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The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family

3.16  ·  Rating details ·  440 ratings  ·  108 reviews
In this jaw-dropping, darkly comedic memoir, a young woman comes 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.

Lindsay Wong grew up with a paranoid schizophrenic grandmother and a mother who was deeply afraid of the "woo-woo"--Chinese ghosts who come to visit in times of
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 1st 2018 by Arsenal Pulp Press
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3.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  440 ratings  ·  108 reviews

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Jan 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, can-con, nonfiction
I started laughing. I couldn't stop giggling because I wasn't what my family termed Woo-Woo: I was only medically damaged – the spirits that have plagued my Chinese family for years be damned. Thank God. I was a freak with terrible, mutinous genes, but at least I was not turning into my permanently sad mother, my suicidal auntie Beautiful One, or my maternal grandmother, Poh-Poh.

When author Lindsay Wong was a twenty-one-year-old MFA student at Columbia University, she finally received a diagno
Nov 11, 2018 rated it did not like it
“Between my mother’s hysterics and the uncertainty of my illness, I couldn’t help but believe that I had fallen into madness.”

This book reads like an endless number of user-submitted stories to a February issue of Reader’s Digest. Wong does not give reason as to why she is airing her family grievances in a book – did she grow from it? Learn? Anything? I am also sad to say that it does not contain a likeable narrator – she jumps into her memory with shocking lucidity… and specificity… it makes yo
Mar 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Lindsay Wong’s memoir, The Woo Woo, takes a look at growing up in a family plagued with mental illness. Equal parts heartbreaking and darkly comedic, The Woo Woo explores the author’s complicated relationship with her parents, siblings and extended family as well as her own mental illness after being diagnosed with a neurological disorder in her twenties.

Now in her thirties, Wong has lived a very challenging life. Her grandparents, her parents and her Aunt have all had varying forms of mental il
Sierra Gemma
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-nonfiction
This is a great book about family, abuse, and mental health. It is a dark, dark, dark comedy. I think the subtitle (no doubt chosen by the publisher and not the author) makes the book seem like it is going to be more about hockey and drug raids than it is. I'm guessing the publisher wanted a subtitle that they thought might sell more copies. I hope it works because this is the kind of fantastic memoir that is hard to summarize in such a way that makes it sound as enjoyable as it was. Like if I w ...more
❀ Susan G
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
I struggled to finish The Woo Woo. I sure hope that some of the situations were embellished and have to wonder what her family thinks of their dysfunction not only being part of a novel but highlighted for Canada Reads.

The book made me appreciate my old childhood experience even more than I do but I really had trouble reading about the dreadful family dynamics, verbal and physical abuse.
Elise  Buller
I feel bad but I just didn’t really like this book. The first 100 pages I was pretty into it and enjoyed the authors writing and humorous way of recalling her childhood but after that it became a chore to get through. She had a great story to tell but I felt like it became just really repetitive and boring? She was very distanced from everything and I realize in real life there isn’t always a nice clean happy ending tying things up but I would have appreciated some more personal growth or reflec ...more
Feb 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Memoirs are hard to review. I feel weird and out of place reviewing and rating someones life. When I rate and review memoirs it is more about if I had a good time reading the book, did the story move me, the writing style...I try very hard not to judge the choices the authors make in memoirs, it is their life, not mine and therefore I am not allowed to "rate" it. So the Woo Woo, based on my 3 star review basically means I had an alright time reading this, the writing was okay and Wong's story di ...more
Joanne MacNevin
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
I found this book difficult to read. The subject matter was difficult, and, as much as I don't like to say this about an autobiographical work of non-fiction, the characters were very unlikeable and therefore made for hard reading. There were a lot of sections in this book where I could barely stand to read the dialogue between characters because they were so mean to one another.

One thing I would have liked more of in the book is how she managed to persevere and get a degree with such a debilit
Feb 06, 2019 rated it liked it
It must have taken Lindsay Wong a great amount of courage to write this story. It is not easy to talk about mental illness and to reveal yours and your family's demons- woo woos- to the entire world to judge.
I found quite a few repeating passages and parts that could have been edited out.
3.5 stars.

