Asian Canadian activism, resistance, and art of the 1970s and 80s
Laughing Back at Empire is a ground-breaking examination of The Asianadian, one of Canada’s first anti-racist, anti- sexist, and anti-homophobic magazines. Over the course of its seven-year run, the small but mighty magazine led a nation-wide dialogue for all Canadians on the struggles and social issues that concerned Asians in Canada.
The Asianadian established a national platform for then-emerging Asian Canadian writers, artists, musicians, activists, and scholars like Sky Lee, Jim Wong-Chu, Joy Kogawa, Himani Bannerji, and Paul Yee. Columns like “On the Firing Line” and the “Dubious Achievement Awards” provided space to laugh back at the embarrassing concoction of Orientalist stereotypes in the media and to critique inconsistencies and superficialities within Canada’s newfound multicultural image.
Situating the story of The Asianadian within the history of Canada, Angie Wong celebrates and builds on the work of its creators from the Asianadian Resource Workshop. Extensive interview material with the co-founding members, editors, volunteers, readers, and contributors captures their dedication and spirit of anti-racist collectivism.
Wong’s analysis helps to dismantle cultural assumptions that have relegated Asian Canadian history, contributions, and injustices to the periphery of Canadian experience and identity. On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic and a resurgence of anti-Asian racism, Laughing Back at Empire amplifies the voices that speak, shout, and laugh together at empire’s self-congratulatory and exclusionary narratives.
“Laughing Back at Empire is a tremendous contribution to an as-yet understudied area: the history and forms of inter-ethnic, Asian Canadian solidarity and the roots of Asian Canadian coalitional politics that continue today. Wong illuminates a history of Asian Canadian identity that combats contemporary claims that Asian diasporic communities in North America are merely apolitical and assimilationist.”Michelle Cho, University of Toronto
“Laughing Back at Empire honours The Asianadian magazine and collective as important and innovative in their time, and as inspirational in the present and future. This is a powerful history, a moving celebration, and a call to action for us now.”Laura Ishiguro, University of British Columbia
About the Author
Table of Contents
Foreword by Cheuk Kwan
Found Poem by Terry Watada
Introduction: Then and Now
Chapter 1: “Yellow History Is Big”
Chapter 2: The First of Its Kind
Chapter 3: Laughing at the Dubious Nation: Canada on the Firing Line
Chapter 4: Hybridity and Resistance in Theory and Practice
Conclusion: Gum San Sits on the Turtle’s Back: Writing for Posterity and the Future of the Movement