Lindsay Wong feels very lucky.
And, the Pinetree secondary graduate admits, the experience of seeing her debut book gain such national attentional has been “totally unexpected and quite surreal.”
Since Arsenal Pulp Press published Wong’s memoir The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family last year, the author has had little time to catch her breath.
This month, it took a prestigious BC Book Prize from the West Coast Prize Society; the book was also a finalist for CBC’s Canada Reads competition and shortlisted for the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust of Canada Prize for Non-fiction.
It made the top 100 books for the Globe and Mail list in 2018 and, last month, it was placed on the long list for the 2019 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal of Humour.
Critics have heaped praise on The Woo-Woo, calling it a “heart-breaking,” “tragic” and “touching” comedic portrait of her family as she grew up on Westwood Plateau in Coquitlam.
Wong, who dedicated the book to herself “as a kind of tongue and cheek,” started writing it as a creative writing undergrad at the University of British Columbia.
She had her rough draft ready while studying for a literary non-fiction master’s degree at Columbia University in New York City.
“It spent more time being rejected [by publishers] than being written,” joked Wong, who now lives in East Vancouver and works as a freelance education consultant.
But while the story itself has struck a nerve in the literary world, the Vancouver-born Wong confesses she doesn’t know what impact the deeply personal narrative has had on her relatives.
She assumes they’ve read it and are aware of her sudden rise to fame but “Chinese families don’t talk about things. They just brush it under the rug.”
The woo-woos refer to her paranoid schizophrenic grandmother and mother’s ghosts who come to haunt them in times of personal trouble and mental illness.
Wong and her mom would avoid the demons by hiding out in the mall food court; her mother tried to light Wong’s foot on fire during a camping trip in a kind of exorcism.
Her aunt also suffered from the woo-woos and tried to jump off a bridge.
Before the book was printed, Wong said she would wake up at 5 a.m. to write “but this year has been quite busy with tours and talks. I have to write when I can: at the airport or at night” on her laptop computer and making notes on her smart phone.
Next year, she hopes to debut her first young adult novel, titled The Summer I Learned Chinese, about a teenage girl of Chinese descent who fails her senior year of school. Wong submitted the second draft to her American publisher last week.
Lindsay Wong will be at the Burnaby Public Library (McGill branch, 4595 Albert St.) on May 30 at 7 p.m. Call 604-299-8955 to save a spot.