Category Archives: Women’s Equality

I Do Not Wish to Obsess, by Pilar Rodríguez Aranda

This spring, Writing for Peace looks at gun violence, as well as violence against women and other issues of women’s equality.

Pilar Rodriguez Aranda, Writing for Peace Adviser

No es que quiera obsesionarme

by Pilar Rodríguez Aranda
Translation by Rosarela Meza

No es que quiera obsesionarme
pero cuándo
dejaré de escuchar
noticias absurdas y violentas
(penetración en todos los orificios)
En todos
En todas

Cuándo
dejaré de leer
sobre feminicidios irresolutos
(sospechosos en camionetas negras)
La esperanza ennegrecida
Negro el futuro

Cuándo
dejaré de enterarme
de números y estadísticas
(Más años de cárcel recibe un ladrón
que el asesino de su mujer
si se sospecha que ha sido infiel)

Cuándo
dejaré de conocer
los detalles de sus muertes
(acuchillada 57 veces)
Violada
Torturada

Cuándo
dejaré de alterarme
al imaginar su mirada
su ignorancia y su inocencia

Cuándo
dejaré de creer
que para ser mujer hay que negarse
(no salgas, no vistas, no seas)
que si te atreves a afirmarte
te obligan a callarte
te golpean, te matan
y al final
te culpan

No. No me quiero obsesionar
pero cómo
dejar de pensar
que esos asesinos victoriosos
(que no pueden ser hombres)
existen en la misma superficie
y respiran el mismo oxígeno

Siento que va a caer
una lágrima, pero en vez
bien adentro, algo se endurece

La piedra de la fe, lava
que se enfría
cuando debiera explotar y derretirlo todo

pero para ello, necesitaría un poco más de ternura…
Si no, cómo
podré entonces soltar
esta desesperanza endurecida
para que no me rasgue por dentro
como hicieron con ellas
Todas ellas…

¿Cómo fue que extraviamos
nuestra alma colectiva?
Cuándo… cómo…
No hay duda del qué ni del dónde
Aquí y hoy
aquí y hoy

Cuándo
dejaré de sentir
que hoy y aquí
no nos merecemos

México, DF, 2010

I Do Not Wish to Obsess

I do not wish to obsess
but when
will I stop listening
to absurd and violent news
(penetration in all orifices)
In all of them
All of them

When
will I stop reading
about unresolved femicides
(suspects in black SUVs)
Blackened hope
Blackened future

When
will I stop finding out
numbers and statistics
(a thief gets more years in jail
than a man who has killed his wife
because she is suspected of infidelity)

When
will I stop learning
the details of their deaths
(knifed 57 times)
Raped
Tortured

When
will I stop feeling upset
imagining their gaze
their ignorance and innocence

When
will I stop thinking
that to be a woman one has to deny oneself
(don’t go out, don’t dress up, don’t be)
that if you dare to be assertive
you are forced to be silent
they beat you, they kill you
and at the end
they blame it on you

No. I do not wish to obsess
but how
can I stop thinking
that those victorious murderers
(who cannot be men)
exist on the same surface
and breath the same oxygen

I feel a teardrop about to fall
but instead,
deep within, something hardens

The stone of faith, lava
getting cold
when it should explode and melt it all

But for that, I need a little more tenderness…
If not, how
can I then let go
of this hardened hopelessness
so that it doesn’t tear my insides
like they did with them
All of them…

¿When and how was it that we lost
our collective soul?
When… how…
No doubt about the what and the where
Here and today
here and today

When
will I stop feeling
that today and here
we do not deserve ourselves

Translation by Rosarela Meza

About Pilar Rodríguez Aranda

Pilar Rodríguez Aranda @100TPC 2012Pilar Rodriguez Aranda is a poet, video artist, translator by trade and border-crosser by vocation. She was born in Mexico City, but lived in California, Texas, and New Mexico, for a total of 13 years; she presently lives in Malinalco, Estado de México and tries to commute to the capital city only when necessary.

She originally wanted to become a filmmaker, and started doing video while in college. Her piece “The Idea We Live In,” won first place at the 1991 Athens International Film and Video  Festival, in Ohio, and at the Bienal de Video de México, 1992 (plus an honorary mention for scriptwriting); “The Unexpected Turn of Jim Sagel,” was “Best New Mexican Film” at the Roswell Film Festival in 1994, and “Return, or the Inexactness of Centre” was selected for the 2008 International Videopoetry Showcase (Argentina). Her video work has been shown in several festivals and museums in Europe and America. She has received grants from the Mexican Institute of Cinematography (IMCINE), the National Fund for the Culture and the Arts (FONCA), and the City of Austin Arts Commission, among others.

As a writer, she published her first poem in a student magazine, and since then, she has continued to publish poetry, articles and reviews in various magazines and anthologies in North America, like Voices of Mexico, Replicante, Ruptures, Tribuno del Pueblo, Saguaro, The America’s Review, Bilingual Review, DoveTales, and Mujeres de Maíz Flor y Canto, and Voces sin fronteras II, Éditions Alondras, Montreal, Quebec, to mention a few. In 2012 she published her first book of poetry, Asunto de mujeres (Story of Women), Cascada de Palabras, México. In february of 2013, she received as an award for her poem Nuestras Luchitas, a scholarship to participate at the 8th Annual San Miguel Writers’ Conference.

She makes a living as translator (http://pilartraductora.blogspot.mx), but has also published, most recently in the anthology Cantar de Espejos: poesía testimonial chicana de mujeres (Song of Mirrors: Chicana Women’s Testimonial Poetry) UNAM/Univ. del Claustro de Sor Juana, 2012. She just edited and translated into English, the anthology ¡Esos malditos escuincles!, 25 young Mexican poets 30 and under, for Big Bridge webzine.

