Posts Tagged ‘memoir’

  • NORTH MINNEAPOLIS from LOVE IMAGINED

    Date: 2013.09.23 | Category: LOVE IMAGINED, The Art of Writing | Response: 0

    Truly, I have been working on my book, and if I could just keep editing instead of stopping and starting overwhelmed by my own darn self at times, then maybe LOVE IMAGINED would be off to the publisher.  Actually, I can do this, it’s almost finished (I keep telling myself).  The problem now is the ending, currently I have three endings!  And formatting, I’m not sure where to add the historical facts, but I’m workin’ on it.

    It’s been so long since I’ve posted a blog entry, I didn’t recognize my own Web site.  I think a little gremlin has been lookin’ after it, re-organizing it, or else I’m just having too many senior moments, another reason to get this book done, who thought I would be old enough to be so forgetful, and memoir is about remembering and I don’t want to forget the stories of who I am because it’s been 65 years trying to make sense of myself!

    Here’s Chapter Two of LOVE IMAGINED.

    2.  NORTH MINNEAPOLIS

    Recently a friend challenged me about my use of the term South Scandinavian Minneapolis, where I grew up.  As a writer, I know it’s important to be specific.  Specifically, I grew up in a house on a hill on 26th Avenue and 39th Street, two blocks from Roosevelt High School.  My friend, Carolyn was right.  Carolyn lived in South Minneapolis too.  She went to Central High School.  My cousin went to Central High School. Carolyn had a crush on my cousin.  They lived in Minneapolis, but they lived with black folk, unlike me who lived East of whatever line divided us.  My aunt, my cousin’s mom, lived near 38th and Portland, this sometime after she and her family lived in the row houses in North Minneapolis, the ones just off of Olsen Highway, or was it Plymouth.  Another Aunt lived near 4th Avenue and Lake Street in South Minneapolis.  I didn’t know much about geography when I was little, but I did know my mother’s family could only visit at night, when it was dark, and our neighbors couldn’t see them.

    Aunt Grace lived in North Minneapolis.  She moved from a Duplex on Emerson Avenue North, though I don’t know how I know this, and maybe I’m wrong, but I remember going there once as a very small child. This is where Grandma also lived.  It must have been sometime after Grandma died of rat poisoning or Draino when the cancer was more painful than she could bear.  Aunt Grace and her family moved further west, trespassing into the Jewish neighborhood, 16th and Vincent. Avenue North.  Streets and Avenues don’t change, but people coming and going do.  I remember we visited Aunt Grace, my mom, my sisters and I, taking a bus down Broadway, stopping to shop at the junk stores, then walking to the most beautiful home I had ever seen.  At least I remember doing this once.  But when I turned eighteen, I let the secret out of the closet, though I don’t know how I knew my mother was passing for white and we, the children were supposed to be white or at least be Chinese like my father, but he disappeared when I was five.  I did my best and continue to integrate myself into a family I had been segregated from for way too many years.

    My Aunt Grace, my Aunt Marion, and my mother have now passed away.  I love them all dearly, they are angels on my shoulder.  Wherever I live, and I’ve lived in more than 50 different homes, and five different states, but they are always with me.  Recently I bought a home in Oakdale, Minnesota.  The 2000 census said Oakdale is mostly white, but it’s not anymore.  My women friends have visited me, Asian, Mexican, Black, straight, gay.  My cousin has visited, in fact I have a cousin that lives just next door in Woodbury, as well as my sister.  No one has to visit at night.  I welcome the next census when I can add one more person of color to a neighborhood that was once mostly white.  My friend Lori laughs because she remembers being the only black student, well she and her siblings, at Tartan High School, just down the street from where I now live.   She says where I live used to be farmland.

    NOTE:  By 1880, there were 362 Blacks in Minneapolis, and by 1930 the Black population numbered 4,176. The Black community tended to concentrate in two areas–on the near north side of the city and on the south side near Fourth Avenue South and 38th Street.

    … By one estimate, there were as many as 10 active Ku Klux Klan chapters in Minneapolis in 1923. Their attacks were broadly focused on nonwhites, socialists, Jews, Catholics, and the new Communist threat.

    …Minneapolis later elected a Jewish mayor, Arthur Naftalin, in 1961.

    http://www.hclib.org/pub/search/specialcollections/mplshistory/?id=26

     

     

  • God My Father

    Date: 2013.04.17 | Category: LOVE IMAGINED | Response: 0

    Thanks for all your comments, keep them coming and please share  blog with others; and, educators-my books have been used in college classrooms, perhaps you would like to require them for a class you will be teaching in the fall!

