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tdc's Ruth Lor Malloy Interview - "One on One"

 Ruth in the Canadian Arctic

Ruth Malloy at Book Launch

Ruth at Book Launch 2023

Brockville Ontario plays a big part in Ruth Lor Malloy new book, "Brightening My Corner: A Memoir of Dreams Fulfilled." It was here that she spent the first 18 years of her life among friends and enemies. She credits both with setting her on a lifetime of travel, writing, and attempts to deal with misunderstandings that separate people around the world. In June 2023, she received an honorary Doctor of Laws at York University for her "tireless efforts to combat discrimination and promote equality in Canada and beyond."

Much of that early struggle is recounted in her memoir with people calling her racial slurs on the street and BCI boys leaving her out of the dating scene. On the other hand, Brockville gave her a lot of support. First Presbyterian Church volunteers taught English to her father when he first arrived from China as a boy in 1909. The church and many friends of the family New York Restaurant continued to encourage Ruth and her siblings. She is the daughter of Agnes Lor and Lor Leip who founded the restaurant which was family operated from 1930 to 1985.

Ruth wanted to be a journalist, even though a reporter once told her that Chinese people in Canada weren’t allowed to be journalists. She went on to college in Toronto partially funded by the sale of a new car she won at a summer carnival in Brockville. After she graduated, Sandy Runciman, then editor of the Recorder in Times, asked her to write articles for publication about her trip to Mexico where she was helping poor indigenous villagers. She went on to volunteer in other workcamps and write for other Canadian newspapers including the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail. Her book covers her adventures in Vietnam, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, the Canadian Arctic, etc.

During her travels, Ruth tried to do something about cultural conflicts. She is the author of a dozen guidebooks on “new” China, the first in English that helped foreigners to understand that country. Her memoir is an adventure story but also a story of her family, her travels, and her struggle with her own ethnic identity.

The Brockville Museum has artifacts about her family including the old New York Restaurant sign that hung outside the restaurant on King Street, and a picture of Ruth’s mother, Agnes Lor.

Ruth currently lives in Toronto. Barclay Press of Newberg, Oregon, U.S.A. published her memoir in 2023. It is available from Indigo Chapters and

See also: and

During her travels, Ruth tried to do something about cultural conflicts. She is the author of a dozen guidebooks on “new” China, the first in English that helped foreigners to understand that country. Her memoir is an adventure story but also a story of her family, her travels, and her struggle with her own ethnic identity.

On September 9, 2023 tdc's FarmGate Editor and Publisher Joe Lor requested an interview
with Ruth Lor Malloy by submitting 6 questions to author Ruth.
On Sept 10th, Ruth submitted her answers to these questions.

tdc's FarmGate wanted to find out a little more about the philosophy and ideas
of this interesting woman who in 2023 acquired her Honorary Doctor of Laws from York University in Toronto..

1. Why at the age of 91 did you decide to write a book about your life?

I actually decided to write a memoir when I was 86. Playwright Aaron Haddad was interviewing me about Huge Burnett, a civil rights activist with whom I had worked, and Aaron kept urging me to write a memoir. I thought about it. The time was ripe. My husband was ill and needed care at home and I couldn’t go anywhere except to my computer and files.

I had been a travel writer and I had saved a lot of my published stories. I started writing them in 1955. The Recorder and Times editor Sandy Runciman paid me $5 each when I went to Mexico then as a volunteer workcamper helping an impoverished indigenous village. Later as I travelled in Asia, I wrote stories for magazines and other newspapers about countries there. So you could say I started my memoir in 1955.

I think everybody should write a memoir – or at least a diary and consult it every decade or so. Have you wasted your life? Were you sorry for some of the things you did, or didn’t do? These came to mind as I tried to write. It made me think about my life which started in Brockville and where I lived for my first 18 or so years. There I had both good and bad experiences. Other children there called me horrible names on the street and I was left out of the teenage dating game just because I was Chinese. I wondered why people could be so mean.

It all actually turned out for the best. As I wrote, I realized that searching for causes and solutions for racial discrimination had given me the impetus to set out on my search for answers. It made for a wonderful, unusual life.

