Five things I learned about Jan Wong

A former Globe and Mail columnist, writer Jan Wong slid into a deep, clinical depression after a controversial piece she wrote in 2006—about the shooting at Montreal’s Dawson College—drew a backlash so intense that the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion calling for her apology.

Six years later, Wong remains firmly unapologetic.

At last night’s book launch for her new, self-published memoir, Out of the Blue, held at the North York Central Library, Wong told the evening’s host, CBC Radio’s Matt Galloway, how, in the face of a mountain of hate mail—one containing excrement—and a death threat, the Globefailed to stand by her, despite her editor having approved the disputed article for publication. Wong claimed her illness was dismissed, and that, when fired, she refused to sign a confidentiality agreement to keep quiet about the clash.

On the perceived injustices against her—including her claim she was dropped by her previous publisher, Doubleday, while writing the memoir—and on the need to remove stigma surrounding workplace depression, Wong is anything but reserved. From her account, here’s what I learned about her last night:

1. She likens her experience to an Ian McEwan novel

Wong explained to Galloway that the noted British author’s stories are known for depicting how a single incident can alter the course of an entire plot. In this vein, her life spun out of control after writing a particularly divisive paragraph in the infamous 2006 piece, which linked a cluster of post-secondary shootings in Montreal to alienation caused by the province’s “decades-long linguistic struggle.”  It culminated with these words: “Elsewhere, to talk of racial ‘purity’ is repugnant. Not in Quebec.”

Wong has since turned down opportunities to retract that statement, asserting, “Sometimes, journalists need to say things no one wants to hear.” Though she described her falling out with the Globe and ensuing depression as devastating, the now-recovered author maintained, “A bad thing can turn into a good thing.”

2. The backlash against Wong took a turn for the racist

Ironically, though Wong’s article triggered a firestorm largely composed of censure for comments deemed anti-Quebecois, some responded by targeting Wong’s ethnicity. The third-generation Canadian recounted being told to “go back to China,” and being pummeled with racist insults—“slant-eyed bitch,” “buck-teeth” and “your children are half-breeds” among them. Further, she spoke of the painful week wherein a separatist group advocated for a boycott of her father’s Montreal-based restaurant (it closed several months later) and a racist cartoon depicting her was published in a Quebec newspaper.

Continue reading here: http://www.thegridto.com/culture/media/five-things-i-learned-about-jan-wong/

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