The comedian, actor, and writer distills years of advice into letters to her daughters.
In her first book, Wong—whose Netflix stand-up specials, Hard Knock Wife and Baby Cobra, earned her a massive following—details how she met her husband; pregnancy, childbirth, and the messy chaos of parenting; New York during her early stand-up career, when bombing on stage honed her talents; her Vietnamese/Chinese upbringing; time at UCLA; and study abroad in Hanoi. Throughout these topical letters, her trademark candor is equal parts crass about sex, tender about her family's sacrifices, and sober about miscarriage, among other pains. A few letters are composed as lighthearted lists, including how to host a cheaper wedding: “Buy your dress on eBay,” and “Get your hair done at a blow-out bar.” On spotting authentic Asian restaurants, she writes, “Ninety-nine percent of the clientele should be Asian." The author’s accounts of her initial forays into the comedy business and brushes with famous people add color and demonstrate the necessity of hard work, but it’s behind-the-scenes memories of Wong’s past that stand out for their pointed depiction of a Bay Area immigrant family. Her mother’s unsentimental love, which the author grew to understand after visiting Vietnam herself, is palpable. Wong also lays bare her young adult years, rife with dating disasters, with amusing self-mockery. Digressions on womanhood are refreshing in their nuances, and pride mixes with conviction in the power of expanding comedy beyond an Asian audience. An afterword by Wong’s husband gives insight on what it’s like to fuel someone else’s jokes. Under the raunchy writing—much of which repeats the highlights of Wong’s act—there's familiar, reassuring optimism. About her mother, she writes, "she did her best to make me tough….She will always be there for me.” Wong brings the same dedication here, where mistakes inspire wisecracking wisdom.
A down-to-earth collection that is raw but not irreverent.