banana writersPP Wong is a British-born Chinese woman who is the editor of a unique website called Banana Writers that encourages and supports new Asian writers from over 30 countries. In a recent email interview, Wong was kind enough to answer a few questions about ethnic idenity, the writing life and her own novel due for release next year.

When asked why she started the website, she told TeleRead: “I think there comes a time in your life when you have to make a decision. You can either moan about the state of the world and society, or you can do something about it. I always felt that there were too few books being published in the Western world by Asian authors…. So I decided to start the website Banana Writers to give hidden Asian writers a voice.”

Wong started the website this year in July and within a couple of months, through word of mouth and social media, the website caught on with the audience she was looking for, she said.

“The feedback has been really positive and many well-respected Asian writers have kindly agreed to share their wisdom with the readers,” she said. “I have seen a real generosity in spirit from each and every famous writer we have featured on the website. In the next few months we have interviews with Amy Tan, David Henry Hwang, Gene Luen Yang and Kevin Kwan.”

Wong said she also gets touching emails from Asian writers from all over the world, noting that ”this is what keeps me going”.

She added: “One writer had been working on her writing for five years and it meant so much to her to finally get recognition for her work. Another wrote that they were ‘lost for words’ after being published. While many readers are grateful for the honest feedback we give to their work. These are the people that Banana Writers was created for. Our motto is ‘Banana Writers – where Asian writers get unpeeled.’ Nothing makes us happier than seeing more and more Asian writers being ‘unpeeled.”’

In the UK, the term ”British-born Chinese” is used to refer to someone who was born in the UK but happens to be ethnically Chinese, Wong explained. Therefore British-born Chinese people can include people whose parents originated from Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China and other nations, she said.

“In the UK I would refer to myself as British-born Chinese, Wong added, noting: ”However, who I am as a person is a mixture of my experiences of living both in London and Singapore. My parents were always moving back between London and Singapore. So I have lived and studied in both countries. In that sense, I am kind of an ‘in betweener’ of two worlds and cultures.”

As a writer, and earlier as an actress in Britain, Wong has seen a lot.

“I live in London, which is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world,” she said. “My good friends hail from many different countries including Taiwan, Brazil, Malaysia, Greece, Columbia and Indonesia. However, despite being a cosmopolitan city, almost all my ethnic minority friends have experienced racism in some form. Whether it is bullying in school or people making fun of their accent or culture or some drunk calling you a ‘chink.’ Also, I have met a number of people who have been passed over for promotion because of their skin color. Subtle racism is so much harder to prove. In the case of promotions at work, your boss can always say you were not as good as another candidate, so it is so hard to prove.”

Nevertheless, Wong said she remains positive, noting: “I do feel that London is less racist than some European countries that I’ve visited. On a day-to-day basis London is a vibrant and creative city that I’ve grown to love. But as with any big city, it has its positives and negatives. I have a love hate relationship with London.”

About race, Wong says this: “I think that in an ideal world people would look at each other just as human beings without race getting in the way.”

In her upcoming novel — due out next fall — the main character is a 12-year-old girl who says in the book: “I start to daydream about what it would be like to grow up in a country where I am not seen as different. Somewhere where I am popular and don’t have to explain my name or that I’m Chinese. It would be a really cool place where Chinese, Asians and Jamaicans are just seen as doctors, school girls and businesswomen. Not ‘The Chinese doctor,’ ‘The Asian school girl’ or ‘he black businesswoman of the year.’  It would be a country where I was not seen as Ethnic or
Exotic, but just Me. That would be great!”

About the “banana” term: I asked the author and editor what it means, and she replied: “Actually, the word banana is something that is generally used between Chinese people in a light-hearted manner. In the same way, some of my Indian friends in the past have called themselves coconuts.”


  1. Interesting, Paul. Is there a word for that? People there used it to mock you for your interest in things Asian since you had lived there and know it and the people well?

    PS: today Miss Wong sent me this news as update: Hi Dan

    Thank you so much for this! It looks lovely! Really well written and captures the heart of what I want to say.

    I like the way you express yourself …..

    Btw….. just in case you haven’t heard,….. I thought you might like to hear about this petition about the racist comments by Holland’s Got Talent judge. There is real upset in the creative British Chinese community. I’ll see if the British press want to support it or not…

    Have a great weekend”

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