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"A Long Migration" and "Winston"

"If asked to describe memory, I think many people would instinctively agree with a suggestion that memory is like a movie - a sequence of events, ordered one after another [...] I think memory is actually more like a pebble dropped into the water. The impact of certain events disturbs the liquid surface of our lives, throws the droplets of emotion into the air, and sends ripples out in concentric circles which physicists would tell us continue forever."

~Vincent Lam

Summary: "A Long Migration" and "Winston" (186 KB)

Thoughts from Queen's campus

By Chantal-Christine Valkenborg, Residence Life Program Assistant

Residence Life works to ensure that residence is more than just a place to stay while you attend university.  Through social activities, cultural events, and educational programs, Residence Life encourages you to try new things and supports you through personal, social, and academic challenges.  The Residence Life staff members working most directly with first-year students are Dons, who are senior students or University staff living in residence.  They provide support to residents and work to develop a positive floor community.  They are also a great source for information about Queen's and Kingston!​  

A Long Migration – Balance at University

Chen’s family assumes that because he is in medical school he will be able to take the best care of his grandfather Yeh Yeh and determine whether it is time for the family to come and say goodbye. Chen knows that he is not yet qualified to truly understand Yeh Yeh’s condition and to determine when he will die, yet he wants to impress his family and wants to be seen as a doctor.

Would you be able to balance taking care of a family member while trying to complete university and fulfill your family’s expectations? It does sound a bit overwhelming, doesn’t it?

You go to university with a plan to learn, get involved, meet new people, and get to know yourself. But then, sometimes, life happens and your plans get thrown upside down. That is ok. Everyone experiences this at least once in their university career.

This can happen in a number of ways: a family member gets ill, you are having trouble getting along with your roommate, you are worried about your grades, you don’t know how to manage your stress, you are worried about finding somewhere to live in second year, you are having trouble making new friends, you are not sure the program you are in is right for you, the list goes on and on.

The good news is that you don’t have go through this alone. There are so many resources on campus to help you find balance again. Most importantly there is someone on your floor in residence who is readily available to help you – your don. A don is an upper year student staff member that lives in residence, provides support, enforces rules, run programs, and most importantly wants to help you transition smoothly into your first year of university.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you are feeling overwhelmed or lost. Residence Life is here to help you succeed and have a positive university experience.

Think about it

  1. What is Chen’s “job” while staying in Brisbane?  As a medical student and a grandson, what is particularly difficult about his assignment?
  2. How might Yeh Yeh’s philosophy that “one always has to move forward, otherwise the past holds too much pain” apply to many of the characters and situations in Bloodletting?  Keep this question in mind as you continue reading.
  3. When Sri is trying to diagnose his patient Winston (p.125) Dr. Miniadis tells him: “You’ve heard that the sound of hoofbeats implies the presence of horses? It is true that we must look carefully for zebras, but for the most part we expect to find horses.” Do you think this advice helped Sri deal with his patient?
  4. How is the depiction of Sri as a professional doctor in “Winston” different from our first glimpses Fitzgerald in “Code Clock”?
  5. What is the symbolic significance of the purple bird in “Winston”?
  6. “Winston” is perhaps one of the most provocative stories in Bloodletting. Is this psycho-mystery resolved at the end? Or does it metamorphose into a new level?

Queen's connection

Media & links

"A Long Migration" is inspired by Vincent Lam's experiences with his own grandfather.  In his most recent novel, The Headmaster's Wager, Lam expands on "A Long Migration" and the story of Chen's Yeh Yeh, delving into some of the details of his life in Vietnam.  Check out the article "Memories of my Grandfather" by Vincent Lam, which talks about some of the intersections between fiction and reality in writing about his grandfather.

The Headmaster's Wager Book Cover


"Think about it" questions 1,2,4,5 adapted from "Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures Content Questions," Peel District School Board (.doc, 28.5 KB); question 3 adapted from; question 6 adapted from