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Diamond Grill (Landmark Edition)

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This story of family and identity, migration and integration, culture and self-discovery is told through family history, memory, and the occasional recipe. Diamond Grill is a rich banquet where Salisbury steak shares a menu with chicken fried rice, and birds nest soup sets the stage for Christmas plum pudding; where racism simmers behind the shiny clean surface of the acti This story of family and identity, migration and integration, culture and self-discovery is told through family history, memory, and the occasional recipe. Diamond Grill is a rich banquet where Salisbury steak shares a menu with chicken fried rice, and birds nest soup sets the stage for Christmas plum pudding; where racism simmers behind the shiny clean surface of the action in the cafe. An exciting new edition of Fred Wah's best-selling bio-fiction, on the 10th anniversary of its original publication, with an all new Afterword by the author and the same pagination as the original publication. This is the third title in NeWest's Landmark Editions series. 'Landmark Editions' are previously published works by established and recognised western Canadian authors that will enjoy new life in this series. Winner of the Howard OHagan Award for the Best Collection of Short Fiction 1997.


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This story of family and identity, migration and integration, culture and self-discovery is told through family history, memory, and the occasional recipe. Diamond Grill is a rich banquet where Salisbury steak shares a menu with chicken fried rice, and birds nest soup sets the stage for Christmas plum pudding; where racism simmers behind the shiny clean surface of the acti This story of family and identity, migration and integration, culture and self-discovery is told through family history, memory, and the occasional recipe. Diamond Grill is a rich banquet where Salisbury steak shares a menu with chicken fried rice, and birds nest soup sets the stage for Christmas plum pudding; where racism simmers behind the shiny clean surface of the action in the cafe. An exciting new edition of Fred Wah's best-selling bio-fiction, on the 10th anniversary of its original publication, with an all new Afterword by the author and the same pagination as the original publication. This is the third title in NeWest's Landmark Editions series. 'Landmark Editions' are previously published works by established and recognised western Canadian authors that will enjoy new life in this series. Winner of the Howard OHagan Award for the Best Collection of Short Fiction 1997.

30 review for Diamond Grill (Landmark Edition)

  1. 5 out of 5

    yoli

    Every time I read a book by a 2nd+ generation Asian writer there is an automatic connection: food and family are paramount to our understandings of our selves. Wah's book is no different. One quarter Chinese, in this book he traces the lives of his grandfather, his father, and himself through the Canadian cafes each man owned, the foods he ate, and the impact each had upon the other. This book is written as a collection of "biotexts," short poetic prose pieces that provide snapshots into the Wah Every time I read a book by a 2nd+ generation Asian writer there is an automatic connection: food and family are paramount to our understandings of our selves. Wah's book is no different. One quarter Chinese, in this book he traces the lives of his grandfather, his father, and himself through the Canadian cafes each man owned, the foods he ate, and the impact each had upon the other. This book is written as a collection of "biotexts," short poetic prose pieces that provide snapshots into the Wah familial life. Personally, I find this more fragmented method of storytelling the most effective: it allows the reader to fill in the gaps and relate to the story on a much more personal level while still providing the crucial details that the author finds most important to a full understanding of the plot.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    Maybe I'm just sick of literature. Everything you read has to be such a chore. It feels almost like a cruel joke sometimes. We basically have a text that is non linear, post modern and totally unconventional. It even deploys (at least for me) one of the most confusing things to explain to people, the family tree, as central to the story; "My sister's Swedish half brothers three step daughters grandmother's niece". I liked the incoherent poetry the most. Let's sit down and and decipher this. That Maybe I'm just sick of literature. Everything you read has to be such a chore. It feels almost like a cruel joke sometimes. We basically have a text that is non linear, post modern and totally unconventional. It even deploys (at least for me) one of the most confusing things to explain to people, the family tree, as central to the story; "My sister's Swedish half brothers three step daughters grandmother's niece". I liked the incoherent poetry the most. Let's sit down and and decipher this. That'll really convey the message. Let's slur a paragraph of vaguely related words together. There are a few redeeming passages where he talks about his father in plain prose. Some interesting workings. But honestly, if you want to convey a message about hybridity/racial identity, is making it inaccessible to your average reader the best way to make progress? Your job is to tear down the fence, not reinforce it with concrete. I think this is where a lot of literature falters. It becomes this borderline inside joke that only a few people will get from even a basic once over reading. Literature is supposed to make you think about your place in the world, not make the reader have to draw out an intricate poster to get the basic plot. Fuck this shit.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rema