She considers herself an “artivist” and is a founding member of the collective Contra la violencia, el arte (Against Violence, Art), and coordinator for 100 Thousand Poets for Change, Mexico chapter.

Writing for Peace News:

Pilar Rodriguez Aranda Joins WfP Advisory Panel

Pilar Rodriguez Aranda, Writing for Peace AdviserEver since I understood the positive effect breaking the cycle of silence and bearing witness, I have felt my writing had a purpose. So, I have tried bringing to light subject matters that usually are kept secret (incest, abuse), or that are unpleasant (like femicide) to talk about; I also have felt strongly the incoherence of War and the discourse behind the “reasoning” for its existence. A society that accepts the death penalty or justifies war, is only reinforcing the acceptance of violence as normal.  Everywhere I’ve lived, I have become involved with the community, and the themes and concerns have usually been the same: art and culture, women’s issues and peace. However, it really has been in the last 2 years that I have found a way to finally merge my passion and my writing through my participation in 100 Thousand Poets for Change. In both editions I have found myself working (and learning from) the youngest of poets as well as from very young students who are still searching for their calling. After having learned more about Writing for Peace and their work with young people, it seemed natural to follow my “habit” of laying out bridges. I am grateful to be part of this project and hope to bring to it many Mexican and Latin American young voices.

~Pilar Rodriguez Aranda

Check out Pilar’s links here.

DoveTales is now available for purchase!

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013We are excited to announce that the print copies of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, “Occupied” 2013. Support Writing for Peace  now by purchasing your copy here.

DoveTales is a full color journal, featuring poetry, essays, and fiction from our contest winners, established and emerging writers, as well as art and photography. Writing for Peace Artist-In-Residence Pd Lietz’s artwork is featured on the cover and throughout the journal.  We are grateful for the support of Colgate University Research Council, which provided a $500 grant as a partial underwriting of the initial publication of DoveTales.

In our first issue of DoveTales, writers and artists explored the many definitions of the “Occupied” theme in brilliant and unexpected ways. Contributors include: Chrissie Morris Brady, Andrea W. Doray, Kim Goldberg, Veronica Golos, Nancy Aidé González, Sam Hamill, Denny Hoffman, Michael Lee Johnson, Adam Jones, Ron Koppelberger, Pd Lietz, Paul Lindholt, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Ellen Meeropol, Mark A. Murphy, Tricia Orr, Kenneth Pobo, Linda Quennec, Nausheen Rajan, Shirani Rajapakse, April Salzano, Nizar Sartawi, Laura Solomon, John Stocks, Julie Stuckey, Samantha Peters Terrell, Richard Vargas. Contributor biography pages will appear on our website soon.

All proceeds for Writing for Peace publications and products go to support our mission, including future Young Writers Contests, DoveTales and other peace publications, and workshops. We invite you to show your support for the Writing for Peace mission by  purchasing your copy today!

Young Writers Contest

Winners for our 2013 Young Writers Contest were announced on May 1st!  Check out the announcement here. Winners will be contacted soon to make arrangements for award payments. Every participating young writer will shortly receive a certificate of participation. Finalists will be notified individually and may be considered for future publication.  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

Open Forum: MCH-What’s Going On?

Writing for Peace Adviser, Mary Carroll-Hackett, invites all young writers to join her students in posting and discussing current event articles on her open Facebook page,  MCH-What’s Going On?Learn more about Mary Carroll-Hackett’s work here.

In Our Blog~

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction. Links to previous posts on these topics can be found below:

Silent Day, by Richard Krawiec

What Happens When We Lose Our Innocence? by Andrea W. Doray

Where Peace Begins, by Cara Lopez Lee

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

A Stranger in Trouble, Part One, by Vicki Lindner

A Stranger in Trouble, Part Two, by Vicki Lindner

Exit Wound, by Melissa Hassard

Circle Jerk, by Pd Lietz

A Glimpse, by Alexandra Kinias

Every Month is Women’s History Month, by Andrea W. Doray

This is Where I’ll Die, Translated by Maija Rhee Devine

Like Taking Off Boots, by Maija Rhee Devine

The Flaming Cliffs of One’s Heart, by Adriana Paramo

Weary of a Violent Vocabulary, by Andrea W. Doray

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

The Flaming Cliffs of One’s Heart, by Adriana Paramo

Adriana Paramo,  Gobi Desert

The Flaming Cliffs of One’s Heart

by Adriana Paramo

Sixty million years ago, this part of the Gobi desert called  Bayanzag was the bottom of an Ancient Sea. The place is known as Flaming Cliffs and if anyone has ever heard of them it is because of the dinosaur skeletons and eggs that have been discovered there.

The Flaming Cliffs are not the Grand Canyon or the Badlands. They are quite unimpressive. Really. And if it wasn’t because the sunlight reflecting off the cliff walls makes the formations look more spectacular than they really are, you could drive by and miss them.

Yet, I love these two tiny words: Flame and Cliff.
Both so inherently dangerous.

Flame conjures up images of things set ablaze, things that burst into strident blasts of angry red and hues of passionate orange.

The word flame makes me think of my middle school years when girls used to remove the hair on their arms by passing a candle rapidly over them.  They burned the hair off their arms to make them caressable, to offer them naked and soft to boys with clumsy hands and sticky fingers.  They singed the fuzz on their arms out of love. So that they were welcomed and accepted and kept.

But only little girls do such silly things. When they grow up so does their pain, the caliber of their offerings, and their boldness. Some of them favor self-immolation over singeing. They offer themselves in sacrifice by setting their whole bodies ablaze.  They do it as a form of protest, of martyrdom, out of scorn. They sacrifice their flesh and bones in the name of love. Afghan women wishing to escape abusive marriages, Tibetan nuns protesting Chinese rule, Indian widows seeking eternal love throw themselves into their husbands’ funeral pyres.

