MINNESOTA BOOK AWARDS
THE LOFT LITERARY CENTER MARCH 20, 2015
HOSMER LIBRARY MARCH 23, 2015 (36th and 4th Avenue
by Richard Green School, previously Central High School)
(Aunt Lucille Wilson Shivers lived on 39th and 4th Avenue.
Her husband, Spencer Shiver, owned the barber shop on the corner of 38th and 4th Avenue.)
Once upon a very long time ago there was a princess, Quan Lee, born 1948. Her kingdom was a house on a hill with a white picket fence in South Scandinavian Minneapolis.
She was Cinderella awaiting her prince. She loved her shoes. She sang to them. Hugged them.
Maybe she knew that beauty was bound in binding a young girl’s feet; that somehow history had whispered to her it’s always about finding the prince, no matter how painful the journey, no matter how many pairs of shoes it would take.
Has anyone seen Cinderella’s other shoe?
Is there a lover in the audience?
I grew up in South Scandinavian Minneapolis, the Miles Standish neighborhood. Beginning in the 1900s mostly Norwegians and Swedes settled there.
However, my father is Chinese, my mother is Negro;
I grew up passing for white.
My friend Carolyn challenged me on the use of South Scandinavian Minneapolis. Carolyn was right. She too grew up in South Minneapolis! She went to Central High School. My cousin Butch went to Central High School. Carolyn had a crush on my cousin. My friend Carolyn, my cousin Butch, my aunt Marion-Black folk- lived in South Minneapolis with other Black folk, unlike me who lived east of whatever line divided us (the line might have been Chicago Avenue or 4th Avenue, or Portland Avenue).
However, my mother’s relatives could only visit us at night,
when it was dark and the neighbors couldn’t see them.
Another frog and another frog. I could only imagine love because…do you remember the saying love sees no color? Well I bought those t-shirts, lots of them, until one day I realized the saying is a sham. Love does see color! If you don’t see me and understand and respect the color that I am, well then, you can’t possibly love me. I am not the white woman, the invisible woman, the exotic woman, the domestic you might need me to be—that my mother needed me to be to protect me and keep me safe.
I didn’t know about the lack of civil rights: Jim Crow,
the Klu Klux Klan, race riots in Minneapolis.
I knew chow mein, white rice, and maj jong.
I have four siblings.
Between us there have been 14 divorces.
Well, what do you know? I have the other shoe. It’s been hidden in my closet for 67 years. I am the prince I was searching for. I am the love imagined. The last therapist I needed to see explained to me that of course I didn’t have any self-esteem, any self-love! How could I love the person I was told wasn’t good enough to be visible—the Black/Chinese girl that had to pretend she was white
Over the past thirty seven years I have written myself into existence with the help of communities and writers and friends. The Asian American Renaissance. David Mura. Marlina Gonzalez. Elsa Battica. Sun Yung Shin. Ed Bok Lee. Rose Chu. Sase the Write Place: Carolyn Holbrook and Carolyn Holbrook and Carolyn Holbrook. The Loft Literary Center: Bao Phi. Sherrie Fernandez-Williams. AND: Lori Young-Williams. Sandee Newbauer. Barb Bergeron. Eden Torres. My cousin Jay, his daughter Terri and his wife Shirlee. And the list goes on and on.
Of course, culturally, I was raised white: I grew up in a Scandinavian neighborhood, went to a white church, went to a white school/I had only white friends. I am learning to embrace being white too.
With much appreciation, thanks to the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library!
Hi everyone, quick note. I just finished rereading LOVE IMAGINED in its entirety since publication, August 2014 (in preparation for a radio cast next week). I didn’t cry! Writing, like love, can be painful, but also transcendent.
Write, keep on writing-read, but most of all live!
SHERRY QUAN LEE photo by Charissa Uemura
HOW TO WRITE A SUICIDE NOTE
- LOVE IMAGINED: synopsis read at two Book Award Events
- Love Imagined: a mixed race memoir-six months later
- The Loft Literary Center
- After the Book
- Exerpts from LOVE IMAGINED
- AUTHOR ACCLAIM
- BOOKS BY SHERRY QUAN LEE
- GET A CRITIQUE OF YOUR POEM!
- READING RECOMMENDATIONS
- WRITER TEACHER MENTOR LITERARY EDITOR