    Timesless Classic: Fred Wah sews together a patchwork of monologues consisting of faded bio-fiction-prose-poetry memories, growing up mixed in a Chinese restaurant in Nelson, BC. One of my all-time favs4life ♥ "How many cousins do I have, I wonder. Thousands maybe. How could we recognize one another? Names. The food, the names, the geography, the family history - the filiated dendrita of myself displayed before me. I can't escape, and don't want to, for a moment. Being there, in Lawrence's kitche Timesless Classic: Fred Wah sews together a patchwork of monologues consisting of faded bio-fiction-prose-poetry memories, growing up mixed in a Chinese restaurant in Nelson, BC. One of my all-time favs4life ♥ "How many cousins do I have, I wonder. Thousands maybe. How could we recognize one another? Names. The food, the names, the geography, the family history - the filiated dendrita of myself displayed before me. I can't escape, and don't want to, for a moment. Being there, in Lawrence's kitchen, seems one of the sures places I know. But then ... back outside on the street, all my ambivalence gets covered over, camouflaged by a safety net of class and colourlessness - the racism within me that makes and consumes that neutral (white) version of myself, that allows me the sad privilege of being, in this white white world, not the target but the gun."

  4. 4 out of 5

    Paolo

    A brilliant and inspiring biotext about growing up a quarter Chinese in the all-too-homogenous interior of B.C., Canada. As a memory act, the writing pulls back and pushes itself forward through the years of Wah's childhood working for his father at the Diamond Grill. In a previous interview, Wah speaks of his desire to break free of his fears of 'the tyranny of prose', and in the process of composing this book, breaks new ground for the form. It's my third time returning to this work, and I can A brilliant and inspiring biotext about growing up a quarter Chinese in the all-too-homogenous interior of B.C., Canada. As a memory act, the writing pulls back and pushes itself forward through the years of Wah's childhood working for his father at the Diamond Grill. In a previous interview, Wah speaks of his desire to break free of his fears of 'the tyranny of prose', and in the process of composing this book, breaks new ground for the form. It's my third time returning to this work, and I cannot recommend it enough.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Fred Wah's stories of his childhood growing up as the son of a "Canadian-born Chinese-Scots-Irishman raised in China" and a Swedish-born Canadian from Swift Current. Wah's father ran the Diamond Grill, and it provides the setting for most of the vignettes in the book. Fred Wah is a poet, and often incorporates prose poetry into his vignettes - sometimes the device works, and sometimes it ends up detracting from the story. Either way, this is a quick and enjoyable read that deals with questions of Fred Wah's stories of his childhood growing up as the son of a "Canadian-born Chinese-Scots-Irishman raised in China" and a Swedish-born Canadian from Swift Current. Wah's father ran the Diamond Grill, and it provides the setting for most of the vignettes in the book. Fred Wah is a poet, and often incorporates prose poetry into his vignettes - sometimes the device works, and sometimes it ends up detracting from the story. Either way, this is a quick and enjoyable read that deals with questions of race and identity, as well as the simple things that make life worthwhile - like good food.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    I have to say this book was really interesting. I like the way the book was written and how it was very fragmented. I found that Wah kept your interest and really made an interesting story for the reader . Sometimes it was annoying that he kept telling you the same story but it all played into the idea that he was telling people memories from his childhood. I found that this novel was quite interesting and kept you reading.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Val

