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Wayson Choy


Wayson Choy was born in Vancouver in 1939. At the age of 56, during the publicity tour for his first novel, The Jade Peony, Choy discovered that he had been adopted. This revelation inspired his memoir Paper Shadows in which he describes his experiences growing up in the working-class world of Vancouver’s old Chinatown. A graduate of the University of British Columbia, Choy lived in Toronto where, for many years, he taught English at Humber College, and creative writing in the Humber School for Writers. Wayson Choy was named a member of the Order of Canada in August 2005 for his contribution to the arts-writing. He received the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career in B.C. in 2015. Choy died in Toronto on April 28, 2019, shortly after his 80th birthday. In an obituary written by Marsha Lederman for the Globe and Mail (May 1, 2019), she records a small sampling of tributes from Asian Canadian writers who found inspiration in Choy’s writing and mentorship.


All That Matters: A Novel

Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2004
PS8555 .H6658 A64 2004

Publisher’s Synopsis

Set in the 1930s and 40s, All That Matters continues the story of the Chen family, this time seen through the eyes of First Son Kiam-Kim, the only child of his father’s beautiful, fragile First Wife. Having left behind the lushness of life in their Toishan village, Kiam-Kim, his principled, tireless father, and his indomitable grandmother, Poh-Poh, arrive in Gold Mountain with dreams of a better future. …
As he grows up, Kiam-Kim’s life is broadened as well as complicated by his burgeoning awareness of the world outside Vancouver’s Chinatown.

Awards and Honours

2005 Trillium Book Award–English (Winner)
2004 Alcuin Society Award for Excellence in Book Design in Canada–Prose Fiction category (First Prize) ; Designer: CS Richardson
2004 Giller Prize (Nominated)



The Jade Peony: A Novel

Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1995.
PS8555 .H6658 J33 1995

Publisher’s Synopsis (Douglas & McIntyre, 1995)

Chinatown, Vancouver, in the late 1930s and ’40s provides the setting for this poignant first novel, told through the vivid and intense reminiscences of the three younger children of an immigrant family. They each experience a very different childhood, depending on age and sex, as they encounter the complexities of birth and death, love and hate, kinship and otherness.

Awards and Honours

1995 Trillium Book Award–English. (Co-Winner. Shared with Margaret Atwood, Morning in the Burned House)
1996 City of Vancouver Book Award (Winner)
1998 RUSA Notable Book (Winner)
2002 Vancouver Public Library’s inaugural One Book, One Vancouver (Winner)
2005 re: Douglas & McIntyre reprint ed., Alcuin Society Award for Excellence in Book Design in Canada–Prose Fiction category (Hon. Mention); Designer: Jessica Sullivan
2010 Canada Reads (CBC Radio) (Finalist)

Non-Fiction (Memoir)

Not Yet: A Memoir of Living and Almost Dying

Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2009.
PS8555 .H6658 Z534 2009

Publisher’s Synopsis

Framed by Wayson Choy’s two brushes with death, Not Yet is an intimate and insightful study of one man’s reasons for living.


Non-Fiction (Memoir)

Paper Shadows: A Chinatown Childhood

Toronto: Viking, 1999.

Toronto: Penguin Books, 2000.
PS8555 .H6658 Z53 2000

Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2005. (Subtitle: A Chinatown Memoir)
PS8555 .H6658 Z53 2005

Publisher’s Synopsis (Penguin Books, 2000)

… Paper Shadows is a vivid and moving memoir that reveals uncanny similarities between the secrets that enrich his award-winning first novel and the newly discovered secrets of his own Vancouver Chinatown childhood. From his early experiences with ghosts, through his youthful encounters with cowboys and bachelor uncles, to his discovery of deeply held family secrets that crossed the ocean from mainland China to Gold Mountain in the form of paper shadows, this is a beautifully wrought portrait of a child’s world from one of Canada’s most gifted storytellers.

