Comedian, actor and writer Ali Wong distills years of advice into letters to her daughters in “Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice for Living Your Best Life.”
In her first book, Wong — whose Netflix stand-up specials, “Hard Knock Wife”“ and Baby Cobra,” earned her a massive following — details how she met her husband; pregnancy, childbirth, and the messy chaos of parenting; New York during her early stand-up career, when bombing on stage honed her talents; her Vietnamese/Chinese upbringing; time at UCLA; and study abroad in Hanoi. Throughout these topical letters, her trademark candor is equal parts crass about sex, tender about her family's sacrifices and sober about miscarriage, among other pains. A few letters are composed as lighthearted lists, including how to host a cheaper wedding: “Buy your dress on eBay,” and “Get your hair done at a blow-out bar.” On spotting authentic Asian restaurants, she writes, “Ninety-nine percent of the clientele should be Asian." The author’s accounts of her initial forays into the comedy business and brushes with famous people add color and demonstrate the necessity of hard work, but it’s behind-the-scenes memories of Wong’s past that stand out for their pointed depiction of a Bay Area immigrant family. Her mother’s unsentimental love, which the author grew to understand after visiting Vietnam herself, is palpable. Wong also lays bare her young adult years, rife with dating disasters, with amusing self-mockery. Digressions on womanhood are refreshing in their nuances, and pride mixes with conviction in the power of expanding comedy beyond an Asian audience. An afterword by Wong’s husband gives insight on what it’s like to fuel someone else’s jokes. Under the raunchy writing — much of which repeats the highlights of Wong’s act — there's familiar, reassuring optimism. About her mother, she writes, "she did her best to make me tough. … She will always be there for me.” Wong brings the same dedication here, where mistakes inspire wisecracking wisdom.
A down-to-earth collection that is raw but not irreverent.
A tale for motocross fans
Debut memoir “Motocross Saved My Life” recounts former Canadian national champion Brent Worrall’s career in motocross and a near-fatal, high-speed crash that left him a paraplegic.
Worrall was born in Chilliwack, British Columbia, in the summer of 1966. The son of a “burly logger” and a “highly intelligent” bank clerk, he was “introverted” at school and “never felt smart.” In 1972, when his father bought him a bright red motorbike, his life changed. The bike became the author’s “first true love,” and “any kind of isolation” he had felt was gone. He progressed from being a plucky 7-year-old who raced wearing a number made from hockey tape to winning the Canadian national motocross championship. Despite his success, he found that he was using alcohol as an “escape,” and it was beginning to turn on him. Alcoholism and compulsive gambling led to periods of absence from the sport. While making a comeback in 2011, he found himself in a “perpetual nose-dive position” and survived a crash in which his “lungs had collapsed as a result of multiple fractures” to his “spinal column and torso.” Paraplegic and robbed of his beloved sport, the author felt the battle against his addictions intensify. Worrall tells how he was able to “put his life back in order” and continue his involvement in motocross. The opening of the memoir is off-puttingly programmatic, as the author unnecessarily recounts his family lineage before beginning his own story. Yet his endearingly droll descriptive style soon shines through: Dad “always looked and smelled as if he had just run a marathon behind a wood chipper.” Worrall’s writing is also unswervingly honest: “The anti-depressants had me wanting to jump off the cliff at the top of Sparkling Hill or run headlong out my living room window.” Still, some of his discussions will prove drowsy for those unfamiliar with the sport: “The other thing to keep in mind is that the 80 cc bikes back then were about as big as today’s 65 cc motorcycles.” Illustrated with the author’s photographs, this frank and straightforward memoir will captivate motocross enthusiasts but may struggle to draw a wider audience.
An uplifting tale of a fight against the odds — told with simplicity and charm — that will appeal to motocross fans.