    This is a powerful biotext about the historical effects of racism on ChineseHYPHENCanadians in Canada (read: Chinese Immigration Law) and how the author, who can visibly "pass" as white, is affected by it in trying to define himself in his mixed heritage. Set in a diner, it ties in recipes (which I need to try!) and links memory to food to talk about the culture. This is a powerful biotext about the historical effects of racism on ChineseHYPHENCanadians in Canada (read: Chinese Immigration Law) and how the author, who can visibly "pass" as white, is affected by it in trying to define himself in his mixed heritage. Set in a diner, it ties in recipes (which I need to try!) and links memory to food to talk about the culture.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    Just beautiful.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Fantastic. Funny and insightful. An excellent book if you want to learn about multiculturalism, hybridity, or just laugh your ass off.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Terri

    Excellent book!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alanna McFall

    14. A collection of poetry: Diamond Grill by Fred Wah List Progress: 13/30 My reading patterns and attention span have definitely taken a hit in the midst of social distancing, and my previous racing speed through my reading list slowed down a lot this month. I thought that tossing in a collection of poetry would be a good way to speed things up, and while I frequently enjoyed myself with Fred Wah’s Diamond Grill, it had the opposite impact on my pace. A slow, meditative journey of combined poetry 14. A collection of poetry: Diamond Grill by Fred Wah List Progress: 13/30 My reading patterns and attention span have definitely taken a hit in the midst of social distancing, and my previous racing speed through my reading list slowed down a lot this month. I thought that tossing in a collection of poetry would be a good way to speed things up, and while I frequently enjoyed myself with Fred Wah’s Diamond Grill, it had the opposite impact on my pace. A slow, meditative journey of combined poetry and prose, tracing Wah’s life growing up biracial in his father’s Chinese restaurant, this collection can be lovely. But it can also be overlong, and I ended up feeling like I knew more details about the eponymous Diamond Grill than I knew real statements from Wah. This collection is a piece of “biofiction” tracing Wah’s childhood in the 1950’s. His mother was the daughter of two Swedish immigrants to Canada, and his father was half-white, half-Chinese, but raised in China from age four into his early twenties. So Fred Wah grew up in small town Canada, three-quarters white and reading as white to strangers, but bearing a Chinese last name and growing up in the cultural microcosm of a Chinese diner. This collection does a lovely job of capturing every detail of the diner, from prices to recipes to the lives of the people working there to the overlapping culinary worlds of Western diner food for customers and Chinese food cooked for the staff and Wah’s family. I think that these poems could pack a lot of punch individually or in a smaller collection. However, Diamond Grill as a whole feels too dense and like it covers similar or the same ground too many times. I am sure this would feel very different to me if I was seeing my own experience (and my biracial Canadian and Japanese roommate is eager to borrow this book after me). But I walked away from the collection with too much surface detail, feeling somewhat stuck in a glut of anecdotes and memories. Individual pieces still stood out, but most got lost in the whole. I am glad I read Diamond Grill, but also wish I had spread it out a bit more, reading a poem or two at a time rather than trying to mainline it. I might just need to change my approach to poetry collections, and return to this one at another time. Would I Recommend It: Yes, but not all at once.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Chuk

    Very well done, mostly autobiographical/family history. Lots of excellent detail about growing up in a small town BC restaurant as a racially mixed kid/teen, not very much about his adulthood but includes his parents and a bit about his grandparents -- it skips in time a lot. Very short chapters, some of them are almost like stream of consciousness poetry.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mridula

    I read this book to study form and structure when crafting memoir. Fred Wah chose such a powerful way to tell his family history--through poetry and prose. I loved how he told family stories in fragments as few of us remember things in clear, precise detail. Wah's Afterword on hyphenating identities and bio-fiction was a great summary on his writing choices overall and for this book. I read this book to study form and structure when crafting memoir. Fred Wah chose such a powerful way to tell his family history--through poetry and prose. I loved how he told family stories in fragments as few of us remember things in clear, precise detail. Wah's Afterword on hyphenating identities and bio-fiction was a great summary on his writing choices overall and for this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dessa

