Featuring Miriam Ching Yoon Louie
Miriam Ching Yoon Louie is a Korean Chinese American writer whose works feature kick-butt heroines and their movements. A former member of the Third World Women’s Alliance, Louie was co- founder of the Women of Color Resource Center, Oakland, and served as media coordinator for Asian Immigrant Women Advocates and Fuerza Unida. Voices of Our Nations Arts schooled her in fiction and poetry; and Jamaesori, SisterSound and the Korean Youth Cultural Center taught her farmers’-style drumming. Check out her books, including Not Contagious—Only Cancer and Sweatshop Warriors: Immigrant Women Workers Take On the Global Factory, at www.rabbitroar.com. Louie is working on a tale of men of color who build a road through Burmese jungles as they fight enemies, both foreign and homegrown.
We had the opportunity to interview author Miriam Ching Yoon Louie, whose essay “Beloved Halmoni” appears in All the Women in My Family Sing. This is what we learned…
What inspired you to write the essay for this anthology?
Migration and trauma ruptures hearts. Minds. Bloodlines. Writing this piece allowed me to connect my memories of Grandma and her eleventh and youngest child, Mom. Women! Within our family’s migrant farmworker and Korean independence movement’s past, that’s who kept us alive. They spiced our childhood, and I now seek to transmit their rock salt wisdom to my own children and grandchildren.
What is one of the most memorable challenges you have faced in the twenty-first century?
Menopause kicked my ass. Tactics for surviving racism, sexism, classism (and family legacies of mental illness, drinkin’ and druggin’) crashed and burned. No estrogen, no wheels. Yet crisis opened the door to transformation. So fiction, poetry, and music could rumble the brainstem. So beancake and yams, girlfriends and fam could say: sí se puede/ yes we can!
Give an example of women’s roles in today’s social justice movement.
Linda Burnham, co-conspirator since our days in the Women of Color Resource Center (WCRC) and Third World Women’s Alliance, now works as the National Research Coordinator for the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA). NDWA allows these amazing workers, principally women of color and immigrants, to share strategies, pass legislation, and lead communities across the nation. Linda is currently writing a book featuring members’ stories and dreams. Several women in Linda’s family emigrated from Barbados and did domestic work as new immigrants. For eighteen years, Linda headed WCRC, a non-profit education, community action and resource center committed to developing a strong, institutional foundation for social activism by and on behalf of women of color. Linda takes on the hard issues with courage and compassion and grounds today’s battles in the work of prior generations.
JoAnn Lum is the Executive Director of the National Mobilization Against Sweat Shops (NMASS), a multi-racial community-based workers' center that formed in 1996 and is based in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Before joining NMASS, JoAnn worked many years organizing Chinese workers at the Chinese Staff & Workers’ Association. Before that she worked as a journalist on staff at Time Magazine and free-lanced for publications such as the Nation and the Village Voice. NMASS is home to low-waged workers from diverse race and ethnic backgrounds. The group also fights for tenants’ rights against gentrification and for workers’ rights against mandatory overtime and slave wages. NMASS has launched an innovative campaign of immigrant homecare workers, who are often only paid for eight hours of their twenty-four-hour workdays. To see women from Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America create fightback campaigns is to witness audacity and artistry in motion. JoAnn is the seasoned spirit who gives these women full confidence in their ability to take wing and fly.
What have your experiences been in leadership as a woman?
Working in Women of Color, Korean and Asian American organizations has been a blessing that has allowed me to learn from descendants of survivors of slavery, genocide, annexation, colonialism and war. This diversity, openness and sisterhood are even more precious in today’s world of lies, greed and violence.
What do you most hope readers will take away from reading?
You are not alone. Let insurgent stories tease out your own creativity. May the sisterhood you find in these pages fortify your own heart song.