My writing career was launched in 1997 with The Spirit of the Dragon: the Story of Jean Lumb, a Proud Chinese Canadian. This children’s book tells the amazing story of my mother who was the first Chinese Canadian to receive the Order of Canada, the highest civilian honour, for her community activism. The Spirit of the Dragon was selected as a Choice Book by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. My second book, The Moon Festival: a Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, was shortlisted for the Silver Birch Award. Awakening the Dragon: the Dragon Boat Festival was published in 2004 and as a paperback in 2007. Paddles Up! was released in 2009 as the first book on the sport of dragon boating in Canada. The Chinese in Toronto from 1878: From Outside to Inside the Circle was published in 2011 and nominated for the Heritage Toronto Book Award. The Chinese Community in Toronto: Then and Now was released in 2013. My pictorial book, entitled The Chinese Head Tax and Anti-Chinese Immigration Policies in the Twentieth Century, was nominated for the Red Cedar Award and Heritage Toronto Book Award. I contributed essays to The Ward: the Life and Loss of Toronto's First Immigrant Neighbourhood (2015); The Ward Uncovered: the Archaeology of Everyday Life (2018);  What We Talk About When We Talk About Dumplings (2022); and The Signs That Shaped Toronto (2022). 

Righting Canada's Wrongs: the Chinese Head Tax and Anti-Chinese Immigration Policies in the Twentieth Century
Toronto: James Lorimer & Co., 2014.
Paperback: ISBN 9781459404434 CDN$34.95 Hardback

The first Chinese immigrants arrived in Canada in the mid-1800s searching for gold and a better life. They found jobs in forestry, mining, and other resource industries. But life in Canada was difficult and the immigrants had to face racism and cultural barriers. Thousands were recruited to work building the Canadian Pacific Railway. Once the railway was finished, Canadian governments and many Canadians wanted the Chinese to go away.


The government took measures to stop immigration from China to Canada. Starting in 1885, the government imposed a Head Tax with the goal of stopping immigration from China. In 1923 a ban was imposed that lasted to 1947. Despite this hostility and racism, Chinese-Canadian citizens built lives for themselves and persisted in protesting official discrimination. In June 2006, Prime Minister Harper apologized to Chinese Canadians for the former racist policies of the Canadian government.


Through historical photographs, documents, and first-person narratives from Chinese Canadians who experienced the Head Tax or who were children of Head Tax payers, this book offers a full account of the injustice of this period in Canadian history. It documents how this official racism was confronted and finally acknowledged.


Nominated for the 2016 Red Cedar Book Award and 2015 Heritage Toronto Award.

Book cover - The Ward Uncovered.jpg
The Ward: the Life and Loss of Toronto's First Immigrant Neighbourhood, edited by John Lorinc, Michael McClelland, Ellen Scheinberg, and Tatum Taylor.
Toronto: Coach House, 2015.

''Against all odds: the Chinese laundry,'' by Arlene Chan

''V-J Day,'' by Arlene Chan


From the 1840s until the Second World War, waves of newcomers who migrated to Toronto – Irish, Jewish, Italian, African American and Chinese, among others – landed in ‘The Ward.’ Crammed with rundown housing and immigrant-owned businesses, this area, bordered by College and Queen, University and Yonge streets, was home to bootleggers, Chinese bachelors, workers from the nearby Eaton’s garment factories and hard-working peddlers. But the City considered it a slum, and bulldozed the area in the late 1950s to make way for a new civic square.

The Ward Uncovered: the Archaeology of Everyday Life, edited by Holly Martelle, John Lorinc, Tatum Taylor and Michael McClelland.
Toronto: Coach House, 2018.                                                  

''A druggist for Chinatown: Tom Lock'' by Arlene Chan

In early 2015, a team of archaeologists began digging up a non-descript parking lot next to Toronto City Hall, a site designated to become a major new courthouse. What they discovered was the rich buried history of an enclave of "The Ward" - a dense, poor, but vibrant 'arrival city' that exited between Yonge and university north of Queen Street from the 1840s and the 1950s.


Home to waves of immigrants and refugees -  Irish, African Americans, Italians, Eastern European Jews, and Chinese - The Ward was stigmatized for decades and eventually razed. The archaeologists who excavated the lot, led by co-editor Holly Martelle, discovered almost half a million artifacts - an unrivalled collection of household items, tools, toys, shoes, bottles, and food scraps. They also unearthed the foundations of a nineteenth-century Black church, a Russian synagogue, factories, cisterns, privies, and even two row houses built by formerly enslaved African Americans. The Ward Uncovered brings to life the extraordinarily rich world of a neighbourhood that was long ago erased from the face of contemporary Toronto. 