Awards and Honours

1999 Governor General’s Literary Awards, Nonfiction–English (Nominated)
1999 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-fiction (Nominated)
1999 Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize (Nominated)
2000 City of Vancouver Book Award (Nominated)
2000 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-fiction (Winner)
2000? Torgi Literary Awards (for books in alternative formats) (Nominated)


First Chapter: The Canadian Writers Photography Project

TR681 .A85 D46 2001

Denton, Don, and Wayson Choy. “Wayson Choy.” In Denton, Don. First Chapter: The Canadian Writers Photography Project. Banff, AB: Banff Centre Press, 2001, 24-25.


Reading Writers Reading: Canadian Authors’ Reflections

Z1039 .A87 R43 2006

Choy, Wayson. “A Brief History of Reading.” In Reading Writers Reading: Canadian Authors’ Reflections. Danielle Schaub, photographer and ed. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2006, 76-77.

Selected Criticism and Interpretation

Beneventi, Domenic. “Salt-Water City: The Representation of Vancouver in Sky Lee’s Disappearing Moon Cafe and Wayson Choy’s The Jade Peony.” Ch. in Claiming Space: Racialization in Canadian Cities, ed. Cheryl Teelucksingh. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2006.
HT127 .C53 2006

Byrne, Elizabeth. “Neither this nor that: The hyphenated existence of Chinese children growing up in twentieth century North America.” M.A. thesis, Simon Fraser University, 2005. Accessed August 30, 2013.
Available as an open access thesis from

Corr, John. “Diasporic Sexualities in Contemporary Canadian Fiction.” Ph.D. diss., McMaster University, 2007.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Hartley, Michelle R. “Rewriting Region: Constructing Regionality in West Coast Literature, 1960-2005.” Ph.D. diss., The University of Western Ontario, 2007.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Lee, Tara. “The Decline of the Chinese Matriarch: The Struggle to Reconcile “Old” with “New”.” M.A. diss., University of British Columbia, 2002.

Lim, Huai-Yang. “Representations of Class Identity in Chinese Canadian Literature.” Ph.D. diss., University of Alberta, 2005.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

McDonald, Alison Joan. “Identifying Performativity in “Paper Shadows”.” M.A. diss., Simon Fraser University, 2003.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Morfetas, Elpida. “Transgressing Boundaries and Cultural Haunting in Chinese American and Chinese Canadian ‘Talk Stories’.” M.A. diss., Carleton University, 2002.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Regnier, Alain. “Beyond Limits: Cultural Identity in Contemporary Canadian Fiction.” M.A. diss., University of Manitoba, 2007.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Smyrl, Shannon Lorene. “”In all Their Diversity”: Ethnicity and the Anxiety of Nation-building in English-Canadian Literary Studies at the End of the Millennium.” Ph.D. diss., Queen’s University at Kingston, 2001.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Taylor, Brooke. “Reading Wayson Choy Through Homi Bhabba: Mimicry, Hybridity and Agency Recontextualized.” M.A.. diss., University of Calgary, 2007.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Ty, Eleanor, “‘Each Story Brief and Sad and Marvellous’: Multiple Voices in Wayson Choy’s The Jade Peony,” chap. in The Politics of the Visible in Asian North American Narratives. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004.
PS8089.5 .A8 T9 2004

Wang, Jason. “Between (Hi)Story and Space: Wayson Choy’s Postmodern Chinatown,” chap. in Confluences 2: Essays on the New Canadian Literature, ed. by Nurjehan Aziz. Toronto: Mawenzi House, 2017, pp. 19-30
PS8117 .C66 2017


Douglas & McIntyre Publishing Group has an entry for The Jade Peony.

Picador USA has an entry for Paper Shadows that includes an Excerpt.

Bukowski Agency entry for All That Matters

Publisher Random House of Canada

Wayson Choy on Not Yet, part of CBC Radio One’s The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers,  episode “September 28th, 2009–Guests” first broadcast September 28, 2009