Dale Lee Kwong's "Overcoming Adoption"

by Shaun Hunter


Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers

Calgary's original Centre Street Bridge in 1912. Two years before this photo, the city's Chinatown was relocated from 10th Avenue and 1st Street West to the southern end of the bridge, where it remains to this day. (Photo: University of Alberta Libraries)

Calgary's original Centre Street Bridge in 1912. Two years before this photo, the city's Chinatown was relocated from 10th Avenue and 1st Street West to the southern end of the bridge, where it remains to this day. (Photo: University of Alberta Libraries)

As a young woman, writer Dale Lee Kwong set out to discover the facts of her birth in 1960 in Calgary’s small Chinese community. Her search resulted in a few scraps of information. Years later, she receives a letter from her birth mother, Mei Li’an, who tells Kwong she was conceived in a rape in Calgary. I walk up and down Centre Street Bridge, Mei Li’an writes in her letter, contemplating suicide. This news and all its implications traumatize Kwong. Months after the revelation, she goes to the Centre Street Bridge, determined to cross, afraid she, too, might jump.

How many times did Mei Li’an pause here to think of her death? Did those thoughts give her strength while taking away mine? I looked at the passing traffic and nonchalant fellow walkers. Does anyone know about the woman who walked up and down this bridge in 1960? I put one foot in front of the other and kept walking. Can you see my shame?

 

Dale Lee Kwong, “ Overcoming Adoption: From Genesis to Revelations,” Somebody’s Child: Stories About Adoption (Touchwood Editions, 2011)