Paul Chiasson is the author of The Island of Seven Cities: Where the Chinese Settled When They Discovered America, a book that explores the possibility that early Chinese explorers settled in the Cape Dauphin area of Cape Breton years before Columbus made his famous voyage. He lives in Toronto.
Written in the Ruins
2017 Robbie Robertson Dartmouth Book Award — Shortlisted
Paul Chiasson reveals the possibility that early Chinese settlers landed in Cape Breton long before Europeans.
From the very beginning of the European Age of Discovery, Cape Breton was considered unusual. The history of the area even includes early references to the island having once been the land of the Chinese. In 1497, at least a century before any attempt at European settlement in the region, the explorer John Cabot had referred to Cape Breton as the “Island of Seven Cities.”
The indigenous people of the region, the Mi’kmaq, were the only aboriginal people of North America who had a written language when Europeans first arrived. This writing, clothing, and customs also suggested an early Chinese presence.
In Written in the Ruins, Chiasson investigates the ruins at St. Peters in the southern part of the island, where evidence brought to light supports a theory that could answer all the questions raised by the island’s curious, unresolved history.