Think heat, your skin peeling off, first crispy then waxy like a candle left out in the sun. Think pain, the fat of your body coloring the flames with traces of bleeding green and tender yellow, turning your midriff into a volcanic blow torch.

Flames. Kisses. Passion. That short-of-breathness, the giddiness of a torrid affair, the first love, the first kiss, the first time. Consuming flames that devour and destroy, leaving nothing behind but a mound of smoldering twigs.

Flames.

I once loved a boy who loved alcohol more than he loved me.
“Why do you drink so much?” I asked him one day.
“Because I like how it burns my throat,” he said. “It’s like a flame rushing down my windpipe all the way to my belly. You wouldn’t understand.”

I didn’t.

Cliff.  That’s the word that comes to my mind when I think of roller coasters, paragliding, bungee-jumping, sky-diving and gravity-defying stunts, a list that comprises my worst fears. I’m afraid of free-falls, of losing control, of letting myself go. I imagine how splendidly irrevocable the pull of gravity must be as one goes off a cliff.  The word cliff evokes memories of that last scene in the movie Thelma and Louise when the women are cornered by police only 100 yards from the edge of the Grand Canyon. They weigh out their options and rather than to be captured and spend the rest of their lives in jail they decide to keep going. Thelma steps on the accelerator and drives the 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible over the cliff.

I once loved a boy who loved his mother very much. On one Mother’s Day, after a weekend out in the country with pals and cheap booze, he drove to his mother’s house. He was too drunk and drove too fast. He missed a bend and his car flew off a cliff. It was a difficult rescue, the firefighters later said. The boy was tall and skinny; he wasn’t wearing a seat belt; the car catapulted his body into the air first, and later into the belly of the cliff.
The casket was sealed.
No one was allowed to see his mangled body.
A gaping abyss swallowed him whole.

 

“The Flaming Cliffs of One’s Heart” was reprinted with permission from Adriana Paramo’s blog, TWL. Travel, Write, Live.

 

Adriana Paramo, Writing for Peace AdviserAbout Adriana Paramo

Adviser Adriana Paramo is a Colombian writer and cultural anthropologist who, following research in Kuwait and the United States, advocates for immigrant women’s rights. She designed a tool to assess the quality of life of Indian servants living in Kuwaiti work camps, reflected in her CNF manuscript, “Desert Butterflies.” Her memoir, “My Mother’s Funeral,” set in Colombia, will soon be published by CavanKerry Press.  Learn more about Adriana Paramo here.

Looking for Esperanza, by Adriana ParamoAdriana Paramo wrote about her extensive work with Florida’s immigrant farming community in her book, “Looking for Esperanza,” the winner of the 2011 Benu Press Social Justice Award in Creative Nonfiction.

Looking for Esperanza: The Story of a Mother, a Child Lost, and Why They Matter to Us chronicles Paramo’s fieldwork and the anonymous voices of the women she encounters while looking for the mother in the story. It also yields the heartbreaking reality of life for these unvalued women who are treated, in Paramo’s words, “like meat scraps on the cutting board.”

Across Florida, in vegetable fields, citrus groves, ferneries, and packing houses, Paramo finds what she describes as “an underground subculture of hungry undocumented women, a hidden world of wage slaves, a microcosm of false names, false Social Security numbers, and false hopes.”

The book concludes with a collage of thoughts from various undocumented women, including one that captures the hopes that compel these women to make the choices they make: “I pray that my children remember me; I ask God they don’t forget that I left Mexico for their own good, so they could have a better life.”

Purchase the book on Amazon.com here.

 

Writing for Peace News:

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013DoveTales is now available for purchase!

We are excited to announce that the print copies of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, “Occupied” 2013, are now available to purchase on our website here.

DoveTales is a full color journal, featuring poetry, essays, and fiction from our contest winners, established and emerging writers, as well as art and photography. Writing for Peace Artist-In-Residence Pd Lietz’s artwork is featured on the cover and throughout the journal.  We are grateful for the support of Colgate University Research Council, which provided a $500 grant as a partial underwriting of the initial publication of DoveTales.

In our first issue of DoveTales, writers and artists explored the many definitions of the “Occupied” theme in brilliant and unexpected ways. Contributors include: Chrissie Morris Brady, Andrea W. Doray, Kim Goldberg, Veronica Golos, Nancy Aidé González, Sam Hamill, Denny Hoffman, Michael Lee Johnson, Adam Jones, Ron Koppelberger, Pd Lietz, Paul Lindholt, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Ellen Meeropol, Mark A. Murphy, Tricia Orr, Kenneth Pobo, Linda Quennec, Nausheen Rajan, Shirani Rajapakse, April Salzano, Nizar Sartawi, Laura Solomon, John Stocks, Julie Stuckey, Samantha Peters Terrell, Richard Vargas. Contributor biography pages will appear on our website soon.

All proceeds for Writing for Peace publications and products go to support our mission, including future Young Writers Contests, DoveTales and other peace publications, and workshops. We invite you to show your support for the Writing for Peace mission by  purchasing your copy today!

