life rattle show no. 1182

Presented on Sunday, December 11, 2011


Hosted by Laurie Kallis


Kwai Li reading her stories
"Reunion with My Brother"
"The Navy Brides from Sasebo"

tonight's Show

Tonight, Life Rattle Number 1182, is the last of a three part series of programs showcasing stories written and read by Kwai Li.

Kwai Li creates a richly detailed tapestry. She deftly captures the sights, smells and flavours of the cultural blend unique to the Hakka Chinese community in Calcutta.

Born in 1950, the youngest of nine children, Li grew up in Chattawalla Gully, a Chinese ghetto in Calcutta, India. Li attended Chinese school until she was fourteen, then finished high school, in English, at twenty.

Two years later Li’s parents arranged their daughter’s marriage to a Chinese man living in Toronto. Li communicated with her future husband by letter for six months before she came to Canada to marry him as a letter bride. The marriage did not work out. Li left after six months.

In 1978, Li married her current husband, Robert. She took night courses, completed her Certified General Accountancy in 1988, then decided to work only part time so that she could enrol at the University of Toronto, where she earned her BA and later her MA.

Kwai Li currently lives in Mississauga, travels extensively, and writes.

Tonight’s first story, "Reunion with my Brother," hilariously depicts a journey to the foothills of the Himalayas. Prayers play from the speakers, and the “need to appeal to a higher authority” becomes obvious: “the aged bus needs more than an engine to reach its destination.” We meet the narrator’s brother, Chip, his sick, fighting-cock bird, and pink-bottomed monkeys who come to drink from the swimming pool.

The second story, "Navy Brides of Sasebo," set in 1968, begins when a Canadian sailor visits Heaven, a bar in Sasebo, Japan where hostesses in low-cut Kimonos, mini-skirts and tiny blouses attract the attention of the US 6th Fleet. When a navy base commander recruits the Japanese speaking Neil to teach at a seminar for would-be Japanese brides, we learn how the language barrier between the young women and their fiancees has allowed huge distortions between fantasy and the reality of being a Navy Bride.