A debut portrait of a Chinese American woman from Hawaii, compiled from interviews by her son.
Wong presents the story of his mother, Katherine “Katy” C. Wong (1928-2014), in her own words, drawing from conversations that he, her eldest child, conducted in the latter part of her life between 2005 and 2009. She was born in Honolulu, where she worked at her family’s laundry business before graduating high school in 1946. Two years later, she married. She was soon with child, although later, after having multiple children, her doctor advised her husband to refrain from getting her pregnant “all the time,” she said. In 1960, the young family settled in Hayward, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area. There, Katy worked various jobs, including at a Jack LaLanne Hi-Protein bar factory. Later in life, she professed a fondness for gambling (“I play blackjack. I’m good at it”) and she enjoyed giving protein bars away to people when traveling. Along with Katy’s own words, the book also features an array of color and black-and-white images from her life, depicting such things as the first home that she and her husband purchased and travel documents from a trip to China. At fewer than 70 pages in length, including pictures, the memoir moves along very quickly. However, some of her memories lack explanation and detail, perhaps due, in part, to the effects of a stroke, as the editor points out in a preface. She says at one point, for example, that her deceased husband and daughter “can play Japanese cards,” although what this refers to is unclear; she also doesn’t talk in detail about what it was like to work in a Jack LaLanne factory, or what her first impressions of California were. Still, Katy’s statements can carry plenty of emotional weight at times: “I feel sorry that the doctor told him you don’t get Katy upset because she is already downhill.”
A succinct and sometimes-engaging, if occasionally cloudy, account of a long life.