Tag Archives: memoir

Q & A with Angela Lam

In celebration of the release of Red Eggs and Good Luck: A Memoir, here’s a Q&A with Angela Lam, the author:

1. One of the first scenes in your memoir, Red Eggs and Good Luck, describes your experience, at eleven years old, being taken to get a makeover–a face makeup application and your hair cut and permed–by your father, “to look American, like [your mother].” How did that experience shape your self-esteem and sense of identity, as a young girl?

(AL) That experience made me feel inadequate and ugly. It wasn’t enough to be who I was. I had to enhance what I was given in order to attract attention, affection, and love. Later in life, I broke up with men who wanted me to wear more makeup than I was comfortable wearing. I ended up marrying a man who doesn’t care that I don’t wear any makeup at all.

2. As the daughter of a Chinese immigrant father and an American (caucasian) mother, it feels as if you are born into distant worlds. Did you ever feel conflicted about your Chinese heritage and your American heritage, and whether to be proud or ashamed of your multicultural background?

(AL) I always felt ashamed and misunderstood about being both Chinese and Caucasian. I never felt like I fit into either world. I was half of this and half of that, never a whole person. It’s easier now to accept both sides of my upbringing, but the world is a more accepting place than it was in the 1970’s.

3. Your father constantly strives for perfection–for his family to be “American,” and for you all to “keep up with the Jones.'” What do you think pushed him down that unattainable path as you were growing up?

(AL) American movies inspired my father to be “American” and to “keep up with the Jones.” All movies end with everyone living happily-ever-after. American movies showed him that if he just fit in, then he would be happy.

4. You are the oldest of three girls in your family. In Chinese culture, girls are frowned upon and boys are held up on pedestals. When did you first recognize that the lack of boys in your family was causing issues for your father and your father’s family? How did it make you feel?

(AL) I realized the lack of boys in my family was causing problems when my grandmother, Mah-Mah, stayed with us. She constantly bickered with my father in Cantonese. When my youngest sister was born, Mah-Mah removed the diaper to verify the baby’s gender. She was highly disappointed that my father never gave her a grandson. Their relationship affected me indirectly. Because my father didn’t feel complete love and acceptance from his mother, it was hard for him to give it to my sisters and me.

5. Your mother struggled with weight and self-esteem issues. As a girl, did you recognize signs that she may have been suffering? How did her self-esteem and weight issues impact you?

(AL) I just remember my mother being the most beautiful sad woman in the world. Her self-esteem and weight issues led me down a rocky road toward anorexia, bulimia, and overeating. I still struggle with my weight and self-esteem and never feel quite as beautiful as I am told I am.

6. Talk about the roles that art, writing, and faith, played in your life? How did each help you through hardships, as you were growing up?

(AL) Art, writing, and faith sustained me as I grew up. Through art, I was able to express my feelings. Through writing, I was able to rewrite my life into the way I always imagined it should be. And faith gave me hope that I would one day have the power to transcend my circumstances and create the life I wanted for me.

Visit to Mah-Mah

Here’s the second excerpt from my memoir, Red Eggs and Good Luck, which will hit the bookstores on October 6, 2015:

Mah-Mah, the Chinese Matriarch
Mah-Mah, my grandma

Two weeks before school starts, Chee decides we need to visit his mother, Mah-Mah, in San Francisco.

Mah-Mah’s apartment is located on the second floor. Chee places a finger over his thick lips, indicating for us to be quiet. “Old people live here,” he says, motioning to the open doors that allow a peek into a foreign world of ancient Chinese people playing Mah Jong or reading newspapers or drinking tea and gossiping in Cantonese.

Chee knocks on an orange door at the end of the hall. A small woman peeks beneath the golden security chain before a smile of recognition stretches across her brown face. She closes the door and releases the chain and then pulls the door open, bowing and smiling. Chee bends down to kiss her cheek. Lammie Pie follows, giving her a hug. I usher Cynthia and Elizabeth ahead of me. They wrap their arms around her and give a squeeze.

Mah-Mah grabs my shoulders and looks me in the eyes and says, “You taller than me.” She glances down at her embroidered silk house slippers and at my leather flats just to make sure neither of us is cheating. When she smiles and pulls me close for a hug, she smells of moth balls and ginger. Her skin is cool and strangely smooth. She wears the same dark blue house coat she has worn for years, a sapphire blue embroidered silk cheongsam. Her knees barely move as she pads down the wide hall and into the kitchen area.

