Author(s): Helene Har Lin Wong
Three decades ago I began a quest - the search for my Chinese identity. My journey unravelled the personal, professional and historical threads in my life, and revealed how bound together they are by 'being Chinese'. But I am a New Zealander too. So this became a story not only about Chinese identity but also about the country I live in. I wanted to know how I could make a connection between these two places in my life, and thus find my place in the world. 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 a young New Zealander. But in 1980 she travelled to her father's home village in southern China and came face-to-face with her ancestral past. What her Chinese heritage means to her gradually illuminates the book as it sheds new light on her own life. Helene Wong writes eloquently about her New Zealand childhood, about student life in the 1960s, and coming of age in Muldoon's New Zealand. Drawing on her experience with writing for New Zealand films, she takes the narrative forward through the places of her family's history - the village of Sha Tou in Jung Seng county, the rural town of Utiku where the Wongs ran a thriving business, the Lower Hutt suburbs of her childhood, 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.