Quebec Studies

Elsewhere Home: Hospitality, Affect, and Language in Ying Chen’s Lettres Chinoises and Kim Thúy’s Vi

Quebec Studies (2021), 71, (1), 91–110.


Though Canada’s Multiculturalism Act (1971) enables migrants to enter the country and keep their values and cultures, in practice this can be a difficult process. This essay focuses on two narratives written by a Chinese Canadian immigrant, Ying Chen’s Lettres chinoises (1993), and a Vietnamese Québécois refugee, Kim Thúy’s Vi (2016), to highlight the ways in which immigrating into a new country can be a highly affective experience. Drawing on Jacques Derrida’s notion of hospitality, this essay examines the ways in which each writer foregrounds the issues faced by migrants and refugees as they negotiate life in a new society. The emotional and physical experience of being a stranger joining a host society are concomitant and equally problematic. Sara Ahmed’s work is equally significant as it focuses on strangers’ embodied experiences of migration in a host society. Ultimately, this essay examines migration as a transformative experience for protagonists as they come to terms with a new life in Québec.

La loi du Multiculturalisme instaurée au Canada en 1971 permet aux migrants de maintenir leurs valeurs et leur mode de vie d’avant le processus migratoire. Or, en pratique, ceci n’est pas toujours vécu sans heurts. Dans la présente étude, nous aborderons deux récits migratoires: le roman Les lettres chinoises (1993) de la Sino-Canadienne, Ying Chen, et Vi (2016) de la Québécoise d’origine vietnamienne, Kim Thúy, afin de mettre en relief la notion de l’immigration comme une expérience affective. En puisant dans les théories de Jacques Derrida portant sur l’hospitalité, nous discuterons la manière dont chacune de ces écrivaines traite des problèmes auxquels font face leurs protagonistes immigrants dans une nouvelle société. De plus, les aspects physiques et émotionnels qu’engendrent l’aliénation demeurent cruciaux et ainsi, nous nous tournerons vers les théories de Sara Ahmed afin de mettre en évidence les perspectives affectives et corporelles de l’immigration lorsque immigrés et réfugiés tentent de s’adapter à leur nouvelle vie au Québec.

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Author details

Kistnareddy, Ashwiny O.