Book Review: Me, Her, Us is a witty and unflinching essay collection from Yen-Rong Wong

Blending memoir with cultural criticism, Me, Her, Us is the debut non-fiction release from Yen-Rong Wong, exploring the intersection between sex, relationships, and race. Raised by religious Malaysian Chinese parents in Brisbane, she bristled against the idealised version of who she was supposed to be and how her life was supposed to play out. Me, Her, Us takes those experiences and dives deep.

Writing to fill a void she saw in her own search for answers, Wong dedicates Me, Her, Us to all young Asian women, reframing ideas usually only examined through a white male lens in a way that no longer excludes voices like hers, resulting in a collection of brilliant essays that cover everything from identity and family to kink and stereotypes.

Conversational in tone, Wong shies away from little, and backs up her observations and explorations with plenty of research and references. And while I personally found echoes of myself amongst her words – as a fat woman, for example, I’m all too aware of the uneasy dichotomy of being seen as sexless until you’re someone’s fetish – there’s no need to see yourself in the pages of Me, Her, Us to appreciate what’s being explored here.

For starters, Wong is far too engaging a writer for that to be a pre-requisite. Her essays are funny, intelligent, and vulnerable, and – crucially – remain rooted in her experiences as a young Malaysian Chinese woman growing up in Australia. There are no translations provided for the Mandarin conversations with her parents, and, truthfully, they’re not needed. Not only because Wong surrounds them with enough context that you’ll be able to fill in the gaps, but also because they’re not for everyone to hear. It’s a touching little safeguard for parents she acknowledges weren’t the easiest to deal with, but were operating under different rules and standards than the kids they raised in Australia.

Witty, whip-smart, and often quite touching, Me, Her, Us is a gentle triumph. Reading and reviewing as a white woman, Wong wasn’t writing for me, but, as she notes in her closing words, the stereotypes she navigates won’t go away on their own, and calling them out and dismantling them – especially in situations when the targets cannot – benefits us all. And to her Asian readers, she offers those most wonderful words of comfort: “you are not alone”.

FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Yen-Rong Wong’s Me, Her, Us is available now through UQP Books. Grab yourself a copy from Booktopia HERE.

Jodie Sloan

Living, writing, and reading in Brisbane/Meanjin. Likes spooky books, strong cocktails, and pro-wrestling.