     

    GOD THE FATHER

    My fifties childhood wasn’t unusual.  Yes, there were only three of us in my grade school whose parents were divorced, but that made us special, not weird, that made us friends.  Yes, I had experienced unforgettable but minor childhood trauma.  Not wanting to go to kindergarten.  Scared of the teachers.  Afraid to tell the teacher or the librarian I had to pee and instead peeing on my wee self in shame.  But, I didn’t know I wasn’t white, not even sure if I knew I was poor, but not being white or poor didn’t ostracize me, didn’t keep the neighborhood children  from playing with me, even though I discovered only recently that they knew what I didn’t!

     

    Kids liked coming to our home-it was lived in.  We were allowed to play hard. The carpet was worn, the furniture second hand. Plastic didn’t cover our used davenport.  Mom’s sewing machine was always in the dining room and pins and needles and patterns on the dining room Duncan Phyfe table.  We had a television and a hi-fi.  The neighbor lady whose husband worked for Wonder Bread supplied us with Hostess Cupcakes and Twinkies.  On summer afternoons we set up a card table in the living room and shuffled maj jong tiles (you could hear the shuffling of tiles a block away) or played Canasta or Sorry or Monopoloy.  We had a second hand upright piano on our front porch that we all took turns pounding on, “Here we go up a row to a birthday party.”  We played with our dolls.  We dressed my baby brother in our baby girl doll clothes.  In the winter we had a skating rink in our back yard, in the summer we had a sandbox that covered one-fourth of the back yard, an enclosed playhouse that took up another fourth.  We had a stone fireplace to roast hot dogs and marshmallows.  In the front yard we played Captain May I and Red Rover Red Rover.  We played baseball in the street, only to be kept in when they, once-a-year tarred our street.  Being caught ever so often with oily tar on our tennis shoes, shoes we didn’t usually have to take off when entering our home.

     

    In second grade my writer’s voice appeared from nowhere.  As children, we were taught to be charitable, even though nobody probably knew we were the receivers of charity, of turkeys at Thanksgiving and blonde blue-eyed dolls from the Salvation Army at Christmas.  I wrote my first poem in second grade:  save your nickels and dimes, Channel 2 needs you, bring your money to school!  My teacher paraded me in front of each elementary school class where I recited my lines and solicited money for a cause.  Later, in high school, when the Church solicited money from our neighbors, asking to help the poor family who needed a new roof on their house, or was it to pay the mortgage, the good Christians gave generously, but that money was never given to my mother, and shame burdened my mother until the day she died.  Shame isn’t an isolated incident, shame sneaks up on you, says you’re not worth shit, says it over and over and over again-even if you’re not listening.  Even if it takes a lifetime to  recognize it, to name it.

     

    My sister eagerly quit confirmation, but I needed the Church.  I needed God, my only father.  I needed unconditional love and forgiveness, but was love and forgiveness truly abiding in the Church?  I stayed a devoted member of the Church, a member of the choir, and later editor of the church’s newsletter.  Once, I even got married in the Church. At first the minister wouldn’t marry us because we were living together, supposedly that’s a sin.  We lied, said we would separate until the wedding, and had a shot gun wedding.

     

    Eventually, I ran from religion because of what I believed to be sexist, and racist practices/doctrines of the Church.  I no longer folded my hands to “here is the church here is the steeple, open it up and see all the people.”  However my belief, my faith in God and prayer and miracles –in love imagined-remains strong.

     

    In fifth grade I was a participating member of a poetry club.  I was sheepishly proud to see my words on blue-lined paper, mimeographed so all the fifth graders could read: “pitter patter, pitter patter/ the rain does splatter.”   I belonged to a community! By sixth grade, however, my pride falleth.  Emotional puberty threw me a curve ball.  Although popular enough to be elected student council class representative, I still ache each time I remember having been called to attention by my teacher.  Shame.

     

    She reprimanded me for hovering in the doorway of Standish school, at recess, instead of playing on the playground with all the other kids.  How could she not have known what I knew-that no other kids would play with me.  That each budding bra wearing sixth grade girl had a guy she was pining for, and a girlfriend to whisper it too.  I was pining to be a nun.  I wanted to be Catholic.  Catholic girls, although not necessarily any more popular than me, they were smart, and they had been confirmed in fourth grade.

