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Undesirables [Hardcover]

Ali Kazimi
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 16 2012

A timely and superbly illustrated account of the explosive event that challenged Canada's racist immigration policy

In May 1914, the Komagata Maru, a ship carrying 376 immigrants from British India, was turned away when it tried to land in Vancouver Harbour. Many of the men on board, veterans of the British Indian Army, believed it was their right to settle anywhere in the empire they had fought to defend. Enforcing the "continuous journey" regulation, immigration boats surrounded the ship a half-mile offshore, making the passengers virtual prisoners.

Thus began a dramatic standoff that would escalate over the next two months, becoming one of the most infamous events in Canadian history. Weaving text together with rarely seen photographs and key documents, award-winning filmmaker Ali Kazimi explores what the current federal government has acknowledged as a "dark chapter" in Canada's past.

Throughout, he seeks answers to the incident's most provocative questions: Why would Canada turn away these South Asian migrants when it had accepted more than 400,000 immigrants the previous year? Why were some of the passengers killed upon their forced return to India? How did this ship pose a threat to the mightiest empire the world had ever known? By setting the story in a global context and against the early histories of Chinese, Japanese and African-American immigrants to Canada, Kazimi shows that the Komagata Maru "incident" was far from incidental. Today, with Canada's immigration and refugee framework under intense scrutiny, the story of the Komagata Maru is all the more relevant.


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Review

"...In turning from the film medium to print, Kazimi, a York University film professor, has created illuminated pages...rich and fascinating study..." (George Elliot Clarke Calgary Herald 2012-07-29)

"Kazimi expertly draws a line from the colonial attitudes towards South Asians, who were good enough to die for Britain in various wars but not good enough to be granted equal rights, through to today...Deliciously illustrated and designed, this is a most seductive book." (Hubert O'Hearn Chronicle Journal 2012-06-03)

"...Kazimi has created a book full of stunning photographs from the period, a reminder for Canadians that diversity is not easy to accomplish." (Jennifer Hunter Toronto Star 2012-05-26)

"Ali Kazimi creates a historical framework that allows readers to view events through the eyes of earlier South Asian migrants to Vancouver, authorities of the Dominion of Canada, and imperial officials in Britain and India...Today, with Canada's immigration and refugee framework under scrutiny, the story of the Komagata Maru is all the more relevant." (South Asian Focus 2012-05-01)

"It is a sumptuous coffee-table book with wonderful illustrations -- including many full-colour images from graphic art and documents of the period -- and a succinct and fascinating account of the forces, in Canada and British India, that came together in Vancouver in May 1914. The characters are skilfully drawn, and Kazimi shows the documentarian's deft hand in capturing the emotions on all sides." (Literary Review of Canada 2012-07-01)

"Undesirables: White Canada and the Komagata Maru is a lavishly illustrated account of a key moment in our history." (Vancouver Sun 2012-09-21)

About the Author

Ali Kazimi is a Toronto-based filmmaker. Born and raised in India, he came to Canada in 1983. Since then, his documentaries have been screened and broadcast internationally to critical acclaim. Continuous Journey, his 2004 feature documentary investigating the events surrounding the Komagata Maru, has won garnered awards on three continents to date. Kazimi is an associate professor in the Department of Film at York University.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Feb. 20 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I chose this rating because I found no fault at all with this book . It is a fascinating , very well written account ; richly illustrated and beautifully presented .
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5.0 out of 5 stars Undesirables - A must read Oct. 2 2012
Format:Hardcover
Ali Kazimi has written an absolute masterpiece. He expands on his film to give background and details about a story that still rings today. It is a must read - and in my opinion be mandatory high school reading, not just in Canada but in all countries that have had a colonial or racist past. It is beautifully illustrated making it a unique experience.
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5.0 out of 5 stars important and essential book Sept. 17 2012
Format:Hardcover
Undesirables is an amazingly produced book on an important and, unfortunately, little known event in the history of immigration to Canada. What makes it unique is that it connects this event to larger questions of racism that exist today by means of connecting the authors personal history with that of an event that occurred in the early 20th century. The beautiful presentation underlines the heritage and dignity of those who are still considered undesirable.
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5.0 out of 5 stars voyage of discovery Sept. 17 2012
Format:Hardcover
Undesirables is a marvellously well-crafted and artful book. It's a fantastic read, and an incredible, profound augmentation to any reader's sense of history and their own place in the world.

Undesirables is a gripping tragedy played out like a forensic archeological dig spanning centuries and the globe with pictures and transcripts, revealing the motivations of its participants; their humanity; their bold, imaginative and energetic actions on all sides - as well as the reverberations of these actions around the world and through time - up to the present moment.

My wife and I enjoyed the book immensely, reading it to each other over the course of a weekend - launching many discussions of our own experiences and histories. while it seems to me that Undesirables represents vital reading for professionals in politics, sociology, law, history, etc. - this lovingly illustrated human story presents a rich voyage of discovery to any reader.
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