Precious Silver Chopsticks by Mae Adams
Precious Silver Chopsticks is a real-life story, a kaleidoscopic tapestry interwoven with threads of the lives of these family members:
Grandpa, a descendant of a Chinese imperial scholar and a Korean princess, was a landlord, herbal medicine doctor, a Christian minister, and a Kung Fu instructor.
Grandma, a commoner, and ex-sea-diver raised Mae and gave her the silver chopsticks to symbolize her love.
Father, a prodigy and a musician, suffered from tuberculosis.
Mother, the daughter of a nobleman, was a college graduate when society considered women as second-class citizens. Her relationship with Mae was stormy.
Little-Pa, a mathematical genius, loved Mae like a father.
Big-Sis, Mae's older sister, was a movie star in the 1950s.
Intaek, Mae's little brother, was a commercial designer-artist.
Mae, the useless second daughter, is the narrator of this book.
A U.S. Marine Colonel, Hewitt Dayne Adams, commanded the First Marine Regiment during the Korean War and later married Mae.
Mae uses ironic humor to tell us about the Korean spirit and culture through her birth and education, her father's death and his funeral, Grandpa's sixtieth birthday, and a Korean wedding that coincides with the Japanese occupation. After World War II, the family escapes to South Korea at the personal loss of Grandma. Her story of the Korean War from a refugee's point of view and survival through the indescribable chaos is vivid and heartbreaking.
The telling of her life story—the good, the bad, and all in truth—was an arduous task that demanded much emotional exertion. Since English is Mae's fourth language, she wrote this book from her heart, out of love and gratitude for her grandma and husband. You will get some insight into other people's lives lived in different corners of our world at another time in history through the journey of this book.
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Mae was born in Korea in 1933 in an aristocratic family who retreated to the family resort-estate in a mountain village when the Japanese invaded Korea in 1910. Her mother abandoned Mae as the useless second daughter, but her grandparents raised her in that mountain village. Grandma gave Mae a pair of magic silver chopsticks to symbolize her love, detect poison in her food, and prevent physical harm. While her father suffered from tuberculosis, the family moved to the mountain village, but Mae's relationship with her mother was stormy, and her father ignored Mae until he died when she was five and a half years old.
Mae received Japanese education and endured the abuse of Koreans. At the end of World War II, her family escaped from the Communist regime that took over her hometown. Her grandma stayed behind to give the family enough time to escape.
Within five years, her family survived the chaos of the Korean War. However, Mae became the breadwinner of her family and dreamed of going to America to get a college education.
She met the man of her dream, Hewitt, an American Marine colonel, but left him to pursue her education while continuing a long-distance romance. Finally, she married Hewitt, raised a family, and ran a successful business.
Hewitt retired from the Marine Corps, went back to school, got his degree, and became a professor at Clemson University, teaching Asian and American history. Mae, fluent in four languages, helped him with Chinese, which was a required course.
After his second retirement, Hewitt wanted to write Mae's life story, but many ailments prevented him from doing it. Mae was his sole caregiver for the last thirteen years of his life, but Hewitt lost his battle with cancer. While grieving, Mae wrote a memoir as therapy. From that first book came Precious Silver Chopsticks for publication. Her second book is Coin for a Dream, and her third book, The Letters/A Lifetime Foreign Affair, is a love story with her husband of 43 years.
Mae lives in McCormick, SC, USA, near her daughter's family.