first person

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 April, 2006, 12:00am

Italian businesswoman Laura Ros is one of 11 authors behind a collection of short stories called Thomas Beckham Wang, which aims to give Hong Kong teenagers tales of Asian life they can relate to, and to raise money for a children's charity

Children in Hong Kong generally grow up reading books about England, the United States and other countries and continents. There is quite a gap in the market for Asian-based, written English for young people - and that is one of the reasons we decided to do this book.

These are stories they can connect with, about cities they live in or are close to, not just Hong Kong but other nearby places.

I came here 12 years ago with the idea of spending a couple of years, and a couple of years became many more. I was born and raised in Milan, Italy. I had the typical childhood of an Italian city girl. It was very family orientated.

I had a very loving family and when I think of my childhood it is with a smile. My older brother would take me out and do all the tomboy stuff, while my older sister would do all the girly stuff with me. Mum would cook good meals.

Here, childhood is very different. There is a medley of culture and that makes a difference.

I also feel it is a little bit more a materialistic world, and you have to take care that children do not lose sight of values. I have been away from Italy a long time so I might not know how things are now, but I have the feeling that childhood in Europe is a little bit simpler than in Hong Kong.

I am part of a group of creative writers who meet regularly and this project came about when one of our group proposed a book of short stories. Another member of the group is a volunteer for the charity Friends Unlimited that cares for underprivileged children and proposed we give the benefits to that charity.

The title Thomas Beckham Wang is the name of one of the stories by Maxine Shaw, who is British and a passionate writer. We wanted the collection to have a title with an Asian touch that was unusual and would make people stop, think and ask: 'Where does this title come from?'

Thomas Wang is a young boy growing up in Hong Kong and the story is about his life. He has just lost his father and has to help his mother in the flower shop they own. He is an avid footballer with a strong passion for football, which explains the nickname of Beckham.

The book writers come from many different places - Sri Lanka, India, Canada, Britain and Hong Kong. For most of us it is a hobby. We all have day jobs. The reaction so far has been positive. We sold 400 copies of the book on the launch night, plus another 200 or so since.

We plan to do some school visits. One of the authors is a school librarian and is active in organising readings and visits to schools where we think we are going get sales. Generally, Hong Kong is not a city where a tremendous amount of books get sold in book shops.

My story is a little bit on the moving side. The title is My Jade Buddha and it's about a young girl of five or six living in Saigon at the end of the Vietnam war, having to leave the country and the people she grew up with when she flees with her family to Europe.

The story is inspired by things that happened to a friend of mine. I put myself in the shoes of my friend and tried to see life as she saw it at that time, but the description of Ho Chi Minh City was from my own experiences. It's about the relationship with the girl and her amah, the lady who really brought her up. For me the project was a lot of work because I was managing the process, and putting the launch together. On the night of the launch, the publisher was delighted - and I promised that once we have sold a few more copies, we would start another book.