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from 21 different countries! Announcements will be made on May 1st, 2013. Participation certificates will begin going out this month. Congratulations to every young writer who participated!  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

In Our Blog~

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction. Links to previous posts on these topics can be found below:

Silent Day, by Richard Krawiec

What Happens When We Lose Our Innocence? by Andrea W. Doray

Where Peace Begins, by Cara Lopez Lee

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

A Stranger in Trouble, Part One, by Vicki Lindner

A Stranger in Trouble, Part Two, by Vicki Lindner

Exit Wound, by Melissa Hassard

Circle Jerk, by Pd Lietz

Every Month is Women’s History Month, by Andrea W. Doray

This is Where I’ll Die, Translated by Maija Rhee Devine

Like Taking Off Boots, by Maija Rhee Devine

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

This Is Where I’ll Die, by Maija Rhee Devine

About this post:

In 2008, the UN Security Council classified rape as a weapon of war, describing sexual violence as “a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instil fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group”.  In the words of Major General Patrick Cammaert, Former UN Peacekeeper, “It’s a very effective weapon, because the communities are totally destroyed.”

To women all over the world, the UN acknowledgement confirmed what was already common knowledge; sexual violence and humiliation  has been a war tactic throughout history. During WWII, the Japanese Imperial Army and Navy captured women from Korea, China, Japan, the Philippines, and elsewhere, and forced them to provide sexual services to Japanese soldiers. These “comfort women” serviced about 20 men each day, and 40-50 on weekend days.

Writing for Peace Adviser, Maija Rhee Devine, has actively sought to document this historic tragedy, translating and telling the stories of Korean Comfort Women, raising awareness, and sharing the work of the Korean Comfort Women Museum (Nanum eui Jip: The House of Sharing in S. Korea). This is the story of one woman, Lee Yong-nyeo, how she became a sex slave to the Japanese Imperial Army, how she survived the ordeal, and how it affected her life.

This Is Where I’ll Die

The story of Lee Yong-nyeo, a former Korean comfort woman, Testimonials of Korean Comfort Women, Vol. 1  (Han-wool, Seoul, Korea, 1993) (Interviewer: Koh Hye-jung).

Translated from Korean into English by Writing for Peace Adviser, Maija Rhee Devine.

Reprinted with permission from Mr. An Shin-kwon, director of The House of Sharing, the museum of Korean comfort women in Kyonggi-do, S. Korea.

Biographical information:

Lee Yong-Nyeo, This is Where I'll DieBorn in 1926 in Yojoo, Kyonggi Province to a poor family, Yong-nyeo was hired out as a domestic worker when she was eight.  At eleven, she moved to Seoul, where she worked in factories or as a domestic until she turned fourteen.   Then she was “sold” to a woman running a wine house, where she ran errands and waited on customers.  In 1942, when she turned 16, the owner persuaded her to move to a new work place without revealing where the new job would take her.  As it turned out, via Busan, Taiwan, and Singapore, she landed in a mountainous region of Burma.  In that rugged terrain, her life as a comfort woman began.

Story:

Born the second of five children on February 10, 1926 at Booknae-meun, Yojoo-gun, Kyonggi Province, I had a brother who was five years older than me, but among girls, I was the oldest.  Originally, our family lived in Yangpyong where we owned some land, but my father gambled it away and left us too destitute to send me to school.

A domestic worker at the age of eight

The house where I was hired out to as an eight-year-old belonged to a well-to-do family in Yojoo.  I remember washing floor-mopping rags at that house.

As we had no land to farm in Yojoo, we subsisted on the rice we bought on credit.  Soon, unable to pay the debt, we packed up and went to Seoul, where my father’s sister lived.  At first, we crammed into one of the rooms at her house, but after a while, both my older brother and I were hired out.

I worked at the home of Mr. Im, who ran a textile business.  Everyday, I carried the family’s baby on my back all day, and often the baby wet the clothes on my back, leaving me with heat rash in the summer.  In the winter, I washed diapers in freezing water, which caused my skin to dry out, crack, and bleed.

After migrating from one rental to another, our finally built a tent shanty behind what is now the Ahyun Elementary School in Seoul.  While we were on the verge of starving, my mother gave birth to a child who was tiny because of Mother’s hunger during pregnancy.  Grandmother said to me, “Even if you have to beg, you’ve got to find food for your Mommy.  She can lose her mind if she doesn’t have food in her stomach.”  So, I took a sack and a basket and begged door to door and kept Mother and the baby alive for the next six months.  In rich neighborhoods like Sajik-dong, the ladies of the houses asked me to work for them.  But I had to answer, “My mother and her baby are starving, and I must find food for them.  So, I can’t work for you.”  Sometimes, they gave me food, sometimes, money.   At that time, a bag of sugar cost 5 jeon.  I fed the baby with a little sugar added to the porridge.

Sometimes we bought the dregs left from making rice wine and boiled that to  make meals.  I also stopped at a potato noodle factory, where I collected the noodles that fell out of the cooking pots and rolled in the dirt.  I brought these home, where I cooked and seasoned them for our meals.

For a while, my father sold vegetables in the market.  Naturally, we ate a lot of vegetables, but we got sick with parasites.  When my face turned brown, and I was near death, my father told me that if I worked for a Japanese family and ate good food, I would be cured.  So, I went and worked for a Japanese family.

After I got better, I returned home and continued to feed the family by begging.  I also carried water up the hill to our shanty every day.  My father made me do all the work.  He said, “Carry some water.  Go get some sugar.  Make some porridge for the baby.”

At fourteen, I went to work at a cookie factory located near the crematory in Hongje-dong.  About a year later, my father sent my younger brother to fetch me home.  When I arrived, I found a plump woman wearing gold jewelry and a Korean style overcoat.  She said if I’d go with her, I could do well not only for myself but also provide for my parents.  My mother kept her back turned toward her, saying nothing, but my father urged me to go.  So, I followed her.  Later, I heard my father received a sum of money from that woman, which he said he planned to pay back in installments over the next year.

