Bates, Judy Fong 1949–
Bates, Judy Fong 1949–
PERSONAL: Born 1949, in China; immigrated to Canada, c. 1950s; married; children: two daughters.
ADDRESSES: Home—Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Agent—Bukowski Agency, 14 Prince Arthur Ave., Ste. 202, Toronto, Ontario M5R 1A9, Canada.
CAREER: Writer of novels and short stories; educator.
China Dog, and Other Tales from a Chinese Laundry, foreword by Wayson Choy, Sister Vision (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1997, Counterpoint (New York, NY), 2002.
Midnight at the Dragon Café (novel), McClelland and Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.
Contributor of short fiction to periodicals, including Fireweed, This, and Canadian Forum, and to books, including The Oxford Book of Stories by Canadian Women in English, 1999.
ADAPTATIONS: Bates's stories have been broadcast on Canadian radio.
SIDELIGHTS: Born in China in 1949, Judy Fong Bates immigrated to Canada with her family as a young girl. Due to her age, she was able to adapt quickly, and she grew up speaking English. During her childhood, the family made their home in a succession of small towns in Ontario, primarily in apartments above Chinese laundries. This childhood experience serves as the foundation for much of Bates's writing; she writes about the trials and joys of Chinese immigrants, both parents struggling to acclimate and children who find themselves trapped between family traditions and a seductive new culture.
In China Dog, and Other Stories from a Chinese Laundry, Bates collects eight short stories depicting the lives of Chinese immigrants living in various parts of rural Ontario. The main focus of the stories is the experiences of these people as they attempt to hold onto their traditions and old-world beliefs while making their way in their new homeland. In addition, she addresses the effects of the more tangible struggles that are part of the immigrant experience, such as economic difficulties, language barriers, and social differences.
Reviewing Bates's story collection for the Seattle International Examiner, Christopher A. Shinn observed that the author's tales "contain much cultural and historical complexity, often calling attention to the hardships of everyday life. Though her descriptions are never heavy-handed or unilaterally moralistic, Bates describes these conditions and times honestly with real insight into the psyche of Chinese immigrants." He went on to comment that "what is most effective about China Dog … is that the short stories are, above all else, stories. They offer a unique pleasure in the telling and retelling of them, providing a movement which easily immerses the reader in a lively narration." Wen Huang, reviewing the collection for Chicago's Tribune Books, found thematic similarities between Bates's stories and the works of American fiction writer Amy Tan, remarking that "like Tan, Bates touches on the darker and mystic side of the Chinese immigrant experience, where family conflicts escalate into violence and superstition becomes an overwhelming and life-changing force."
Bates continues her exploration of the Chinese-Canadian immigrant experience in the novel Midnight at the Dragon Café. The story follows six-year-old Su-Jen as she and her mother journey from China to Canada where the child's elderly father has been living and working since his daughter's birth. Su-Jen learns to adapt to a new country, a new name—Annie—and even a new family, when her adult half-brother, a son from her father's previous marriage, moves in with her parents. While the brother awaits the arrival of a mail-order bride from China, Su-Jen becomes aware of the suspicious looks exchanged between him and her mother; meanwhile, tension grows between Su-Jen's parents. Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman wrote that, "true to the young girl's viewpoint, the plain first-person narrative tells an immigrant story with rare intensity," while a contributor to Publishers Weekly stated that "Bates conveys with pathos and generosity the anger, disappointment, vulnerability, and pride of people struggling to balance duty and passion."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 2005, Hazel Rochman, review of Midnight at the Dragon Café, p. 940.
International Examiner (Seattle, WA), November 18, 1997, Christopher A. Shinn, "Not Quite Breakfast at Tiffany's, but Close," review of China Dog, and Other Tales from a Chinese Laundry, p. 10; October 31, 2002, Christopher A. Shinn, "It All Comes out in the Wash," review of China Dog, and Other Tales from a Chinese Laundry, p. 18.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2002, review of China Dog, and Other Tales from a Chinese Laundry, p. 993; January 1, 2005, review of Midnight at the Dragon Café, p. 3.
Publishers Weekly, February 7, 2005, review of Midnight at the Dragon Café, p. 39.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), August 11, 2002, Wen Huang, "Tales of Immigrants North of the Border," review of China Dog, and Other Tales from a Chinese Laundry, p. 2.
Washington Post Book World April 24, 2005, Ron Charles, "If Walls Could Talk," review of Midnight at the Dragon Café, p. T7.
Bukowski Agency Web site, http://www.thebukowskiagency.com/ (May 3, 2005), "Judy Fong Bates."
Writers' Union of Canada Web site, http://www.writersunion.ca/ (May 3, 2005), "Judy Fong Bates."