This coming of age story spans two continents and several generations.
Based on true events, the story begins with the armed resistance of Lithuanians against Soviet occupation in the 1940s, a struggle that will resonate with many people around the world today. After losing her parents in this “invisible war”, the story’s heroine is able to escape to Poland and then to New York City, where she and then her children grow up. And they grow up and look to find their way in the tumultuous 60s, 70s and 80s against the backdrop of social change, new opportunities for women, and the drug culture – and with the tragic legacy of their home country. Finally, as Lithuania begins to regain its independence in the late 1980s, the characters come to terms with life in their new country, the possibilities of returning to their old country, and their strong but challenging family relationships.
Twenty years after participating in Lithuania's independence movement as a student, Laima Vince returns on a Fulbright grant to post-soviet Lithuania with her three children. Over the course of four years, while living and teaching and raising her children as a single mother in Vilnius, she conducts interviews with a diverse range of people. In this book she records the life stories of traditional healers, who treat their patients using ancient verbal incantations; trafficked teenage girls and the activist social workers who shelter them; Baltic gay rights activists who fight, and win, the right to hold the first Baltic Pride March in Lithuania; Chechen war refugees and their Ambassador in Exile; a contraband butter smuggler; an unemployed ex-KGB informer; and the forgotten heroes and dissidents of the Cold War. This book illuminates one woman's personal odyssey into the sometimes tumultuous society of post-Soviet Lithuania.
of the Heart
A Fulbright grant enabled me to travel to Lithuania to record the oral histories of women and men who were former partisan fighters, liaisons, or supporters of Lithuania's post World War II armed resistance against the Soviet Union. I also spoke to Lithuanian Jewish Holocaust survivors and listened to the stories of women who survived Stalin's deportations to Siberia and Tajikistan. To hear these stories I traveled to remote rural locations, bumping down dirt roads in my Honda Civic. I sometimes slept in haylofts, helped out with household chores, or sat behind the table, as the Lithuanian saying goes, accepting the hospitality of my hosts. One visit was seldom enough. Often after hours of talk, we cried together, but more often we laughed. In 2007-2011 when I conducted these interviews, the people I spoke with were already in their seventies and eighties. The stories they told to me were detailed and precise. I discovered that the memories that remained most powerful at the end of these women's lives were memories of loves lived during times of trial and hardship. As I listened, I was continually amazed that people who had experienced torture, exile, loss, trauma, held one emotion close to their hearts: That emotion was love. Each story told to me, at its core, was a love story. That is why this collection of life stories is a journey into the backwaters of the heart.
on a Platter
Laima Vince takes us on a harrowing through-the-looking glass tour of Lithuania in 1988 - 1989, during a time of great social and political turmoil. In diary form, she gives us her personal, unflinching account of the daily hardships that characterize this faltering society--one filled with guns, poverty, bitterness, mistrust, and sometimes, friendship. We see the full range of emotions here as people try to live normal lives against a backdrop of uncertainty. At times funny, at time poignant, this book explores the extraordinary human cost of an oppressive system of government, as well as the extraordinary human valor of those who survive it. It shows us that, underneath, all people share the same basic needs for freedom, for hope, and for love. This is a fine and important book.
Reviewed by Clint McCown
Digging a Hole to China
Laima Vince relocates to Hong Kong to teach at a Chinese international school (2013 - 2015). While she is in Hong Kong the Umbrella Revolution breaks out. Students and teachers in Hong Kong find themselves on opposing sides of the demonstrations. Some support mainland China while others dream of universal suffrage and democracy for Hong Kong. While living and working in Hong Kong Laima begins to understand the complex society that is today's China. This book chronicles life in Hong Kong as the region transitions from a former colony of Great Britain into a semi-autonomous city in China. Today's Hong Kong is a cultural crossroad between East and West. Contemporary Asia is a mixture of the ancient and the modern. Laima Vince documents the diverse voices of contemporary Asia while teaching, traveling,and exploring. Among the many people, whose lives she documents in this book, there is Michael, a mainland Chinese who grew up in a province of China and drew his community's discontent by learning English. Then there is Hans, a member of the Dusun Head Hunter's tribe of Borneo, who grew up in a traditional society in which his grandmother, a Baba Hasan, or medicine woman, could coax a breeze out of the sky. And there is Mariana, one of the last Macanese in Macau, a young archeologist striving to preserve her rapidly vanishing culture. During the two years chronicled in this book (2013 - 2015) Laima takes a 56-hour train ride from Guangzhou to Tibet; hikes through the rain forest with a descendant of Head Hunters; goes island hopping across the turquoise waters of the Philippines with three generations of a Filipino family in a fragile bamboo boat; together with her students builds a house from palm tree fronds in a Cambodian village; and stands with Hong Kong's student protestors in the initial peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations.
The Way Life Should Be
The Way Life Should Be is a collection of essays about people who live their lives in alignment with their soul path. With the exception of one person, all of the people I've written about in this book live in Maine. Whether it's the rough cold North Atlantic or the tall pines or that specific northern light that attracts artists and dreamers to Maine, or whether it's the possibility of living just that far away from “civilization”, the people in these essays share one thing in common—the lives they live and the work they do are in harmony. And so, this is a book about the way life should be...
What the Willows Have Taught Me
In recent years, my fate has brought me to live and work in countries and cities that are vastly different from the New York metro area where I grew up, completed my studies, married, and started a family. Intermittently over the past thirty-two years (since 1988), I have lived in Lithuania, the home of my father and my grandparents until World War II swept them across the Atlantic Ocean to America. Lithuania—for me is pure soul and the power of nature. I lived and taught in Hong Kong for two years, where I was the department head of the English Department of an international high school. And then, two years later, in cultural contrast with Hong Kong, I lived and taught for two years at an American cultural exchange program in Beijing, China. Thus, I was able to experience two Chinas—one Communist and one a Western democracy. I experienced the traditions, culture, climate, and people of both northern China and southern China. Living in Asia for four years enabled me to visit and absorb the cultures of parts of the world I’d never dreamed I’d be fortunate enough to see and experience—Bhutan, Bali, Tibet. An Indian businessman once said to me, “China is not a country. China is a civilization.” Perhaps the only way that I could make sense of daily life in China was through writing poetry. My poems are like diary entries. Through this elusive and concentrated form, I hoped to express a corner of what I experienced in Asia. When I return to the United States, I live in Maine, in New England. This part of the United States has its own unique culture, its own dynamic that speaks to me, again, through poetry.
The Cosmic Tree
Laima Vince began writing these poems as a MFA student at Columbia University School of the Arts. She continued writing poetry throughout her life, as she passed through many different phases of womanhood--marriage, motherhood, divorce, self-discovery, coming the terms. These poems consider what it means to be a woman in the twentieth and twentieth-first centuries. The poems also reflect a life of creativity and personal challenge