The story behind this deal had to do with the housing dilemma we faced.  Those of us living in tent shanties in Ahyun-dong had been forced to pack up our tents and move further up the Hongeun-dong hill.  At that time, Hongeun-dong hill was barren except for graves.  We were told to dig up dead bodies, burn them, and build our homes.  So, we tore up our tent home in Ahyun-dong and moved it up the hill.  However, we needed more lumber, which we obtained on credit.  But when we couldn’t pay the debt, we were forced to either turn our house over or pay what we owed on the lumber.  This was the reason my father made a deal with the woman to give him a sum of money in exchange for my employment with her.

Deceived by the owner

The woman took me to a large wine house called Youngchun-ok, which stood by the Sudaemun West Gate jail.  I set tables for wine-drinking customers and ran small errands.  After a year of working there, the woman asked me if I’d like to get a good job in Japan that paid a lot of money.  Since there would be many other girls also going there to work, she said I didn’t need to be afraid.  I had no idea how to get there, but the hunger for a job that would provide me with good food, clothing, and money was too powerful for me to resist such a miraculous opportunity.  She gave me a packet of Chinese medicine to take home, brew and drink and told me to wait for a word from her.  The medicine, she said, would cut the seasickness in the boat to Japan I would board.  She gave me some pocket money, too.  How much, I can’t remember.  I do remember buying with that money an outfit each for my little sister and younger brother.

Back at home in Hongeun-dong, I took a break for about two weeks.  During that time, I told my friends, “I’ve been promised a good job.”  Hearing this, two of my former co-workers at a cookie factory, Duk-sool Kim, two years older than me, and Hok-geun Kim, a year older than me, decided to join me.

Soon, I received a word to come to a meeting place.  It was 1942.   I had just turned sixteen.  I wore the white short-sleeved dress I got at the Young-chon-ok Wine House and wore a pair of white high heels.  When I arrived at a Chinese restaurant in Myong-dong below the South Mountain, there were several dozen young women waiting there.  My father accompanied me, Duk-sool, and Hok-geun there, and then he left.   For lunch there, we ate sweet-and-sour pork, fried rice, and so forth.  For the first time, I had a dish with sea cucumbers.  After lunch, we boarded a train to Busan.

Arriving there at night, I couldn’t tell what was what.  We stayed at an inn located at the Hot Springs of Dong-rae for seven or ten days.  The day after we arrived there, when I asked if I could walk to the ocean, I was told the road in front of the inn would take me straight there.  But I was also told to stay in.  We were being led by a Korean man and several women.  In the evening, we took baths in the hot spring and feasted on good food, but we were never allowed to venture outside.

When we boarded a huge ship—possibly a transport or military—in Busan, several of the Korean escorts disappeared.   About sundown, pointing at a land across the waters, someone said it was Japan.  There were hundreds of women in the ship, and from the Japanese soldiers, I learned we’d work as comfort women.  I didn’t know what that meant, although I knew some Japanese because I once worked for a Japanese family. Despite having been told we were heading to Japan, we bypassed it and headed south.  I suffered seasickness so badly that I couldn’t eat and stayed stretched out.  Soon, we anchored in Taiwan, but we were not allowed to leave the ship.  I remember lowering my hat to the sellers on the dock and buying fruit that way.  When we sailed again, the ship stopped briefly in the middle of the ocean, where the sun rose right out of the water and later dropped into it.  We were all seasick and lay down, and whenever we hit big waves, we groaned in unison.  Finally, we stopped and anchored.  This time, it was Singapore, but again we were confined to the ship.

 This is where I’ll die

A month after we sailed from Busan, we arrived in Rangoon, Burma.  From there, we took a train to a small village.   Here, my life as a comfort woman by the name of Harata Yo-o-jio began.  When that happened, I said to myself, “Ah, this is where I’ll die.”  The comfort station was a two-story building standing by the side of a road.  The floor was white plaster, and there was a basement, to which we escaped whenever the air raid siren wailed.

The comfort station was at a distance from the village where locals lived, and I didn’t know where the army compound was, but at night, soldiers streamed in from who knows where.  During our stay in that village, I became close with a military support person named Dachewoochi.  He supplied us with rice, other food items, clothes, and various sundries we needed.  Living just outside the military compound, he lived on a property that looked civilian, and he wore civilian clothes, including a white shirt, which he asked me to starch and iron for him.

One of the women who worked with us committed suicide by overdosing on soju and opium.   The soldiers made a wood pile and asked us to come and watch the dead woman being burned.

After a year there, we were moved away by truck.  On the drive, we saw a hot spring.  Soldiers poured the water into large drum cans and sat in them, but we women didn’t.

I lost my mind with homesickness

We drove all day to arrive at sundown at a small village in a mountainous area that had only a military hospital.  Our station was located across a small stream from the hospital.  All the soldiers coming to us seemed to be associated with that hospital.  For the first time, we received a proper physical examination.

The station building had been empty.  So, we cleaned it when we arrived.  The building was square shaped with rooms in a row on both first and second floors.  The building’s roof was high and with inside staircases on both sides.  It was a well-built structure and surrounded by many Buddha statues near the front gate.   On the second floor alone, there were about twenty rooms, one of which was mine.  The sign “Comfort Station” hung on the front of the building.

The Korean couple who had escorted the fifty of us Korean girls left us after assigning a room to each of us.  Each room was numbered and showed the names of girls, but, being an illiterate person all my life, I don’t know what my number was.  The room had wood floor and contained a bed and a wash basin.  Not having a drain, we threw used water over the railing to the ground.  The cafeteria downstairs was small and dirty.  Three Chinese men cooked for us with the rice provided by the military.  For clothing, we wore Western outfits that arrived through the military.

