2019 CANADA READS FINALIST
Shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust of Canada Prize for Nonfiction; Winner, Hubert Evans Nonfiction Prize; Longlisted for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour
In this jaw-dropping, darkly comedic memoir, a young woman comes of age in a dysfunctional Asian family who blame their woes on ghosts and demons when they should really be on anti-psychotic meds.
Lindsay Wong grew up with a paranoid schizophrenic grandmother and a mother who was deeply afraid of the "woo-woo" -- Chinese ghosts who come to visit in times of personal turmoil. From a young age, she witnessed the woo-woo's sinister effects; when she was six, Lindsay and her mother avoided the dead people haunting their house by hiding out in a mall food court, and on a camping trip, in an effort to rid her daughter of demons, her mother tried to light Lindsay's foot on fire.
The eccentricities take a dark turn, however, and when Lindsay starts to experience symptoms of the woo-woo herself, she wonders whether she will suffer the same fate as her family.
At once a witty and touching memoir about the Asian immigrant experience and a harrowing and honest depiction of the vagaries of mental illness, The Woo-Woo is a gut-wrenching and beguiling manual for surviving family, and oneself.
How anyone survives childhood is a mystery, but how Lindsay Wong endured hers is a revelation. Extraordinary in their cruelty and blacker-than-midnight hilarity, Wong's family in The Woo-Woo is unforgettable. Equal parts appalling and riveting, Wong proves that a sense of humor can get you through the most dire circumstances. A riveting, unbelievable family epic told in exquisite, visceral prose, you won't believe it's not fiction. -Elizabeth Greenwood, author of Playing Dead: A Journey Through The World Of Death Fraud
That Lindsay Wong is even alive to write this book is amazing. That she can make it into the hilarious, touching, and tragic story that she's given us here is proof that books still have a purpose. Somehow she manages to transform the deeply sad and make it funny, so that we mortals can take it and learn something from it. Her black humor combines with compassion: she represents the realities of mental illness in her family while still telling us the story from their perspective: that of people haunted by The Woo-Woo. After you read this book, you may be, too -- in the best way. -Sarah Perry, author of After the Eclipse: A Mother's Murder, A Daughter's Search
Darkly funny, steeped in the macabre and grotesque, The Woo-Woo is at once an unflinching portrait of a borderline abusive childhood and a testament to the power that family has to shape us for good or ill ... Rich with gritty, hard-earned insight, The Woo-Woo illuminates the shaky reality of living across two cultures and offers a difficult, tenuous bridge between these worlds. --Quill and Quire (A Best Book of 2018)
No definition of "dysfunctional" in any language on earth can hope to adequately describe the bizarre, darkly hilarious antics of Lindsay Wong's extended immigrant family. Every page of this no-holds-barred memoir will leave you astonished and incredulous. -Andreas Schroeder, author of Renovating Heaven
Here's a memoir so alive and full of 'you can't make this stuff up' that you'll find yourself wincing and snickering and possibly weeping long after reading the last eloquent sentence. The Woo-Woo is both heart-wrenching and batshit insane, and is also beautifully rendered and fearless in its whip-smart humor. Lindsay Wong spares nothing, not even herself, in her search for clarity amidst madness, while the specificity of her prose reminds us of the woo-woo lurking within every family tree. -Sean Madigan Hoen, author of Songs Only You Know: A Memoir
Wong's generational history of intertwined mental illness and supernatural beliefs drives her harrowing but sharply funny memoir. --Toronto Star
The Woo-Woo will break your heart then bind it back together. With luxurious prose, dark humor, and a sharp yet tender gaze, Lindsay Wong gives us an unforgettable memoir that mines the truth of her explosive family and its everlasting ripples as they follow her into adulthood. -Lily Brooks-Dalton, author of Motorcycles I've Loved and Good Morning, Midnight
What if the ghosts and demons of myth were in fact a structure that prevented open conversations about self care and mental health? Lindsay Wong's The Woo-Woo is a brave, funny, and heartbreaking memoir that takes on the mysticism so regularly sold to us as part of the Asian and Asian American experience and presents a side we don't often see: that of a young woman struggling to survive her family's adherence to a belief system she knows will doom her and them both. -Alexander Chee, author of How To Write an Autobiographical Novel
Someone get Lindsay Wong into a witness protection program for revealing--and illuminating--the secrets that Asian families prefer to keep hidden away. She is caustic, observant, relentless, and, in my opinion, the future of Asian Canadian writing. -Kevin Chong, author of The Plague
Wong's debut harrowingly portrays a family who 'believed that mental illness, or any psychological disturbance, was caused by demonic possession' ... A raw, profane, and funny memoir. --Kirkus Reviews