UBC alumus Lindsay Wong is getting a lot of attention this fall for her new book The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family. The gut-wrenching and beguiling memoir details Wong’s coming of age in a dysfunctional Asian family whose members blamed their woes on ghosts and demons when in fact they should have been on anti-psychotic meds. Wong’s story is a witty and touching account of the Asian immigrant experience and a harrowing, honest depiction of the vagaries of mental illness. The book was a finalist for the prestigious 2018 Hilary Weston Prize for Non-Fiction.

We spoke with Lindsay about her writing process, her time at UBC’s Creative Writing Program, how she came to find her unmistakable dark, comedic voice as well as her experiences at UBC Library. Spoiler: she was almost hit by lightning in front of the Koerner Library! Read on to learn more.

What inspired you to write your memoir?

I think I fell into memoir, or maybe the genre just grabbed me. Anyway, I blame the sorting hat system in UBC’s Creative Writing Program, where they assign us to classes based on our admissions portfolio. Memoir just felt like a very necessary and painful thing to do (like root canal surgery). Writing the manuscript was a means for me to understand who I was in relation to my family and to make sense of the severe mental illness that surrounded me.

Did you write your memoir for a particular audience?

Mostly, I wrote the memoir for myself, as this would be a book that I would have desperately needed and wanted being CBC (Chinese Born Canadian) growing up in the suburbs of Vancouver.  But I do think that mental illness has never been explicitly addressed in Asian immigrant writing in North America, as it’s such a taboo subject in our culture. I hope all readers, not just Chinese-Canadians, connect to the universal themes of mental illness and dysfunctional family relationships in the book.

Tell us about the statement: “We would eventually learn that we could not run away from ourselves” and why it’s a reoccurring theme throughout the book.

There’s a motif in The Woo-Woo about migration and diaspora and running away. My family flees extreme poverty in Hong Kong, and when they arrive in Canada, they’re always running from ghosts (which represents mental illness and various other issues). My character, too, is always trying to run away from herself, by first running to Honolulu then all the way to New York City. I wanted to show that there was this intergenerational cycle of frenzied physical relocation that almost every member of the family attempts, yet it never works. All the members in my family are always trying to outrun “ghosts”, each other, and themselves. Essentially, the Wongs and their extended kin are trapped.

Can you share how your writing process while at UBC evolved and how your decision to change the tone of your book came about while at Columbia University?

As a younger writer, I was definitely more serious in tone, and I didn’t quite have a sense of humour. I was still finding my voice, and as a writing student, you tend to think that all literary writing has to be serious in order to really matter. When I moved to New York City, there was an emphasis on humour and comedic writing in our workshops, and I think one naturally tends to develop an absurdist point of view in order to survive the subway system in New York City. While I was studying at Columbia, there were also three suicides. It was a difficult and competitive place. Anyway, once I allowed my subconsciousness to flow, I was able to find my voice, and the writing came naturally.

How did you do research for the book? Did UBC Library’s resources inform your work in any way?

I only wrote 1-2 character sketches about my grandmother and my aunt while I was a UBC Creative Writing student, so most of my research was done through phone or in-person interviews. I did not need to use the library’s resources for the memoir at the time. But I did use the printer and photocopier every few days, especially during graduate school application season. I broke the printer at Koerner Library trying to print out my application for Oxford and I was later wait-listed. Does that count as a library resource? (Our answer: Yes, it absolutely does! Learn more about UBC Library’s Pay for Print services.)

Did you have a favourite study spot at UBC Library while you were a student here?

I’d find an empty corner to study at Koerner Library in one of the quiet upper levels or sometimes I’d write my essays in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre and drink 3-5 chai lattes in Ike’s cafe. Those lemon poppy seed muffins were addictive. True story: I was almost struck by lightning right outside of Koerner Library!  It was around 10 p.m., I had a first-year Women’s Studies paper due the next day, and I was leaving the library to make the long trek back to Totem Park. All of a sudden, I was blinded by very hot, intense white light and knocked backwards. I landed on my butt a few feet away and my skin and hair felt fried!  It was all very weird and confusing, but then I saw lightning splashing everywhere. I survived.

Follow Lindsay’s writing on her website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2015, Mandy Len Catron, creative writing instructor at UBC, published To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This  in the New York Times‘ Modern Love column. The column went on to be read by more than five million readers in less than a week.

In her new memoir, How to Fall in Love with Anyone, Catron continues to unpack the complex stories we tell ourselves about love, pairing her personal experiences with solid research to explore the romantic myths we create and how they limit our ability to achieve and sustain intimacy. We spoke with Mandy about her writing, the extensive research she did for the book and how she utilized UBC Library and its collections in her work.

Tell us about How to Fall in Love with Anyone and how it came about.