Because I didn’t eat well, my body became weak.  About two years into the life as a comfort woman, I contracted malaria.  I took quinine, which caused jaundice.  Through this ordeal, none of the other women gave me any assistance, which worsened my homesickness.  Eventually, I lost my mind and for about six months, I wandered around—even at night.  I kept looking at the moon and stomped around.  Once, I fell and rolled a ways on the ground.  I still have scars from that fall.

One time, I wore the military uniform of the man who fell asleep in my room and tried to sneak into the hospital.  When a security guard saw what I was doing, he aimed a gun at me.  When he realized it was me, he took me back to my room.  Soldiers often took me to the hospital, gave me tranquilizing shots, and returned me back to my cubicle.  At night, I went to a pond and rode a piece of log, saying I was heading home.  As soon as people pulled me out of water, I went right back in.  I heard these stories after I came out of my trauma.

During this period, a military doctor, a lieutenant, provided me with much care.  Toward the end of my ordeal, he gave me glucose shots and comforted me with warm-towel massages.  He visited me two or three times a week and sometimes force-fed medicine.  After I recovered, he often spent nights with me.

We received weekly examinations for sexually-transmitted diseases.   When a disease was diagnosed, the afflicted woman’s door was tagged with a sign “vacation,” signaling off-limits to soldiers.  The army hospital staff provided us with disinfectants, which, when mixed with water, turned pink to dark brown depending on the amount of water.  We washed our private parts with that mixture.  It was, if ingested, potent enough, to kill a person.  The soldiers brought condoms, but if they didn’t, I had a supply, and I made sure they were used by putting them on the soldiers myself.  But my military doctor friend did not use them.  He came to me for over a year, until the war ended.

Upon entering a woman’s room, the soldiers handed over their tickets, which were about the size of business cards.  We averaged ten to twenty cards a day, but some women collected as many as thirty.  We were told savings accounts were kept on our behalf, but I never saw mine, nor did I dare to ask.  Again, the army doctor was an exception; he did not present to me any tickets.

There was an office downstairs, but I don’t remember who worked there.  One day, the Korean men and women who brought us to this place disappeared, without saying as much as a goodbye.  Later, I believe, soldiers worked there.

Soldiers could enter any of the women’s rooms not occupied by another soldier.   Those on leave came during the day.

While I never used make-up, I received from the hospital basic goods such as a clothes chest, a box, and a mirror.  During my days of deep depression, I laid these out in the middle of my room, or so I was told later.

Three or four of the women committed suicide.  Some women left with officers, with whom they set up housekeeping.  Some died of diseases, while others ran away.  All in all, the number of women dwindled to about twenty.  With permission, though infrequently given, we went on outings.  But, because the surrounding area was mountainous, and the locals were foreign to us, we did not dare to run away for fear of getting caught and killed.  Once, we were told to come and see the corpse of an American pilot whose surveillance plane was shot down.  So, we went and saw a white man who had only his thighs and buttocks left—no head, body or arms.

 Shortly after that, soldiers stopped coming; they had all left the area.

The end of the war and the military doctor

The war ended, a year after I suffered my bout with depression.  The doctor disappeared, too—without a word.  I had never heard a single gun shot the whole time we were there.  Even at the previous place, when the bomb siren went off or bomber planes flew low, we hid in the bomb shelter, but we were never bombed.

Then, out of nowhere, Korean men appeared and asked us to go with them.

We walked in the rain and heat until our feet swelled and blistered.  We crossed a body of water that reached up to our necks, carrying on our heads only rice, red pepper flakes, and salt.   Once, we cooked rice in water red with mud.  After we walked ten days, resting an hour here and there, we reached Rangoon.  There, we learned we would head home, at which news I lost my mind once again—this time with joy.

At the refugee camp in Rangoon, which had a large yard like a school playground, we lived together with Korean men drafted into the Japanese military.  Women from various locations, about fifty in all, gathered there, and we received cooked food that occasionally featured bits of pork fat floating on top.  We were taught how to cross streets, and we even had races.  We sang the Korean National Anthem.  One evening, a stage was set up, and we had plays and sang songs.  I think I sang “Without an Address Plaque nor House Number.”  It was always hot there, and groups of us threw some mats on the floor and slept together.   We even had a dentist, and I got my molars pulled.  We could come and go as we liked, except we needed to return to the camp.

In a large ship, we arrived in Pusan in March, 1946, a year after the war ended.  But because of a person on board believed to have contracted typhoid, we could not disembark.  Then we sailed to Inchon, but we were not allowed to disembark there either.  A word that if we turned over our valuables, we would get to leave the ship circulated.  So, we took off our gold rings and other items, some of which were gifts from soldiers.  Soon we got off the ship, at which time we were given 1,000 won each.

When my friend Duksool and I landed in Inchon, her mother and older brother greeted her, but no one waited for me.  When I reached our Hong-eun-dong family home, they had moved.  How dejected I felt.  Fortunately, my father’s friend took me to my brother’s house in Eul-jee-ro.

There I learned of my father’s death.  On December 2nd of 1945, the year Korea was liberated from Japan, he passed away.  He was fifty.   Back when he sold vegetables in the market and sometimes worked as a porter, he bought small amounts of rice with the money he earned.  But he spent the rest on gambling, often letting his family go hungry.  It was so miserable for us that once I yelled at him, “Why don’t you drop dead!”   Now, those words stab my heart.  My younger brother had worked for a business run by the Japanese, but he injured his leg on the job and became handicapped.

As a twenty-one-year-old then, I held various jobs, including working as a restaurant helper and a housemaid.   To kill the pain life had dealt me, I drank heavily, gulping two or three bottles of makkoli rice wine each day.  When the alcohol hit me, I wept over my pathetic life.  Now, because of bad teeth, I cannot eat or drink hot or cold foods.  My stomach is bad, too.

