The Woo-Woo by Lindsay Wong

Author: Lindsay Wong
Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press
Format: Paperback
Genre: Memoir | Non-fiction


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 personal turmoil. From a young age, she witnessed the woo-woo’s sinister effects; at the age of six, she found herself living in the food court of her suburban mall, which her mother saw as a safe haven because they could hide there from dead people, and on a camping trip, her mother tried to light Lindsay’s foot on fire to rid her of the woo-woo.

The eccentricities take a dark turn, however, when her aunt, suffering from a psychotic breakdown, holds the city of Vancouver hostage for eight hours when she threatens to jump off a bridge. And when Lindsay herself starts to experience symptoms of the woo-woo herself, she wonders whether she will suffer the same fate as her family.


The Woo-Woo by Lindsay Wong is a darkly humorous memoir that talks about her parents, her childhood upbringing—or, lack thereof—and just what the hell the Woo-Woo are—Ghosts and demons that her parents are convinced are trying to take over their bodies and possess them at any sign of weakness. As a result, Lindsay’s upbringing is one long nightmare. Not that she’s fully aware of that, at the time, as she acts out just as her parents do. Causing teachers and school officials to wonder if, as her parents think, Lindsay is retarded and emotionally stunted.

Well, yes, with a couple of parents like Lindsay’s it’s a wonder she made it out of childhood alive, let alone sane. And while, to start with, this is a memoir you find yourself smiling and, at times, laughing along with the author. It’s not because it’s that kind of laugh out loud humour, rather more like the, “OMG! Shit! really?” shocked kind of uncomfortable laugher. 

In the end, after struggling through, I wasn’t really enlightened, so much as saddened. Because you realise here’s a woman making light of what she went through, using dark humour as a tool. But it was, for me at least, painful. 

Yes, it’s funny reading about the family of Mom, Pop and three young kids moving into a seemingly successful neighbourhood called the plateau—renamed ‘poteau‘ due to all the grow-ops and drugs on the street—a colourful neighbourhood full of eccentric Chinese families making their living manufacturing meth, growing weed, and importing cocaine, and hushing the rest of the neighbours with weekly gifts of lobster and chocolate. It seems like something straight out of a comedy movie—not someone’s childhood. 

For me, it got a little awkward and repetitive, as each section about something seemingly funny, is punctuated with the broken family dynamic, the father’s lack of understanding and cruelty, and then, the mother’s obvious psychosis and mental illness. 

With all the underlying problems of telling a story like this as a series of vignettes dotted with moments of humour, is that it relies on the reader going along. If this is your kind of ‘read’ then great, otherwise, you might want to look elsewhere.

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