Elizabeth and Cynthia flop on the blue and yellow brocade sofa and try to glance past the bookcase that serves as a barrier between the dining room table and the double bed. Lammie Pie clutches her purse to her chest. Mah-Mah motions to the plastic-coated table, but Lammie Pie just glances at her odd waving gestures and refuses to move. Finally, Mah-Mah grabs the purse and plays tug-of-war until Lammie Pie surrenders it. Triumphantly, Mah-Mah sets the leather purse on the center of the table and says, “Sit there,” pulling out a chair for Lammie Pie, who obediently sits, staring at her purse.

Mah-Mah turns on the stove and boils water for tea. Chee says, “No, Mah-Mah, we go out for dinner.” He nods for us to give Mah-Mah the gift he bought at the bakery. We gape at him with open mouths. Chee plucks the pink plastic bag from the floor and hands it to Mah-Mah. “We bring dessert,” Chee says. “Your favorite. Black bean cake.”

Mah-Mah sets it on the table beside Lammie Pie’s purse. She does not open the bag or peek at its contents, but returns to the stove to tend to the water. Chee purses his lips and rustles through the bag, removing a pink box. With his key, he cuts the string, lifts the cover, and removes a white flaky cake. Carefully, with one hand beneath the cake-carrying hand, he struts to the stove and bends down to offer Mah-Mah a bite. She shakes her head, pursing her lips in the same fashion Chee always does, and says in her halting English, “You feed kids.”

“We have our own box in the van,” Chee explains. “This one for you.”

Mah-Mah pushes Chee’s arm aside like it is a swinging door. She sidles over to my sisters and me who sit shoulder to shoulder and knee to knee on the small couch. “You hungry?” she asks, handing us an odd-shaped yellow and pink and green melon.

“What is it?” I ask, fondling the smooth, hard skin.

“Mango,” Chee says. “It’s a fruit. Like oranges.”

Mah-Mah opens a brown paper bag and places it on the floor. She lifts the mango from my hands and peels the skin with her nails and drops the skin into the brown paper bag. The mango’s yellowish flesh smells sickly sweet. With her fingers, she offers us each a piece. I sniff the strange odor and bite into the stringy fruit. It tastes awful. My lips pucker and my mouth swells. I do not want to chew; I do not want to swallow. Grabbing a tissue from the side table, I pretend to blow my nose. The slick yellow wedge slips out of my mouth and into the tissue. I wrap it up and wait for the opportunity to get rid of the fruit permanently.

Mah-Mah offers me another slice. I shake my head and say, “I’m full.”

“She saving room for dinner, right, Angela?” Chee says, nodding.

I want to tell him I hate mangos, but I just nod and fake a smile.

Thank you!

A special thanks to author Noelle Oxenhandler for the honor of speaking with her memoir writing class this week at Sonoma State University, my alma mater. It was a wonderful experience to return 20 years after I graduated and to share my writing journey with current students. I enjoyed the intimate gathering and appreciated the students who offered valuable feedback on what to read and discuss on my upcoming book tour.

Fall Book Tour Dates

Below is a list of confirmed events to promote Red Eggs and Good Luck. I hope you can make it to one or more of them!

East Coast

One More Page Books
Tuesday, October 27th from 7-8 pm

Midwest

Boswell Book Company
Thursday, October 29th from 7-9 pm

Tomah County Middle and High Schools
Friday, October 30th from 11 am to 3 pm

West Coast

Green Apple Books
Wednesday, November 4th from 7-9 pm

Best Wishes Cards and Gifts
Thursday, November 5th – Details to follow

Believe and Achieve

2015 Believe

Sometimes when we are stuck in our careers or our life, we need help.

Last year, after a frustrating summer, I fell into a slump. I wasn’t where I wanted to be in my life. At this late stage of the game, I had thought I would be a stay-at-home wife and mother who wrote and published books to supplement my husband’s income. My life was very different. I was a full-time professional with a husband who primarily took care of the children while managing his computer business. I had little time to be a wife and a mother. I had even less time for writing and painting. Often I had no time at all.

In October, I sought the help of a local psychic, Jan Kucker. She read my energy and said, “Your guides are turning away from the past and facing the future. Your life is going to dramatically change.”

My life didn’t change instantaneously. Jan had given me homework to do. I was to start believing I was worthy of receiving all the good things I was so willing to give to others. I had to start accepting the gifts the universe wanted to give me. The first step was to believe I deserved to receive!

