Vancouver is Awesome: David H.T. Wong

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The following article is reprinted from VANCOUVER IS AWESOME: READ ALL OVER — DAVID H.T. WONG
by: Liisa Hannus  (Originally published by VIA November 7, 2012)

Read All Over celebrates the bookworm in all of us, showcasing readers in Vancouver and the books they love most.

David H.T. Wong is a multi-generational Vancouverite. He is an Architect who, for the past 30 years, has been fortunate to work with clients who’ve embraced green design. A biologist by training, David continues his love for nature with his efforts to save frogs, and is proud to have had our city’s Mayor and Council proclaim “Save the Frogs Day” in 2009, the first city in the world to do so.

David has just published his first book, a graphic novel on the history of the Chinese in North America, Escape to Gold Mountain (Arsenal Pulp Press). The book will be launched November 18th at the Dr Sun Yat-sen Classical Chinese Garden.

What are you currently reading? Your thoughts on it?

Voices from the Sound: Chronicles of Clayoquot Sound and Tofino 1899-1929, by Margaret Horsfield (2008, Salal Books).

I love the stories of the way it used to be, especially documented in the form of personal correspondence. I think a lot can be gleaned from how letters had been written. It was a much simpler life back then, but with the same issues as we have today – interactions between people with their struggles, aspirations, and prejudices. I’m afraid today’s world of convenience and instant communications (email, text messaging) has destroyed the art of letter writing. Receiving an email is not the same as one that had been handwritten and enriched with printed photographs, assorted scribbles, and handscript on the letter.

What books have changed your life?

Classics Illustrated Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Carl Barks’ (Disney) Donald Duck (the epic titles– i.e. “Lost in the Andes”, “Magic Hour Glass”), and Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. All these books allowed me to drift into my own world. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was my introduction to racism and empathy, an illustrated book that taught a difficult history in a format that appealed to both young and older readers. Carl Barks was a master story teller. He used the comic book format to create delightful adventure stories in far away places where the imagination was always set free. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is every child’s dream come true. It was and still is my all-time favourite book. I read it numerous times as a child, have read it to my kids, and now I can’t wait to read it to my future grandkids!

How did these books change my life? I wanted to become a cartoonist. But my parents gave me the thumbs down in a career choice as a cartoonist, but I still loved drawing… so I became an Architect.

How do you like your books served up best – audio books, graphic novels, used paperbacks, library loaner, e-reader…?

Served up on paper as Graphic Novels. Reading is more than just seeing words. It’s as much a tactile and visual experience. Drawings can provide an immediate impact– inviting readers’ imagination to explore and experience a scene (e.g. what’s behind a character’s “look”).

The one book you always recommend is…

Dropsie Avenue by Will Eisner! A 200-year life history of a New York street told in comic book format. Think about that… it sounds like, and is, an intriguing tale.

(right) David’s drawing studio. Photo courtesy David H.T. Wong

Favourite Vancouver/Lower Mainland writer?

Chuck Davis. He is one of our city’s greatest sons… an extraordinary historian who spent his life documenting our beautiful city’s history – sharing stories from a city of communities, of ordinary people from all walks of life. I hope Chuck will never be forgotten.

What is the most cherished item in your library?

My dad’s Chinese poem. He presented it to me during my high school graduation back in the 1970s. I can’t read Chinese, but I believe my dad inscribed, “filial piety, respect and love leads to a meaningful life.”

Your life story is published tomorrow. What’s the title?

‘The Urban Treefrog.’ I love frogs. I love their songs, and I love the joy of watching young ones discover natural urban habitats in our complicated cities. Frogs contribute much to the betterment of humanity with valuable medicines. I want people to know that. It’s important that we save frogs and their habitats.

David H. T. Wong with his frogs. (right) David’s backyard frog pond, where he does most of his daydreaming.

The launch of David’s book Escape to Gold Mountain is Nov. 18 2-4:30 pm at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Gardens. Preview the book and read more about it at

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