This is the first book on the 2019 Canada Reads shortlist that I've read so far, and I'll mostly be reviewing it under that lens.

This year's theme is 'a book to move you' and I do think that it fits the theme well. The Woo-Woo is a moving memoir because it highlights how, although mental illness is already so stigmatized and misunderstood within society in general, within many Asian cultures (in this case, Chinese) it's very often not even acknowledged at all, and because of this how e
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lindsay Wong has a smart and creative way with words. I am happy to see her memoir considered for Canada Reads 2019, it is funny and depressing in an uplifting kind of way, very bizarre. A somewhat unique voice, very well executed. Only real low point for me is that the "fun in dysfunctional family" story has been done and done already (The Glass Castle, Running with Scissors, ...) - I feel I've simply read one too many.
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars.

The Woo-Woo is an unflinching, yet emotionally distant, memoir which chronicles the author’s experiences growing up in her dysfunctional Chinese-Canadian family. Wong’s childhood and young adulthood is filled with verbal/physical abuse and neglect, and she struggles with many aspects of her life including making friends and forming a healthy relationship with food. The members of her family clearly suffer from mental disturbances and illnesses, yet they distrust doctors and psychiatris
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
This is a great memoir about growing up in a Chinese family with mental health issues. There's a lot of dark humour involved, and Lindsay Wong, the author, doesn't pull any punches and shows the dark side of what has happened in her family. However, as someone who suffers mental health issues myself, I found some parts of this really hard to read. I'm glad it was written and I hope more people read it. I think it's a very important story.
Feb 12, 2019 rated it liked it
As a fellow Asian Vancouverite who comes from a large and very close extended Asian family, I mildly enjoyed this memoir.

The writing is crude, salty and brash, quite unlike any of the other books that are shortlisted for Canada Reads 2019; often I questioned if I was laughing because it was funny, or because the most callous uses of profanity and verbal abuse (the norm in this family) were being spouted so flippantly between the characters. Then again, who am I to judge the author's recollectio
Mostly, I’m just glad to be done reading this book. It felt extremely disconnected, which reading it does make sense that it would be that way. It also was only emotional in a weirdly reflective way? For such an emotional book with so many crazy things happening it just felt flat.
Feb 16, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure what inspired the author to write about her odious family but it is neither interesting nor entertaining.
Feb 15, 2019 rated it did not like it
Poorly written, mean, and vulgar. Also, although I'm sure there is a kernel of truth in this memoir, it reeked of exaggeration and hyperbole. I guess that's what was supposed to make it "witty"? It's a shame this book was selected for Canada Reads.
Tracey Macleod
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canada-reads
3.5 ⭐ This book reminded me of The Glass Castle and Educated.

*CBC Canada Reads book
Virginia Van
A touching and darkly humorous memoir about growing up in a Canadian Chinese family in "Hongcouver" which blames their psychiatric woes on ghosts and demons known as "the woo-woos, from her mother, who sees camping in a Walmart parking lot as the only safe haven to escape the spirits of the dead, to a beloved psychotic aunt who holds Vancouver hostage for eight hours when she threatens to jump off a bridge. Wong manages to escape to New York to do a MFA at Columbia when she fears the woo-woos ar ...more
Gail Amendt
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
Canada Reads has introduced me to some good books. This is not one of them. Canada Reads should promote books that further our understanding of minorities, immigrants, and other marginalized groups. This book for me created more stereotypes than it broke down. It is supposed to be a story about a woman overcoming her childhood in a family afflicted with mental health challenges and ancient Chinese beliefs about demon possession, but the things she describes are so extreme as to be unbelievable, ...more
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
I can only hope that the Canada Reads panel provides me with insight about why this book is so extraordinary. I feel for Wong's emotionally-charged childhood, and the constant presence of mental illness in her family, but the writing is choppy, and there are way too many descriptors or metaphors or examples or on and on and on (someone needs to edit it!). I struggled to read it.

