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Fonds AM1523 - Paul Yee fonds

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

Paul Yee fonds

General material designation

  • Multiple media

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Level of description

Fonds

Reference code

AM1523

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area

Date(s)

  • 1864-2007 (Creation)
    Creator
    Yee, Paul
    Note
    Predominant 1900-2007

Physical description area

Physical description

6.9 metres of textual records
ca. 4000 photographs
68 sound recordings
0.08 m of graphic material
4 drawings
1 map

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Archival description area

Name of creator

(1956-)

Biographical history

Paul Yee, a Canadian writer and historian, was born in Spalding, Saskatchewan, in 1956. His father, Gordon Yee (1905-1957), emigrated from China to Canada in 1922. In 1951, four years after the Government of Canada repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act, Yee’s mother, Gum May Yee (1914-1958), immigrated to Canada to join Gordon Yee in Naicam, Saskatchewan, where he ran a café.

Following the deaths of Paul Yee’s parents, Yee’s mother’s brother Foon Wong (1894-1969) and Wong’s wife Lillian Ho Wong (1895-1985) adopted Yee and his elder brother Vernon and brought them up in Vancouver, British Columbia.

As a child and young adult, Yee attended Lord Strathcona Elementary School and Britannia Secondary School, from which he graduated in 1974. Yee also attend Mon Keang Chinese School, where he studied Cantonese. In 1974, Yee matriculated at the University of British Columbia (UBC), where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history (1978) followed by a Master of Arts degree in Canadian history (1983). While at UBC, Yee took courses in Mandarin and Japanese. In the early 1980s, Yee completed coursework in archival administration from the University of Alberta. In 1983, he completed the archives course offered by the Public Archives of Canada (now Library and Archives Canada).

Yee’s work as a cultural and social activist began when one of his teachers at Britannia Secondary School encouraged him to join the organizing committee for a conference on identity and awareness for Chinese Canadian youth. Yee worked on two more such conferences while an undergraduate at UBC.

In 1976, inspired by a suggestion made at one of these conferences, Yee and several other young Chinese Canadians established the Pender Guy Radio Collective, which produced a weekly program on Vancouver Co-operative Radio until 1981.

From 1974 to 1988, Yee was active with several other Vancouver-based cultural organizations, including the Chinese Cultural Centre of Vancouver, Katari Taiko, and the Asian Canadian Writers Workshop. As a member of the latter group, Yee co-edited and published essays, poetry, and short stories in the _Inalienable Rice_ anthology (1979) and the Vancouver edition of Asianadian magazine (1980).

Yee worked for the City of Vancouver Archives beginning in 1979, first as a summer student and later as a full-time archivist, writing poetry and prose in his spare time.

In 1981, publisher James Lorimer & Company asked Yee to write a book of stories about children living in Vancouver Chinatown. These stories were published as the book Teach Me to Fly, Skyfighter and Other Stories. In 1986, Lorimer published Yee’s second book, a historical novel for children titled The Curses of Third Uncle. Yee has gone on to publish many more works of fiction for children, including short story collections such as Tales from Gold Mountain (1989) and What Happened This Summer (2006); novels such as Breakaway (1994); and picture books such as Ghost Train (1996). ) Ghost Train won the Governor General’s Award for English-language children’s literature (text) in 1996 and was produced as a play by Toronto-based Young People’s Theatre in 2001. In addition, two of Yee’s stories have been into animated films by the National Film Board of Canada.

From 1985 to 1987, Yee served as chair of the committee that mounted a major exhibit at the Chinese Cultural Centre in celebration of Vancouver’s centennial. Titled Saltwater City, the exhibit was the first to assemble and display artifacts, photographs, oral histories, and written records of immigrant and native-born Chinese Canadians living in Vancouver in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Yee’s book based on the exhibit, Saltwater City: an Illustrated History of the Chinese in Vancouver, was published in 1988, winning the Vancouver Book Award in 1989. Yee's updated version of the book was published in 2006. He has written two more history books, Struggle and Hope (1996), about the Chinese living across Canada, and Chinatown (2005), about Chinese communities in Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax.

Yee moved to Toronto in 1988 to work as the multicultural coordinator for the Archives of Ontario. In 1992, he joined Ontario’s Ministry of Citizenship as a policy analyst, and in 1997 he left public service to write full-time. He continues to live and work in Toronto.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The fonds consists of Paul Yee’s personal correspondence and records of academic achievement, writing and research files, subject files, photographs, and sound recordings, as well as publications and ephemera that he collected. These records relate to Yee's activities as a writer, historian, activist, and archivist in Vancouver and Toronto.

In addition, the fonds includes photographs, correspondence, and other records of some of Yee’s immediate family members, including his Aunt Lillian and Uncle Foon Wong, and their close friends. The fonds also contains textual records, publications, ephemera, and photographs relating to the activities of the Chinese Cultural Centre in Vancouver and the Pender Guy Radio Co-operative, as well records relating to the functions of fraternal associations such as the Wong Kong Har Tong and Hoy Yin Association in Vancouver, and the Duncan, B.C., Branch of the Chinese Nationalist League (Kuo Min Tang).

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Donated by Paul Yee in 2008.

Arrangement

The Archives has preserved the donor's arrangement of the records in his fonds with the exception of the photographs, collected association and community records, posters, and family records.The original arrangement scheme, as described by the donor, is as follows:

Series A: Personal papers
Series B: Writing files
Series C: Subject files
Series D: Ephemera and publications
Series E: Visual records (included photographs)
Series F: Oversize items (included large photographs and posters)

The revised arrangement scheme, as reflected in the descriptions in the records of the fonds, is as follows:

Series 1: Personal files
Series 2: Writing files
Series 3: Subject files
Series 4: Ephemera and publications
Series 5: Family records
Subseries 5-1: Foon and Lillian Wong photographs
Subseries 5-2: Foon and Lillian Wong textual records
Subseries 5-4: Yee family photographs
Series 6: Paul Yee photographs
Series 7: Collected community and association records
Subseries 7-1: Community photographs
Subseries 7-2: Hoy Yin Association records
Subseries 7-3: Duncan, B.C., Branch of the Chinese Nationalist League (Kuo Min Tang) records

Language of material

  • Chinese
  • English

Script of material

Location of originals

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Restrictions on access

The personal correspondence files in Series 1, Personal files, are closed until twenty years after the end of Yee’s life as they contain personal information about identifiable individuals. The closure is in accordance with the donor agreement for the fonds.

Access to the sound recordings in Series 4, Subject files, is restricted until further notice, as the recordings are subject to conservation concerns.

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