Follow CSUSB Professor Dr. Mary Fong as she reflects on her first 27 years of life through ups and downs as she embarks on cultural, intercultural, and spiritual journies in her recently published memoir, Two Heart Nuts to Crack! Her memoirs were written with her co-author, Karl, who talks about his side of the story.
The book is the first of her trilogy, “Magnificent Mess Trilogy.”
Q: What motivated you to publish your memoir for the public?
A: When I was in the 9th grade, I had this quick flash that I was going to write a book someday for a wide audience but I had no clue, I didn’t think twice about it. I could remember that it was just distinct.
While I was at my Ph.D. program at the University of Washington, that’s when I read Amy Tan’s book, Joy Luck Club. She ended up writing a series of different books, more like trilogies and I thought to myself ‘I could write something like that’ but on my cultural and intercultural experiences.
Her stories were more narrative whereas mine are memoirs. I thought I could write it on the lower socioeconomic class whereas hers is more middle class so I would have a different perspective.
In the middle of my career, I thought I should write my memoir but I didn’t know what was my driving force. It wasn’t until I came across Karl, a high school classmate of mine, just a few years ago and I interviewed him and he told his side of the story when we knew each other in high school.
Both of us were mysteriously intertwined in our lives, that’s what I discovered. He was the driving force because I had all these jigsaw pieces of my life experiences but when he comes in, everything starts falling in together.
Q: Why choose music to describe your experiences throughout your memoir?
A: Well musicians usually write songs that reflect on life and my memoir is a true story that reflects life. Karl and I were both able to identify songs that match up to the events and it adds that emotional appeal.
Also, I made it a point to go to Youtube to find the musicians on stage performing. So when the reader clicks on the song, most of the songs are with them on stage as if you’re immersing yourself in a concert and seeing them perform.
Q: What did you like the most when it came to writing?
A: Writing the whole thing is really fun but the emphasis or purpose is not really me telling the story; The story goes along with my pursuit of three big questions: what is the meaning of life? Why are there so many variations of people’s life circumstances? What happens after we die? So what I like about this book is that it’s to help the reader broaden their awareness, their consciousness and respond to those three questions.
Like what am I giving to the reader besides stories and entertainment? It’s getting them to climb out their boxes to expand themselves.
Q: What were some of the difficulties you faced while writing your memoir?
A: It took me over two years to finish it. It’s really the perseverance of sticking to it and going through the whole process. Summer times would be morning, afternoon and night and it repeats because it’s the only block of time you have to write as a professor. To write, you have to have a block of time. To write only two or three hours here and there makes it hard to really get into it. Try reflecting 27 years of life, making sense of it, and make it look coherent!
Q: You mention multiple times throughout your intro that spirituality and culture is your passion. Why are other people’s spiritual and personal journies important to you?
A: I want to help them [readers] self reflect. Part of this trilogy is that I want people to be conscious and aware that the life they’re living, they’re actually juggling their culture and their spirituality. The cultural part is human-made, so we are dominated by societal norms. We’re so engrossed in that we lose sight of our spirituality, which is our true existence.
Q: What is a major takeaway you hope your readers get from your memoir?
A: Don’t forget your spirituality because that’s the real reason why you’re here: to grow and expand.
Q: Since you teach spiritual, cultural, and intercultural communications courses, do you intend to use your book for educational purposes?
A: I haven’t yet decided on that because it’s a mix of culture and spirituality. So I teach cultural and spiritual classes and the book is 50/50 of each. That is what we’re doing because our lives are a juggling of those two aspects. I may integrate it as a way of extra credit.