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Football antidote to racism for star Edmonton Eskimo Normie Kwong

April 20th, 2011 by Meredith

ChinaIn 1948, Normie Kwong became the first Chinese Canadian to play in the Canadian Football League (CFL). Normie grew up in Calgary, Alberta, outside of the city’s Chinatown during an era when many Chinese Canadian children, even some of his own family members, faced hostility and prejudice. Normie found that his love of sport helped him fit in with the other kids in his neighbourhood. 

“That’s where it all started,” says Kwong. “We would play all kinds of sports, but football was the most popular.” 

Normie Kwong played football despite his mom's protests — he was smaller than the other players and his mom feared he would be hurt. But he used his small size to give him an advantage on the field and he became one of the fastest players, earning the nickname “China Clipper” after the fast-sailing trading ships of the mid-1800s. By the time he retired from the CFL, he had played for both the Stampeders and the Eskimos and held 30 CFL records.

But his recordbreaking days weren't over yet. In 2005, Normie Kwong became the first person of Chinese heritage to serve as Alberta’s Lieutenant-Governor. Says Normie, "They talk a lot about the American Dream. Well, my story has to be the Canadian Dream. My father was an immigrant grocer who couldn’t vote until his fortieth year in Canada and he has a son who became the Lieutenant-Governor of this province. There are not many places where you can achieve that kind of success.”

The book China Clipper by Richard Brignall traces the life of this Canadian hero. In it, Brignall shows how sports can bring people of different backgrounds together.

A recent review of the book in CM-Canadian Materials discusses several ways this book can be useful in a library or classroom setting: \"… China Clipper would be a beneficial addition to the sports genre section of a library. However, it could also be part of the Chinese Canadian sub-collection or multicultural collection within a public or school library. Teachers could use it within a unit that focuses on the lives of immigrants to Canada, the difficulties they face, and the opportunities that are open to them. In this context, teachers could stimulate discussion around how Normie Kwong was able to successfully overcome the obstacles present at the time for Chinese Canadians … It is through this book that the history of Chinese Canadians can be made accessible to young readers who can come to identify with Normie Kwong, even if they, themselves, do not play sports."—    

Reviewed by Huai-Yang Lim for CM Magazine. See full review here:


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