Spirit of the Dragon: the Story of Jean Lumb, a Proud Chinese Canadian
Toronto: Umbrella Press, 1997. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0-385-25701-5 CDN$22.95
Toronto: Umbrella Press, 1997. Paperback. ISBN 978-1-895-64224-7 CDN$9.95

For ages 9-14

The Order of Canada, the country's highest honour, is awarded to those who have made a distinct contribution to Canadian life. The late Jean Lumb received the Order of Canada, among other awards, for her role in changing Canada's immigration laws that separated Chinese families, and for her contribution in saving Chinatowns across Canada. Through her dedication to helping others, Jean Lumb truly made a difference to life in Canada.


Selected as a Choice book by the Canadian Children's Book Centre.


Awakening the Dragon: the Dragon Boat Festival


Toronto: Tundra Books, 2004. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0-88776-656-5 CDN$ 22.99
Toronto: Tundra Books, 2007. Paperback. ISBN 978-0-88776-805-7 CDN$ 12.99


In ancient times, the Chinese saw the dragon as both a protector and a threat, able to bring on rain or cause droughts. To honor this powerful creature, people created long narrow boats that they raced in an annual rainmaking festival.


From the wearing of fragrant pouches, to the consumption of rice dumplings, to thrilling boat races, the dragon boat festival of today is a celebration of Chinese traditions all over the world.

The Moon Festival: A Chinese Mid-Autumn Celebration


Toronto: Umbrella Press, 1999.
Hardcover: ISBN 978-1-895-64234-6 CDN$21.95

During the Moon Festival, there are many captivating legends. The enchanting story of the beautiful Chang O is filled with deeds of heroism as her brave husband, Hou Yi, shoots down nine suns and saves the world from destruction. His reward is a magic potion that promises immortality. Chang O discovers the treasured reward and, after taking the potion, finds herself flying to the moon where she is doomed to live alone forever.

This beautifully illustrated book presents other legends and the ways in which the Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated as an important family occasion.

Nominated for the Ontario Silver Birch Award.


The Chinese in Toronto from 1878: From Outside to Inside the Circle
Toronto: Dundurn Press,  2011.
Paperback: ISBN 978-1-55488-979-2
The arrival of the Chinese in Toronto and the development of Chinatown owes its modest beginnings to the completion of the CPR in 1885. No longer requiring the services of the Chinese labourers, a hostile British Columbia sent them eastward in search of employment and a more welcoming place. In 1894 Toronto's Chinese population numbered 50. Today no less than seven Chinatowns serve the second-largest visible minority in the city, with a population of half a million. Their stories are told through historical accounts, archival and present-day photographs, newspaper clippings, and narratives and writing from old-timers and newcomers. With achievements spanning all walks of life, the Chinese in Toronto are no longer looking in from outside the circle. Their lives are a vibrant part of the diverse mosaic that makes Toronto one of the most multicultural cities in the world.
Nominated for the 2012 Heritage Toronto Book Award and 2013 Ontario Speaker's Award.
"a stellar example of a people's history at its best." - Asian Affairs (US), Aug. 19, 2013.
"The reader is reward with a steep and rich cultural tapestry of a history largely left untouched by historians." - Ricepaper magazine (Canada) March 2013.
The Chinese Community in Toronto: Then and Now
Toronto: Dundurn Press,  2013.
Paperback: ISBN 978-1-45970-771-9 CDN$19.99    

Sam Ching, a laundryman, is the first Chinese resident recorded in Toronto's city directory of 1878. A few years later, in 1881, there were 10 Chinese and no sign of a Chinatown. Today, with no less than seven Chinatowns and half a million people, Chinese Canadians have become the second-largest visible minority in the Greater Toronto Area. Stories, photographs, newspaper reports, maps, and charts will bring to life the little-known and dark history of the Chinese community. Despite the early years of anti-Chinese laws, negative public opinion, and outright racism, the Chinese and their organizations have persevered to become an integral participant in all walks of life.

Paddles Up! Dragon Boat Racing in Canada


Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2009.

Paperback: ISBN 978-1-55488-395-0  CDN$35.00


Paddles Up! provides an in-depth look at dragon boating from its beginnings in ancient China to the modern day prominence of Canadian teams on the international scene, as told in the words of top coaches of men's and women's teams, experts and enthusiasts, and sports health professionals across Canada. Contributing writers include Mike Haslam, executive president International Dragon Boat Federation; Matthew Smith, president Dragon Boat Canada; Kamini Jain, Vancouver; Albert McDonald, Halifax; Jamie Hollins, Pickering; Matt Robert, Montreal; and Jim Farintosh, Toronto.