Poetic Book Tours: Review of Sherry Quan Lee’s Septuagenarian by Luanne Castle

Today I am participating in Serena Agusto-Cox’s Poetic Book Tours hoopla for Sherry Quan Lee’s new poetry collection Septuagenarian. The title is not a word I am familiar with, but I looked it up and it means a person who is from 70-79 years old. How many times have you heard a collection “boast” that the poet is an older person, especially a woman? Not very darn often.

The summary provided by the poet gives a good idea of her focus in the book: “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 the case of Sherry Quan lee, the term “mixed-race” means that her father was Chinese and her mother was African-American or, more accurately, 3/4 AA and 1/4 white. Quan Lee’s mother preferred to pass as white, and she tried to get her children to do so as well. This wasn’t always easy because it created secrets and lies “Mama said, / cover yourself with lies“), such as seen in the poem “Silence”:

one of us had thick curly hair like Mother’s, one of us

had silky straight hair like Father’s; and, yes, one was

beauty and one shame/hotcombs and gas flames and

it was complicated pretending

Quan Lee’s father also wanted to be white, she asserts. Sadly, her father abandoned the family when Quan Lee was five years old.

One of the most poignant poems is “Mother’s and Mine,” which writes about bruising from 28 different perspectives. Tellingly, she writes in #19, “When I stopped wanting what I couldn’t have, I bruised less often.”

This book appears to have been written during the pandemic. It contains some pieces from previous work published by the poet, as well as new work responding to a “woke” perspective. (In fact, she uses that expression to describe how she has learned from living to be 72 in the poem “I Woke to This Place”). It’s sort of a cobbling together of her past with her now-experienced outlook.  I love that she included photographs, especially her adorable cover photos, as well as her birth certificate. It really adds to the authenticity by helping document what Sherry Quan Lee’s life has been like. Reading the experiences of a woman who has gone through life differently than myself was fascinating. Because the poetic style is more literal and less figurative than I usually choose to read, I read this book more as an engaging and inspirational memoir than a poetry collection. Sherry Quan Lee’s story needed to be documented and shared, and I am so blessed that I was asked to read her book.


Imprint:  Modern History Press
Author:  Sherry Quan Lee
ISBN-13:  PB 978-1-61599-568-4 / HC 978-1-61599-569-1 / eBook 978-1-61599-570-7
List Price:  PB $ 17.95 / HC $ 25.95 / eBook $ 4.95
Trim:  6 x 9 (100 pp)
Audience:  General Adult
Pub Date:  03/01/2021
BISAC:  Poetry/Women Authors
Poetry/American/Asian American
Social Science/Ethnic Studies/Asian American Studies


Filed under #poetrycommunity, #writerlife, #writerslife, Book Review, Memoir, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection

33 responses to “Poetic Book Tours: Review of Sherry Quan Lee’s Septuagenarian by Luanne Castle

  1. It sounds fascinating, Luanne. Thanks for the review. Those cover photos are wonderful.
    (BTW, Derrick Knight’s blog says he’s a septuagenarian.)😀

  2. Thanks for sharing your review for the blog tour. I love your insights, especially about an older woman boasting about her age! Sherry is someone I’d like to be in that regard.

  3. Pingback: Septuagenarian by Sherry Quan Lee (May-July 2021) |

  4. We old people are always wishing we could be young again, but we should remember that we had our turn, and we can still make the best of the present. Thanks for the review of this book and a bit about her life situation, Luanne. Very interesting.

    • LOL, so true. If I had to be young again as I was, no thanks. But if I could have a young body that functions well with all my life experience, um, yes, please. So much I could do then. But it doesn’t work that way, so as you say, we need to make the best of the present! I thought Sherry Quan Lee’s racial identity story was fascinating and also heart-breaking for when she was young.

  5. Thanks, Luanne, for a reporting on this wonderful work. Another book to add to my endless reading wish list.
    I am a Septuagenarian, so should definitely try to get to this one.
    Hope this finds you and your family well!

  6. “Love is what happens when I die”….wow. The real me dying …. or my physical death? Either way, it’s a huge price to pay. Just ask the little mermaid or Rusalka. Thanks for making me aware of this writer and writing.

  7. Wonderful, Luanne…septuagenarian is a term I will now be able to toss around with great familiarity and authority.
    Good for Sherry Quan Lee – congratulations for the book!
    Thank you so much for your review, Luanne. I always learn from your posts.
    Have a great week.

    • LOL, I’m not too far from being able to toss it around with familiarity either. Thanks for reading the review, Sheila. You and T have a fantastic week!

  8. She is a beautiful woman. We never know what goes on in other people’s lives.

  9. Great review, Luanne. Congratulations to Sherry.

  10. Thanks for the review, Luanne. I thought of Derrick Knight, too.😉

    • I didn’t even think of Derrick when writing this review, but then maybe it’s because I was so focused on the book, you know? But I can see why others would!

  11. Your review of Sherry Quan Lee’s book is another reminder of how little I know about other people’s search for identity–and why I need to keep reading literature.

  12. I understand the word well…at seventy-six, I am one. LOL

  13. That sounds really good, I think I’ll get a copy of the kindle version.

  14. It is a fascinating and heart-touching story. I really liked it, Luanne.

  15. Wow! Thanks for bringing this book to the forefront, Luanne! As I’m smack in the middle of my 70s now, I think I will like her books, both prose and poetry! Thanks for the tip!!

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