The organizer of the event said many immigrants lead vibrant lives in Canada and their stories are worth telling.
For many, immigration is a bold act that often means leaving loved ones behind to build a better life in a new country.
However, the remarkable stories about these trips are often forgotten over time, according to some local writers and community organizers.
On January 16, organizers hosted an online panel entitled “Voice for the Voiceless” to encourage more first-generation immigrants to share their stories.
Richmondite Jimmy Yan, the host and treasurer of the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society (VAHMS), said some first-generation immigrants prefer not to speak for themselves but to let their children tell their stories, often due to a language barrier.
“However, we cannot only count on our next generation. Otherwise our stories would be completely forgotten. We need to tell our stories with our own voice,” Yan said, adding that it’s not just migration stories he wants to hear, but also the current reality of first-generation immigrants.
Award-winning Vancouver playwright Loretta Seto, who was one of the panellists, said it’s understandable that writing isn’t an easy task for non-authors. However, interested parties might consider using technology like a phone recorder to share their travels.
Seto, whose parents moved to Canada from China in the 1950s, said her family history was a major influence on her writing.
“It’s hard to separate my culture from my work. My work has been heavily influenced by my parents’ experiences. I haven’t written specifically about their individual stories, but what I’ve learned from them influences the stories I write,” said Seto, author of The Ones We Leave Behind, Dirty Old Woman and the children’s novel Mooncakes.
Another panelist, Ally Wong, who is also a writer, said that writing memoirs could be a great way for a non-professional immigrant to start writing.
Memoirs allow others to read the first-hand experiences of people who may have lived in vastly different cultures.
“But the most important thing is that memoirs can give a voice to people who are often overlooked and underrepresented,” Wong said.
The panel discussion that took place last weekend was part of the annual general meeting of the VAHMS.