     

    In fourth grade, I expanded my Christian practices by holding a girls’ club, once a week, at our red formica table, in our yellow kitchen with the red cupboards where we hid the ginseng (today I wonder if it was really ginseng or just plain ol’ ginger).  Our club was based on Unity’s Wee Wisdom magazine.  I can’t remember, but only can imagine us, nine year old girls, praying together and drinking kool-aid.  But, I do remember that my mother, a firm believer by then in the Unity church-that if you sent the church money, they would pray for you.  That belief, along with our belief in the Ouija Board, brought our family the answers to many prayers.  Unity also taught me to make “treasure maps”-visual prayers, an added assurance that our needs would be met.  That’s probably what my Wee Wisdom Club did, cut and pasted our dreams in the pages of sample books of beautiful, sometimes flocked, wallpaper.  It’s what I still do today.

     

    In fourth grade, my Sunday school teacher asked our class if we thought a Black family should be allowed to become members of our Church.  I could only subconsciously have known that I was Black, yet I wondered aren’t I already a member?  Shame. The family was not allowed to join, but years later, when a new minister arrived, he and his wife arrived with several adopted black children.  If I was truly white, if I truly blended in as a child, why are my memories so vivid of knowing what I didn’t know, and didn’t think others knew even though they did?

     

    Today, the Church I had a love/hate relationship with has been transferred to Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Church.  “The Oromo (uh-ROH-moh) people are the largest ethnic group in East Africa. Facing persecution by the Ethiopian government, thousands of Oromos have fled to the United States since the 1970s. About 12,000 Oromos live in the Twin Cities area. There are five Oromo churches in Minneapolis-St. Paul; Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Standish Neighborhood is the largest, with 700 plus members.” http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2007/11/27/welcome-oromo-evangelical-lutheran-church-farewell-our-redeemer-lutheran-church

     

    When I first learned of this beautiful congregation I cried.  Tears of joy and forgiveness.  And the music (forward through the video to the music) http://oromochurchmn.org/index.php/videos/video/march-3-2013 reminds me of my choir days, and even though I couldn’t hold a tune, I loved the music-and my heart sang, and contines to sing!

    http://oromochurchmn.org/

    http://metrolutheran.org/2007/12/our-redeemer-merges-deeding-building-to-oromo-evangelical-lutheran/

  • KIM LOO SISTERS

    Date: 2013.04.12 | Category: LOVE IMAGINED | Response: 3

    Really, I can’t believe I haven’t posted since November!  Really! (I think some things may have gotten lost!)  However, I have discovered some wonderful information as I have continued to research LOVE IMAGINED.

    First, I had a note to  myself to Google The Kim Loo Sisters because they are the reason my Chinese father got a job at the famous Nankin Cafe and why I often got to eat Nankin Special Chow Mein.  Not expecting to find anything about the dancing/singing sisters (who are Chinese and Polish), whom my father chauefered until the Loo sisters’ father  got my father the job at the Nankin.

    This is what makes writing memoir so rewarding.  Verification of what you think you know to be true.  Not only do the Kim Loo sisters have their own Facebook  Kim Loo sisters page, the daughter of one of the sisters is writing a book about her mother’s and aunts’ lives and quickly moving forward with a documentary about them.  Lesli Li is a writer.with several books to her acclaim.  She immediately responded to my email:  “I spoke to my 93-year old mother about your father Billy Quan and, yes, she remembered him.  Her eyes lit up and her whole demeanor changed to recall being a Kim Loo Sister based in the Midwest and that pivotal part of her life and career.”

    Here is the hot off the press UTube video Kim Loo Sisters You Tube Trailer for Documentary of the sisters my father knew that helped make the way for him to work at the Nankin Cafe where he met my mother who was also working at the Nankin.

    Other news is just as exciting.  Updates sooner than later, I promise.

    Sherry Quan Lee

    April 12, 2013

    Snow in April is not all bad, I actually spent a day at home writing! Here are the URLS that don’t seem to work where I linked them- ahhhh, if only I had a techie over my shoulder looking out for me-Victor, I know you’re there, kudos, always.  I can do this.  I can do this.  If the links below don’t work, please cut and paste.

    http://youtu.be/gM9KpAIlYUo

    https://www.facebook.com/The.Kim.Loo.Sisters

    http://www.leslieli.com/ldl/Main_Page.html

     

     

     

     

  • LOVE IMAGINED

    Date: 2012.11.12 | Category: Imagining Love, LOVE IMAGINED | Response: 2

    WHAT AM I WORTH?

    What am I worth?  Recently a Facebook friend posted a quote by Rocky Balboa:

    “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it…

    You’ve gotta hit as hard as life. It ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much can you take and keep moving forward? That’s how winning is done.

    If you know what you’re worth, Go out and Get What Your Worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him or her or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that.”–Rocky Balboa

    There is self-worth and economic worth.  I don’t believe economic worth determines self-worth-it doesn’t, but it does make life more challenging.  Economic challenges can detour what we may think is our road to success.  But what is success?

