Nellie Wong

(1934 / Oakland, California)

Biography of Nellie Wong

Nellie Wong poet

Poet and activist Nellie Wong was born in Oakland, California. She is the daughter of Chinese immigrants, and in her poetry and through her community activism, she confronts social problems such as racism, sexism, and labor issues. Her collections of poetry include Dreams in Harrison Railroad Park (1977), TheDeath of Long Steam Lady (1986), Stolen Moments (1997), and Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (2012). With Merle Woo and Mitsuye Yamada, Wong coauthored 3 Asian American Writers Speak Out on Feminism (2003). She is one of the founding members of the writing collective Unbound Feet, and her poems have been installed in public sites in the San Francisco area.

Wong is a member of various literary, artistic, and political groups, including Radical Women, the Freedom Socialist Party, and the National Asian American Telecommunications Association. In 1989, she received a Women of Words award from the San Francisco Women’s Foundation. With Yamada, she was the subject of the documentary Mitsuye & Nellie, Asian American Poets (1981). In 2011, a building at Oakland High School was named after Wong.

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Mama, Come Back

Mama, come back.
Why did you leave
now that I am learning you?
The landlady next door
how she apologizes
for my rough brown skin
to her tenant from Hong Kong
as if I were her daughter,
as if she were you.

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