I started writing the book at the Banff Centre in 2010, long before the essay came out the New York Times. I knew the Modern Love column had launched many books so I had a vague idea of sending them something one day. In fact, I didn’t write that essay until after I’d completed an early manuscript for the book at the end of 2014. I hoped that I might hear from a few editors or literary agents after the essay was published, which would make it easier to find a home for my book. As it turned out, I really underestimated the attention these now-famous 36 questions would get—and the essay opened all kinds of new opportunities for me, including the change to revise and publish my manuscript. 

Initially, I had envisioned the book as a memoir with lots of research and reflection, but I wasn’t quite sure how to organize it and what to do with all the information I’d amassed over the years. I started a blog, The Love Story Project, as a way to test out some of my ideas. And it was there that I came up with the central premise of the book: there is a gap between how we talk about love (with each other, in our families, in popular culture) and how we actually practice it. I wanted the book to explore that gap. The amazing thing about my Modern Love column is that my own love story became an illustration of this exact phenomenon. Everyone wanted to know if I was still in a relationship with the man from the essay—and they were content with a very short answer: yes. No one asked about how the 36 questions impacted our experience, or what it was like to see your relationship mentioned in international news just a few months after you started dating. But that, to me, was the more interesting story. So this gap—between the public idea of our relationship and my daily intimate experience of it—was a great starting point for a collection of essays. 

You did a great deal of research when writing the book. Can you tell us a little about the resources at UBC Library that were most helpful to you and how you used them?

I’ve spent hours and hours on the UBC Library website, searching databases for research on everything from the evolutionary anthropology of romantic love to sociological theories of storytelling. So the best resource for me was the incredible collection of academic journals and the many databases UBC provides access to. My educational background is in creative writing, so I don’t think of myself as a career academic. But I do teach first year students how to do research, make sense of scholarly writing, and think critically about the production of knowledge, so it seemed natural to apply these same ideas to my creative process. It isn’t always easy switching between a scholarly, analytical point-of-view and a more personal, subjective sense of knowledge and knowing, but that’s the kind of writing I love to read and, increasingly, the kind of thing I like asking students to write. 

I’ve also used the library to borrow and read the kinds of love stories I think we need more of in the world—stories that expand our sense of what’s possible in love. And now I’ve been teaching some of these books in my classes. Right now, in my love stories class, we’re reading Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Murakami’s Norwegian Wood, and Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, along with a bunch of scholarly and theoretical writing about love and storytelling. 

Can you shed some light on your writing process? Do you do your research first, then write?

I do a combination of research and writing at the same time. I think of writing an essay as a process of collecting and evaluating information—and that information can be everything from scientific data to personal reflection. For me it’s a kind of cyclical, generative process: a personal experience will prompt a question, which will prompt research. For example my parents divorced and I wanted to understand why and how their love story had such a big impact on me. So I wrote about my struggle processing this huge change in our family.  And then I researched how we use family narratives to construct identity. It turns out there’s a whole field called “narrative psychology”—which was amazing to me, and reading what folks like Jerome Bruner wrote on the topic helped me to make sense of my experience. I don’t write directly about narrative psychology in the book, but that research informed my thinking throughout the book—especially in the essays about my parents and grandparents. Who we are is so directly connected to the stories we tell about ourselves. 

And it continues like this: reflection prompts research, research prompts further questions, which yields further reflection. I think an essay can contain almost anything, which is what makes the form so exciting.

Do you have a favorite spot or branch of UBC Library?

The Irving K. Barber Learning Centre is right by my office, so I’ve spent some time there lately. I think best in rooms with big windows and high ceilings and Irving has lots of those, along with quiet nooks for reading.

What are your reading right now?

So many things! I’ve just started two totally different Canadian novels on love: Zoey Leigh Peterson’s Next Year for Sure and Jane Eaton Hamilton’s Weekend. And I’m halfway through two essay collections: Durga Chew-Bose’s Too Much and Not in the Mood and Scaachi Koul’s Soon We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter. I love them both for their really distinctive writing voices and amazing titles!

Follow Mandy’s writing at thelovestoryproject.ca

Together with UBC Bookstore, Caitlin Press, and the UBC Creative Writing Alumni Association, the UBC Creative Writing Program is hosting a reading and book signing of the anthology Boobs: Women Explore What It Means to Have Breasts edited by Ruth Daniell.

“The stories represent the diverse experiences that surround breasts: the coming of age stories, the struggles with gender, the trauma, the self-love, the experience of motherhood, the early sexualisation, the struggles of not feeling like enough or feeling like too much–too much of a woman, not enough of a woman, too much cleavage, too little. […] But no matter what your personal experiences with them, Boobs will engage you and make you feel things–in the breast possible way.” –Ljudmila Petrovic, Sad Mag

At turns heartbreaking and hilarious, Boobs is a diverse collection of stories about the burdens, expectations and pleasures of having breasts. From the agony of puberty and angst of adolescence to the anxiety of aging, these stories and poems go beyond the usual images of breasts found in fashion magazines and movie posters, instead offering dynamic and honest portraits of desire, acceptance and the desire for acceptance.

