Saturday, September 12, 2009

Spirit Bridges: Coming of Age in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, Madrid, and New York City in the 60’s.: A Memoir by Li Mo.

(Li Mo)

Spirit Bridges: Coming of Age in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, Madrid, and New York City in the 60’s.: A Memoir by Li Mo. $15

This book has an exceedingly long title, and perhaps it befits this memoir by Cambridge, Mass writer and member of Somerville’s Bagel Bards Li Mo. Mo has lived, loved and lost in more places than most of us ever dreamed of, and she tells her (At times harrowing) tale of becoming an artist with the skills of a consummate storyteller. And Mo tells it like it is as she writes: “The opening of one’s self is the hardest work an artist undertakes.” Indeed Mo has opened herself, at times like a gaping wound, to give us a didactic on what it is to survive and thrive on one’s own terms.

Mo, who is also member of the Streetfleet women, a writers’ group that has an active Somerville-based branch, was born in China, lived in Shanghi (Where her father was imprisoned as a political prisoner and later executed), fled with her mother to Hong- Kong, Taipei, Madrid, and later to the lower east side of New York City. Eventually she wound up in Cambridge, Mass. She always had an affinity for the arts. Her mother a writer, and a steady and central presence in her life, instilled in her a love and appreciation of Chinese culture, art, and literature. This proved to be an anchor to a profoundly alienated Chinese girl who was at times lost to depression, poverty, and even Narcolepsy.

In this book there are rich, evocative descriptions of ethnic cuisine, poems that capture the sights, sounds and intense feeling experienced by Mo, a girl/woman in a perpetual state of Diaspora. In “To Fei Yen/Flying Swallow” Mo writes about an ancient man she befriended. He owned a Chinese laundry on Mott St. in Chinatown in NYC:

“ I eat tangerines sip Dragon Well
stare into the lone eye of a goldfish
think of you in a dark room on Mott Street
moon face, starry eyes, cherry mouth,
light peal of laughter
your hand delicately fingering
a blue-flowered porcelain cup
emptying Dragon Well
weaving another hand in the air
singsong talking about
the joy of three goldfish

on a full moon’s night
an invisible red thread of love
tied together our wrists
our souls-our next life…”

If you were a kid like me, the only Chinese culture you were exposed to was column 1, 2 or 3 inside the menu at the local Chow Mein Inn. In this book you will get authentic servings of the people and culture’s depth, stoicism, forget the hackneyed egg roll. This book works as a memoir, a story of inspiration, and a work of literature. It is a must for anyone who must survive, and hopefully thrive.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update

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