Loreen Lilyn Lee, born and raised in Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, is a Chinese American author currently residing in Seattle. In her book, The Lava Never Sleeps: A Honolulu Memoir, the collection of memories comes sequentially in three phases but with some larger strides in between that may catch the reader off guard. Lee writes reflectively, almost as if she wrote the memories in a journal for herself. However, she does so thoroughly and externally, setting the scene of each story she tells with raw, detailed descriptions for the reader to observe her experiences.
Lee excels in balancing the personal aspect of the stories with her bravery to share them, making the reader feel comfortable with reading content that may be too intense or intimate otherwise. The book targets important issues facing Asian and Pacific Islander Americans (stereotypes, inequality, interracial relationships, etc.) and the fact that many of the essays included are from childhood and young adulthood leaves a shocking impact. Not only is the book personal to Lee, but the more you read, the more the book becomes a monologue and even a conversation with oneself, offering self-reflection.
Reading Loreen Lilyn Lee’s The Lava Never Sleeps: A Honolulu Memoir, I felt as if I was walking down path of pinnacle moments in her life. The pathway is well lit at the beginning with childhood memories that hold brevity and sweetness. Some moments appear lighthearted: the image of her family with her father adorned in lei, her favorite childhood treats, her childhood curiosity.
As the journey continues, the road gradually darkens with the dawning of adulthood and trauma rising from the subconscious. Lee’s abusive childhood, sexual assault and rape (trigger warning), failed marriage and more. The memoir connects deepest with those interested in being encouraged to reflect upon their own, unique experiences of growing up as an Asian and Pacific Islander American or those who would care to gain more insight on an Asian and Pacific Islander American’s story.
Lee’s memoir in itself is a testament to her rise from a young, silenced Chinese American girl to an ever-fighting, ever-evolving woman. Just as “lava never sleeps” and continuously destroys unapologetically and rebuilds simultaneously, Lee is, as well, choosing life and love as she does so.
The author reads from her book on Friday, June 28 at 7:00 PM at Elliott Bay Book Company.