I'll continue my conversation with Lee tomorrow night (Tues., Dec. 13, 7:30 pm) on PBS Hawaii's Long Story Short. In this episode, she explains why she chose to write her first novel from the point of view of a man--a hapless ex-con trying to pull his life together from his sister's living room. The book, which is dark and funny at the same time, is Three Years on Doreen's Sofa. Lee wrote it in pidgin, which is a spoken langugage. She writes pidgin in a way that makes it easy to read as well.
Before we started talking, she wasn't sure how much she was going to share of her personal life. But she did choose to speak publicly for the first time about losing a child and her own brush with death.
Lee, recognized for her ongoing commentary on local culture in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, has moved to California, where her husband, Jim Kelly, works as a newspaper editor. (He was a casualty of the shutdown of The Honolulu Advertiser.) She has returned periodically to Hawaii--to teach summer classes at private Island School on Kauai, for example. I caught up with her on a Honolulu visit to debut her novel here. She says she is fiercely homesick, but at this time she must be an economic refugee.