I’ve really hit the jackpot this year with the books I’ve read. Last week I was looking around Amazon and found a new memoir set in Hong Kong by Raymond M. Wong. I’m Not Chinese: The Journey from Resentment to Reverence (Apprentice House, 2014) is a heartfelt story that will stay with me for a long time.
When Raymond M. Wong was in his early thirties, he traveled with his mother to Hong Kong, the place of his birth. When he was a young child, his parents split and his mother took him to California. By the time Wong returns to Hong Kong, he hadn’t seen his father in almost three decades.
Although Wong doesn’t dwell on this that much in his book, he was ashamed of his heritage as a young boy in California. He wanted to fit in, so he stopped speaking Cantonese. His mother remarried and had a couple more kids (sounds familiar!). But life wasn’t great in his new family as his step-father drank and couldn’t hold down a job. He also never treated Raymond like a son.
The return trip to Hong Kong was quite an eye-opener for Wong. And I loved every minute of it. He and his mother landed at Kai Tak Airport in 1996 and were greeted by three strange men, one of whom was Raymond’s father. They couldn’t communicate well because Raymond no longer spoke Cantonese and his father didn’t know English.
When Mr. Wong asked Raymond and his mother to travel to China to meet more relatives, Raymond’s mother wasn’t thrilled. She hadn’t been back to China since she fled as a twelve year old in the 1950s. Raymond was unprepared for the rough conditions and I understood that completely!
Along their journeys, Raymond’s mother revealed more of their family history and why she took Raymond to California. His writing is beautiful and his descriptions of 1990s China and Hong Kong are spot-on.
At the end of the book, Wong writes about his writing process and the long journey he traveled to publish this book. It was well worth the wait and I’m thrilled it was published as it’s one of my favorite Hong Kong and China memoirs.