    Back at the novels for comps, and this one was a good way to get back into it. Witty, sharp, tragic so deeply that you almost can’t see it running underneath the surface of the glittering water. Suggested companion reading: Kogawa’s Obasan, Thúy’s Ru.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Weber

    2.5/5 Fun. Could have been better. I honestly don't know what to say. Most of the 'chapters' left me feeling nothing. Some were interesting. Food, identity, Canada, China, race, mixed-race... Great stuff... but Fred just didn't grab me. 2.5/5 Fun. Could have been better. I honestly don't know what to say. Most of the 'chapters' left me feeling nothing. Some were interesting. Food, identity, Canada, China, race, mixed-race... Great stuff... but Fred just didn't grab me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Micaela

    2.5 stars. The writing style made this very difficult to get through -- many disjunctive blocks of memory, lots of telling rather than showing, and quite a bit of repetition from one "chapter" to the next, as well. The bits of personal and family history were interesting all the same. 2.5 stars. The writing style made this very difficult to get through -- many disjunctive blocks of memory, lots of telling rather than showing, and quite a bit of repetition from one "chapter" to the next, as well. The bits of personal and family history were interesting all the same.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    This book was just not for me. Combined too many things that I'm not a fan of: short story, modern(ish?) poetry, personal stories. This book was just not for me. Combined too many things that I'm not a fan of: short story, modern(ish?) poetry, personal stories.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Garrett Johnson

    Read it twice, or maybe three times at that. New connections are able to be pulled out of it upon each revision of this collection.

  19. 5 out of 5

    rowling_mag

    Nice book, peculiar way of writing, structurally poetic. Not for everyone, every mood, every time. Culture culture culture.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alannis Flese

    2.75

  21. 5 out of 5

    Derek Newman-Stille

    Wah creates a recipe for himself in this text, intertwining ideas of ethnicity with imagery of food. But, like any good recipe, it is a subjective piece, forming a rough guideline by the chef, and therefore constantly subject to revision, change, and the mix of the experience in the kitchen. Despite the use of recipe imagery and the interplay with identity, Wah complicates the idea of an easy ascription to identity. It is not a simple mixing of elements of experience, but rather something that is Wah creates a recipe for himself in this text, intertwining ideas of ethnicity with imagery of food. But, like any good recipe, it is a subjective piece, forming a rough guideline by the chef, and therefore constantly subject to revision, change, and the mix of the experience in the kitchen. Despite the use of recipe imagery and the interplay with identity, Wah complicates the idea of an easy ascription to identity. It is not a simple mixing of elements of experience, but rather something that is always open to revision, inherently speculative, and passionately defiant. Wah combines elements of the poetic with narrative, blends biography with the speculative, and generally creates a text that constantly slides, pointing more to what it is not than what it is. Like Fred Wah himself, Diamond Grill brings attention to the borderlands, the hyphen between that speaks louder than either of the things it hyphenates.

  22. 4 out of 5

    David Leung

    Confucianism didn't seem to be as diluted as Wah seems to make things out. I didn't get much of a sense about his mother's side of life. Certainly, it was a struggle being a Swedish immigrant here, minus the head tax. As an immigrant to this country, I feel connected to Wah's tales but at the same time, I'm concerned that the struggles of identity he faced hasn't changed. I am physically from the East but my mind is made in the West but I think my soul will always carry a portion of the old coun Confucianism didn't seem to be as diluted as Wah seems to make things out. I didn't get much of a sense about his mother's side of life. Certainly, it was a struggle being a Swedish immigrant here, minus the head tax. As an immigrant to this country, I feel connected to Wah's tales but at the same time, I'm concerned that the struggles of identity he faced hasn't changed. I am physically from the East but my mind is made in the West but I think my soul will always carry a portion of the old country with me. How can I not? My roots belong there and it is what keeps me grounded. I should be so lucky to know where I come from. How many folks who have been in Canada for centuries could say the same? Maybe in a few generations, my descendants will have the same problem. What does identity mean in Canada? Can we share our identity with our aboriginal hosts? How do we ask to belong and come from the same land, or will we always feel like strangers, just a little bit?

