Monday, July 5, 2021

Sherry Quan Lee's Septuagenarian - Review

Septuagenarian is a poetic memoir. Born to a mixed race mother and a Chinese father, Quan Lee's collection of poems describe her experiences of the expectation to pass as white (as her mother did before her), her father's abandonment, motherhood, racism, the pandemic, and growing old.

I love poetry because, not only does it give insight into the poet, I also catch glimpses of myself, or aspects of my life and loved ones among the verses. I couldn't help thinking of my mom who is now also a septuagenarian. The words really resonated with me.

I found so many beautiful words as I read. This verse from "Night Tremors" made me think of children who do not have easy lives:
The weight a child wears
bears so much room for sadness.
 "What Preceded Today," a poem about the Black experience:
You know you don't love the me that is defiant,
that is angry
that needs to know what preceded me, that
needs to know
what separates me, that separates us, that needs to understand...
These lines from "I Didn't Need to Save the World" spoke to me of the realization that things happen for a reason, whether we believe this because we believe in God, or because we believe in fate, as I do. The words hit home.
Whatever road I would have taken would 
have ended 
at the same destination

Because it's story. And story ends where it begins.
These lines from "Love Is What Happens" remind me of the rhetoric during the pandemic "you wear masks, stay in lock down, social distance because you are afraid." Powerful.
I hear fearful I see me brave.

We know who will die next. Are we ready to end the pandemic

of hate your neighbor, hate the person that isn't you?
This...what could be a better explanation of love? From "And When I Die":
We surge together what is broken
for another glimpse of love.
Perhaps, the heart
broken is what saves us;

perhaps, if we love for only one day
it's enough. 
At the end of the collection, Quan Lee talks about the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. It's her explanation of how she made sense of the things going on in the world, and what was on her mind during the pandemic. At least, that is my interpretation. It's brilliant. Here's an excerpt from "Writing Exercise":
I discovered within my memoir of verse that I was saying more than I had said, that for me the personal continues to be political, and all things are temporary. The memory of what has preceded me implodes and love is my act of survival. 
"Love is my act of survival." Let that sink in. Wow. 

Amazing, amazing collection. This is one I'll be coming back to again and again. Highly recommend. 

About the poetic memoir:
Septuagenarian: love is what happens when I die is a memoir in poetic form. It is the author's journey from being a mixed-race girl who passed for white to being a woman in her seventies who understands and accepts her complex intersectional identity; and no longer has to imagine love. It is a follow-up to the author's previous memoir (prose), Love Imagined: a mixed-race memoir, A Minnesota Book Award finalist.

In Septuagenarian, Sherry Quan Lee accepts her own invitation to look at life in retrospect, but with a new lens. Pulling from and expanding upon her previous body of work, she examines the version of herself that was writing at that time. The dignity and fire of her seventy-three-year-old gaze taking in snapshots of those selves...straightens my spine and gives me a vision for myself traveling today into my future septuagenarian. Lola Osunkoya, MA, LPCC

Sherry Quan Lee writes courageously to understand herself and the world. She uses rich language and her skills as a storyteller to focus her sharp lens on what it means to have a complex, sometimes complicated identity: becoming invisible as she ages, a history of passing unseen, love and sex, grieving and celebration. She ruminates on history, which repeats itself in the current moment and widens her lens to look at the bigger, global picture to tell truths in poems that tenderly hold memory, time, rituals, trauma, mothering, fear of death and love in many forms. Her poems offer deeply personal, intimate and perceptive insights and opportunities to reflect on what it means to truly live. It feels like I've taken the journey with her, and I'm wiser for it. --Shay Youngblood, author of Soul Kiss and Black Girl in Paris

Get a Copy of Septuagenarian

About the Author:
Sherry Quan Lee, MFA, University of Minnesota, is the author of Chinese Blackbird, a memoir in verse; How to Write a Suicide Note, serial essays that saved a woman's life; Love Imagined: a mixed-race memoir (a Minnesota Book Award Finalist); and, the picture book And You Can Love Me a story for everyone who loves someone with ASD-published by LHP, Modern History Press, Ann Arbor, MI. She is the editor of How Dare We! Write: a multicultural creative writing discourse, an anthology finding home in university writing classrooms.

Never miss a post!

* indicates required


Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment. It means so much.

I apologize for word verification, but as soon as I changed the settings from only users with Google accounts, I started receiving a ton of spam comments...within one hour of changing the settings. The bots are on high alert apparently.

  1. I love the lines "Are we ready to end the pandemic/ of hate your neighbor, hate the person that isn't you?"

  2. Such a fantastic collection, and I love those lines about ending the pandemic of hate! Thank you for being on the blog tour.

- See more at:
- See more at: