I am excited and honored to have a new essay up at PROXIMITY: A QUARTERLY COLLECTION OF TRUE STORIES.
Tianjin Daughter is one of nine pieces in issue 14, all on the theme of INHERITANCE. It's a beautifully, thoughtfully edited and produced publication and I'm proud to be amongst the featured authors.
In the words of issue Editor Shasta Grant:
""In this issue, our fourteenth collection of true stories, you’ll find nine nonfiction storytellers grappling with questions of inheritance. Some have inherited physical items, others cultural legacies."
Tianjin Daughter was difficult to write, in that very little is known about my paternal grandmother, born in Tianjin, China in 1898. It entailed piecing together bits and pieces gleaned from conversations with family members, old photographs and letters and from my own distant memories (she died when I was eleven).
Given what isn't known about her, what I imagine can't ever be known, I also took liberties--making it clear when I was doing so--such as fictionalizing how I imagine she came to meet my grandfather, who was, at that time, a soldier with US Expeditionary Forces.
Here is how Tianjin Daughter begins:
"Family lore has it that my grandmother was often at her window, waiting, when the soldier with bold, silvery-blue eyes rode past her father’s house each day on his travels to and from his post. One evening, the soldier paused longer than usual beside her open window.
“Come with me,” he may have said, speaking to the girl in her dialect, as his horse fidgeted beneath him, its hooves striking the cobbled carriage road.
Perhaps she laughed at his accent and audacity, one small, pale hand covering her mouth.
“There’s room,” he said, patting the triangle of saddle between his thighs.
With a mischievous backwards glance, lithe and slender as a boy in silk pants and high-collared tunic, she crept onto the stone windowsill. Joseph clasped her beneath the armpits, swung her up and onto the horse as easily as if she were a child, then held her close, one arm a firm brace beneath small, bound breasts. He goaded the horse forward, jabbing its ribs with the heels of his dusty boots."
You can read the rest here.