Educators Poetry Reading & Writing Teachers Woman Warrior Woman. Warrior. Writer.

Woman. Warrior. Writer. Sun Yung Shin

Meet November’s Woman. Warrior. Writer. Sun Yung Shin!

신 선 영 Sun Yung Shin was born in Seoul, Korea and was raised in the Chicago area. She is a poet, writer, and cultural worker. The author of six collections and children’s books and the editor of three anthologies, her most recent book is The Wet Hex (Coffee House Press). She lives in Minneapolis where she co-directs the community organization Poetry Asylum with poet Su Hwang. You can learn more at:

How did you come to author your life?

An important part of authoring my life began with writing poetry when I was 22 or 23. I had always had a strong sense of self as a child, and a sense of wonder at the presence of our inner lives. Until poetry, I didn’t have the best (for me) means to express my inner life and explore the conditions of my life, especially as a Korean American immigrant, very much an Other in American society, mostly surrounded by silence. Poetry is a needle piercing the fabric of silence, leaving a trail, leading with flashes of light. 

Blog Educators Reading & Writing Teachers Woman. Warrior. Writer.

Woman. Warrior. Writer. Marie Myung-Ok Lee

Meet August’s Woman.Warrior. Writer. Marie Myung-Ok Lee!

Marie Myung-Ok Lee is an acclaimed Korean-American author of Somebody’s Daughter and The Evening Hero—a novel that focuses on the future of medicine, immigration, and North Korea. Lee has widely published across news outlets, won fellowships to Yaddo/Macdowell, is a founder of the Asian American Writer’s Workshop, and teaches at Columbia University.

How did you come to author your life?

Even while growing up in a Christian household in an all-white rural area I knew I was Buddhist-leaning non Christian at age 9, about the same time I declared I was going to be a writer for a living.  At 9, I started meditating even though I didn’t have the words for what I was doing. But I just knew doing both writing and meditating every day would lead to…something. Also, parenting my intellectually disabled, medically fragile son for 20+ years, I just show up for him, including for all the disasters and emergencies, Interestingly he has started communicating–at the same time my 18-years-in-the-making novel is finally coming out. You can’t do everything in a day, but you can commit to doing what ever “it” is, daily, like writing, parenting, being present. 

About The Evening Hero as a Buzz PICK Good Morning America Book Club selection Marie Lee says: “I think this is a good illustration go what doing something every day, even without promise of reward, can do.”

Educators Hawai'i Poetry Reading & Writing Teachers Woman. Warrior. Writer.

Woman. Warrior. Writer. Debra Kang Dean


Meet March’s Woman Warrior Writer Debra Kang Dean! Debra Kang Dean is the author of two prize-winning chapbooks and three full-length books of poetry. Totem: America, her most recent book, was shortlisted for the 2020 Indiana Authors Award in Poetry. Long engaged with taijiquan, she is on the poetry faculty of the Sena Naslund-Karen Mann School of Writing.

 How did you come to author your life?

Although the words “woman,” “warrior,” and “writer” separately apply to different facets of my being, it might be truer to say that life keeps authoring me—not as subject but in terms of the kind of writer I am. Widowed at fifty, I find those words rearranging themselves, each taking its turn as a verb. I have never forgotten reading how some post-menopausal women became ambiguous figures in one tribal society and so were able to move in the spaces between conventional boundaries—not an especially good fit for our very gendered, youth-oriented culture, but one that has helped me to keep the self that creates intact and persist through changing inner and outer weather. The struggle is real, but remember: This work is no small thing.

Blog Reading & Writing Teachers Woman. Warrior. Writer.

Woman. Warrior. Writer. Grace Cho

January 2022’s Woman Warrior Writer is Grace Cho. Cho is the author of Tastes Like War (2021), a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction, and Haunting the Korean Diaspora: Shame Secrecy and the Forgotten War(2008), which won the American Sociological Association’s Asia and Asian America Section book award in 2010. She lives in New York City with her partner, kids and chosen family, and she teaches sociology at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York.

How did you come to author your life?

My former teacher, the incomparable bell hooks, wrote in Theory as Liberatory Practice, “I came to theory desperate, wanting to comprehend—to grasp what was happening around and within me.” Writing for me has always been about theorizing, about theory as “a location for healing.” As a young adult, I began writing to make sense of all the injustices my mother faced, all the ways in which her history had been obscured or erased or made into an object of shame and contempt.  As her daughter, it became my business to denounce that shame and celebrate her legacy.

Belief and Philosophy Blog Educators Hawai'i Self-help Woman. Warrior. Writer.

