Island - Biography.

Order Number: C9101 201

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Helen Norrie.

*** /4

Letters from Home is the true story of one Chinese-Canadian's attempt to find, not only her roots in China, but the answers to a family mystery: Did her grandfather leave behind another wife and family in China? If so, what happened to them? Why did the Canadian family never acknowledge them?

     Colleen Leung is a journalist who has worked for CBC radio. She grew up in B.C. and went to China as a teenager where she discovered that her grandfather had left another wife and family. She was also impressed by Chairman Mau and worked in Beijing for a time with Chinese T.V. as a translator. However, after being arrested in 1982 because she was mistaken for a Chinese citizen and was doing work forbidden in China, she returned to Canada, married her high school sweetheart, who was not Chinese, and has raised a family in Canada.

     She learns that her grandfather sent money home to his Chinese family for 46 years. However, after her grandfather died, the family in China faced hard times. While Leung was at first very critical of her father's generation for not supporting the relatives in China, she comes to realize that they also faced difficult times trying to establish themselves in Canada. They experienced both racial discrimination and economic hardship. She realizes she had unrealistic expectations for them. As she says in the conclusion, "I had to go half way around the world to learn the importance of family and learn how to forgive."

     Letters From Home could be an interesting video for high school students discussing multiculturalism in Canada or issues of discrimination and racism. The video is sometimes a little slow and in places repetitious, but it has the virtue of being a true story by a respected Canadian journalist. There is interesting footage of her visits to China, and the contrast between conditions on her first visit (when life is pretty basic) and on her last (when the family seems to have prospered) is clearly indicative of how life is changing in modern China.

     While not recommended for wide viewing, the video but could be useful for classes on Canadian heritage and multiculturalism.

Recommended with reservations.

Helen Norrie is a former teacher/librarian with Winnipeg School Div. #1 . She has taught courses in Children's Literature at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba, and she writes a monthly column on children’s books for the Winnipeg Free Press.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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