Asian Canadians: few words of connection

There are few, if any, arts and culture publications out there that are able to attract both new and old generations alike to their pages. Tastes differ from person to person, and certainly between each generation. Looking at the publications available for the Asian community, one notices a disconnect between them.

With Asians being a large majority in Metro Vancouver, a magazine that could bring both the old and young under one creative tent would be quite profitable. But alas, a divide exists and these two generations go to different sources to read about artists who represent their views and/or taste.

Focusing on Asian Canadian Arts and Culture, the magazine Ricepaper has been around since the mid-90s. In a 2011 interview, Vancouver writer Jim Wong-Chu tells Ricepaper that the original objective for him and the Asian Canadian Writer’s Workshop (which later became Ricepaper’s publisher) was to “help young writers find a publisher.” This noble cause has been successful, but that was 20 years ago. The pages of Ricepaper are filled cover to cover with dense words from prominent writers from across the nation, and tributes to the likes of Cao Yu a “pioneer of modern Chinese Drama.” This is hardly the kind of material that would attract the younger generations, and at $5.95, it’s unlikely that hoards of 16 year old Asian Canadians are lining up at the local Chapters to pick it up.

So the question remains of where today’s young Asian Canadians go for support and help, or just to read content geared to their taste; it seems that the newest publication Charged is where it’s at.

This new publication, with its shiny pages, aims to attract the high school and university crowds. The content deals with Vancouver’s Asian lifestyle and entertainment. Flipping through the glossy pages, the superficiality smacks the eye balls like a handful of glitter. The content is light, the pictures staged and the call for mass consumption obvious. But perhaps that’s what attracts the new generation, like a cat to a set of jangling keys.

The goal should be to try and bring both interests under one tent. About the only thing that brings two disconnected ethnic generations back together is history, but we all know that won’t sell, so the goal is nearly impossible. It’s like having the Walrus Magazine and the Gate Entertainment Magazine asking their readers to share each other’s interests.

So the divide in Asian Canadian magazines lives on, and judging by the literature out there, so does the generational divide. Ricepaper will continue to thrive with the help of government grants and volunteers, and Charged will continue its webzine and its free glossy magazine. Hopefully, in a living room in Richmond there are a grandmother and granddaughter exchanging words –literally.