R. S. Hems

When R. S. Hems resigned from her full-time job to raise her two children, she discovered a love of writing fiction that elucidates Asian-American life. She derives inspiration from long hikes and from her memories of growing up in a Chinese-American household in Los Angeles.  While writing, she jams to eighties music, especially to the Back Street Boys.

She is an avid reader of historical fiction and suspense novels. Other hobbies include watching Bollywood movies and amassing an hourglass collection.

She is supported in all her creative endeavors by an understanding and loving husband of over fifteen years.

Velda: An American Fairy Tale

Life is finally looking up for forty-two-year-old Velda, the only underachiever in the Wu family of wunderkinds. Her supervisor is recommending her for a promotion in the law firm where she's been a paralegal for seven years—and she's finally met someone who loves her for who she is.

But such good fortune is not her fate, as her mother, the formidable Dora Wu, keeps reminding her. Dora has never supported Velda's efforts, continually undermining her daughter by reminding her of an old Chinese fortune teller’s grim predictions.

Set in Oakland, California, this is the story of two strong individuals—a middle-aged woman and her mother—and the conflict that ensues when the beliefs and mores of two different cultures and generations intersect. A distinctly American fairy tale, Velda is about a woman who struggles to overcome obstacles from her past and her present, an ordinary woman who dares to believe in her own happily ever after.  ​

Excerpts:
  
“Open your mouth. Stick out your tongue.” The old woman leaned in, her hoarse voice heavy with a Chinese accent.  […]

“Maybe you okay,” she said [to the seven-year-old girl]. “And sometimes maybe not so okay.  […] Learn to accept your fate […] even if not so good.” She grimaced, widening her thin, gray lips to expose pale pink gums and a long fang of a front tooth, dangling like a macabre ornament.

Velda’s eyes shot open. Fate? She didn’t even know what fate was, and what exactly did the old hag mean by “not so good”? […]

Velda turned to her mother, silently pleading for an explanation or at the very least, a sense of comfort and security. But her mother simply opened her purse and counted out some bills, handing them over with a small nod of thanks. […]

Velda stepped toward her mother and held out her hand, desperate for some contact, a consoling touch, but her mother just stood there, coldly assessing [her].  She wore the satisfied smirk of someone who’d gotten exactly what she’d expected and wanted.

Velda slowly retracted her hand and bit her lower lip to stop its quivering.  She’d never felt so afraid, abandoned, and alone.

Thirty-five years later…

Velda Wu walked through the lobby and opened the glass door.  “Mom, Dad, what’re you doing here?” […]

“You cannot go,” [Dora Wu] shouted and took a step forward, her voice bouncing off the tiled walls surrounding them.

“Why not?”

“It is not supposed to be this way for you, Velda. You cannot go to Brian,” Dora continued.  “He is not for you.”

“He is, Mom, and do we really have to do this now?”  She refused to let them alter her plans. […]

“What if you go…and then he introduce you to his family later on…and what if they say they do not like you?” Dora posed the question with a raised index finger.  “If they do not like you, then they decide your fate for you.  It is better not to go.  Stay here.” […]

Dora Wu pressed her lips tightly together, turned to her husband, and then tilted her head back towards Velda, motioning for him to take a stab at the problem at hand.

“Velda, you have to be practical,” her father said.  “Brian is a nice-looking man.  He may decide in a little while that he wants someone younger…someone better-looking...I don’t want you to get hurt again,” he added quietly, his eyes urging Velda to understand.

Velda stepped back, unnerved.  “I have a real chance at a relationship, a real life, and you’re both standing here telling me to give it all up?”

“Yes, you give up,” Dora Wu said, nodding emphatically.  “That is your fate.”

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