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Alison Wong – the beginnings of an introduction

June 28, 2012

I’m working with Alison Wong’s first novel, As the Earth Turns Silver, at the moment. (I think it’s brilliantly crafted, much more political than it appears, and really quite beautiful.) You could certainly argue that it’s not young adult literature… but what young adult literature tells such a story in NZ?

Rachel Ogier attended ‘an hour with Alison Wong’ and wrote the following: “Wong grew up speaking English and just a few scattered phrases of Cantonese.  She did not consider herself Chinese, and it wasn’t until she reached standard three at school that she realised she was different from the children around her.

 Both sides of Wong’s family have been in New Zealand since before 1900, so she is a New Zealander by any definition.  Yet she is classified as a Chinese-New Zealand author, and that duality runs throughout her work, as it has her life.” (Ogier)

“Her 2006 collection of poems entitled Cup …was shortlisted at the 2007 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.  Yet Wong admitted writing still doesn’t come easily to her,  “I struggle to get words out”.” (Ogier)

During this hour with Alison Wong, Ogier writes, “

The theme of being Chinese in New Zealand continued [after Wong read a poem about her son not wanting to be Chinese] with a reading from Wong’s first novel: 2009’s As the Earth Turns Silver.  Set in Wellington, the novel stretches from the 1890s to 1920s.  It describes the relationship between a Chinese man and a Pakeha woman.  The action in the book centres around the tension between the lovers arising as a result of, for want of a better word, race.  Because of the anti-Chinese legislation of the time, they were forced to meet at night, when the moon made the world look silver. …To Wong, history is a way of looking at the present.  [Wong] noted, “there’s not a lot you can do about history… but it’s good for us to learn from it”.  The incidents described in the book prompt us to examine our attitude towards people who are different – different in any way, Wong clarified.  There are more differences than just race.

” (Ogier)

Rachel Ogier An Hour with Alison Wong chaired by Graham Beattie: The Present Past (accessed 8th Oct 2011)

A bit more on Alison Wong

According to the author blurb in the Penguin edition of her novel, As the Earth Turns Silver, “Alison was the Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago [in 2002]. Her poetry collection Cup was shortlisted for the Jessie Mackay Best First Book for Poetry at the 2007 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. … Alison currently lives in Geelong, Australia, where As the Earth Turns Silver was shortlisted for the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. The novel has also been longlisted for the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award [eventually won by Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann].”


From → Wong Alison

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