Literary Questions: What We All Long For, Dionne Brand

What We All Long For examines the Canadian immigrant narrative through the personal relationships between parents and children. Brand takes a closer look at how being an immigrant family in a new city amplifies not just the tension of authority between parent and child, but also the cultural misunderstandings between generations. As told through Tuyen’s and Oku’s relationships with their respective families, different generations place importance on different things, and have the capacity to judge rather harshly when expectations are not fulfilled. For example, Oku’s father continually belittles him for his choice of study, while in Tuyen’s case her father wants her to come home because he considers her lifestyle unstable. The very real situation of immigrant parents expecting their children not only to do well, but to do well by parental standards is beautifully told by Brand.

In the space that is occupied by immigrant youth and children – that hyphenated line between their homeland ethnicities and their Canadian-ness –  a safe space, or one that can only lead to the fracturing of identity? Is it an expression of multiculturalism, or one that continually marks them as different and non-normative?

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