The Year of Finding Memory

A Memoir

Publisher: Vintage Canada
In the tradition of The Concubine's Children and Paper Shadows, a probing memoir from the author of the acclaimed novel Midnight at the Dragon Cafe.

An elegant and surprising book about a Chinese family's difficult arrival in Canada, and a daughter's search to understand remarkable and terrible truths about her parents' past lives.

Growing up in her father's hand laundry in small town Ontario, Judy Fong Bates listened to stories of her parents' past lives in China, a place far removed from their every-day life of poverty and misery. But in spite of the allure of these stories, Fong Bates longed to be a Canadian girl. Fifty years later she finally followed her curiosity back to her ancestral home in China for a reunion that spiralled into a series of unanticipated discoveries. Opening with a shock as moving as the one that powers The Glass Castle, The Year of Finding Memory explores a particular, yet universal, world of family secrets, love, loss, courage and shame. This is a memoir of a daughter's emotional journey, and her painful acceptance of conflicting truths. In telling the story of her parents, Fong Bates is telling the story of how she came to know them, of finding memory.

From the Hardcover edition.


I would have preferred something a little more subtle, but the pink geraniums were past their prime, the leaves beginning to brown. The red ones, however, had leaves that were new and green, with clusters of buds yet to blossom. There was a limited selection of plants at the...
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A Globe and Mail Best Book

"Brilliant, affecting. . . . This is one of those rare memoirs where the reader never wants the book to end."
--The Globe and Mail

"Stunning. . . . It's an achingly beautiful book with one of the finest, most grabbing openings in recent memory."
--The Vancouver Sun

"An elegant and honest portrayal. . . . Written with simple, heartfelt prose, this memoir is packed with shocking revelations, truths, losses, shame, discrimination and ultimately love."
--The Record

"A beautiful, heart-wrenching memoir."
--Quill and Quire

“With the elegant brush strokes of a miniaturist, Judy Fong Bates constructs, out of the debris of her family’s past, a poignant understanding of both her own ancestry and the passage we must all take to comprehend ourselves. The Year of Finding Memory is an engrossing account of that journey, which seeks, in the end, happiness and peace.”
— Shyam Selvadurai, author of Funny Boy
“With admirable heart, Judy Fong Bates portrays the ever-present desire to make sense of our origins. She conjures unforgettable images of a childhood on two continents, and of two unhappy parents, who, even after the last page, we long to know, if only fleetingly, found love between them.” 
— Denise Chong, author of The Concubine’s Children
“The most accurate and heartfelt account that I’ve ever read of what it’s like to explore the Chinese countryside in search of your roots. Judy Fong Bates captures the beauty of the villages, the sense of returning home to a place you’ve never been, the heartache, joy, understanding and longing, and that very real there-but-for-the-grace-of-God emotion that you experience in meeting your relatives who were left behind. Beautiful!”
— Lisa See, author of Shanghai Girls and Peony in Love

From the Hardcover edition.