Alison Wong


NameAlison Wong (she/her)
Country of BirthAotearoa
Place of ResidenceDjilang Geelong
EthnicitiesChinese (Cantonese)
Decades Active1990s, 2000s, 2010s, 2020s


Alison Wong is a poet, novelist and creative non-fiction writer whose first novel, As the Earth Turns Silver (2009), received the Fiction Award at the 2010 New Zealand Post Book Awards — the first and only Asian writer to have won this national award since its inception in 1968.

Born in Heretaunga Hastings, raised in Ahuriri Napier, and spending most of her adult life in Pōneke Wellington and Pari-ā-Rua Porirua, Wong is a fourth-generation New Zealander. Her great-grandparents migrated from Zengcheng/Jung Seng/Jāngsìhng (增城), Guangdong/Gwóngdūng in the late nineteenth century and, in A Clear Dawn, she shares how her maternal great-grandfather, Huang Guomin/Wòhng Gwokmàhn (黃國民) was called back to China to be county magistrate, while her paternal great-grandfather, Huang Weijin/Wòhng Wàihjeun (黃維進) was murdered at his fruit shop on Adelaide Road in Wellington, on September 12, 1914. “The case was never solved,” she wrote in an essay in The Griffith Review.

In 2001 she founded and ran the monthly event Poetry Cafe in Porirua with Lindsay Forbes, which led to them receiving a Porirua City Council Civic Honour Award for their work. Wong was then awarded the Robert Burns Fellowship at the University of Otago in 2002. “I received letters of congratulation from Chinese I’d never met from all over New Zealand,” she recalls in an interview:

Before the Burns Fellowship, I felt like I didn’t quite belong in the community. I felt different and alone. Almost no other Chinese New Zealanders seemed interested in literature. But then I realised that it mattered. That the community did want their stories told. And that they identified with any success I had.

Her first collection of poetry, Cup, was published in 2006 and was shortlisted for Best First Book at the 2007 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. Writing in The Lumiere Reader, Megan Fleming describes the book as “intensely personal… there are the details of domestic moments, the wonder of a new child, the falling out of love — but she lends these subjects a humble and attentive form, drawing the reader in, to rest in the space between.” In her book Wild Honey, Paula Green describes the collection as “original, lyrical, wise — releases far more than it holds in.”

In 2009, Wong published her debut novel, As The Earth Turns Silver, a historical work set in early 1900s Wellington exploring Chinese-Pākehā relationships. The novel received the Fiction Award at the 2010 New Zealand Post Book Awards and the 2009 Janet Frame Fiction Prize, as well as being shortlisted for the 2010 Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.

During the pandemic, Wong co-edited with Paula Morris A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand (AUP, 2021) an anthology of poetry, fiction and essays by 75 early career Aotearoa Asian writers. In the introduction to this book, they write, “After all the reading, a prediction: New Zealand literature will be utterly transformed over the next twenty years by the burgeoning talent and accomplishment of our Asian writers.”

Wong has a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Victoria University of Wellington and studied and worked in China during the 1980s and '90s. In 2010 she moved to Geelong, Australia, where she is still based.


Key works / presentations

2009 — As the Earth Turns Silver
2006 — Cup

As co-editor:

2022 — A Clear Dawn

Key awards

2022 — State Library of Victoria Marion Orme Page Regional Fellowship

2016 — Sun Yat Sen University International Writers’ Residency

2014 — Shanghai International Writers’ Program

2010 — New Zealand Post Book Awards: Fiction Award Winner (As The Earth Turns Silver)

2009 — Janet Frame Fiction Prize

2002 — Robert Burns Fellowship at The University of Otago

2001 — Porirua City Council Civic Honour Award (for co-founding and running Poetry Cafe)

1996 — New Zealand Founders’ Society Research Award

1996 — Reader’s Digest-New Zealand Society of Authors Fellowship at the Stout Research Centre

1983–1985 — New Zealand-China Student Exchange Scholarship at Xiamen University

Related entries

Last updated: 8 March 2024 Suggest an Edit


Hand-drawn map

Layout of Alison Wong's family's old fruit and vege shops / dwellings (hand-drawn by her mother, Doris Wong nee Hing) with added annotations by Alison, used as background reference for As the Earth Turns Silver, date unknown

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A woman wearing a burgundy knit reading from her book in front of a microphone in a bookshop

Book launch for As the Earth Turns Silver, 2009

A woman wearing a burgundy knit signing books at a wooden table

Book launch for As the Earth Turns Silver, 2009

Two women with pink tops laughing with one another

Alison Wong and Fiona Kidman at the book launch for As the Earth Turns Silver, 2009

Reward notice offering a £100 reward

Reward notice for information for the murder of Wong Way Ching, Alison Wong's great-grandfather, 1914

Newspaper clipping

Review of As the Earth Turns Silver in The Irish Times, Sat Nov 20, 2010

Newspaper clipping

Feature on As the Earth Turns Silver in The Dominion Post, Sat July 4, 2009

Handwritten notes

Research notes for As the Earth Turns Silver, 2002

Handwritten notes

Notes for As the Earth Turns Silver, date unknown

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A woman in a crinkled top and a red name tag stands in front of a pull-up banner that says 'New Zealand Post Book Awards"

Alison Wong at the NZ Post Book Awards, 2010