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.

UBC Library has been named as a successful recipient for the Research Data Management (RDM) funding call from CANARIE, a non-profit corporation that supports research, education and innovation in Canada. Announced in May 2018, the funding call requested projects that focused on the development of tools to support Canadian researchers in following data management best practices, according to priorities identified by CANARIE through consultation with RDM stakeholders. Nine recipients from institutions across Canada were awarded a total of 3.2M dollars in funding.

With this funding, UBC Library will lead a project to build the Federated Geospatial Data Discovery for Canada, with collaborative support from UBC IT, UBC VPRI ARC, Scholars Portal, University of Toronto, CARL Portage, Compute Canada, McMaster University, and the Canadian Historical Geographic Information Systems Partnership. Eugene Barsky, Research Data Services Librarian, Evan Thornberry, GIS Librarian, and Paul Lesack, GIS Analyst, are co-primary investigators on the project.

“Our collaborative goal for the next 18 months is to create an extensible open-source software that allows users to discover Canadian geospatial research data,” says Barsky. “We are very excited to work with our campus and Canada-wide partners, from Vancouver to Halifax to Hamilton, and cannot wait to get started.”

There is a growing interest in spatial research across disciplines, but the data repositories most commonly used in Canada right now often lack a map-based interface through which researchers can search through data for location-based components. The goal of the Federated Geospatial Data Discovery for Canada is to create an extensible software method to find and display location-aware data in a search interface that would be both map- and text-based.

“We’re making big steps forward with these opportunities to provide better support and discoverability for geodata produced by researchers here at UBC and others from across Canada,” says Thornberry.

The project is currently on track to be completed before April 2020. Read more in the CANARIE press release issued today.

Students, researchers and the wider community can now access original pamphlets from the French Revolution thanks to a partnership between UBC Library and French, Hispanic and Italian Studies.

This year’s Fall UBC Library and Alma Mater Student Society (AMS) Food for Fines Campaign raised a total of $3,385.24 across the Point Grey and Okanagan campuses.

Now in its fifteenth consecutive year at UBC, the Food for Fines campaign waives $2 in Library fines for every food item donated, to a maximum of $30. The program began as a joint initiative to support disadvantaged members of the community, and has become an integral source of the AMS Food Bank’s food reserves to support UBC students in need.

Non-perishable food items were collected at circulation desks and then distributed to the AMS Food Bank.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s campaign!

Please note that members of the community are welcome to donate goods year-round at the AMS Food Bank and Greater Vancouver Food Bank.

Visit the AMS Food Bank website for more information

There is scheduled mechanical maintenance work in the ASRS from October 21 to 25 which may result in service delays of up to one day for material. Please call the IKBLC circulation desk at (604) 822-8149 before picking up material.

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