Cold Tea Reads: Reflecting on Ali Wong’s Dear Girls

On a cold evening, there is nothing better than curling up in a café with a hot cup of tea, and not much else can make it better, other than when accompanied by other bibliophiles who are just as eager to debrief the latest memoir from the ridiculously funny and sharp-witted standup comedian, Ali Wong.

In Dear Girls, Wong pens a series of personal essays to her two daughters, sharing wisdom from her past relationships, adventures of self-discovery, the realities of motherhood, and “making it” in stand-up comedy. There were no details too embarrassing, too graphic or too TMI (too much information) to divulge.

This is the candor that we have come to appreciate and love about the star of the Netflix comedy specials, “Hard knock wife” and “Baby Cobra.”

At the January Cold Tea Reads Meetup, we bonded over Wong’s unfiltered details of her dating failures and Asian upbringing, fanned over her “supportive and sexy” (her words not ours) partner, and marveled at her grueling journey to success. 

Join us at our next Cold Tea Reads Meetup on March 12, 2020. Sign up here.

Cold Tea Reads meet up recap

Here are some highlights of what attendees of Cold Tea Reads discussed, from talking about sex, to reconnecting with your roots, and how the Asian-American comedian is inspiring others to blaze their own trails.

What are your thoughts on sharing sexual history with your hypothetical adult children?

“Would they really want to know?”

“I would share everything – except for showing my ass crack on stage!”

“Only if they are curious.”

Judging from the cringing faces and uncomfortable laughter, this was a tough question. Voluntary disclosure was the happy medium between oversharing and dodging any form of sex talk

In Asian culture, sex is often considered a taboo subject that should stay behind closed doors. Even the word itself is rarely used directly in conversation.

Wong’s shameless depiction of her sexual encounters challenged us to re-evaluate our own relationship with sex. Instead of dreading the subject, opening up about sex can help the next generation build healthier and more positive relationships.

Would you write letters to your loved ones and why?

“I would like to write to my kids every birthday, keep them in a box and give them the key to it when they are older.”

 “Yes, but for me it’s more circumstantial, such as last words or personalized message on [their] wedding day.”

“I don’t write them, but I love receiving them. I use other ways to show love, such as gift-giving.”

While most will not shy away from crafting a letter to a family member or future child, they are likely to prefix them with specific instructions, such as “open when I am buried” or “read when you are 18.”

Letter-writing is a meaningful way to convey your thoughts to a loved one. Putting words to paper conjures a sense of weight and seriousness to the message. It can also help you work through complex feelings and organize your thoughts, without the awkward or emotionally-charged confrontations.

But sharing feelings is not for everyone. In many Asian families, parents are more likely to overfeed you than say “I love you. According to the 5 Love Languages, there are many ways to display affection other than words, such as acts of service.

In Dear Girls, Wong described a time when her mother single-handedly took care of her and her father, who were both hurling into toilets after dining at a bad restaurant, while feeding her baby daughter every two hours throughout the night. 

If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

Whether it is writing a note to your loved ones or helping them at their time of need, the book serves as a reminder to show our affection whenever and wherever possible.

If this book was made into a movie, what song would you pick for the trailer?

“Something with lots of energy.”

“It would start off with an emotional 90’s ballad, interrupted by a loud, pump-up party song.”

Maybe a combination of these two songs?

 

What feelings did this book evoke for you?

“Refreshing, sentimental, happy but emotional at the same time.”

“Feeling like you are not alone.”

“Introspective – it made me think about what we would say to our own children.”

The book was so much more than just deep-belly laughter and wild tales. It was a love letter to her family and Asian heritage.

Her stories are raw yet empowering, clearly articulating what many Asian North Americans have experienced.In the afterword, Mr. Wong – aka Ali Wong’s other half – puts it best, when describing how he felt the first time he brought his parents to see Wong’s stand-up performance: “I found the experience cathartic, as if the laughter cleared me of ego and shame, as [Wong] does for so many.” Through humour, Wong emboldens us to let go of the preconceived notions in society, challenge personal boundaries and let our true selves shine. 

What aspects of the author’s story did you relate to the most?

“Having to explain Asian culture to white and non-asian friends.”

“How she appreciates her cultural roots.”

From the distaste for dim sum illiteracy, to the perks of cultural shorthands, Wong’s personal anecdotes felt all too eerily, yet refreshingly familiar. Her deep appreciation for her Asian heritage also hit home for many of us who have grown up straddled between Asian and North American culture. 

Despite being a “wild child” and pioneering a new genre of comedy, her stories are not unfamiliar to the average person, whether it is overcoming stereotypes in a traditionally male- and white-dominant industry, finding our identity or navigating the uncertainties of parenthood.

What were some specific cultural references that really stood out to you?

“Growing up and parenting in Asian American culture.”

“Not having to explain dim sum to non-Asians.”

“Taking shoes off when you enter someone else’s house.”

“Learning to save money.

Also, who can forget the infamous and shockingly accurate food cheat sheet?

How do you think this book will impact its readers? Or future opportunities for Asian authors or comedians?

Ali Wong has absolutely paved the way for other Asian comedians, to pursue their passions and find their own voices.

From reshaping traditional gender roles, to pursuing an unconventional career path, Dear Girls inspires us to live fearlessly, and laugh at ourselves once in awhile. 

We would love to hear your thoughts on Dear Girls by Ali Wong. Comment on social media with #ColdTeaReads or send us a DM!

If you have suggestions on the next book we should read, we’re taking recommendations for books on the topic of health and wellness, written by Asian authors. To recommend a book, let us know here.

Our next Cold Tea Reads Meetup is on March 12, 2020 in Vancouver.

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