The Apricot Outlook of Kathrine Koon Hung Wong by Dennis W.C. Wong is a biographical story about the author’s mother, told using actual historical artifacts as well as reminisces from Kathrine and her family. This book is not like a traditional biographical work; instead, it uses a variety of genres to show the readers the amazing life of Kathrine Koon Hung Wong. Part of the text features the subject’s own words, captured in audio and then transcribed. The text is from the end of Wong’s life and gives context to the various media that follows. The recordings strengthen the author’s purpose, letting the readers see the journey “of our ancestors and their struggles, jealousies, and successes.” The book is a treasure for Wong’s descendants and will be a motivation for readers to look to their own ancestors and discover their journeys.
From the recordings, readers learn of Wong’s early life and the revelations are like a time capsule of that time of history. From a young age, Wong worked in her father’s laundry and watched the fortunes of the family rise and fall with his triumphs and failures, from a bankruptcy and fire that destroys the successful business to the complete financial devastation when the family discovers there is no insurance to replace the loss of their only source of income. Like many Chinese families during that time in history, Kathrine’s family then moves to San Francisco where Wong starts a full life.
The author also chronicles Wong’s last years, days spent in rehabilitation care centers. The lasting memory she left to her family is a woman who always smiled at their visits, as well as a rich family history. The author also includes family pictures as historical artifacts. Perhaps the loveliest is the beautiful description of Wong’s wedding, lush flower arrangements so lovingly described that readers feel as if they were there. Wong also includes poems written about the importance of family and memorials of ancestors and siblings who have passed. Newspaper clippings of family ancestors and historical data tells more of the family story.
While the matriarch died at the age of 86 years, her family need only open the pages of Dennis W.C. Wong’s The Apricot Outlook of Kathrine Koon Hung Wong to feel close to her again. The pictorial history is an engaging read and will likely motivate readers to reach out to their ancestors and discover their own cultural history.