"Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your ROOTS."--Victor Hugo
I must say that my first time as a vendor at PIFA (Pacific Islander Festival Association) was rewarding. Now that the dust has settled, I reflect on last weekend and smile. As an author, pushing my two books and selling my words, it was financially the best event I have participated in. I was the “Featured Author” (along with Alison) of Guam Batik Gallery, with well-known artist from Guam, Judy Flores. It was an honor to be with her, Sandy and their family as well as Islander Registry’s John and Tina Cruz and family. It felt more like hanging out than work. Having my wonderful husband available and not on duty that weekend was a plus as he caught up with quality time with our children.
The business contacts and rewards were great, but the best part of the weekend was meeting cousins, old friends from high school and most important my former John F. Kennedy High School students. Not to mention my bold approach to movie star, Gilles Marini (Sex in the City-the movie, Dancing with the Stars and Brothers and Sisters).
He was gracious, looked at our booth, took a photo with me and made the Hollywood promise of returning to get books for his daughter, “who loves to read.” Note: I didn’t hold my breath that he would return—cough, cough.
I loved remembering names of high school Geckos from GWHS whom I hadn’t seen for almost 19 years. I was rusty with one other, but he remembered my name and forgave me, I hope. My former students who visited (all A students, interestingly) were awesome; some taking photos with me making me feel honored and silly, and others just happy to chat about updates. So, to Nathan, Christian, Ruby, Anita, Ailene, Chassidy, Sophia, Catherine, Lardner—Go Islanders! And to Penny, Richard and Jerry—Go Geckos!
I loved people watching. The Chamorro Chieftains with their gigantic biceps, tatted and ready to defend, whatever they needed to defend, nice! The dudus (show-off/confident) Chamorro ladies strutting their stuff, beautiful flowers behind their ears, lovely! Yes, I’m generalizing, but it was home for me. I’ve got that dudus girl tendency too, but being half-Korean, I’m my own worse critic…so when I strut, half of me says “HAJIMA!” settle down. Don't get me started on the Caucasian dude who asked me to verify what his Chamorro girlfriend already schooled him on...he asked, "What's be'be' juice?" In the booth full of Chamorro women, we warned him that he was being inappropriate as he repeatedly said it, trying to get the pronounciation just right....Anyway, I digress.
As an author, I’ve gotten used to critics of my work. Those who judge without really looking at my books.
“Is this in Chamorro?” No, but there are a few phrases and words.
“Is this book (Attitude 13) all the legends of Guam?” No, there are 13 short stories, fiction with Chamorro characters, but great idea!
“Are the Sirenas reuniting?” No, I was not in the singing group, The Sirenas.
“Did you know that Chamorros are just Filipinos who sailed to Guam.” Wow, really? I didn’t know that! (imagine my sarcastic tone here).
“Did you know Sirena is my ancestor?” Cool! (in my mind: “Then please buy my book.”)
Griping a bit? Why, yes. Yes, I am. But, I put on a brave face, smile at critics especially if upon seeing my not traditionally islander face, that I am a Chamorro writer, one who is proud and believes in her books. I love the people who take the time to pick up my book, flip through the pages, ask me questions. Even if they don’t purchase, they’ve taken the time to know what my purpose is. So, with that said, I’m looking forward to another festival in San Diego this month. I will smile, be gracious and promote literature.
One woman, who was not Chamorro but lived on Guam for many years and loved the island, read our Guam Books and Beads motto: “For Chamorros on the Islands, Chamorros Around the World and Chamorros at Heart!” She thanked me for including her with the last phrase and for creating the books. And to her and all the wonderful visitors last weekend, Si Yu’os Ma’ase!