Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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Category — Who She Was/Who He Was [Is]

Who She Is

The only people in the house were her mother, the house caretaker and the caretaker’s daughter. After eating, she had planned to accompany her mother to the post office to mail a letter to her grandfather. The caretaker sets a plate of food on the table and motions her to eat. Dutifully, she approaches the food but at a glance to the right she notices the caretaker’s daughter who is crawling on the floor and she offers to share her food. After half an hour, she dresses and looks for her mother.

In the distance, a crowd of people walk along the road with heavy footsteps. With the sounds drumming closer, she glances out the window at the wide steel gate and at once realizes that the guests were not the usual friendly neighbors offering food or the kind salespeople trying to sell a product. Instead they were Japanese soldiers wearing green uniforms, carrying a bayonet on one hand and a Japanese flag on the other. They break the wooden door and march into her house, heading towards the stairs to destroy the house from top to bottom. Immediately the caretaker’s baby begins to cry. She runs over to carry her and together they hide under the dinner table. Before long, she beings to cry with her and the screeching cries startle the soldiers. At the foot of the staircase, the soldiers start talking in Japanese and one points to the door. In an instant they leave and the children stop crying, sniffling and gasping for breath. The mothers, unaware of what had happened until they had heard the cries, come downstairs and embrace their children. [Read more →]

December 21, 2008   2 Comments

Who she is

My cousin (left), her daughter (center), and her husband (right).

May 17, 1988.
On the morning of Xiao Yan Li’s (李小燕) eighteenth birthday, the air, diffusing through the opaque windows, was as hot and suffocating as normal. There were no signs of celebration. Not even a tinge of love did she feel, as she watched her mother, preparing her younger brother and sister for school. She envied their boiled eggs and new school uniforms. Soon, she was bored at the sight of it, for she knew that she would never be treated the same and that going to school was just a dream. For many mornings and nights, she had thought about the same fantasy of going to school, meeting new friends, and reaching above the low ceiling of her potential. But she now quit, for it was no longer a dream of a teenager girl. She had finally become an adult, and her dreams and wishes had now all been shattered and destroyed into millions of pieces. She was angry and hateful, not toward her parents who had lost affection since she was born, but toward herself and the harshness of the reality. [Read more →]

December 21, 2008   1 Comment

The Man, The Myth, The Legend: My Father

A hero can be defined as “a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.”  When I hear this definition I cannot help but pair it with my father.  Throughout my life there has always been one person I viewed higher than all the others.  This man lives his life for one reason: to support his family until the day he dies.  He hasn’t complained a day in his life and has made countless sacrifices to get this essential job done.  Dreams of professional sports were put on hold and eventually forgotten due to this immense responsibility of supporting a family.  When I asked him if he had any regrets for not pursuing these goals in the sports world, he simply responded, “Not at all, my family needed me.  If I had to do it all over, I would have made the same decision.” [Read more →]

December 16, 2008   2 Comments

Who She Is: Miss Independent

           Known for her exuberant and vivacious personality, my mother has always been regarded as the most sociable and charming person among our family and family friends, arguably the “belle of the ball.” In the eyes of many of my friends, she is the “hip” and “cool” mom for her optimistic and friendly demeanor. In perusing through my mother’s countless photo albums, which firstly convinced me that she spent half of her savings on film taking pictures of every moment, I observed a free spirited, svelte young woman who seemed to have this effervescent personality from day one. Impressed by her adventurous and independent nature in her younger years in Tehran, Iran, I went on a quest to discover what had brought her to this philosophy of living life to the fullest, embracing and savoring every minute and every second she had. [Read more →]

December 16, 2008   Comments Off on Who She Is: Miss Independent


In that small box, amidst a few torn dresses, some letters from her daughter and sister, and a picture of her husband’s funeral lay fifty-five rupees that Firdosi Begum was saving in order to someday perform the Muslim pilgrimage.  To this day, these few mementos are a perfect description of how she lived her life:  surviving extreme poverty, loving unconditionally, and fulfilling the dreams of others while strangling her own. [Read more →]

December 16, 2008   Comments Off on LOVE IS FROM THE HEART, NOT THE MIND

My Father

My Father\'s 50th Birthday \"Surprise\" Party


On April 23rd, 1958, my father, Joseph Andrew Musgrove, was born in Washington, D.C., and then lived in Oxon Hill, Maryland, a short walk away from Southeast D.C.  He was one of five boys born to Tom Hardwick Musgrove and Dorothy Hall Musgrove, as part of the Baby Boomer generation. Each of the brothers is two years apart in age and he is the second youngest. His father was in the Navy and he met my grandmother in Virginia at Colonial Beach by the Dahlgren Naval Station. My grandmother grew up in Washington D.C. but my grandfather came out of poverty in Newton, Georgia. That region is so poor that the Great Depression changed nothing for his family because they could not get any more impoverished. The first house my father lived in was a two bedroom, one bathroom triplex, undersized for seven people and a dog, so it’s understandable why he says, “I don’t think it ever crossed my parents mind to move because the neighborhood was going to change. I think it was just time. … We definitely needed more space.” [Read more →]

December 16, 2008   Comments Off on My Father

Who He Was: A Family Man

           If he wasn’t working he was driving. Driving south, every few months after the divorce from his first wife Marilyn McClure and the separation from the son he always wanted, he just dropped everything and drove. On his way there he thought of her, how when he married her she looked just like Diana Ross- she still did. He thought of Bryan, their son Bryan who was so bright in everything.  It was the thought of them that kept him awake and heartened on the road. From New York City to Orlando he didn’t even make a stop at to sleep at one of the motels that lined the highway. [Read more →]

December 15, 2008   1 Comment

Who He Was

It is strange for me to think of my father as anyone other than the person I knew him as.  It is even stranger to think of him with any other woman than my mother but once upon a time this was true. My father had been married once before and I had no knowledge of this and never imagined or thought that it was even a possibility. [Read more →]

December 15, 2008   4 Comments

Who He Was – Klementei Rybak

Prisoners toil

Klementei Rybak was just like any other farmer in the Russian Empire. After the Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks overthrew Czar Nicholas II of Russia and attempted a complete redistribution of wealth. In 1920, he received free land in Moldova, a country in the Soviet Union.  It was distributed to him for the purpose of him making money and growing crops. [Read more →]

December 15, 2008   Comments Off on Who He Was – Klementei Rybak

The Slush

The dawn of a new millennium, the advent of sophisticated technology, and my family’s coincidental relocation to Seattle, WA were all possible factors that contributed to my mother’s pivotal change in careers. I remember as a child I would awaken to the sound of her tinkering with a computer, and I would fume over my expulsion from her study. She had to go back to school for computer science, and by the time I was ten she was working for large corporations. In my mind she had always occupied a place on the rising tides of technology, and I rarely asked about her enigmatic history as a book editor for Knopf and Pantheon. I have come to realize, however, that her time spent at Knopf shaped the woman I know as my mother. She was just a Midwesterner straight out of New York University, naïve to the inexorable madness of the city, yet she was always loyal to her own moral probity. This is my effort to articulate her story. [Read more →]

December 13, 2008   Comments Off on The Slush