On the place I call home

I’m reading Joe Fiorito’s Union Station and Austin Clarke’s More at the moment, both set in diverse Toronto neighbourhoods and explore the immigrant experience from different perspectives. I’m glad someone is writing about this, especially because in these tiny communities, you meet the most amazing people with unbelievable life stories. The books remind me of what it’s like to grow up in Malvern.

As a second-generation Chinese Canadian raised in a predominantly Black and South Asian neighbourhood, I am a visible minority among visible minorities. And living in Malvern is like being from a different part of the world. It is in the east end of Scarborough, at the edge of the city, almost non-existent to downtowners if it wasn’t for the Toronto Zoo nearby. More than half of residents here are immigrants, and a huge portion of the population are young people — kids, teenagers — you see a lot of them playing on the streets. There’s also a lot of social housing. It’s the poorer part of the town, but not necessarily run down. Looks like every other suburb. There’s a library, a mall, soccer fields and a big basketball court. In the summertime you may hear reggae, hip hop, or bhangra music echoing through your window.

I call Malvern “my hood.” Others who live here have called it “the ghetto.” It could be a “surburban ghetto,” but Canadian ones will never be as extreme as the American equivalent so it’s inaccurate. While skin colour may make us stand out, it’s our socioeconomic background that makes us truly different from the people we encounter in other parts of the city everyday. We see the world differently. Things like a university education is a privilege. I use to think that the people here lacked ambition, but that’s not true. It’s just harder to move up because you’re starting from the very beginning, and you’ve got a lot more to sacrifice. In any case, we “get” each other here.

One of these days I’d like to write about Malvern. Capture it in a story. Maybe even a book. The city needs to recognize that we exist, and why people move here to begin with — to start a better life. We need a written history, and not just in police reports.

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