It’s Not My Story, But It Is Familiar


Monday, generally the first day of a forty-hour work week.  But for me, this is the beginning of the fourth week of being unemployed.  Almost ten years of work that suited me, gone.  Already, I can hardly remember the excitement of working for a program that honored writers, and the teaching of writing.  Good memories, as well as bad, disappear if we don’t savor them, don’t call them up every once-in-awhile.  If we don’t turn them into story.


I believe in stories, in writing stories, in writers who write stories. I believe stories can move history forward-that silence will be broken and thorns disappear.  That questions will be less difficult to ask, less painful to answer; less painful to ask, less difficult to answer.


Three weeks have gone by quickly, too quickly.  I haven’t resorted to panic, but to mild dysfunction.  I spent money I didn’t have to go places and to buy things. I was seduced by slot machines and thrift stores.  I smoked cigarettes.  And….


I bought books online.


I am happy.


Today I am reading my third book, a book-a-week. I have books I’ve been wanting to read lined up, ready.  Reading, like movies, can move me in directions I’ve tried to steer away from.  Is absence from the truth freedom?  How has my knowledge of history angered me?  How has my anger derived me of happiness?  How can I learn to act and not react?  Is there a difference?


I am reading Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire, by David Mura.  It’s not what I expected.  What did I expect?  Perhaps a lot of tedious facts?  It’s fiction, but it’s not.  I have to keep putting the book down, though only for a minute or two.  Why does it bother me?  It’s not my story.  But it strikes a distant, yet familiar, ring.  Tears well up.  I feel I know what is to happen next and I don’t want to know.  But I do.    The book jacket says Ben will “forge a path toward redemption”-does he?  Can he?  I’m afraid to read further.  Is “forgiveness” really what Ben and I are looking for?  Or is forgiveness what we accept because truth, no matter how much we write towards hoping to discover it, we never will?


David Mura has written poetry, essays, memoir, and fiction.  He’s also a spoken word artist.  Mura has delved deep into his heart and his history to know himself, and to express himself in writing and performance that has given other writers of color, writers such as myself, a mixed race/Chinese Black woman author, permission to write towards who we are as we explore the often painful reasons why it is difficult not to know ourselves-reasons why our parents were silent, stories buried with them that we will never know and can only imagine.  But imagination infused with fact, I believe, is close to truth, at least as close to truth as some of us will get.


I am wiser now, closer to truth, having been involved for over thirty years with a dynamic, spirited, soulful, soul-searching, and, yes, fun colorful writing community here in the Twin Cities.  Although I have yet to tell my stories the way I want to tell them-I will forever hold writers who have and who will-in high esteem, especially the writers that have to pause from their writing-a few minutes or a few years- walk away from the pain, the grief, the mourning-even the celebration.  Sometimes to research. Sometimes to cry.  Perhaps just to live a little.  Perhaps, like me, to gamble, shop, or smoke until I am struck in the heart by some picture, some story, some incident, a phone call, an e-mail message, a book that I am reading that urges me to, again, head to the computer and continue writing what my heart won’t let me run from.


But now, Ben and Tommy are calling me.


Sherry Quan Lee

August 29, 2011



About Sherry

Author. Poet. Teacher. Mentor. Chinese/Blackbird.

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