KUALA LUMPUR: Journalist June HL Wong has always enjoyed compiling her work together in one place. It started in 1977 when she got her first byline in The Star. Wong would compile all her published pieces together in a simple notebook.
Forward to over four decades later, and Wong’s writing is still being compiled. This time, however, it’s in a book with a beautiful photograph on the cover. Titled So Aunty, So What? And Some More, the book was published by Star Media Group (SMG) and is available in bookstores nationwide.
“I feel a tremendous sense of pride and gratitude to my one and only employer, The Star. And this is to me The Star’s farewell gift as I retire at the end of the month. This book reminds me of how far I’ve come,” Wong said at the launch of the book.
The event took place on Friday at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre as part of BookFest@Malaysia, Malaysia’s largest trilingual book exposition organised annually by the Popular Book Co.
The nine-day expo ends today.
Wong, 59, is SMG’s chief special projects officer. She first joined The Star in the 1970s and rose up the ranks from cadet reporter to group chief editor before moving into the corporate level.
She is perhaps most popularly known for her column So Aunty, So What?, which first appeared on March 1, 2012, and still appears fortnightly in The Star’s news pages.
For newer readers who’ve wondered how this quirky name came about, well, this book has the answer. Wong’s March 29, 2012 article “From sexy to saggy” explains the inspiration for the phrase that would come to be associated with her.
“What’s gratifying is I often meet people who will say, ‘Oh, you are the Aunty, right?’ Hence, when we were deciding what to title this book, the choice was obvious,” Wong writes in her book.
The book is a compilation of about 90 of her articles from 2012-2018. Her articles, written in a matter-of-fact style and a light and humorous tone, cover many issues, from politics and entertainment to travel and family.
“Once I get curious or excited about something, I want to find out all about it. And if I think it’s worthwhile to share, I can, thanks to my column. I find it so satisfying when readers tell me they enjoy my articles and they found something new, too,” said Wong.
Apart from the column pieces, Wong’s book also contains some of the many noteworthy stories she has written throughout her career.
These make up the “And Some More” part of its title, and include heartwarming stories from Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali’s first ever exclusive interview with any journalist.
Also included is a section called “Tales From The Grave”, with what Wong says are the most personal stories she has ever written in The Star.
The stories recount Wong’s experience covering the exhumation and relocation of graves in Singapore’s Bidadari Christian Cemetery, where some of her relatives were buried.
The book ends with a section dedicated to Wong’s late father, Wong Heck Ming, who was the most popular subject of her column, she said.
It was thanks to him that she ended up in this career, she said, as he had encouraged her to answer an advertisement seeking reporters all those years ago.
“Dad was the biggest influence in my life. He was my anchor, my rock. My little talent for writing comes from him,” Wong said.
At the launch, Wong thanked many of her fellow journalists and editors as well as the people in her life who had influenced and helped her on the path she took.
Excerpts from the book were read by her sister, actress and director Claire Wong and her husband, Singaporean playwright Huzir Sulaiman, and finally by Wong herself.
Also present at the launch was former deputy prime minister Tun Musa Hitam, who has known Wong for many years.
Musa spoke about the importance of celebrating press freedom and also commended Wong for her writing.
“I am very delighted to be given the honour to launch this book. I have been following the articles since the time they have been published, and always encourage my wife and kids to read them.
“They are very interesting articles, very human, very real and very relevant to our daily life. It’s not easy these days to get articles in the mass media written in that way,” Musa said.
BookFest@Malaysia 2019 began at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre on June 1 and ends today. Admission is with purchase of the BookFest guidebook at RM2.50, available at the entrance. Entrance is free for students 18 years old and below and for senior citizens aged 60 and above. Star Media Group Bhd is a media partner of BookFest@Malaysia 2019.