Halfway through quarantine, my parents picked up fishing. This idyllic past-time that was once a representation of the “Canadian life”. A faraway marker of making it in Canada, when we first immigrated here 17 years ago with three suitcases and a small amount of cash. Though old habits stick and any rare indulgences still come with guilt, my parents have made it. A picture of the suburban life, fishing on weekends.
There is more time spent in the same room, but we don’t say much, too much in the news to disagree on. But they are also careful of what they say in a way they wouldn’t have been before. I think they’re trying in their own way. Recently, my father told me he worries we will resent him for bringing us to Canada in hopes of an easier life, only for us to face increasing racism and micro-aggression. I can’t say if my life turned out easier here, but I am very happy and grateful for where I am now. To witness and participate in acts of resilience and defiance during this time, to find strength in others and myself, to have people to love. To have the privilege of exploring my identity, and being it.
“落叶归根” my mother says. “Falling leaves return to their roots.” Instead of fishing, they now talk wistfully of retiring in China.
charcoal and conté on paper, 8 x 8 “
Julie Chǔ Níng Tián (田楚宁) is a self-taught Chinese-Canadian artist. She uses art as a way of exploring her queer and Asian diasporic identity, and to share herself with the local communities in Toronto. She works mainly with pen and ink, mixed paint, digital illustration, and embroidery.
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