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All That Matters tells the story of the Chens, an immigrant family headed by a kind, industrious Father and a formidable Poh-Poh (grandmother) who are sponsored by their Third Uncle a distant relative and prosperous Chinatown businessman who brings them to Vancouver with forged paperwork. All That Matters is narrated by poh-poh's grandson Kiam-Kim who is Chinese-born. He is thoughtful, bright and sensitive, it is up to him to bridge the family's two cultures, to watch out for his siblings and to follow Poh-poh's directive to never lose his "Chinese brain." In Choy's skillful, elegant hands, the retelling of the Chens' fortunes and failings is as moving as ever. The Chen family is caught up in swirl of world history of immigration, the Great Depression, and the Second World War, but also in the small everydayness of their lives for instance bargaining with the grocers, falling in love, getting along with the Irish neighbors. It's not a new story, but Choy tells it with freshness, humor and deep compassion.(Wayson,2004)
Life in Chinatown
Chinatown is used symbolically to represent the town surrounded by the business of Kiam-Kim's third uncle, a large Chinatown warehouse that is in Gold Mountain in Vancouver, Canada. The chen family struggle to leave behind the violence and poverty of Old China while honoring tradition through elaborate courtesies, Chinese lessons, Mah Jong games and the dutiful display of a picture of the Kitchen God as required by china traditions. As a result of this migration the family has great expectations in their new environment, although in this new life there is a constant struggle to balance the new gold mountain ideas with the old traditions and knowledge of china. (Peter, 2002)
Like many families around them, the chen family must survive in un savory surroundings.
For instance, the closing down of the railroad work camps led to unemployment which as a result made life miserable. (Anthony, 1983) It is ironical that the chen family moved to Canada to escape from the unpleasant life in china but that does not really change. Much for the situations basically remains the same, with families struggling to meet their basic needs. The important thing is that, as the old one says, the family will not stave, this being their main reason of immigration. (Wayson, 2004)
Life in Chinatown was a mix of rich colors and the dueling smells of old-world cooking and freight trains, as a result to this there was a lot of air pollution. The promise and hope of a better life are clashed with the realities of anti-Chinese racism, kiam- Kim says that Canada is his home, yet he knows that the new country does not want Chinese soldiers. This was when China was suffering during the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, and soon the whole world was at war. Boys at school were enlisting and many Chinese had gone back to fight for their old country. Kiam-Kim wonders, "What world would we fight for?" Canada is his home, yet he knows that his new country does not want Chinese soldiers. Due to this racism Chinese people in Chinatown have to put up with high taxes due to the Exclusion Act thus a reduction in their already meager disposable income.(Wayson, 2004)
Life in Chinatown is also filled with unemployed laborers possibly as a result of closing down of the railroad work camps. (Peter 1995) Yet this is the land where the chen family would not starve. These laborers live in poor rooming-houses Sea winds fill the rooms with acrid smoke from the mills and refineries of False Creek, and freight trains shake their windows at night with noises the Old One says are dragons playing. After such a harsh life in the old country and a constant struggle with the conditions of his new life, Kiam-Kim's father ended up as broken man.
APA Main Body
In their new life there is a constant struggle to balance the new Gold Mountain ideas with the old traditions and knowledge of China. The Old ideas do not want Kiam-Kim to speak English but Kiam-Kim only knows that as to be without manners. Without a sense of correct social ritual, is to bring dishonor to one's family thus children who lose their 'Chinese brains' are called 'bamboo stumps' by the elders because of the hollow emptiness within, however Kiam-Kim must study hard at Chinese school as well as English school so as to be integrated in a rapidly changing society. He must help Poh-Poh to cook for her mahjong ladies this as she says is to help make him a responsible member of the society, and her hard knuckles rap his head when he misbehaves.
Although it is difficult to embrace a new culture while still attempting to hold on to one's native culture, Choy conveys very well the mixed pressures and beliefs of Chinese trying to make a living in a new land that wants their work but is not ready to treat them as equal citizens. Kiam-Kim's longing to fit in and the family's constant battle with their new, tough surroundings because in this new life in Chinatown, they are faced with a culture which was completely different from the one they were used to back in china. This culture leaves people like poh-poh so afraid that the changes might affect Kiam-Kim, so he weaves his way through life led not by the men, but by his grandmother Poh-poh. Kiam-Kim lives by the social laws of China. We get to see how he battles his love of China and his desire to please Poh-poh with the realities of his new country and the friendships forged because of that. Life in Chinatown also portrays the colloquial story that Choy tells of a young boy who sinks headfirst into life away from all that he knew in China, now searching for his own sense of self. This is punctuated by little details, for example, the sound of the rail cars, the puddles children never played in because they were filled with water and the missing women who are known only through fading pictures and sacred rituals.
APA Main Body
In conclusion, Wayson Choy in all that matters tells of a native Chinese family who migrate from their war and famine ravaged country to this new environment with great expectations, promise and hope of a better life. However these hopes are all clashed as they quickly realize that much of their situations basically remain the same, with families struggling to meet their basic needs. Moreover they are faced by even greater challenges of unemployment due to the closure of the railroad work camps, racism and very poor living conditions. The chen family experiences insurmountable difficulties of trying to embrace a new culture while still attempting to hold on to one's native culture. Their new life there is a constant struggle to balance the new Gold Mountain ideas with the old traditions and knowledge of China. Like many families around them, the chen family must survive in this miseries. The author therefore portrays that for the chen family and those surrounding them, life in Chinatown must be as absolutely frustrating, such that after such a harsh life in the old country and a constant struggle with the conditions of his new life, Kiam-Kim's father ended up as broken man.