Being Chinese : A New Zealander's Story
This is the story of a quest I began three decades ago - the search for my Chinese identity. The path I travelled was not linear, and the years brought pain as well as joy. But, while this is a narrative about being Chinese and also a New Zealander, I know that the search for purpose and meaning in life is universal. I hope that others in our culturally diverse society will find their own ways to embark on that same journey.
Helene Wong was born in New Zealand in 1949, to parents whose families had emigrated from China one or two generations earlier. Preferring invisibility, she grew up resisting her Chinese identity. But in 1980 she travelled to her father's home village in southern China and came face to face with her ancestral past.What followed was a journey to come to terms with 'being Chinese'. Helene Wong writes eloquently about her New Zealand childhood, about student life in the 1960s, and coming of age in Muldoon's New Zealand. What her Chinese ancestry means to her gradually illuminates the book as it sheds new light on her own life.
Drawing on her experience of writing for New Zealand films, she takes the narrative forward through the places of her family's history - the ancestral village of Sha Tou in Zengcheng county, the rural town of Utiku where the Wongs ran a thriving business, the Lower Hutt suburbs of her childhood, and Avalon and Naenae.
Helene Wong was born in Taihape, New Zealand, and grew up in Lower Hutt, near Wellington. After graduating in Sociology from Victoria University of Wellington, she worked in the Public Service, becoming in 1978 social policy adviser to Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon, and the first woman to be appointed to his Advisory Group.Her career then took a different turn as she followed her love of theatre, working as an actor and director before moving into film and television in the mid-1980s. She was appointed as the first script development executive in the NZ Film Commission, then worked as a freelance script consultant on several short and feature-length projects, including Illustrious Energy, Leon Narbey's acclaimed feature film about Chinese goldminers in Otago.Helene then wrote and directed documentaries for television, notably Footprints of the Dragon, about Chinese in New Zealand, for the series An Immigrant Nation. It was among the ten top-rating documentaries of 1995. The following year, she became a film critic with the New Zealand Listener, a position she still holds.Helene has taught classes in scriptwriting, film criticism, cultural identity and the media; judged numerous industry awards; served on the jury of the Asia-Pacific Film Festival in Auckland in 1996; and, from 2000 to 2006 was a member of the board of the NZ Film Commission. Helene Wong is now a full-time writer and occasional actor.