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

3.20  ·  Rating details ·  2,402 ratings  ·  394 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, 304 pages
Published November 6th 2018 by Arsenal Pulp Press (first published October 30th 2018)
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Valerie Jackson Yes, it's a memoir! I really enjoyed how the author dispassionately describes all the family crises, yet somehow manages to convey the tragedy of the …moreYes, it's a memoir! I really enjoyed how the author dispassionately describes all the family crises, yet somehow manages to convey the tragedy of the untreated mental illnesses and how they impacted her and her cousins. There were many moments where I laughed out loud. She is often totally unsentimental, for e.g., describing the incident of shitting herself in public as "providing "self esteem and a fresh perspective!!" (less)

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Average rating 3.20  · 
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 ·  2,402 ratings  ·  394 reviews

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Start your review of The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family
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
Elise Buller
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
((2.5)) 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 o ...more
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 diag
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
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
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. ...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
❀ Susan G
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019-reads
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.
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
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
Mar 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
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
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.
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. ...more
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Painful. Just painful.
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. ...more
MJ Beauchamp
Feb 23, 2019 rated it 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. ...more
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
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. Even the repetition hints at life inside the family. 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.
May 12, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: memoir, canadian, 2019
I forced myself to finish reading this even though I hated it, just so I could write this review.

This is a badly written memoir written by a miserable, rich, whiny, incredibly irritating Chinese girl in Vancouver whose family is all battling mental illness (which they refer to as the woo-woo). They're all mean and nasty, including Lindsay, the protagonist.

Here's a typical exchange between the parents, in front of Lindsay.

"Don't tell Lindsay to kill herself! She's weak in the fucking head. She'
This book was one of the five debated on CANADA READS 2019. It was the first one voted off and the only one that I had not read. I put it on hold at the library in February, but many others were ahead of me. I just finished reading it and agree with the order the books were voted off CANADA READS.

Lindsay Wong grew up with a paranoid schizophrenic grandmother and a mother who was deeply afraid of the "woo-woo" - Chinese ghosts who visit in times of personal turmoil. When Lindsay was six, she and
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
Apr 23, 2019 rated it did not like it
Funny in a sad way for the first few chapters but then just sad in a pathetic way. Makes me wonder how real vs exaggerated the story is.
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
Jenny Jaeckel
Jun 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
There are three miracles in this book. The first is that Lindsay Wong actually did survive everything she says (and so much more) and lived to tell the tale; and the second, that she does so with such brutal, absurdist, gut-wrenching comic genius. The third miracle is the less obvious but equally powerful sense of compassion, not least toward her parents, that emerges over the course of the story. Wong's memoir of lurid family chaos, rendered brilliantly in every shocking color, is nevertheless ...more
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
Not what I expected, not what I was looking for.

I had a really hard time with this book. Many of the elements seem so out there that I started to wonder if it is all actually true. Then I realized that's not something for me to question when I consider that it is a) someone else's story that I wasn't there for and b) she's looking at it through a cultural lens that is not my own. But then I realized that she is trying to write a lot of this from a humourous viewpoint (see: darkly comedic memoir)
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 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)
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
Orla Hegarty
Apr 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebook
I think memoirs are my groove during these crazy covid times. I started this in the before time and finished it just a few days ago on my second ebook loan.

This book gave me an insight into modern Canadian culture that I was ignorant about. As they say around my part of Canada - this is top shelf.
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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

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