An incandescent, exquisitely written memoir about family, food, girlhood, resistance, and growing up in a Chinese American restaurant on the Jersey shore.
In the late 1980s on the Jersey shore, Jane Wong watches her mother shake ants from an MSG bin behind the family’s Chinese restaurant. She is a hungry daughter frying crab rangoon for lunch, a child sneaking naps on bags of rice, a playful sister scheming to trap her brother in the freezer before he traps her first. Jane is part of a family staking their claim to the American dream, even as this dream crumbles. Beneath Atlantic City’s promise lies her father’s gambling addiction, an addiction that causes him to disappear for days and ultimately leads to the loss of the restaurant.
In her debut memoir, Jane Wong tells a new story about Atlantic City, one that resists a single identity, a single story as she writes about making do with what you have—and what you don’t. What does it mean, she asks, to be both tender and angry? What is strength without vulnerability—and humor? Filled with beauty found in unexpected places, Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City is a resounding love song of the Asian American working class, a portrait of how we become who we are, and a story of lyric wisdom to hold and to share.
About the Author
Jane Wong is the author of the poetry collections How to Not Be Afraid of Everything and Overpour. An associate professor of creative writing at Western Washington University, she grew up in New Jersey and currently lives in Seattle, Washington.
[Wong] paints her story with flourish. — The New York Times Book Review
With a strong sense of place and voice, heart and soul, Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City delivers a fresh take on the Asian American working class -- and one woman's journey to understanding her past. — Good Morning America
Delightful. . . . With a poet’s ear for language and a satirist’s eye for human foibles, Wong masterfully marries her personal story with larger questions about Chinese American identity. This is a winner. — Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
Loaded with personality and originality. . . . lyric energy bursts from almost every sentence. — Kirkus Reviews
In a soaring poetic voice layered across word-worlds of varying textures, from photographs to drawings to text-message conversations to an intense nonfiction index. . . . Jane Wong’s Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City transcends the genre of memoir.
— Los Angeles Review of Books
Her story is about surviving with what you have and what you don’t—and also a love letter to Atlantic City and the Asian American working class. — The Los Angeles Times
Wong writes with candor, vexation, and compassion. — Bustle
Unfiltered…. [an] aching, angry, surprisingly funny portrait of a poet demanding, fighting, and eating her way to self-acceptance and earned recognition. — Booklist
Essential. . . . an original immigrant story that is also universal. — Full Stop
Humorous and honest and lyrical. . . . This story of making a life with what you have is one that will stick with you. — Independent Book Review
One of the standout memoirs of 2023 thus far. . . . Alive with the beauty that comes with looking back on one’s life with grace and new understanding. — Chicago Review of Books
Resists a single identity. It’s about making do with what you have and don’t have and finding beauty in unexpected places. It’s a loving portrait of the Asian American working class. — She Reads
The abundance and the beauty and the bounty that is this book completely blew me away. . . . It’s so crisp, clear and evocative and just a joy to read. — I'm a Writer But
More than a story of immigration or of one US city, it explores the complexities of life and the dichotomies of emotion and experience that can occur within a single person. — Ms. Magazine
Wonderful. . . . an honest and forgiving recollection of a childhood. . . . perfect for fans of Seeing Ghosts and Stay True.
— Book Riot
Gorgeous. . . . dense with beautiful sensory images, particularly of food. In her own indelible way, Wong records her coming of age and finding her place in her family, in poetry and in the world. — Book Page
An honest look at a working-class community that is too often forgotten. Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City refuses summary with its sprawling essays of how love, community, and writing make us resilient.
I love a good memoir, and I’m looking forward to poet Jane Wong’s Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City, about growing up in a Chinese restaurant on the Jersey shore.
— Joanna Goddard - Cup of Jo
About growing up working class, Wong’s path to forgiving her father, dealing with abusive and toxic men and the beauty of mother-daughter relationships. — Purewow
My favorite aphorism about New Jersey is that only the strong survive it. I see that place here in all its chaotic splendor and that strength in the carving marks on each finely cut image. This is a perfect and glimmering book that could only have been forged in Jane Wong’s bloody and beautiful heart. — Elissa Washuta, author of White Magic
Jane Wong, with her poet’s eye for precise and delightful detail, carves out a quintessential story of family, gambling, loss, heartaches, toothaches, and above all, love. Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City takes a father’s addiction to the prismatic casinos of Atlantic City and places it against a mother’s fierce, unsparing devotion and a daughter’s struggle to make sense of loss. I love the tenderness and ferocity of her prose, unsentimental and wrenching, that refuses easy triumph in its immigrant story and isn’t afraid of uncovering both beauty and brutality. Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City is, at heart, a love story between Wong and her mother, Wong and herself.
— Sally Wen Mao, author of Oculus
To borrow Jane Wong’s own words, there are sparks coming off Wong’s blade of language. The spunky voice in this memoir shines through. I’m so grateful to Wong for telling her unique story in only the way she can, and in the process, expanding the possibilities of Asian American stories. There’s so much heart in these stories that explore race, class, and family history, that we can’t help but root for the protagonist. This is a big-hearted coming-of-age book that simultaneously asks hard questions. — Victoria Chang, author of The Trees Witness Everything
Searing, stunning, and singular. — Kyle Lucia Wu, author of Win Me Something