year of the tiger by Alice Wong, image of a book with drawing of tiger on it, the book is flanked by two Mexican black cat figurines, and a black and white hello kitty figurine.

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This is a review of the book, “Year of the Tiger: An Activist’s Life,” by Alice Wong. You can listen to me read this post by clicking the player below this, or on my podcast on Spotify or iTunes.

Year of the Tiger: An Activist’s Life

Sometimes I feel like any memoir written even a little decently and capturing a piece of the disability experience is poised to become a bestseller. Not necessarily because it deserves to be – not because it really brings us to a new place or takes us where our mind explodes in an element of new awesomeness. They just become bestsellers because of woke box-checking. 

Alice Wong’s “Year of the Tiger” is a whole different cat. It BELONGS on the bestseller list. Oprah needs to pick this book up it needs to be required reading for all those diversity and disability college courses. 

Why? 

Glad you asked. First, here’s the trajectory of Instagram updates that I posted as I was reading it:

You’ll probably noticed that my tone changed after I started really reading Year of the Tiger, right?

I got pretty serious, pretty fast. I went from masking/smiley/happy, “oh cool, my friend wrote a book and this is awesome!” to, not smiley or masking at all – not even caring that my selfie angles were completely unflattering because I just wanted to get that message out that “this book is phenomenal and you better pay attention.” 

That is how good this book is. 

So, again, why?

Why is Year of the Tiger so good?

Out of all the books available in the world right now, why should you reach for this one?

Here’s why:

Alice is a really good writer who knows her shit

In a world that doesn’t take disability seriously when it should, and way too seriously when it doesn’t need to, Alice consistently hits the right notes and explains the pieces that matter. She’s your buddy who always says the perfect thing, who knows how to twirl a sentence out so it can cast the messages, sinking them deep while you laugh, cry, or get pissed off.

But she’s also a storyteller. 

Year of the Tiger isn’t all disability stuff; it’s also about being a Chinese immigrant in Indiana, it’s about culture, family, connections, community. It’s about choices and chances in life. 

These intersections speak to Alice’s life, but they echo through all of us, they are relatable because we all have our intersections and if we are lucky, they can help ground and support us. Alice seems to be lucky in hers, and it’s a beautiful story.

Alice is playful, snarky, and fun

On the heels of good writing comes a good time, and Alice definitely enjoys a good time. She has games, puzzles, drawings, and photos woven into her stories. Her descriptions of all that good food left me drooling. 

Because disability justice and advocacy can be so painful, I appreciate her playful approach to handling some Big Subjects – playful, but she still handles them. She doesn’t shirk the hard stuff that we really need to talk about.

And of course, I love her use of curse words 🙂

Alice has vision and leads by example

Her strength of vision comes through clear and strong in this, her first memoir. She is a powerful visualizer, seeing the world as it is – with rampant ableism, oppression, and inequities. She sees the world as it should be, in the Star Trek model (and even beyond!) but in her striving to bridge the present with the future, she somehow remarkably and miraculously manages to refrain from falling into vats of bitterness, despair or anger. She remains playful, spirited, a calm force of connection.

I want to talk about that calm because it inspires me (in the best sense of that loaded word). 

My brain is in a perpetual rush, trying to Do All The Things and getting super excited about each new project or whatever. Alice shows me through her writing how possible it is – how necessary even – to take time to get things done right. How important access is, how we can reach out and get help when we need it. Take time. Get it right. Savor the process too, enjoy the dumplings and suck that sweet marrow out, because all of it is what makes life worth living.

Year of the Tiger Roars

This is the first book that I have read in a very long time that I think should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand the disability experience a little better and who wants to read an expertly crafted tome in the process.

Read On

Alice Wong, Cool Cat Interview: https://www.meriahnichols.com/voices-disability-community-alice-wong/

Alice Wong’s Disability Visibility Project: https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com

Alice and I, 2014 (when she interviewed me in SF for StoryCorps)
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01/23/2023 01:37 pm GMT

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