The Meaning And Presence Of The Hyphen In Fred Wah´S Diamond Grill

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The Meaning and Presence of the Hyphen in Fred Wah´s Diamond Grill

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, Canada received a lot of immigrants from different parts of the world, mainly Europeans, Asians and Africans. By that time the communities who had the power and hegemony in Canada were the ones who had colonized the country: the Anglo and French, so everybody whowent to live there had to immerse and fit in their world and therefore accept their culture, language, lifestyle and their rules. Thus,"[for] years, bilingualism and biculturalism carried the weight of defining what 'Canadian' meant" (Hutcheon and Richmond12-13, qtd. in Fraile174). These Anglo/French-Canadians did not welcome all the immigrants in the same way. They accepted the Europeans but notthe ethnic minorities such as the Asian Diaspora, who had to suffer the marginalization and rejection of the mainstream society. Fred Wah is a good example of that. He is Asian-Canadian. His grandfather was Chinese and had emigrated to Canada in the 19th century. His father, although born in Canada, spent part of his life in China and then came back to Canada, where he married a Scandinavian.Therefore, Fred Wah is the third generation in Canada. He was born and has lived all his life in Canada. During his life he has tried a complete immersion in the country: he speaks very good English, he plays hockey, he has studied at university, he has succeeded in life, etc. However, because of his biracial identity, he has been rejected and has had the perception of not fitting or belonging to anygroups. During his life he has gone through different painful periods in order to find and accept his own true identity, until he finally accomplishes it. In his biotext Diamond Grill, Fred Wah achieves to discover what he calls "his heterocellular recovery" (3) of identity. In a graphic and clear way, through different anecdotes, Wah expresses his rage and frustration for being marginalized andrejected by both the Chinese community and the Canadian one. In this essay I will go into the different stages Wah has gone through in his life until he finally accepts his identity, which is very much determined by the hyphen. I will also mention the presence of the word hyphen in Diamond Grill.
A hyphen is a very small mark, but for Fred Wah, who is Asian-Canadian, it is of a great importance.This hyphen has had a lot of influence in his life. In Faking It, Wah writes: "Though the hyphen is in the middle, it is not in the centre" (73). What he means by writing that is the way he has felt his own identity in different moments of his life. Sometimes his identity has been more influenced by his Chinese part and some other times the influence of his white part is the one that has prevailed.The 'hyphen' that appears between 'Chinese' and 'Canadian' is not just a way of writing his status, but it also shows how his own personal sense of identity moves to and from each side of the hyphen. Fred Wah epitomizes this paradigm by his feelings of sudden connectedness and disconnectedness to his Chinese side of the hyphen and white side of the hyphen. (Tan, par.3)
For Wah, a person is fromthe place where he/she has been born. But is this statement true? Experience in his life proves that it may not be completely true. Having the hyphen in his identity marks him in such a way that he feels he does not belong to any of the groups which conforms his identity and hence, he is not accepted by either of the two groups. Furthermore, during his life, Wah has been obliged to listen todifferent people telling him which group he belonged to, even though he did not agree with their opinion. For example, when he was with Canadian people and he told them he was one of them, he was rejected by the other white Canadians, who told him he was not Canadian, but Chinese. On the contrary, when he travelled to China and said he was Chinese, they laughed at him and told him he was not...
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