I never expected to live a normal marriage life as other women did.   After the “January 4 Retreat,” (UN forces abandoned Seoul January 4, 1951 and withdrew to Pyong-taek-Wonju-Samchok line) when I went to live in Chungjoo, I met a man seventeen years older than me and lived with him.   But, as I had an aversion to developing closeness with men, we didn’t have a good relationship.  Of course, I couldn’t produce an offspring.  Five or six years ago, at the age of seventy four, he passed away.  My life has been difficult, but I have the comfort of regarding his son as my unofficially-adopted child.

My words to the Japanese government

I think I could lead a restful life, even if I live in a one-room rental, if only I could receive compensation from the Japanese government.  Since the Japanese invaded our country and did whatever they pleased with our people while living high on the hog, I am not holding my breath to strike it rich with their compensation.  I just want a payback for having had my virginity taken away by force.  They dragged us away and did with our bodies what they pleased.  Now, they spew blasphemies—that we voluntarily walked into that abject life ourselves.   Does that sound like a legitimate justification for not compensating us?   Hadn’t forcibly luring us away and holding us captive against our will been Japan’s imperial policy after all?  The Japanese government must not attempt to wriggle out of their duty to us any longer.

—  THE END  —

 

Maija Rhee Devine, Writing for Peace AdviserAbout Maija Rhee Devine

Maija Rhee Devine, a Korean-born writer whose fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Boulevard, North American Review, and The Kenyon Review, and in various anthologies, holds a B.A. in English from Sogang University in Seoul and an M.A. in English from St. Louis University.  Writing honors include an NEA grant and nominations to Pushcart Prize and O. Henry Awards.

Long Walks on Short Days, her poetry chapbook about Korea, China, U.S. and other lands she has known, is available through Finishing Line Press here.

Learn more about Maija Rhee Devine here.

 

Writing for Peace News:

The Voice of Heaven, by Maija Rhee Devine Adviser Maija Rhee Devine’s Debut Novel Released!

Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jung Un unilaterally revoked the 1953 Armistice Agreement, threatening to turn South Korea and parts of the U.S. into a sea of flames. Writing for Peace Adviser, Maija Rhee Devine, remembers fleeing Seoul on foot and by train as a child during the Korean War.  The train, she said, was a boxcar, with no seats or bathroom facilities, and crammed with so many people that they hung from the handrail outside in the winter air “until they froze and dropped to death.”

Maija Rhee Devine’s debut novel, The Voices of Heaven, leads readers through an extraordinary love story that parallels the tragedies of the war. The story flows from her firsthand experience of growing up in Seoul during the Korean War, revealing uniquely Korean colors and sounds. You can purchase a copy of “The Voices of Heaven” on Amazon.com here, or directly from the  Seoul Selection site here.

 

In Our Blog~

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction. Links to previous posts on these topics can be found below:

Silent Day, by Richard Krawiec

What Happens When We Lose Our Innocence? by Andrea W. Doray

Where Peace Begins, by Cara Lopez Lee

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

A Stranger in Trouble, Part One, by Vicki Lindner

A Stranger in Trouble, Part Two, by Vicki Lindner

Exit Wound, by Melissa Hassard

Circle Jerk, by Pd Lietz

Every Month is Women’s History Month, by Andrea W. Doray

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from 21 different countries! Announcements will be made on May 1st, 2013. Congratulations to every young writer who participated!  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013

DoveTales Hot off the Press!

The print copies of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, “Occupied” 2013, are finished! Copies will go out to contributors and advisers this week, and links will be up for general purchase in the next day or so. We will send an announcement as soon as that happens!

Equity for Women Writers

Writing for Peace encourages all young people to write and to believe their writing can make a difference, but is that equally true for boys and girls? Sadly, the latest VIDA Count indicates that we have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the literary world. Please help us reverse this trend by reading works written be women and promoting your favorite women authors. Ask your children who they are reading in school, supplement their reading list with books by women authors, and talk to their teachers, librarians, and principals about adding women authors to their curriculum. Take note of the authors reviewed in your local papers and advocate for women authors. Head to your library or book store with a list of the twelve amazing women on our Advisory Panel. And please make a statement in support of women writers here. Thank you!

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Every Month is Women’s History Month, by Andrea W. Doray

 Every Month is Women’s History Month

by Andrea W. Doray

Andrea Doray, Writing for Peace Board MemberWhen I was little, yet old enough to start questioning the order of things, I asked my parents why we had a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day, but no Kid’s Day. The answer, of course, was that every day is Kid’s Day.

March was Women’s History Month in the U.S. So with this same spirit of questioning, I ask why we have a Women’s History Month, and not a Men’s History Month. The answer, of course, is that every month is Men’s History Month.

Please…hear me out.

The goals of Women’s History Month are admirable: to promote awareness of women’s contributions to society. However, doesn’t such a celebration also demean the very citizens it aims to honor by emphasizing that these contributions are so unusual they need such a celebration?

Women in America have been always been asking: Hear me. And, originally, that’s why March—as initiated by the U.S. Congress in 1987 and by presidential proclamation since 1995—is Women’s History Month, so designated to pay tribute to the nation’s women.

Few people would argue that the history of the United States belongs to everyone…the full history, that is. The contributions of the country’s women should be seamlessly integrated into the history books and not treated as “special.”

Special, no.

Extraordinary, yes…as extraordinary as any person’s deeds are in the chronicles of the United States.

It’s easy to point to momentous activities by American women because there seem to be so few of them. The women’s voting rights movement is one just one example, and commemorations of the March 3 suffragists’ march on Washington, DC, 100 years ago abound during this year’s Women’s History Month.

As they should.

To most of us today, the concept of barring about one half of the country’s population from voting for the direction of its future (and arresting those who try) is perplexing, if not downright bizarre.

