The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy

Wayson Choy

Wayson Choy. Photo by John Beebe. Used with permission from Douglas & McIntyre.

Wayson Choy’s novel follows a Chinese Canadian family in Vancouver around the time of World War II, through the eyes of the three youngest children.

The story draws on the history of Chinese labourers on the railway, the perpetual navigations of and tensions caused by cultural difference, perceptions of Japanese Canadians, and other national and cultural identifications dominant at the time.

Questions to Keep in Mind While Reading

For help with critical reading, see Close Reading Prose.

  1. This story follows three Chinese Canadian children in Vancouver around the time of the World War II. How does this historical context inform their lives and in what ways is it revealed? Consider also how the children’s perspective affects the way history is recounted.
  2. Note moments that reveal inter-generational and inter-cultural connection or tension. What do these reveal about the characters and the society and/or homes in which they live?
  3. Consider the different types of stories and documents that inform this novel. Note how Choy weaves them together. How do they affect the identities of the characters and narrators, and the different people and forces that produce them? For example: governmental officials and their forms, parents and grandparents, movie theatres and newspapers, among others. Consider what types of stories, documents, figures, and frames the children and adults identify with or respect, and in what ways and for what reasons.

Works Cited

  • Choy, Wayson. The Jade Peony. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1995. Print.