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Chang

    Okay, firstly....a disclaimer. I didn't read the entire book so if you're looking for a "full" review of this book, skip this one! Secondly, I read a couple of poems from this book in my writing class because we were doing a unit on food. This book was sometimes amusing, sometimes relatable, sometimes thought-provoking, but they were all (the ones I read, anyway) fun to read. I like how each poem was like a short story-completely unrelated to the last one-but they were all connected to this one guy Okay, firstly....a disclaimer. I didn't read the entire book so if you're looking for a "full" review of this book, skip this one! Secondly, I read a couple of poems from this book in my writing class because we were doing a unit on food. This book was sometimes amusing, sometimes relatable, sometimes thought-provoking, but they were all (the ones I read, anyway) fun to read. I like how each poem was like a short story-completely unrelated to the last one-but they were all connected to this one guy and his family's restaurant.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Marmot

    I quite enjoyed this book. I got it out as I like local history books from the Nelson area, and was not expecting the poetic style used here. However, I found reading it to be a lot more enjoyable than most of the other poetry I've ever read. I liked how I understood the story, but the presentation was more like wandering thorough your own mind or memories, not linear, not grammatically correct, but in the end you "get" it. I even looked up in my phone book to see if there are any descendants st I quite enjoyed this book. I got it out as I like local history books from the Nelson area, and was not expecting the poetic style used here. However, I found reading it to be a lot more enjoyable than most of the other poetry I've ever read. I liked how I understood the story, but the presentation was more like wandering thorough your own mind or memories, not linear, not grammatically correct, but in the end you "get" it. I even looked up in my phone book to see if there are any descendants still in Nelson, but no one named "Wah" is listed. I wish there had been a bit more history of the grill itself included, like how long the business stayed in the family, when it closed, etc., just to satisfy my own curiosity.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Hazel

    This has been the most literary local history book I've read. It's a memoir written as breezy prose poetry. It took a long time to read, since each page was a separate story/poem, so I couldn't rely on the momentum of a single narrative to pull me through many pages at a time. It was pleasing, though, to wade through a series of poetic impressions. This sensitive and thoughtful memoir has bonded me even more to this small town. This has been the most literary local history book I've read. It's a memoir written as breezy prose poetry. It took a long time to read, since each page was a separate story/poem, so I couldn't rely on the momentum of a single narrative to pull me through many pages at a time. It was pleasing, though, to wade through a series of poetic impressions. This sensitive and thoughtful memoir has bonded me even more to this small town.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Peace

    The thing about prose poetry is, when it works, it really works. When it doesn't? It REALLY doesn't. This book would fall into the latter category, but I had to finish it since it was for class. I just found it annoying and pointless. The thing about prose poetry is, when it works, it really works. When it doesn't? It REALLY doesn't. This book would fall into the latter category, but I had to finish it since it was for class. I just found it annoying and pointless.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    I'm usually not a fan of poetic prose but I liked the way the words flowed, even if I didn't understand some of what Wah was trying to say (haha). The stuff I did get was about hyphenation and race and memories, which was moving. I'm usually not a fan of poetic prose but I liked the way the words flowed, even if I didn't understand some of what Wah was trying to say (haha). The stuff I did get was about hyphenation and race and memories, which was moving.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ethan

    Story of a Chinese-Canadian man, a poet, growing up in a diner his family ran. Devolves into stream of consciousnesses from time to time, but otherwise is pretty easy to follow. Again, maybe check your library.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Klassen

    A true piece of Canadian classic literature. The story was second to the fantastic writing by Fred Wah, a true poet for the ages. Part poem, biography, recipe book, history lesson, protest, Diamond Grill demands to be heard

  30. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin Hart

    Odd at times, poetic at other points, I enjoyed this book, but I'm not rushing out to recommend it to friends Odd at times, poetic at other points, I enjoyed this book, but I'm not rushing out to recommend it to friends

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