Daniel Kwok, co-owner of China Palace, publishes book of poetry in honor of his late mother


Daniel Kwok

Daniel Kwok has begun a series of creative endeavors to honor his mother, Sally Kwok, by publishing a book of poetry titled Two of The Same Heartstring.

The Kwok family are the beloved owners of The China Palace, a restaurant referred to as an integral part of Rockton, IL, by many area residents. The China Palace has been in business for 45 years. 

In 2020, the Kwok family - Tony, Sally, and Daniel Kwok - were informed that Sally (fondly known as Mama Sally) had been diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive form of cancer. Despite the unfavorable odds of beating it, they didn't give up hope.

Daniel Kwok, son of Tony and Sally and a Loyola University Chicago graduate with a master’s degree in public health, became his mother’s primary caregiver and helped her navigate through the intricate hurdles of the medical system, chemotherapy, radiation, the COVID-19 pandemic, surgeries, immunotherapy, and exploring various forms of alternative medicine, such as mistletoe therapy.

Mama Sally’s cancer recurred twice, yet her ever-hopeful son was still determined to accompany his mother on her medical journey and to find a happy ending. 

Upon learning of Mama Sally’s diagnosis becoming end-stage, the community rallied their support for the Kwok family. Friends, neighbors, and loyal customers helped them raise funds to cover the treatment costs of deep-tissue hyperthermia. Unfortunately, they never got the opportunity to try the treatment, as Sally Kwok succumbed to her illness on April 18, 2023. 

After the devastating loss of his mother, Daniel Kwok vowed to keep her spirit, story, and legacy alive by dedicating his own life to story-telling through books, poetry, film, and music. 

Daniel Kwok, whose pen name is Starry Kwok, said, “This poetry book is my first big project to continue Mom’s story. Mom lived with principles and values that I wish I could see more of in this world. Our conversations about life and insights and perspectives directly inspire all of the poems in this book.” 

After five months of writing and “one or two sleepless nights,” Two of the Same Heartstring was released on October 21, 2023, and is available on Amazon. The book comprises various poetic types, including Haikus and Shakespearean sonnets, and features original illustrations by the author. It also includes three poems by English poet Anisah Chowdhury, who has been a dear friend of Kwok’s for over a decade. 

Kwok states, “The book is for all ages, and everyone would enjoy it, whether it's read to them or by them.” 

Two of The Same Heartstring was written and illustrated by Starry Kwok and features three poems by Anisah Chowdhury.

While this book of poetry marks the first completed project in honor of his mother, Kwok is not a stranger to the publishing world. The 2015 Hononegah Community High School graduate published his first book at age thirteen. 

Currently, he is writing three fiction books and has a documentary film in the works. His documentary features footage of his family throughout the years. It will allow viewers to see aspects of their Chinese-American culture and to hear their philosophies, opinions, and observations. Kwok plans to submit it to film festivals. 

 He says, “I look forward to artistically immortalizing Mom and hope to help those who are dealing with grief and tragedy process their emotions by showing people the power of art, creativity, and goodwill.” 

One of his long-term goals is to launch a non-profit organization in his mother’s name. The non-profit's mission will be to bring awareness to a more balanced approach to medicine through integrative and natural methods, as well as to help advance meaningful art. 

When asked what advice he'd give someone wanting to publish a book, he replied, “My advice for somebody wanting to publish a book would be to start by publishing a short story or a smaller story first as to cultivate a following of sorts to get your name out there before seeking more involvement from bigger publishers for big projects. Having the support of local communities is a very strong approach. Any story that you publish should always come from the heart.” 

You can stay updated on Kwok’s books, and upcoming projects, and connect with him on social media through his website at starrykwok.com.

Photo from the Kwok Family Albums. Tony and Sally Kwok, circa 1982.
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