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New author Anna Wong: Exploring Chinese Culture and Tradition Through Her Books

Meet Anna Wong, the creative mind behind "ABCs for ABCs" and "Doubly Happy." A delightful journey through Chinese symbolism and culture, encapsulated in a vibrant ABC format. Anna, embracing her Chinese-American heritage, crafted this book as a bridge for American Born Chinese to connect with their roots. Through playful symbolism and colorful illustrations, Anna invites readers of all ages to explore the richness of Chinese tradition.

As a resident of San Francisco and fellow author we love to hear about what inspired these books. So let's Dive-in and let the adventure begin!

Tell me about your title? ABCs for ABCs, what does that mean? 

I am doubly happy and lucky to be of Chinese and American heritage. My book showcases everyday Chinese objects but not everyone is familiar with the symbolism. This is my ABC formatted book for American Born Chinese. It was a fun way to play on the title - Doubly Happy by repeating ABCs.


What inspired you to write this book? What is the age group?

With the rise of anti-Asian sentiment, it made me think about my Chinese identity. As an Auntie I wanted to share my pride in being Chinese and nourish that in my “nieces and nephews”. (“Auntie” is what you call an elder, whether related or not) But, how could they stand tall and be proud if they don’t know their heritage? As I worked on y book, I realized there were also so many things of Chinese culture and tradition that I wanted to pass along and not have it forgotten. So, I wrote this book for all ages for anyone interested in learning more about different cultures. It can be read at different levels.


Whenever we are at an event I see many Chinese Americans' eyes light up when they look at your title and start flipping through the pages. What do you think resonates with your audience?

First, I love it when they respond and chuckle over title. Then they find familiar things from their childhood and it feels fresh and new. It’s seen with a different lens. Plus my book is very colorful and happy!

2024 is the year of the dragon. you mention the dragon and its meaning in your abc book. what is it we can look forward to this coming year?

I can't make any predictions but it is the of the dragon –  one of the most coveted animals in the Chinese zodiac. Those born in the year of the Dragon are passionate, confident, bold, lucky and also somewhat of a perfectionist. Like horoscopes, different traits are attributed to each animal in the Chinese zodiac. You may think it describes you or acts as a predictor of your fate.


Tell me the importance of oranges and why we see so many of them during this time of year, especially in Chinatown. What are other treats we should look out for during the new year festivities? 

Oranges and tangerines symbolize gold and prosperity. It is important to include the stem and leaves when gifting or using as decorations. They symbolize abundance, opulence and wholeness, not to mention freshness.


When we get home how can we celebrate Chinese New Year? What fun activities/games do you suggest we should do to invite us in on this ancient culture?

New Year is about coming together and gathering as a family. There are traditions like setting out the Tray of Togetherness which is a candy dish with 6 or 8 compartments, cleaning house, not washing your hair on New Year’s Day, opening your windows on the eve, handing out red envelopes -which has its own set of guidelines.


I love the index of your book where you detail what all the symbols mean in your book. I know now to never stick my chopsticks into a bowl of rice, which is a huge no-no. Do you have another tip in Chinese manners that we should be aware of so that we can utilize it as we explore Chinatown?

If you were to be served a whole fish, with head and tail intact, you should never flip the fish as it is akin to tipping the boat. At dim sum, where many family and friends gather and conversations are flowing, you don’t need to pause your conversation when someone refills your up of tea. Simply tap two fingers on the table.


Speaking of exploring. You live in San Francisco. What is your favorite San Francisco destination and why?

Let’s clarify this is only one of many favorites. I’d say The Ferry Building because you can have it all and it is central. I love it and it is also great for out of towners.


If you were to design a one day itinerary of a first time visitor to SF, what would it be?

Oh, I love playing tourist, showing off the city. Off the beaten path, I love showing off the 16th Avenue Moraga Mosaic Steps and view at the top. Telegraph Hill steps from Battery to Coit Tower. The Lyon Street Stairs. The Russian Hill stairs. Notice there’s a theme here. And the Pacific Coastal trail is another favorite.


You just came out with another book. What inspired this one?

During family gatherings and reunions, we often reference auspicious superstitions and traditions that we observed or in some cases, like washing hair on birthdays, that we would not practice. I realize these ‘rules’ for luck are another aspect of my identity I wanted to capture, record and pass along.


How can people get a copy of your book?!

Both books are available at Chinese Historical Society Museum, Black Bird Bookstore and SF Mercantile. Or you can purchase directly on my website

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