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Lily Cho has authored several books with comparable thematic focus. Most of her works focus on the issues of immigration and citizenship. In her book, “Eating Chinese: Culture on the Menu in Small Town Canada, she perceives Diaspora as a model of immigration” (Cho 18). In this book, Lily Cho focuses on Chinese restaurants dominating Canada despite tough rules and racism legislations on immigrants.
The book depicts how the Chinese restaurants are in every corner of Canada, yet individuals rarely mention them. She examines how the undermined Chinese immigrants’ culture, enriched the mainstream culture of Canada. The book covers both the politics of the old and modern Chinese immigrants in Canada. This review focuses on the use of literary devices in the development of themes in the novel.
Literary techniques are extensively applied in this novel to enhance the expression of key massages and themes in the book. Cho applies paradox to show the disappearing and yet present Chinese restaurants in Canada. Chinese, restaurants are unusually visible yet invisible.
The Chinese held their Diaspora history through their food and restaurants. They were able to influence the colonialists and the natives of Canada through their cooking. Chinese restaurants also represent the past, which is firmly struggling to fit into the present.
Most of the themes are developed using symbolism; for instance, the Chinese restaurants menus’ represent different times and experiences of the Chinese in the Diaspora. The Exclusion Act of 1923 had its menu. The period of multiculturalism after the abolition of Exclusion Act also had its menu.
The Diamond Grill menu of the 1950s explains a period of transition from the policy of exclusion. Canadian food is only well defined in the small town restaurants of the Chinese. One way of defining the Diaspora theory of the Chinese immigrants is through food. This is due to the widespread serving of the Canadian food in every Chinese restaurant.
Cho uses food as to mediate between Chinese immigrants and their colonial masters. She uses food as a symbol, which serves to bring both the British colonialists and Chinese immigrants together. The Chinese also retained their culture by not abandoning their indigenous practices. For example, food enabled the Chinese immigrants to retain their cultural identity at a time when the colonial forces were extremely oppressive.
The use of repetition is evident in this text. For instance, Chinese restaurants are highlighted in various sections of this book to emphasize the dissimulation and not assimilation. The restaurants stress the experiences of the Chinese in a foreign land.
Thus, restaurants menus become the means of expressing Chinese theory of Diaspora, and this makes the book memorable and comprehensible. There is a difference between the food on the menu and the food served.
The menus are symbolic accounts of what it meant to be a Chinese immigrant in Canada. There were restrictive immigration laws and multiculturalism issues. The menus in this book further reflect the socio-political situations of being a Chinese in Canada.
Cho ingeniously utilizes illustrations and photographs with no sources or dates. This portrays the break down in the history of the Chinese immigrants in Canada. Photographs are also symbolic, and they assist in tracing the early Chinese immigrants’ restaurants in Canada. This is the only way Cho is tracing the history of Chinese immigrants in the Diaspora. They bring nostalgic memories of the past bound by sadness.
However, the author does not like to refer to history, and when she does, history is only meant to portray humor. For example, the story of a Chinese woman lumbers’ camp cook masqueraded as a male.
This could imply that the experiences of the Chinese in the Diaspora have not received the attention of many scholars and writers. Moreover, the pictures used for illustrations are from unnamed sources. Hence, they never continued any date to indicate the timeframe in history. It shows the missing link in the history of the Chinese immigrants that traveled to Canada.
Cho’s work bridges the missing link in the academic arena of Diaspora theory and works. Food, restaurants and menus symbolically present her work. The primary strength of this novel is demonstrated by the successful application of different symbols, images, history, and references in expressing the themes. These features make the book readable.
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The second strength of the book is its expression of the concept of Diaspora, which many scholars have often ignored in their analysis. This makes her work more authentic and unique. Indeed, criticisms of Diaspora theories are missing in most literary works.
Chinese restaurants are Diaspora counter-public. Nevertheless, Cho does not fully explore the Chinese history in Canada. Hence, readers may not have the real picture of what she presents in her literary work.
Probably, this was not her agenda in the book. The fact that Cho borrows from other writers show her inability to conduct her own thorough research. Overall, the book provides a valuable insight in understanding the theory of Diaspora experience.
Cho, Lily. Eating Chinese: Culture on the Menu in Small Town Canada, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010. Print.