Sophronia “Sophie” Liu
By Katie Hae Leo
After a two year battle with ovarian cancer, former Twin Cities author and performer Sophronia “Sophie” Liu passed away on Jan. 14, 2013 in Hong Kong, but not before completing her opus, a memoir titled A Shimmering Sea: Hong Kong Stories. Shortly before her death, Liu found out that her memoir was a finalist for the prestigious Proverse International Book Publishing Competition, the winner of which will be announced in April.
In the early 1990s, Sophronia “Sophie” Liu was a fixture in the Twin Cities’ modest but growing Asian American arts community, particularly the then-fledgling theater company Theater Mu (which would become Mu Performing Arts) and the pioneering arts organization Asian American Renaissance. As an actress, writer, community organizer, and outspoken advocate for women’s issues, Liu left a mark on Twin Cities’ Asian American artists still felt today.
A potluck memorial service for Sophronia “Sophie” Liu will be hosted by Penny and Rossi Snipper on Saturday, Feb. 16 from noon to 4 p.m. Please RSVP to [email protected], and plan to bring something to share.
A Shimmering Sea: Hong Kong Stories tells of a quest for home, through a vivid and lyrical sequence of narratives. In it, Liu chronicles first her beginnings in 1950s Hong Kong. Her parents – each an indigenous inhabitant of a clan village – had very different life-experiences from each other. Her father attended prestigious King’s College as a scholarship student; her mother, an illiterate peasant, was fully occupied in raising ten children.
Among the episodes, some tell of her growing up during the 1960s: of a grade school classmate’s tragic suicide, the arrival of a rambunctious and feisty domestic helper from the countryside, plainclothes detectives who came to her home to solicit her father for a bribe. She tells of her mother’s long illness, of turmoil and quarrels among family members.
Some 20 years later, when Liu was a student in the American Midwest, memories of these people and places flooded back to haunt her. Responding to their call, she eventually returned to Hong Kong in 2007, to live near her native village and completed her book in May, 2012 in the midst of battling ovarian cancer. She died one day after her 60th birthday.
Upon learning of Liu’s passing, Mu Performing Arts Artistic Director Rick Shiomi had this to say: “Sophie was one of the early participants at Theater Mu both as an actress and playwright. She played Chin Moo in Mu’s 1995 production of Paper Angels by Ginny Lim and both co-wrote with Zaraawar Mistry and acted in Fall produced by Mu in 1996. She is remembered fondly for her wit and warmth.”
“Sophie contributed so much to our local Asian American community, and we will always be grateful for her work, her passionate commitment to social justice and her presence in our lives,” said David Mura, author and former Artistic Director of Asian American Renaissance. “We now have one of the leading Asian American artistic communities in the country and Sophie’s work with the Asian American Renaissance helped make that possible. She was one of those people you never forget. She was never afraid to speak her mind and she had a large heart and sense of compassion for those marginalized by the more powerful.”
Bao Phi, Associate Director of The Loft Literary Center, recalls her as someone who inspired him and other younger writers like Ed Bok Lee.
“Sophie was a dynamo of emotion and soul. Memoirist, playwright, performer and great, passionate heart to all–to know this Old/New World polyglot scholar artist’s life and work is to simultaneously love and long for the deepest well-spring of homelessness in us all,” said Lee. “Friend and mentor, Sophie inspired so many of us with her superhuman powers to think and feel. Whether in her own words or through those of others, her one-of-a-kindness will shine on each time a Sophie Liu story gets told.”
Her essays and memoir pieces have been published in Colors Magazine, Journal of the Asian American Renaissance, Making More Waves: New Writing by Asian American Women, and a number of college anthologies. She received writing awards from The Loft and The Playwrights’ Center, a travel/study grant (in theatre) from Jerome Foundation, and a 2002 Artist in Residency award from Margolis Brown Theatre Company, as well as a 1993 Governor’s Award for Leadership and Contribution to the State of Minnesota.
A Shimmering Sea: Hong Kong Stories combines family memoir and fictional stories about growing up in Hong Kong. It will be distributed worldwide by the Chinese University Press in Hong Kong and published by Proverse Publishing Co. this April. Liu was one of the finalists of Proverse International Book Publishing Competition; the official announcement of the final winner will be on April 11, 2013.
A Shimmering Sea: Hong Kong Stories may be pre-ordered for $25 plus $5 for postage. Contact Stephanie Liu at 1 (212) 628-4128 or email [email protected] For details, please visit: http://sophronialiu.wordpress.com.