Denise Chong

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Denise Chong

Published books

TitleExtended titleYear of Publication
The Concubine's Children1994
Lives of the Family2013

A third generation Chinese Canadian, Chong was born in Vancouver, British Columbia on 9 June 1953,and was raised in Prince George.She studied economy at the University of British Columbia (UBC) earning her bachelor degee in 1975. She received an MA from the University of Toronto in 1978.

Denise Chong has published three non-fiction books of literary non-fiction and edited one compilation of short stories. Because of the importance of the Canadian historical research in Chong's first book, a memoir of her family, The Concubine's Children, she has become "renowned as a writer and commentator on Canadian history and on the family." This book, one of the first non-fiction narrative accounts of the Chinese in Canada, was a Globe and Mail best seller for ninety-three weeks.

That Denise Chong's work has been important to the study of Canada is also reflected by the fact that a speech that she gave for Citizenship Week in 1995 entitled "Being Canadian" has been widely anthologized, including in the books Who Speaks for Canada: Words that Shape a Country by D. Morton and M. Weinfeld (1998) , and Great Canadian Speeches by D. Gruending (2004).

Chong's emphasis on the voices of women, as well as her particular brand of nationalism (which is more than a little critical), are both reflected in her edited compilation The Penguin Anthology of Stories by Canadian Women. That many of the authors published in this anthology are also women of transnational identities is a reflection of Denise Chong's concern for the multicultural quality of being Canadian. In Chong's own words, "Canadian citizenship recognizes differences. It praises diversity. It is what we as Canadians choose to have in common with each other [....] How we tell our stories is the work of citizenship". In her Introduction to the anthology, Chong highlights what attracted her to the stories, seeming to also articulate one of the strong characteristics of her own writing: "The plot that interested me was life lived in the chaos and uncertainty of everyday happenings and relationships." All of Chong's books evoke such "everyday happenings and relationships" amidst the extraordinary circumstances of war, communism, immigration, and racism.

Denise Chong's second book, The Girl in the Picture, about the iconic Vietnamese napalm victim, was also groundbreaking, in its portrayal of everyday life in war-torn Vietnam. Her most recent book was released on 29 September 2009 by Random House Canada. Egg on Mao: The Story of an Ordinary Man Who Defaced an Icon and Unmasked a Dictatorship is Chong’s first book in a decade. Egg on Mao tells the story of Lu Decheng, a bus mechanic, who, with two friends, challenged his family's communist allegiance by defacing a portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong during the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square. In an interview about this story exploring human rights in China, Chong said, "It was a very Chinese act. In the West, we would view something like this as a quixotic and think how naive these men were. But in China, it's your only gesture. Of course they were naive. But you have to balance the futility of the gesture against the weight of repression... people are willing to make a futile gesture for the nobility of having acted."

In addition to continuing her career as a writer, Chong serves on the boards, task forces, and committees of several organizations including the Task Force on the Participation of Visible Minorities in the Federal Public Service, the National Advisory Board on Culture Online, and the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.

Denise Chong lives in Ottawa, Ontario, with her husband, CTV reporter Roger Smith, and her two children, Jade and Kai. She received honorary doctorates from York University in October 2007, Bishop's University, and the University of Northern British Columbia.

In 2014, she was instrumental in taking the lead in collecting many significant publications from Chinese Canadian writers donated to the Canadian Studies Library at the Beijing Foreign Studies University, Beijing, People's Republic of China.

This university now has the largest collection of Chinese Canadian publications and films in the world.

More than 20 books by noted children and adult writer, Paul Yee are catalogued there [1], including his acclaimed Roses Sing on New Snow (1990).

This book was produced into a 7 minutes, 4 seconds National Film Board animated film in 2002. [2]

The BFSU Canadian Studies Centre contact for this valuable and significant collection was Lecturer Wenli Wang. Visit the Canadian Studies link; [3]

For more information about this publication largess, contact Lecturer Wang at

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