Suffrage alone deserves its tribute, yet an examination of the reasons why American women even needed this century-long campaign shouldn’t be confined to Women’s History Month.

Justifiably then, the actions of America’s heroic women such as Dolley Madison, Harriett Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Clara Barton, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Abigail Adams—who in 1776 asked her husband, John, at work on the Declaration of Independence, to “remember the ladies”—should also all be credited.

That didn’t happen, and the Declaration’s wording to this day still specifies that all men are created equal. In fact, the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would eliminate bias on the basis of gender, first introduced in 1923, has never been ratified.

Yet, where would the United States be without Rosa Parks, without Gloria Steinem, without Sandra Day O’Connor, without women like my mother who served in World War II or those who kept the nation functioning at home during that time?

If you are saying here that I’ve left out thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of important and even infamous women from my list, you are exactly right.

That’s why women’s history is way too big to be cuddled into one month a year. Women of all ages and all ethnicities have made and are making history now, right alongside our men, whose achievements, by the way, I respect equally with those of women.

Please…hear me: Every month is Women’s History Month, and we shouldn’t need a calendar to remind us.

 

About Andrea W. Doray, Writing for Peace Board Member

Andrea W. Doray is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and humanist living in Arvada, CO. Learn more about Andrea here.

Writing for Peace News:

In Our Blog~

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction. Links to previous posts on these topics can be found below:

Silent Day, by Richard Krawiec

What Happens When We Lose Our Innocence? by Andrea W. Doray

Where Peace Begins, by Cara Lopez Lee

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

A Stranger in Trouble, Part One, by Vicki Lindner

A Stranger in Trouble, Part Two, by Vicki Lindner

Exit Wound, by Melissa Hassard

Circle Jerk, by Pd Lietz

 

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from 21 different countries! Announcements will be made on May 1st, 2013. Congratulations to every young writer who participated!  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts

The  “Occupied” 2013 issue of DoveTales has gone to press! The release date is slated for March 30th, but you will begin seeing some exciting changes on the website before then. Stay tuned, and thank you for your support!

Equity for Women Writers

Writing for Peace encourages all young people to write and to believe their writing can make a difference, but is that equally true for boys and girls? Sadly, the latest VIDA Count indicates that we have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the literary world. Please help us reverse this trend by reading works written be women and promoting your favorite women authors. Ask your children who they are reading in school, supplement their reading list with books by women authors, and talk to their teachers, librarians, and principals about adding women authors to their curriculum. Take note of the authors reviewed in your local papers and advocate for women authors. Head to your library or book store with a list of the twelve amazing women on our Advisory Panel. And please make a statement in support of women writers here. Thank you!

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Circle Jerk, by Paula Dawn Lietz

Circle Jerk, by Pd Lietz

Circle Jerk

by Paula Dawn Lietz

I had no reason to not believe
but when I questioned your integrity
you bore me down slamming pieces
of me like raw meat on the barbs of the fence
creating a collage of sorts of what I mistakenly
thought we were
peers you called us in this collaboration
when and where did this mirage take
on a physical presence

you called me the trash of yesterdays sins
I could not tell who screamed, was it you
or I, the rush of denial too strong in my ears
cruelly and oh so well you taunted me on
by a blindsided squall that took any sense
of my ability to reason let alone my will to breathe
you said I had no right to call my art….art
you said I was only good for circle jerk
on a barbwire fence

my ignorance was ashamed when I had to
ask what you meant by that, an image
I fear I will not forget

my eyes rolled to the back of my head
I felt frozen in time, betrayed I stayed hiding
within myself begging for a seizure
it was not to be I was to remember everything
being left in limbo, neither here nor there
but in dark place where all things grow
the strength of your cRAzy barbs slicing
sadistic jagged lines upon my mind
changing the energy within me
the tetanus coursing through my veins
nothing compared to the poison you fed me

 

Circle Jerk was previously published in The Schwibly.

 

Pd Lietz, Writing for Peace Artist-in-ResidenceAbout Paula Dawn Lietz, Artist-in-Residence

Paula Dawn Lietz is a widely published writer, photographer and artist who lives in rural Manitoba Canada. Ms. Lietz was awarded first prize in the United Kingdom Frost Photography International Competition 2011. Her writing, art, and photography have appeared in many publications, and she was responsible for the cover art of many of these. Learn more about Paula Dawn Lietz here.

 

Writing for Peace News:

In Our Blog~

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction. Links to previous posts on these topics can be found below:

Silent Day, by Richard Krawiec

What Happens When We Lose Our Innocence? by Andrea W. Doray

Where Peace Begins, by Cara Lopez Lee

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

A Stranger in Trouble, Part One, by Vicki Lindner

A Stranger in Trouble, Part Two, by Vicki Lindner

Exit Wound, by Melissa Hassard

 

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from 21 different countries! Announcements will be made on May 1st, 2013. Congratulations to every young writer who participated!  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts

The  “Occupied” 2013 issue of DoveTales has gone to press! The release date is slated for March 30th, but you will begin seeing some exciting changes on the website before then. Stay tuned, and thank you for your support!

Equity for Women Writers

Writing for Peace encourages all young people to write and to believe their writing can make a difference, but is that equally true for boys and girls? Sadly, the latest VIDA Count indicates that we have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the literary world. Please help us reverse this trend by reading works written be women and promoting your favorite women authors. Ask your children who they are reading in school, supplement their reading list with books by women authors, and talk to their teachers, librarians, and principals about adding women authors to their curriculum. Take note of the authors reviewed in your local papers and advocate for women authors. Head to your library or book store with a list of the twelve amazing women on our Advisory Panel. And please make a statement in support of women writers here. Thank you!

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.