Canada Reads

Why Joe Zee chose to defend The Woo-Woo by Lindsay Wong on Canada Reads

Find out why the fashion expert chose the darkly humorous memoir The Woo-Woo as the one book all of Canada should read.

The debates take place March 25-28

Joe Zee is defending The Woo-Woo by Lindsay Wong. (CBC)

Joe Zee is a fashion expert who is currently a judge on the television show Stitched in Canada. He has been seen on television shows — including, ABC's Good Morning America and their annual Oscars pre-show, NBC's Today, CNN and The Oprah Winfrey Show — and is the former creative director of Elle magazine. He is also a Canada Reads 2019 panellist, defending Lindsay Wong's memoir The-Woo-Woo.

On Jan. 31, CBC Books revealed the 2019 contenders. On CBC Radio's q and at a public event at the Toronto Public Library, Zee talked about why he chose The Woo-Woo and why he's taking part in Canada Reads 

The debates take place March 25-28, 2019. They will air on CBC Radio One at 11 a.m. (1 p.m. AT/1:30 p.m. NT), on CBC at 4 p.m. (4:30 NT), be live streamed online at CBC Books at 11 a.m. ET and will be available on the free CBC Gem streaming service.

Joe Zee's first impressions

"It was heartbreakingly raw. Lindsay laid it all out on the pages of her book. Her upbringing and her childhood were so devastatingly unreal, to a point that fiction would be unbelievable. Her father would call her garbage and say she was found in a dumpster. Her mother would try to set her foot on fire. Or that her aunt would stand on a bridge in Vancouver and hold the city captive on Canada Day, threatening suicide.

Lindsay Wong's darkly comedic memoir will break your heart.

"She wrote all of those stories and more with the armour of humour. I read all of those stories in her book and I laughed. And then I felt guilty for laughing. I told Lindsay all of this, and she said, 'If I couldn't laugh, I couldn't do this.'"

Why The Woo-Woo should win Canada Reads

"I feel like I'm going crazy. And sometimes I feel like I am the sanest person in the room. Mental health affects us all and if we don't talk about it, especially in my Asian culture, well, it might just go away. And that, my friends, is the heart of The Woo-Woo.

"Lindsay Wong's darkly comedic memoir will break your heart. I lived her words and her shame dealing with her Chinese Canadian family's grapple with mental health, their dark days explained away as a superstition beyond their control."

Why The Woo-Woo is an important book

"It's an immigrant story. I know that Canada is such a diverse nation, and all of us came here looking for a different life. All of us came here looking for a new way for our kids. Having mental illness be part of your everyday life was just something you did not [add] into the equation. A lot of us try to push it away... and a lot of us just ignore that it exists. What Lindsay has done is taken that and put it at the forefront. Yes, we as Asians don't feel, we just live. But what Lindsay is saying is, 'No. We are going to raise our hand and do something about this.'

 But it isn't just an Asian story. It isn't just a mental health story. It's a story about trying to fit in. 

"But it isn't just an Asian story. It isn't just a mental health story. It's a story about trying to fit in. It's a story about not knowing what's going on. It's a story about really feeling like a loner and walking around in a sea of ghosts."

Joe Zee's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

The panellists make their opening arguments on q

To kick off this year's challenge, all five Canada Reads panellists get together in the q studio to introduce the books they are championing. 15:09

The Canada Reads 2019 contenders

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