Successful book began as quest to cheer up sick aunt

Battling cancer, woman with HK roots inspired nephew's successful project

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 August, 2013, 3:30am

A young Chinese-American author whose family comes from Hong Kong embarked on a book-writing project with the sole intention of cheering up his aunt, who suffers from cancer. But he ended up with a hit on his hands.

Nikolas Wong's The Coffee House has sold thousands of copies around the world since its release on January 1. The book is dedicated to his aunt, May Leung, who was raised in Causeway Bay and has been battling cancer for the past six years.

Wong, 21, is a third-year criminology student at the University of Florida, and this is his first published book. Wong has loved writing ever since he was little. In 2001, as a third-grader, he won a young authors' award in Miami-Dade county, Florida.

In 2007, Leung went to a gastroenterologist because she was not feeling well. She was diagnosed with colon cancer and had emergency surgery. Leung said she has tried to stay positive even though the diagnosis was grim. Since then she has undergone four major operations and is currently receiving chemotherapy.

The turn of events inspired Wong to write The Coffee House, a self-published collection of short stories of his musings on coffee-shop patrons.

Wong takes the success of the book in his stride. He is happy that it has helped raise his aunt's spirits and give Leung something to smile about.

"Although she faces something life-threatening, she still manages to maintain her good sense of humour, so I wanted to write something that she would enjoy," he said. "It ended up being that and a lot more."

Wong has several family members in Hong Kong who live around the Victoria Park area, where his aunt, along with her brother and sisters, grew up.

"Most of the time my family goes to visit my grandfather's nephew. I have visited twice, once as a little boy and the second was with my whole family to attend my cousin's wedding recently," he said.