Grandmother Badass

How badass my grandmother had to be to live her life.

Jiwon wgrandma.jpg

Jiwon and Grandma, 1972

There were so many goodbyes in her lifetime: Loss of children,  husband, and home.


My father’s mother

She had grit galore.   The notion of “grit” has become trendy in these recent years, but really it’s what we’ve had to have in order to live through shit.  Like a war.  Sorry, you don’t get to claim you have grit until you’ve had to overcome bad shit.

departure 4

What grit looks like

If you are claiming you have grit because you got over breaking up with your lover, losing your favorite shirt or not getting invited to brunch, let’s find another word for you:  Oh I know, how’s about “pettifogging”?


and please not another sob story

about your dog, pony or wife…

it’s time you learned to grin

and bear it

-––excerpted from “Koreans in Proverbs: Expect a Petulant God” by Jiwon Choi


I don’t know why I’m wearing gauchos with a blazer.  This seems wrong.

with daddy 2

Best dressed in Central Park

But no big surprise because the Seventies strikes me as being about misguided choices, especially the decision to emigrate to the US from my first home, Korea.

There are a bunch of old photos of me in a crowd of somber looking grown-ups at the airport.  I am with my cousins, aunts, uncles, and there’s my grandmother who had already said so many goodbyes looking tired and dazed.  She knew what was coming.



The Seventies were a hardship for my parents and they sent me back to live with one of my father’s older brothers who had three children.   Maybe I could have just stayed on as his fourth.  It seems a betrayal of sorts to say so, but my parents could not handle the burden of a child while trying to turn their Korean life into an American one.

You’d think I’d have written more poems about this time in my life by now, but I haven’t.  It’s a dilemma for sure.

When you became American you watched that movie thinking you were Dorothy but no, you were the house torn from its foundation and the years you spent trying to fit in were the flying monkeys.

–– excerpted from “In Korean Years” by Jiwon Choi