cover image Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City

Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City

Jane Wong. Tin House, $27.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-953534-67-5

In this delightful memoir in essays, Chinese American poet Wong (How to Not Be Afraid of Everything) reflects on her experiences growing up on the Jersey Shore as the child of immigrants and later life as an English professor. In the title piece, Wong uses the image of a bank of Chinese tourist buses wending its way toward Atlantic City to set the stage for her family life: Wong’s parents operated a Chinese restaurant on the Shore, whose operations were eventually hampered by her father’s gambling addiction and alcoholism. The hilarious “Give Us Our Crowns” sees Wong’s mother entering Wong in Miss Preteen New Jersey, giving the author the opportunity to ruminate on the impact of Western beauty ideals on Chinese women. In “Bad Bildungsroman with Table Tennis,” Wong sharply recounts her father’s obsessions with Ping-Pong, including his purchase of an expensive table despite the family’s financial struggles, nimbly balancing humor and heartbreak. Wong cannily addresses racism in academia and the long arc of finding her identity as a poet in several essays, most notably in the final piece, “Astonished Enough?” in which she traces the personal and historical barriers that have stood between her and a writing career. With a poet’s ear for language and a satirist’s eye for human foibles, Wong masterfully marries her personal story with larger questions about Chinese American identity. This is a winner. (May)