Hawai’i: Family

I’m starting to learn how to play Chang-gi/Jang-gi or Korean chess, or what some may call Chinese chess. I’m doing this, so that Dad and I can have some activity together. The Kid and Dad played 5-in-a-row. Dad can beat The Kid at this game. He’s also good at chess. He told me this is how he spent part of the Korean War with his brother and cousin, hiding in the attic to avoid being drafted as a young teenager, the three of them playing chess.

I first learned to play chess in the third, maybe fourth grade. A friend taught me and failed to tell me that losing the pawn was not as bad as losing a rook and she easily won for several rounds. I developed an interest in playing chess, enough to have Dad come home from a business trip with a small magnetic chess set. I still have it. He learned Western chess; we played together. My ambition became to beat him.

I played other Korean boys in Iowa, most distinctly one who won against me with a series of memorized moves. I was in awe. I asked him how he learned chess, and he showed me a chess book. I went to the mall, ordered the same book, Dear Reader, I still have it, LOL. I studied it, and then memorized the moves. I got better. I kept playing. I didn’t ever play the boy again, but I ended up challenging Dad to chess and beating him.

I beat him once, but obviously, he was the person I wanted to win, as I didn’t play much after that match. Dad laughed. I had taught him now to play Western chess, and he had always beaten me up to that point. Looking back, I know he had let me win, played a bit casually, but no matter. I felt like it, and he admitted it: I had won.

So much of my identity throughout my life was tied to being my father’s daughter. The daughter of a scholar and research scientist and doctor. The daughter of someone who had survived the Korean War, who had won the nation’s top scholarship to come to the West, who had a PhD and MD by the time he was 27. He headed a research lab. He was the only person of color with his field’s medical association. He was a colonel in the Army. He published over 200 papers. He spoke multiple languages. He lived a big life. Mostly, he was unique, unabashedly exhausting, often temperamental, humorous, brilliant, and fiercely loyal. It was under this shadow that I lived and tried to measure myself and my accomplishments, and of course, I always came up short. I still do. The complications of his existence were exacerbated by language challenges and his struggles with the truth of race in the US. Dad’s journey was long. Difficult. In almost every sense, it was my mother who made his navigation in the US possible (more on Mom in my next post!).

Dad was the one who had always drilled into my brain that I had to have more, be more, accomplish more, to be treated with half the respect, as he said, because I was Korean, because I was Asian, because I was female. This was the lesson that my father kept repeating, and this was the lesson that nearly broke me, or perhaps did. (I’m since rather patched together on my merry way…)

I particularly remember these ideas when at boarding school. I would not buckle. No. I would not. Because I was not a quitter. I was the daughter of Dr. Tai-June Yoo and the white students who bullied, belittled, had no idea what I did to reinvent. It wasn’t me who was on the line. It was my race. It was my ethnicity. It was my gender. I would not let anyone down. Ever! Tough times. I got sick of living up to everything–and as one does, it led to completely giving up that type of structural existence. Too exhausting. Too narrow. It did not fit. Even if that meant disappointing Dad.

It took me decades for me to see that there are truths to how we learn and function in a nation and that our families messages are to be interpreted according to who we are individually. We can’t be everything to everyone all the time. What we can be however is this–people who slow down and play a game chess now and then, people who try to learn something new, people who try to understand that our own paths are informed by others, but are our own paths full of foibles, mistakes, joys, and unexpected happenings.

Stay tuned.

Maybe one day I’ll beat dad at Korean chess.

Miracles do happen.


Belief and Philosophy Blog Hawai'i Health Self-help

Hawai’i: Health and Eating During COVID 19

To get The Kid through exams I said, hey let’s go to Rainbow Drive In. I’ll be honest, this is where The Kid goes post surf with Uncle N the surf instructor. Uncle N is the main reason that both myself and the Kid are still alive after a year of COVID. You’d think only one of us would have made it through.

Try COVID with a very athletic 13-14 year old. Strategies included installing a punching bag that basically blocks the front door (no other place to put it), ocean nearly every AM  ( a friend took her kid surfing 2x a day to wear him out), and watching stuff like oh…Youtube videos of competitive eating, grilling and frying meat, and hours of Netflix comedy (yes, Dear Reader, I know Kevin Hart and Ronnie Chieng jokes by heart…)

So here is The Kid’s carb load of chicken katsu with rice with green juice.

“Whatever happened to the no sugar healthy thing,” I say.

“Oh, this is special green juice and Uncle N said it is only here in Hawai’i and only in two places and it called Green River. It’s awesome,” says The Kid.

“I thought you were focused on being a health food person.”

“NAH. I figured out I can eat a lot and even a lot of sugar and I’m not losing muscle mass,” says The Kid slurping the green juice down. “My metabolism is good.”

“But it’s your interior health”, I say.

“I’m healthy,” says The Kid.

I had a nice serving of chili over rice.