Fall 1913, St. Catharines, Ontario. Thirteen-year-old Hoi Wing Woo, the son of a scholar, is forced to give up his dreams of an education when he is sent to work in a Chinese laundry in Canada.

Hoi Wing is immediately thrust into relentless, mind-numbing toil, washing clothes by hand for sixteen hours a day, six days a week. Isolated and friendless, he falls into despair.

When he meets Heather, an Irish scullery maid who shares his love of books, Hoi Wing’s life immediately brightens. Together, they escape the drudgery of their work by reading novels in a secret hideout. As their friendship grows, they defy the restrictions of their servitude and embark on a plan to better their lives.

But Hoi Wing’s dreams will not go unchallenged. Jonathan Braddock, a wealthy and influential entrepreneur who heads the Asiatic Exclusion League, has decided to run for mayor. If Braddock is elected, Hoi Wing will be sent back to China.

The Laundryman’s Boy is a moving coming-of-age story that bravely examines notions of race, duty and friendship in early Canada.

About the author(s)

EDWARD Y. C. LEE was born in Montreal and is a former arbitrator and lawyer. His fiction and creative non-fiction have been published in the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail and in various literary magazines. His radio documentary, Tiger Balm, Batman Comics and Barbeque Pork, was produced by CBC Radio Outfront. Lee lives in Toronto with his wife, Jinah, and their daughter, Erica. The Laundryman’s Boy is his first novel.



Set during the months leading up to World War One, The Laundryman’s Boy is unflinching and unforgettable. This intimate story about a Chinese boy determined to succeed despite physical hardship and racism deftly encapsulates the experience of Chinese immigrants in small town Canada. — Janie Chang, author of The Porcelain Moon

"The Laundryman’s Boy brings vividly to life, in all its hardships and hopes, a nearly forgotten chapter in the history of our small towns. In the best tradition of fiction, a story that speaks to us all." — Nino Ricci, author of Sleep

“Unapologetically Dickensian and enlightening, The Laundryman’s Boy is a wonderful page-turner that is as much captivating as it is revealing of an overlooked era in this country’s history.”  — Kenda Gee, director/producer of the acclaimed documentary, Lost Years: A People's Struggle for Justice.