Before the Epilogue, it ENDS thus:
(view spoiler)
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
Abandoned at 30%.
This memoir is a stark look at a dysfunctional family burdened by undiagnosed mental illness and immigrant stoicism, but I got tired of the repetitiveness. In every chapter the same incidents are repeated over and over: her dad calls her stupid, crying brings on demons, she has no friends, her mom has an episode. I would have liked the author to spend more time discussing the impact of this upbringing, the underlying mental illnesses, the damaging effect of stigma and family sh
Duncan McCurdie
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't read many memoirs by non famous people as I have the impression/worry that they are going to be either misery drenched or rags to riches gloating. However The Woo Woo is a delightful rebuttal to my prejudice. What makes this memoir so good is Lindsay Wong's writing, it is much much funnier, albeit acerbic and caustically, than you would ever imagine from a basic description of the events and themes discussed. I'm not sure I would have picked up this book had it not been part of Canada Re ...more
This book is written with a dark, frequently cruel humor. This seems to be the authors way of handling memories of her neglectful and at times downright abusive upbringing. It couldn’t have been that bad if it’s funny right? Right??

This style of writing will likely be off putting to many readers. There is no sensitivity or empathy here for the many mentally ill people in the authors life but there is a shocking honesty in how the author expresses her frustration, embarrassment, and anger at her
George Ilsley
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Some stories are stranger than fiction. This one is a story of resilience, and survival, and can be overwhelming to read. There is a lot to process here -- and this reading experience must be just a tiny glimmer of what the author experienced in her upbringing.
Eryn Prince
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
The most beautiful and heartbreaking nuances in this memoir come from the narrator’s unflinching honesty.

I believe that some people take issue with the fact that the author dictates her experiences in a way that doesn’t always paint her as the heroine of her own story, but what they are missing is the beauty of that authenticity.

If you’re looking for a read that satisfies you in the predictable way that a novel does then this book will not suit you. Life is messy and brutal and real. It doesn’t
Dec 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Challenging book to read, raw & sad although fairly well written, with some personal hope by the end. Good for a more thorough description of fairly recent wave Chinese immigrants, particularly sparked in the Vancouver area by the imminent return of Hong Kong to China in the 1990s.

The book would have benefited from some more editing, given the endless repetition and description of more traditional Chinese cultural attitudes toward mental illness & expressions of emotions & of behavi
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Solid 4 stars: This is probably the first memoir I’ve ever read that actually kept my attention and made me want to keep reading. Memoirs and biographies aren’t my favorite genre of books to read but this book caught my attention when it was selected for Canada Reads. I was particularly interested as I am Chinese Canadian and this is a story about a Chinese Canadian family and mental health - two topics that are rarely ever discussed together.

Although the topic of mental illness isn’t as extrem
Feb 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, noir, humour
The Woo-Woo: How I survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raid, Demons and My Crazy Chinese Family, a daring piece of non-fiction on the subject of mental illness, tells the story of a dysfunctional immigrant Chinese family in Vancouver. The protagonist Lindsay survives through a childhood where she battles with a grandmother who is paranoid schizophrenic, a mother who lives in fear of demons and a father who belittles his children continuously. The Woo Woo is Lindsay Wong’s first novel.

The book starts with
Mar 09, 2019 rated it liked it
I struggled to get into this until about half-way through. Maybe it was just too over-hyped locally and my expectations were too high. Maybe I've read too many fictional narratives about abusive childhoods lately (see anything by Eden Robinson) to appreciate the story of the author's life, but this felt like a series of traumatic episodes without a cohesive plot for much of the book. It was still an interesting glimpse into a community that I'm not a part of, despite living in the same metropoli ...more
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Lindsay Wong holds a BFA in Creative Writing from The University of British Columbia and a MFA in Literary Nonfiction from Columbia University in New York City.

Wong has been awarded fellowships and residencies at The Kimmel-Harding Nelson Center in Nebraska City, Caldera Arts in Oregon, and The Studios of Key West, among others. Currently, she is writer-in-residence at The John Howard Society and
“Like one of those permanently smiling animal heads displayed in a hunter’s living room, immobilized by the time and trauma of its death.” 0 likes
“Talk show hosts like Oprah and Rosie O’Donnell had lied: a good family was not one that forgave, but one that could bravely endure ancient grudges.” 0 likes
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