Event details:

When: Wednesday, July 13th, 2pm
Where: Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, Room 182

This event is free and open to the public.

Readings by:

  • Francine Cunningham
  • Dina Del Bucchia
  • Miranda Pearson
  • Laura Ritland
  • Esther Griffin
  • Ruth Daniell
  • Sara Graefe
  • Nancy Lee

 


This session is appropriate for students conducting literature reviews in any discipline.
Topics include
… what is a literature review?
… finding the right databases
… search strategies for databases
… finding scholarly articles, theses and dissertations, books, and more
… resources to help you keep track of your research.
There will be plenty of hands-on time for searching, and assistance from the two presenting librarians.

 

 



Webcast sponsored by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre and hosted by Green College’s Principal’s Series: Interdisciplinarity In Action.  Bluesy, opinionated, sly, self-chastising and tender, UBC Creative Writing professor Rhea Tregebov’s All Souls’—her first  collection since 2004—commands a range of tones wider and bolder than anything in her previous six books. All Souls’ bracingly addresses the quandary at the heart of our present moment: the fear of change and the fear of standing still. Enriched by a sharp palate and crackling with confidence, Tregebov’s new poems capture life in all its rueful aspects, and do so with a lyricism of considerable beauty and power.  Rhea Tregebov, is professor at the Creative Writing Program, UBC.  This lecture is part of the ongoing Green College Principal’s Series: Thinking at the Edge of Reading: Interdisciplinarity in Action.

Biography

Rhea Tregebov is the author of poetry, fiction and children’s picture books. She is Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, where she teaches poetry, children’s literature and literary translation. Her work has received a number of literary awards, including the J. I. Segal Award for fiction, the Pat Lowther Award, the Prairie Schooner Readers’ Choice Award, and the Malahat Review Long Poem Award.


Select Books Available at UBC Library

Tregebov, Rhea. (2012). All Souls. Montreal, Quebec : Signal Editions. [Link]

Tregebov, Rhea. (2009). The Knife Sharpener’s Bell. Regina, Saskatchewan: Coteau Books. [Link]

Tregebov, Rhea (Ed.). (2007). Arguing With The Storm: Stories By Yiddish Women Writers. Toronto, Ontario: Sumach Press. [Link]


UBC Library Research Guide

Literature Reviews




Webcast sponsored by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre as part of the Robson Reading Series. Drawing on more than two thousand years of ancient Chinese tradition that present diverse philosophical modes of being, whether it be the spiritual teachings of Kong Zi or Lao Tzu, the military dicta of Sun Tzu or the complex sensibilities expressed by poets such as Ssu-ma Hsiang-ju, Li Bai, Du Fu and Wang Wei in the wake of a tumultuous imperial government, Weyman Chan restates these concerns of the past while addressing other “first world problems” in our own contemporary era. In Chinese Blue, the poet “character” sifts through the earth’s long history of geological layering and forgetting, grappling with the perpetual fragmentation of identity. The poet struggles with the prospect of any inky blots that suggest the finished work of a creator, subject to expediencies—ambition, romance, betrayal—that leave us flawed and human, taking the reader on a spiritual quest burdened by an endless sea of flotsam. In a stoic attempt to reconcile biological drives with a stance of non-presence and to find a place beyond “perpetual worry” where he can accept ancestral mistakes while tentatively channelling the voices of advertising that condition our vernacular and massage our minds—offering a cliché happy ending to what remains of our physical existence—the poet finds himself wading through jazzily visionary delineations of the modern city, numbed and soundly crushed between “the word and the thing.” Here is Weyman Chan at his most fiercely ironic, tracing a lineage he interprets subconsciously and through the intricacies of its raw genetic material, with keenly biting language that echoes the rhythms of Qu Yuan in contemplation of his own mortality beside the flowing waters of impermanence.

Claes Van Visscher. London Bridge. (1616)

Many children’s nursery rhymes have a long and at least partially recorded history. For example, English-speaking children and adults have been singing “London Bridge is Falling Down” since before the first known written version in 1744.*

Two important scholars and collectors of children’s rhymes, Iona and Peter Opie, published many collections and annotated compilations of children’s games, rhymes, chants, playground games and stories.  Their personal collection of 22,000 items is now in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.

Part of that extraordinary collection is available at UBC Library on microfiche. Unit 1 and Unit 2 , “Stories pre-1850″, are available at Koerner Library, Level 2. Microforms may be read, printed or saved to a flash drive. Reference and Microform open hours.

Koerner Library Microform Hours   |     Information about Microforms

* Opie, Iona Archibald, and Peter Opie. The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.*

Opie Collection on Microfilm, Units 1 and 2
Opie Collection of Children’s Literature: a guide to the microfiche collection

Image Credit: Claes Van Visscher, London Bridge (1616)

 

 

 

 


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