An immigrant mother’s long-held secrets upend her daughter’s understanding of her family, her identity, and her place in the world in this powerful and dramatic memoir
“This is the Carmen Rita Wong I know—fierce and true. Her story broke my heart and filled it up at the same time.”—Sunny Hostin, three-time Emmy Award–winning co-host of ABC’s The View and New York Times bestselling author of I Am These Truths
My mother carried a powerful secret. A secret that shaped my life and the lives of everyone around me in ways she could not have imagined.
Carmen Rita Wong has always craved a sense of belonging: First as a toddler in a warm room full of Black and brown Latina women, like her mother, Lupe, cheering her dancing during her childhood in Harlem. And in Chinatown, where her immigrant father, “Papi” Wong, a hustler, would show her and her older brother off in opulent restaurants decorated in red and gold. Then came the almost exclusively white playgrounds of New Hampshire after her mother married her stepfather, Marty, who seemed to be the ideal of the white American dad.
As Carmen entered this new world with her new family—Lupe and Marty quickly had four more children—her relationship with her mother became fraught with tension, suspicion, and conflict, explained only years later by the secrets her mother had kept for so long.
And when those secrets were revealed, bringing clarity to so much of Carmen’s life, it was too late for answers. When her mother passed away, Carmen wanted to shake her soul by its shoulders and demand: Why didn’t you tell me?
A former national television host, advice columnist, and professor, Carmen searches to understand who she really is as she discovers her mother’s hidden history, facing the revelations that seep out. Why Didn’t You Tell Me? is a riveting and poignant story of Carmen’s experience of race and culture in America and how they shape who we think we are.
About the Author
Carmen Rita Wong is a writer and nonprofit board leader whose board positions include The Moth and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She was the co-creator and television host of On the Money on CNBC and was a national advice columnist for Glamour,Latina,Men’s Health, and Good Housekeeping. Wong is the author of a series of novels and two bestselling advice books. She is the founder and CEO of Malecon Productions, LLC, where she develops female-focused media and entertainment. She lives in Manhattan with her daughter.
“This is the Carmen Rita Wong I know—fierce and true. Her story broke my heart and filled it up at the same time. This book is not just about her—it’s about discovering and understanding who our parents are as individuals and how they, and this country, shape our lives through ideas of race and gender. This is a testament.”—Sunny Hostin, three-time Emmy Award–winning co-host of ABC’s The View and New York Times bestselling author of I Am These Truths
“This is a vivid and surprising memoir, bracing and bright. Wong drives, without swerving, straight into the thicket of daughters and mothers and (a lot of) fathers; of racism and sexism and the ways in which inequity seeps into every corner of the American story. It is, among other things, an incredible story.”—Rebecca Traister, New York Times bestselling author of Good and Mad
“An unflinching, provocative, and deeply satisfying excavation of self . . . With a commanding voice and raw honesty, Carmen Rita Wong fearlessly digs deep beneath the weight of family secrets, the white gaze, and cultural expectations in a search for her identity. Why Didn’t You Tell Me? paints a fraught, urgent coming-of-age story that unravels the inner lives of our parents—too often suppressed by white supremacy—and shatters the stranglehold of family silence. The ease of Wong’s prose and her unvarnished assessments create an intimacy with the reader that is empowering: that in hearing her journey to truth, we might find the strength to embark on our own.”—Xochitl Gonzalez, New York Times bestselling author of Olga Dies Dreaming
“Propulsive . . . explosive . . . Packing in raw emotion, sharp cultural commentary, and plenty of intrigue, this has all the makings of a book that’s destined for the big screen. This hits the mark.”—Publishers Weekly
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