Alice Wong’s memoir is a moving addition to her celebrated body of work as an activist, community organizer, media maker and editor of the 2020 anthology Disability Visibility. In Year of the Tiger, Wong creates a collage of blog posts, artworks, interviews and other ephemera with disability at its center, seasoned generously with her quick wit and fierce calls to action.
Wong emphasizes connection with others as a generative, necessary force in her life, and she incorporates a chorus of voices in these fragments to illuminate the experiences of people who are constantly confronted with a world built without disabled people in mind. In seven thematically distinct sections, Wong collects conversations with artists, activists and thinkers, each offering new perspectives and delights. She chats with W. Kamau Bell about disability representation in the 1999 film The Bone Collector and riffs on reframing ideas of beauty and attraction with the artist and author Riva Lehrer. Though they are often brief, these dialogues and excerpts come together into a kaleidoscopic image of Wong’s life, illuminated by her revolutionary ideas of interdependence and care. Access is love, she says, and love for the disabled community resounds throughout.
Wong’s thoughtful use of multimedia elements—cheeky cat-themed graphics, photographs from her Indiana childhood and a clever crossword puzzle, to name a few—adds playfulness and dimension to Year of the Tiger. She maintains the compelling conviction that pleasure and joy are crucial to activism and liberation, and these offerings demonstrate that belief. They also imbue the book with the scrappy spirit of zine-making, and others looking for creative encouragement will certainly find it here.
In “No to Normal,” Wong writes, “Every day I experience the very real distance between myself and the nondisabled world, which, by the way, is the default we all exist in,” and this notion is the undercurrent that moves through the entire book. As this stylish memoir demonstrates, each person, disabled or not, can demand more from a world that is largely built without access in mind. Wong wants better for us all, and she will stop at nothing to get there.