Share a memory or message to celebrate Y-Dang

In the spirit of celebrating Y-Dang and her impact on all of us, we invite you to leave a message or share a memory using the form below.  We will send your message privately with Y-Dang’s family first, and may follow up about posting it on this tribute page later.

In Memory of Y-Dang Troeung

Y-Dang is so loved and I am deeply sorry for your loss. The impact she made in many lives will continue to resonate. The news of her passing shook myself and several friends to the core. Even some who weren’t familiar with her took the time to read about her and remarked on what an incredible person she was.

At first I didn’t know what to do or say. I would think of her from time to time and always thought I’d bump into her again someday and be able to tell her how important she and her classes were to me. As someone who has a lot of anxiety around class participation and un-rehearsed public speaking, I thought I’d never be able to take on a public-facing role or entertain a career in academics. Then came Y-Dang, delivering her lectures from her notes and reading with feeling. She opened her first class at UBC with a simple question, something along the lines of: “Why do we read?” Aside from feeling an instant kind of kinship to a lecturer with this style of teaching, I started to notice every effort she made to make the class a more comfortable place to engage with new ideas — starting with allowing us to come from place where everybody could have something to say.

When I heard of her passing I froze. The first thing I did when I could move again was to search her name without knowing why or what I was looking for. I ended up on a blog post she had written some time ago about the origin of her name and just sat there reading. I was reminded of how she believed in infusing personal perspectives and experiences into essays and projects. The work she shared with us largely reflected this blend of personal, political and academic, which truly demonstrated the power of text in a way that reverberated beyond the classroom.

Partway through the blog post I realized I was reading it in her voice. I hadn’t heard her speak for several years but it was so clearly the same voice I’d heard over the course of two semesters all that time ago. That’s when I thought of the myriad answers to the question she posed. We had talked about how reading can connect us to the ideas, feelings and voices of people through time and space. In that moment the answer sunk in, in a way that it hadn’t before. It is a huge comfort to be able to hear her still, to find her mind and heart in her enduring work and know that she will remain to be an inspiration to so many.

I wish you all immense strength, comfort and togetherness during this difficult time and in all the times that it will undoubtedly continue to be difficult. We grieve and celebrate her life with you.

— kathy thai

Dear Chris and family,

I am so saddened by Y-Dang’s passing and I offer my sincere condolences. I was so sorry to hear about this news and I want to offer my heartfelt sympathy for you and your family during this difficult time. I know that Y-Dang’s scholarship and art will continue to inspire generations. I am thinking of you at this time of loss and difficulty.

Allan Cho

To Y-Dang’s family,

I’m very sorry for your loss and hope that Kai grows up knowing that his mother was a friendly and kind individual to all — even those she didn’t know personally. I only met Y-Dang briefly at a conference in San Francisco in 2018, but she was so friendly and kind as to give me her contact. At the time I was a new graduate and she was teaching in Hong Kong, I believe at City U. She exuded a genuine energy to all those around her that day. I trust her legacy will live on in academic spheres and in Kai.

Take care,
Jennifer J. Lau

Y-Dang changed my life as an undergraduate student at UBC. Her class on postcolonial and transnational Asian literature was the first of its kind during my time at UBC, and Y-Dang was one of the very first professors that I felt like I could relate to and depend upon. Our office hours chats were long and honest, and she pressed me not only to become a sharper writer but also to become a more generous and capacious thinker. In particular, I often think of the class she held after hosting Omar El-Akkad for a book talk: she had explained to us that often, just by standing at the front of the classroom, she was already initiating a “transformative pedagogical experience” as many students have never had a professor of colour for an English literature class. I return to this moment often in my life now, as a graduate student in English; whenever this career seems difficult and unsustainable, I think of Y-Dang’s advice to us that day and find renewed conviction that if I am able to create that transformative pedagogical experience for even just one other person, as Y-Dang did for me, then it will have been worth it. 

The radical honesty, care, and generosity that Y-Dang demonstrated in that class, which is so characteristic of both her pedagogy and her person, continue to sustain and inspire me in times of need. I will always cherish my experiences with Y-Dang at UBC and can only hope that these words can convey even a fraction of her importance to the worlds that she inhabited, illuminated, and created. My thoughts are with Dr. Patterson and with Kai, whose pictures Y-Dang was always happy to share with us at the end of classes — I remember fondly Kai’s first snow-day — and with Y-Dang’s family, friends, and students. The world is a lesser place without her in it.

— Christine Xiong

A memory of Y-Dang.

It’s hard to put into words how Y-Dang and her classes have changed my life. I hope you don’t mind a bit of a story, from a writer who processes life through beginnings, middles, and ends. In brief, she taught me how to face history and tragedy with grace and empathy. She helped me to feel more whole as a human.

In long, I came to UBC as an Asian-Canadian who felt very distant from the former of the hyphen. As I started to ease into accepting my place in the Asian diaspora, I was drawn to the histories of Asian countries, especially Hong Kong and China where my relatives immigrated from. But these topics always came with a heavy sense of shame and guilt, feeling embarrassed for the things I didn’t know. But when I was looking into classes for my last year, one of my friends recommended Y-Dang, so I signed up for her class on literature from the Cold War in Asia.

That class was weighed with tragedy, darkness, and complex emotion, but through Y-Dang, it was also filled with empathy, care, and beauty. I learned so much about the world in that class. There was no guilt, no shaming, no fear of being judged.

After that, I signed up for her seminar class on social movements in Hong Kong and China, a subject that I’d soon learn was as close to her heart as it was to mine. This class changed so many things for me. My grandparents left China due to the Cultural Revolution. My aunt was teaching in Beijing at the beginning of the protests in Tiananmen Square. I knew these things in my head, but it wasn’t until Y-Dang’s course that I started to understand them in my heart. Y-Dang led us through this difficult material with such care and respect that we once commented that classes with her felt like group therapy.

Being able to forge connections with my family’s history, one that I had felt excluded from in the past, that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I will be grateful for her gentleness, her passion, and her sincerity for the rest of my life.

For anyone who feels the echoes of her passing, I hope that in the dark nights, there is peace. In high winds, there is rest. And in the deepest fog, there is light.