Bookend: Korean-American Sisters Team Up On Writing And Chocolate (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Bookend: Korean-American Sisters Team Up On Writing And Chocolate

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:02
It's time for our final story of our final show of the month, which means it's time for Bookend.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:11
Our regular conversation with Washington area writers. In this edition, it's double the fun as Jonathan Wilson talks with Frances and Ginger Park. The sisters co-own the city's oldest independent chocolate shop, Chocolate Chocolate. They also co-write memoirs and children's books that focus on their Korean heritage and good food. Jonathan met the sisters in the lobby outside their shop on Connecticut Avenue.

MR. JONATHAN WILSON

00:00:34
So what came first, the chocolate shop or the writing?

MS. FRANCES PARK

00:00:39
The writing actually came first. People are surprised to hear that, but Ginger's been writing probably since her teen years and I actually started when I was ten years old. My teacher just said to me, you know, "You're done with the reading classes. Why don't you just sit here and spend the period writing." And I just ended up writing hundreds and hundreds of pages and reading it to classes. So that's where I started.

MS. GINGER PARK

00:01:06
I actually started writing right after our father passed away. I was only 16 and it was at that time when I realized that I knew nothing about my father and his heritage and actually, our Korean roots. And so, although our mom has always talked to us about her life before us when she was in North Korea, I never really listened until after my father passed away. And she told us so many rich stories that I just felt compelled to put them on paper. And that's when I really started writing.

WILSON

00:01:47
You know, you are identified as Korean-Americans because of how you look and because of what you write about, but obviously you've been in the area longer than many, many, many people. What does it mean to be from the area for you?

PARK

00:01:59
When we were growing up in Northern Virginia, it was a very different place. You would not be able to find Korean restaurants, Korean friends, Korean anything, no Korean churches. We never met another Korean-American ever in school. The only other ones were our siblings. So it is different for us compared to the newer waves of Koreans coming over here. They have a lot of friends and they can stay more culturally attached. I think that's one way that we are different, is we grew up feeling very American. And like Ginger said, it wasn't really--I mean, of course, subconsciously things were recorded in our heads.

PARK

00:02:50
We were different. We would go over to Korea every three summers. But in essence, we did feel American. And it wasn't until our father died that, you know, we started asking questions and becoming a lot more interested in where we were from.

WILSON

00:03:08
Talk about the decision to first write a book together. What was that like?

PARK

00:03:12
Well, it all started with our mom. Well, when we were growing up she would tell us, "I had to run away from home when I was little." Ad to us that was just like, okay, you ran away from home. We didn't really understand that there was a war, that there were politics and that really the tragedy of it, which was she had to not only leave her homeland forever, but she was also separated from her mother and she never saw her again. And I think that, you know, after 50 years, even though she never saw her mom again, it was almost as if she was still that 16-year-old girl who crossed the border in 1947.

PARK

00:03:58
There was a part of her that just never left that spot. And it was at that point where we said, you know what? We have to write a children's book about this because we want children to understand in this country the price of freedom and that no one should ever take it for granted. And it was something that we always did our whole lives, until we really sat down and talked to our mom about it.

WILSON

00:04:25
You guys obviously seem to get along very, very well, but siblings, you know, fight and argue. Does that happen even in the creative process?

PARK

00:04:33
I don't think we've ever had a fight when we've written, but part of the reason might be that, you know, one of us comes up with a concept and then we discuss it. And we agree or disagree that it's a good idea. If we say, okay, it's a go, the person that came up with the concept basically drafts out the story. And after that, it just exchanges hands. We go back and forth. We have never written a single page together, sitting at a desk, at the laptop, that just doesn't happen.

PARK

00:05:07
When we're together we're talking about our customers at Chocolate Chocolate, we're talking about her son, we're talking about my boyfriend, whatever. It's as if we need to go into our separate worlds to write. And when you hand the page over to the other person, you may get it back the next day, you may get it back three weeks later and it's often all marked up, all changed and that's fine. We still, you know, just look at it and say, okay, I'm gonna rework this. We trust each other that way.

SHEIR

00:05:45
That was Frances and Ginger Park speaking with "Metro Connection's" Jonathan Wilson. The Parks' first book, based on their mother's escape from North Korea, is called, "My Freedom Trip." Their next project is a collection of recipes called, "Allergies Away: Creative Eats and Mouthwatering Treats for Kids Allergic to Dairy, Nuts and Eggs." You can find it in bookstores this spring. And you can hear a clip of Frances and Ginger talking about what they've been reading lately on our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

00:06:24
And that's "Metro Connection" for this week. We heard from WAMU's Jacob Fenston, Emily Berman, Kavitha Cardoza, Jonathan Wilson and Bryan Russo. WAMU's managing editor of news is Memo Lyons. Metro Connection's managing producer is Tara Boyle. Lauren Landau is our editorial assistant. Our intern is Rachael Schuster. Lauren Landau, Rachel Schuster and John Hines produce Door To Door. Thanks, as always, to the WAMU engineering and digital media teams for their help with production and the "Metro Connection" website.

SHEIR

00:06:52
Our theme song, "Every Little Bit Hurts" and our Door To Door theme, "No Girl" are from the album Title Tracks by John Davis and used with permission of the Ernest Jennings Record Company. You can see all the music we use on our website, metroconnection.org. Just click on a story and you'll find information about its accompanying song. Also on metroconnection.org you can find our Twitter and Facebook links. You can read free transcripts of stories. And if you missed part of today's show you can hear the whole thing by clicking the This Week On Metro Connection link.

SHEIR

00:07:19
To hear our most recent episodes, click the podcast link or find us on iTunes. We hope you can join us next week when our theme will be Letting Go. We'll find out how some kids in D.C. are handling the imminent closure of their school. We'll meet a man on the Coast who let go of his heroin addiction. And we'll explore a Howard University project that's all about letting go of racial stereotypes.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1

00:07:42
I honestly think that people will leave "Birthday Suit, Part 3" with an open mind, with a clear head and thinking like, dang, I really need to change the way some of my thoughts are.

SHEIR

00:07:52
I'm Rebecca Sheir and thanks for listening to "Metro Connection," a production of WAMU 88.5 News.
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