A poetic travelogue that meditates upon the rifts between immigrant parents and their Canadian-born children and the struggle of overlapping values which sometimes arises when we view the complexity of our heritage through the lens of the present. These poems mingle the familiar spaces of her childhood home in Winnipeg with impressions of the distant villages of her parents’ origins. The result is a complex exploration of the relationship between identity, place, and history. Landscape and language prove unstable, inhabited by ghosts and other echoes of passing time which leave indelible impressions on the poet: A market in Hong Kong seems reminiscent of Montreal; the spirit of her great-grandmother shows up on a commercial street in China, then in Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver. The mundane–a bite of fruit, a boy selling raisins, the floured hands of a baker–takes on a contemplative cast. In such a world, a traveller is never wholly certain whether she is discovering an unexplored world or descending into memory, but Sze’s lyrically-driven poems navigate confidently, mapping new terrain while remaining sensitive to the claims of the past.
What We Choose to Remember features a cast of more than 30 characters, whose families arrived in successive waves of immigration. The oldest families arrived during the period of ‘two solitudes’ when Montreal’s population was more than 50% English. They share firsthand accounts decades of political upheaval. The most recent immigrants arrived believing linguistic conflicts were ancient history.
Our story takes place on the Indigenous lands of the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Tiotià:ke (known as Montréal) has existed as a meeting place of many First Nation peoples, including but not limited to the Abenaki , Anishinaabeg (Algonquin), and the Huron-Wendat. We extend our deepest respect to the elders of these nations and to all Indigenous peoples who carry the history of this island’s land and waters. We also call upon all levels of government to adopt and implement the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation commission.