where the writers are
Remembering Ann Arbor

So we finish up a PR taping for "FYI," a local municipal cable station that keeps folks informed of Ann Arbor events.  The cameraman is Japanese-born and subsequently naturalized.  I must have mentioned the chapter, "The Butterflies of Death," where a Japanese Zero strafes and kills the children and then the adults in our ancestral village.  Ironically, this being the villagers first encounter with airplanes, the children, mistaking the leaping flashes of bullets to be butteflies, ran towards them to play.

The cameraman asks me to translate, "Please tell your mother that I apologize for the Japanese attacking your village."  Following my translation into Toisanese, Mother says in clear and perfect American, "Ohhhh, that was a long time ago.  Thank you." 

So I meet with about 15 high school teachers who will be using The Eighth Promise.  I am struck by just how eager and alive they are to share something new and useful with their kids.  This reminds me that when I am ready to settle down and stay in one place for awhile, perhaps I should consider teaching at a local school.  This is also what life is about -- passing onto the younger generation, the same loving impetus as the symbolims of giving red packets to kids during Chinese New Year's, which is the that Older Trees nourish they younger shoots until they have rooted and can take care of themselves.

Bernard Osher Senior Center -- around 75 packed into a community room and loving it.  Many photos with Mom later and joint autographing.

A full-house at the Kick-off event and long lines of adulating Ann Arborans.  There are few Chinese Americans present as they are rehearsing for their Saturday night community celebration of Chinese New Year (a bit early).  They read and they still came.  One older woman, drips my hands, spiritual fire of some kind her eyes, and says, "You are special.  You know that  ou a special person."  A bit made nervous, I put on a weak celebrity grin, and thank her.  She felt like someine who is part of a small group that seeks to identify people to groom as leader/teachers of some kind.

On a Saturday morning, a cruise along the river into smaller towns essentially left in it original state for over a hundred years.  Still many of them are modnernized into boutiques, cafes, and epicurean restaurants.  OH, well -- it's preserved at least.

Snacking at a local coffee and cake shop that serves both pork buns and bagels, Chinese tea and capucchinos.  Everyone drops by and everyone knows everyone.  A young professor couple are working on their laptops as they drink late morning coffee.

Signing books at many bookstores with displays of my book celling high.

The next night we are honored by the local Chinese community as we witness, once again a village communalism, and with the kids in charge of the stage program -- from ribbond ance to hip-hop, from traditional theater to the teen homemovie -- and a v. well organized buffet dinner.  The show is in Mandarin and I am finding out just how below beginning is my grasp of spoken Mandarin.  More home studying is required!   Mom , though, is so comfortable that I'm able to leave her  (with a Toisanese speaking local, but originally from SF Chinatown) and head off with a friend to the hotel bar to quaff wine and conviate.

Better perhaps than winning a prize and its money, or even being on the NYT Bestseller list, is to experience a whole community using your book  to stimulate discussion, deepen understanding, and as satisfying entertainment.

Next stop -- Virginia Book Festival, may 27th, 2008.

(C) 2008. William Poy Lee  




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The Eighth Promise

Oh, gosh, I don't know how I missed your first blog, for I would have jumped to respond. (Perhaps because you dropped the "Poy" from your name, I didn't recognize you.)

I received a copy of your book, "The Eighth Promise: An American Son's Tribute to his Toisanese Mother" from George Ow. I have not had a chance to read it, but my mother absolutely LOVED it, giving me a play-by-play so I know your story fairly well.

Congratulations for all the wonderful things happening for you and your book. I hope your Mandarin is improving rapidly. One of the reasons I have not gotten to your book--and a long, long list of others--is that I made a vow to read "The Romance of the Three Kingdoms," half a chapter every night, in the original Chinese. It is painstakingly slow but I love the exercise and the story itself.

Best and warmest to you and your mother,

Belle Yang