    I think it is important to be aware of how much we try to control our lives in order to realize control can keep us from living, from moving forward, and from being in tune to the blessings the universe wants us to have.

    I digress.  Didn’t mean to become so philosophical.  The nitty gritty is I’ve lost balance.  I’ve always been able to multi-task in order to survive and I continue to do that, but having endured a lay-off last year I’m more tipsy than standing tall on two feet.  How do I make up for an economic imbalance?

    What are my priorities, how have they changed?  Am I using my financial situation as an excuse or a blessing?  As a blessing, I have time to spend with my grandson who is autistic (I am his respite worker, which pays a minimal amount each month (16 hours worth, but through this experience I spend more and more time with him each and every week.  I have learned unconditional love from this child, more than I have learned in any relationship-giving it and receiving it).

    Also, as a blessing, I have broken the box that defined work-40 hours a week, healthcare, and a paycheck.  Growing up poor, my family shopped rummage sales before garage sales and thrift stores were popular, thus giving me an eye to bargains that gave me a flair for fashion-shoes and clothes and purses-that I can now use to resell what has become my fashion personality-I have been emptying my closet (there’s a metaphor here).  Can I find a way to actually make a living as a fashionista selling retail?  Is this where my worth lies?

    Or, do I take a minimum wage job, if anyone will actually hire me for one, and dummy down to this is what I am worth-my worth being that I will do whatever it takes to pay my bills-even if it won’t?

    And, so, what about my book, my memoir.  I promised myself it would be finished by August past.  It isn’t.  How important is telling my story?  Why is it always on the back burner?  I have been teaching creative writing at a local college this semester (unfortunately, I don’t have a class for next semester).  I am aware my passion for writing has dissipated, though never my passion for teaching writing.  But the two, for me, are important for balance.  Although, never just the teaching and the writing, but also the living-the children, the grandchildren, the friends, the lovers.

    Speaking of friends, how did I let them slip away?  Why do I find excuses for real connection?  Facebook has been my solace, but a poor excuse for not pushing myself out the door and into the lives of people I care about, who hopefully still care about me.

    Many of my friends are writers.  Committed to writing and promoting their books.  I admire their stamina.  But, I don’t envy them.  I don’t want to be them.  I think that is partly why I am not writing.  Writing demands more than the writing.  Am I scared to give more, scared I am not worth more?  Am I just lazy?

    Earning my MFA in Creative Writing was an epiphany for me.  It made me feel like I had self-worth.  Look at me, I earned a degree.  Look at me, I’m a teacher.  I’m a published writer.  But why creative writing?  Because I didn’t think I could be successful as anything else-not math, not science, not anything-and because I had stories to tell.

    I didn’t choose creative writing, it chose me.  It said here is something that can make you feel good about yourself, though it will be hard, harder than you know-and it was.  Yet, it has been but one story in my life that was about winning:  “it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much can you take and keep moving forward? That’s how winning is done.”

    There was a time, not too long ago, when my life was entirely wrapped up in writing-my writing, writing communities, writer friends, teaching writing, mentoring writers, and a full-time job where my writing experience was respected.  I felt my life was in balance.  I felt worthy.

    Today I am challenged with having been hit hard and needing to move forward, but I feel like I am standing still.  I feel like there are too many options and no options.  I feel like any choice I make is not a freedom, not a winning situation, but a need to control what seems uncontrollable.

    My story is important.  But, I may or may not get back to writing it.  In two months I will be 65 years old.  I continue to believe I have no regrets.  I will continue to move forward by looking back to remind myself how far I have come, knowing I don’t have to continue to prove to myself that I am worthy.  I am.  Knowing that I just have to keep living-living a passionate, thoughtful life-mindful of others and striving to love and know that I too am loved.  Imagination the process to acceptance.

     

    Sherry Lee

    November 12, 2012

Artist Statement

Sherry Quan Lee approaches writing as a community resource and as culturally based art of an ordinary everyday practical aesthetic. Lee is a Community Instructor at Metropolitan State University (Intro to Creative Writing, Advanced Creative Writing), and has taught at Intermedia Arts, and the Loft Literary Center. She is the author of A Little Mixed Up, Guild Press, 1982 (second printing), Chinese Blackbird, a memoir in verse, published 2002 by the Asian American Renaissance, republished 2008 by Loving Healing Press, and How to Write a Suicide Note: serial essays that saved a woman’s life, Loving Healing Press, 2008.

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SHERRY QUAN LEE

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