Believing was something I reserved for others. I believed in God, my husband, my children, even my staff members. But I never stopped to consider whether or not I believed in myself.

I had been in a habit of doing: writing, rewriting, querying, and submitting story after story. Doing is one thing. Believing is another. I had to create a habit of believing.

Like a good student, I started on my homework. Jan was right. Once I started believing, I started achieving. Two weeks later, my manuscript won the 2014 Memoir Discovery Contest!

You can spend your entire life focused on the work you have to do. But if you do not believe you are worth the fruits of your labor, your efforts will be lost.

You have to believe to achieve. Yes, doing the work is half the journey but you won’t finish the journey if you don’t believe you can.

Look in the mirror and say, “I am worthy of receiving,” then go out into the world with your arms wide open and let good things come to you.

Unveiling the Cover

Here is a sneak peek at the cover of my memoir:

Book Cover

Here is a sneak peek at the “ghost cover” I did not choose:

Ghost Cover

The quote will eventually be replaced with an excerpt of Amanda Zieba’s endorsement. Amanda is the author of Breaking the Surface and the Orphan Train Rider Series. To read more about why I chose the cover I did, visit my blog post, “Beyond Words”.

100 Years of Memories

Photo courtesy of Ed Turpin
Photo courtesy of Ed Turpin

I was honored to be one of several women who read excerpts from Suzanne Sherman’s book 100 Years in the Life of an American Girl to help celebrate the launch of a new series of books chronicling the lives of American females. The first book in the series features stories from girls around the age of thirteen sharing what it was like to grow up in each decade from 1900 to 2000.

The event was held in the main dining room of the French Garden Restaurant in Sebastopol. Photographs from the book were presented in a slide show while music from each decade filled the room. Guests enjoyed champagne, sparkling water, and orange juice while listening to Suzanne share her insights into each decade. Each reader presented a snippet of their stories to a rapt audience.

My story about growing up in the shadow of the American Dream was a prelude to my book-length memoir that will be released later this year.

For those who missed the event, Suzanne will be hosting other readings in the future. You may also purchase a book either directly from Suzanne’s website or through Amazon.

Experience History!

Come celebrate 100 Years in the Life of an American Girl on Saturday January 10, 2:00 – 4:00 at the French Garden Restaurant, 8050 Bodega Ave., Sebastopol.

This is not your average book launch party! Bring your family!

* Listen to readers featured in the book from every decade, with stories of girlhood (before age 13) from throughout a century.

* Hear music from the 1920s through the 1990s — from Scott Joplin to Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson to Taylor Swift!

* Taste treats you’ll remember — or discover them for the first time! There will be candies popular since the 1920s, like Walnettos and Mary Jane’s, and candies from more recent times, like Pop Rocks and Nerds!

* Toys from the twentieth century are still fun! Try your hand again at jacks or Barrel of Monkeys — it’s been awhile, right? Slinky and Silly Putty will be here too, to laugh about and play with.

* Buy your author-signed copy of the book, for yourself and for friends and family.

For more information on how you can make history in the next 100 Years book series, visit Suzanne Sherman’s website.

How Many Manuscripts?

Stack of Library Books

I’ve been asked by several readers to list my manuscripts and what the status is regarding each of them.

NATIVE AMERICAN CRIME NOVEL SERIES:

Red Man’s Fall – A Wapi medicine man falls in love with a white woman from Las Vegas who has been hired to increase Vine Valley Casino’s profits. Out to agents.

Red Man’s Mercy – The future of the Wapi tribe is at stake after Chief Hank Hidden Hawk mysteriously dies, leaving the tribe $8 billion in debt to a foreign investor. Withdrawn from market.

The Little Indian Girl – An outcast of the Wapi tribe returns to fulfill a prophesy, but will her help be mistaken for vengeance? To be rewritten for agent representation.

SWEET ROMANCES (Something appropriate for grandmothers, mothers, and teen daughters to read):

The Backup Boyfriend – When a celebrity girlfriend starts to fall for an ordinary man, she must decide what’s more important—having a famous boyfriend or a real relationship. To be rewritten.

Just Juliet (formerly Happily Ever After) – A recovering romance addict discovers true love with the help of a wise nun and a savvy teenager. In negotiations for a publishing contract.

MEMOIR:

Red Eggs and Good Luck – A preteen Chinese-American Catholic girl discovers the limits of luck and the power of prayer in the Bay Area of the late seventies and early eighties. To be published October 2015 by She Writes Press.