In 1951 the Diamond Grill was the newest Chinese café in Nelson. Situated in the 500 block of Baker Street, it sat smack in the heart of the city. It also sat smack in the heart of the childhood of celebrated author Fred Wah. On Thursday, May 12 at 7:30 p.m., Wah reads at the Nelson Public Library from his book the Diamond Grill as part of Nelson’s official Chinatown Week.
Fred Wah has penned more than 20 books and won numerous awards. Among others, Wah won the Governor General’s Award for poetry in 1985 for Waiting for Saskatchewan and the Dorothy Livesay B.C. Book Prize for poetry in 2010 for Is a Door.
Diamond Grill won the Howard O’Hagan prize for short fiction. As fictional prose infused with poetic sensibility, the stories offer a lyrical, colourful, and refreshingly down-to-earth view of life in small-town B.C. The Globe and Mail called the book “a sumptuous prose platter.”
Wah’s reading takes place during Chinatown Week, a series of events dedicated to raising awareness about the contribution of the Chinese to Nelson’s history. The 1891 census lists Chinese residents as comprising 57 per cent of all railroad workers and 20 per cent or retail and service workers. Chinese-heritage Nelsonites kept vegetable gardens near the waterfront, raised families, contributed to the community, and ran restaurants — like the Diamond Grill.
More than 30 groups and organizations are participating in Chinatown Week. Beginning May 9, red lanterns popping up all over Nelson will indicate Chinatown Week events. Fred Wah’s reading from Diamond Grill takes place on the main level of the library.