My grandparents on my mother’s side came to Hawaii from Japan. My grandfather came first, to work in the sugar cane and pineapple plantations. My grandmother came later, she was what historians call a ‘picture bride’. My mother grew up on the island of Oahu, in the town of Wahiwa, on Mango Street.
On Mango Street there were families from all over Asia and the Pacific Islands. There were other Japanese families, as well as families from Korea, China, the Philippines, plus Native Hawaiian families and other pacific islanders. All these kids played on the street together, invited each other to their festivals and dances, went to school together, traded things out of their lunch boxes, and taught each other their games and dances. So my mom got to learn about lots of different places and peoples, just growing up on Mango Street!
My grandparents on my fathers side were Jewish, from the Beolo Russian countries of Minsk and Pinsk. One of my mom’s sisters married a man from India. Another married a first generation Italian man. . . . when we got together for family gatherings we looked like a UNICEF card!”
Growing up with all these cultural influences has had a big impact on Louise’s life, her perspective and her work.
Cultural Heritage Programs
ASIAN HERITAGE – “STORIES FROM MANGO STREET”
Louise tells stories from many parts of Asia, and provides a personal doorway into the Asian-Ameri- can experience as well. This program can also focus on stories from Japan or Religions of Asia on request.
FAMILY HERITAGE – “MIXED BLESSINGS”
This program includes stories from the cultural traditions of both sides of Louise’s family background– Japanese-Buddhist and Russian-Jewish.
INTERNATIONAL – “STORY BRIDGES”
Louise can bring community storytellers from a wide range of countries and cultural traditions to your school – including Turkey, Chile, Colombia, Liberia, Egypt, Japan, Pakistan, India, Laos, and Native American. These storytellers are a unique resource for cultural diversity programs, international festivals, etc.
“Kessel is a walking, talking, storytelling United Nations! Her mother’s family were Japanese Buddhists from Hawaii; her father’s family were Russian Jews. . . . ” – Maggie Wilson, Chatham Crossroads