2. You mentioned in your book that you were highly influenced by the Quakers. Can you tell me what values of this organization you liked the most?

 The workcamp in Mexico was run on Quaker principles. I had never experienced the Religious Society of Friends before. We were not there to convert anyone to its religion. We tried to do what the indigenous people themselves wanted done. Respecting other cultures was important. For the natives, repairing their church building was essential because they believed that its damaged state was responsible for illnesses and misfortunes. So members of our group helped them repair their church even though it was Catholic and we weren’t. And then one day the priest scolded his non-indigenous congregation. “You should be like Los Amigos” and treat indigenous people with respect. That remark especially blew my mind. It was amazing that the priest didn’t feel threatened by us, another religious group.

3. You mentioned that of all the places in the world you visited and lived that your favourite was Hong Kong before the Communist took it over.  Can you tell me why you enjoyed your stay in that city?

Hong Kong is a very beautiful place with its many islands and sub-tropical climate. It was very green during our four years there in the 1980s. It was also very British with signs in both Chinese and English. It was a cultural mix reminiscent of my Canadian background and my Cantonese roots. I could understand some of the local language and some of the Chinese customs. I felt very much at home there. Now things have changed.

4. What changes are needed to be made to solve racism and climate issues in the near future?

The roots of racism are in the human need to feel superior to other people. I see some movement towards respecting and understanding others in the world today, but not enough to save our planet in the near future. Change has to start with every one of us. Everyone must get rid of resentment, greed, indifference, faithlessness, jealousy, etc. We have to treat all members of our families and then our neighbours with kindness. We should try to respect people outside of our own little circles. We have got to work together on our common problems like climate issues, wars, refugees, economic inequality, etc.

5. Could you comment on the importance of a country having an excellent tourism economy?

Tourism is very important to a country’s economy and in some cases, it’s the main income. But it has its problems. What do you mean by “excellent tourism economy?” How about “Do you recommend travelling by plane which adds to global warming?”

I tried to travel by land wherever possible. I believe that travellers have to be aware of what they are doing to a country and its culture when they visit as tourists. They have to be sensitive to its problems like water and electrical shortages, the commercialization of its culture, and higher prices and taxes for the locals. For example, many native Hawaiians now live in the U.S. mainland away from their culture and families because it’s cheaper than living in Hawaii.

Do golf courses mean less land for growing food? Do locals only work in menial jobs? And what happens when the tourism base is destroyed like earlier this year with the fire in Hawaii’s Maui? Among other problems, huge cruise ships could threaten a city’s ancient structure and ecosystem especially when thousands of tourists crowd the streets of a beautiful city all trying to take selfies. Fortunately, these giant ships have now been banned from Venice and a few other places.

I feel that tourists should choose only one foreign country for a deeper, more satisfying travel experience, and spend at least a week there, preferably more.  They should enjoy its beaches and monuments but take the time to learn about its current problems. If the visitors can help, they should do so because it will give them a deeper, more lasting impression of the country and even make them some friends.

My travel was focused on racial discrimination and cultural understanding, but there are lots of volunteer opportunities everywhere where you can learn about these and other problems and get to know some of the local people on a more than superficial level. You might learn something to help solve the same problems in your own country like garbage disposal, eroding beaches, single-use plastics, and limited land for raising food. How are cities like Bangkok coping with rising sea levels? I want countries to develop more ecological tours.

I recommend volunteer opportunities like the Peace Corps, Canada’s CUSO, teaching English abroad and shorter term workcamp projects as a way to learn about a country. I once helped to paint houses for a rehabilitation centre for Inuit victims of tuberculosis in the Canadian Arctic for two months. It was fun and satisfying because our compatible group of young people from southern Canada were learning together. I was working with an Inuit crew during the day and had time to enjoy the amazing scenery and people. Can you believe I even had the opportunity to go on an Inuit seal hunt? Back in Iqaluit 50 years later, it really hit me how much the summer ice had melted there faster than anticipated. I could compare it with pictures I took in 1957. It was not false news. I saw it myself.


Ruth Lor Malloy Reveals Immense Power to Ordinary People


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