Written by: Rebecca Alger
Senior Wayland Fong has been passionate about writing since he was in fifth grade, but it was not until the summer of his junior year he realized that he could contribute to the world with his writing.
Fong started to write the memoir “Fat Boy, Little Man” a year ago. His self-published version of the book was published on Amazon on Nov. 23.
“Fat Boy, Little Man” tells the story of how Fong’s family escaped Vietnam and came to America during the Vietnam War. He recounts the lessons he has learned from both his personal experiences growing up in America and visiting Vietnam and China along with all that he has learned from his parents’ and grandparents’ life experiences.
Even though the entire process took over much more of Fong’s life than he ever imagined, the motivation of sharing his family’s history kept him going. “I knew I wanted to write something that I was proud of and would hopefully impact the lives of other people as well,” Fong said. “Throughout the whole process, what motivated me to finish the book was knowing that I had something to share to the world that mattered to me.”
While Fong’s family was behind him and his goal 100 percent, it was still difficult for him to push himself at times because he did not know if all his work would eventually pay off. “It was hard at times because the odds were against me throughout the entire process,” Fong said. “Nobody believed that a 17 year old could write a book. I had to sacrifice a lot of time writing my book, which was a big risk for me because I didn’t know if the writing would even become a book at all.”
Another challenge for Fong was the amount of time he had to spend on making the memoir the best it could possibly be. What he expected to be a side project became a huge part of daily life. “I wish I knew how much of a commitment it was,” Fong said. “When I started, I knew that this was something I was passionate about, but I did not expect it to consume my life the way it did.”
About a quarter of the time spent on writing the book was used for formatting the story in a way that was both easily understable and captivating. According to Fong, the book simply began as a couple of loose chapters, but then slowly expanded into more of a series of family memories and reflections on his own life.
One of Fong’s main inspirations for the format of the book was from “Catfish and Mandala” by Andrew Pham, particularly the overlapping storylines. The book is split into four different sections: “The Dream,” “America,” “China” and “Two Grandpas”. The sections help show the reader the four aspects of what has influenced who Fong has grown up to be.
According to Fong, the book made him challenge the world around him more than ever. “After finishing the book, I realize that, while I have developed a maturity in the process, I am still faced with more questions than answers,” Fong said. “Now that I realize that there are problems in the world, I ask myself what I can do to effect change.”
Fong is incredibly happy with the way everything turned out. His favorite part is getting to see how his and his family’s stories impact the people around him. “The most gratifying feeling came from teachers and students who read my book and felt that they could empathize and relate to my experiences,” Fong said. “To learn that my book has inspired others to reflect on their own background is extremely thrilling.”
Fong wanted his book to be more than just a personal collection of memories, and, instead, a piece of literature that would positively influence others. “I wrote this book so that I could impact the world by contributing all that I could give in the way my grandpas have impacted me,” Fong said.
While Fong does not dismiss writing more books in the future and becoming a full-time author, it is not his main priority. “The whole time I was writing, I didn’t have a bona-fide plan to make a profit, but to reflect on humanity in a way only a 17-year-old boy could,” Fong said.
For now, Fong simply wants to go to college and learn more about the world. According to Fong, if anything, writing the book proppelled his curiosity to grand new heights.
Writing “Fat Boy, Little Man” made Fong realize that as human beings, we all have similiar stories, and that is what unites us. “I have come a long way in understanding who I am, but more than that, I have learned how close we are as Americans,” Fong said.
Even though Fong enjoys hearing others’ perspectives, his real reason for writing the book was to pay homage to those that have worked so hard to help him get to where he is now.
“I wrote the book in tribute to my grandpas and their lives,” Fong said. “I wrote about the children, the workers, and the relatives I had met. I wrote about my parents’ hometowns in rural China and Vietnam. I wrote about my family history with the hope of finding my place in society.”