In Taiwan, Southeast Asians Find Roots In A Bookstore

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Humans often tend to create and sustain differences between each other. In some way or the other, things always end up as “us and them”. It was no different in Taiwan, where the local community often looked down upon the immigrant workers from Southeast Asia. However, one couple wants to change this with their perseverance and books.

Yun Chan-Lio and Chang Cheng are a couple and former journalists. They remember how a decade ago, migrants lamented that the Taiwanese love their cats and dogs, but hate the migrant workers. The couple decided to change the situation in the most unique way. And thus, Brilliant Bookstore was founded. Located in the Zhonghe district of New Taipei, the bookstore today houses more than 2000 books. They come in languages such as Filipino, Thai, Indonesian and Vietnamese, as well as English and Mandarin.

Despite the name, the shop is more of a library than a bookstore. One can’t buy books from here but rent on a daily basis. The idea behind the store was to foster a sense of belonging among the migrants. Reading these books, they can both remember their homeland as well as feel more connected to the Taiwanese society. The bookstore also runs a program called “Bring Back A Book That You Cannot Read” which encourages Taiwanese visiting Southeast Asia to bring some books from there and donate. They have also been running a writing competition for migrants.

Taiwan has been combating the alienation of migrants for the last decade. It has been a policy of President Tsai Ing-wen to foster better relations with Southeast Asia and reduce dependence on China. Brilliant Bookstore, which Ing-wen visited in 2015, serves as a small but valuable step in a direction of general harmony and co-existence.

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