I lived in southern Ontario between 2009 and 2010. My experience with Hamilton was very brief, consisting of working a strange job there for only a couple days. It wasn’t long enough to establish a clear impression of the city.
I was thankful to discover Tings Chak‘s Where the Concrete Desert Blooms last month so that I could experience her account of life in the city. Tings explored activism, community, art, storytelling, and what it means to inhabit a city that is imperfect but full of potential. I feel similarly about my own home, Halifax, and could relate to many of the stories shared in the book.
The book collects personal, historical and imaginative stories about the city and Tings life before moving to it. The autobiographical elements give the book a lot of warmth; I felt more immersed in the stories than I expected to be and enjoyed the care taken to present each person in the stories.
I especially appreciated Tings’ exploration of the community activism she discovered and became a part of while living in the city. There is one segment of the book that was especially meaningful for me where Ting talks about the creative, playful activism she took part in. Both creativity and playfulness are traits I believe we should embrace in our approaches to social concerns and I was glad to see a direct and personal example of how that can be done.