Mary Yoo, CA

Senior Writer

From a young age, Mary’s parents found her surrounded by piles of books. The joy, tears, and connection she felt as she lost herself in those pages inspired her to become a writer. Although life and work has taken Mary on adventures all around the world, the one constant she’s had in every season was writing and storytelling. Mary has authored articles, screenplays, and two semi-autobiographical novels. She particularly loves telling stories that highlight unique perspectives and cultural nuances. Mary currently lives in Los Angeles, California, where she enjoys a variety of hobbies including hiking, filmmaking, and playing her ukulele.

As a Story Terrace writer, Mary interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better by reading her autobiographical anecdote below.

Learning Knives

AJ thought she heard her mother’s voice. The Saturday sun had shifted across AJ’s room. It was an orange, dry summer day. AJ was lying on the floor underneath her desk. Next to her was a growing collection of shoe boxes. Photos and her old journals bulged against the fraying cardboard edges of those boxes.

Yawning, AJ turned her book over onto the carpet next to her and crawled over to the AC/heat vent. When she put her ear next to it, she thought she heard her mother’s voice.

“Umma?” AJ called into the vent. She heard some muffled words, but couldn’t decipher them.

AJ turned off her lamp and then stood and stretched. Making her way down the stairs, she sauntered into an empty kitchen. The living room was empty as well. The lazy air was barely wafting through the screens. AJ heard her name again.

“Where are you?” she called out.

“In the basement,” came Umma’s voice.

As AJ descended the basement stairs, she enjoyed the scent of the earthy wood paneling and the cooling temperature. Umma was looking into an opened box of fruit.

“Oh! The mangoes!” AJ rushed down the stairs. “I forgot about those.”

“I was waiting for the right time,” Umma looked playful. “Let’s have one before the boys come home.”


“Yes. Just the two of us.”

AJ and Umma stood side by side and looked into the box. The eight mangoes sat in military formation. Two rows of four. They were red and yellow with a hint of green.

“They look so perfect,” AJ reached out and lightly pressed her fingers against them.

“Choose two for us.”

AJ looked at them closely and then picked one up. She carefully weighed it in her hands and felt that it had begun to soften. She handed it to Umma, who put it to her nose and then smiled her approval.

“This one looks good. Choose another.”

AJ selected another mango and then followed Umma up the stairs. The shafts of golden sun shone across the kitchen table as Umma washed the mangoes and then brought out the cutting board, two plates, and a knife.

“I’ll cut yours, and then you cut mine,” Umma said. AJ watched Umma slice the mango into three sections and then make criss cross cuts. She placed the pieces onto the plate in front of AJ and handed her the knife and the other mango. AJ tried to imitate Umma’s cutting process.

“It doesn’t look the same,” AJ looked up.

Umma shrugged, “You’ll learn by practicing.” They both took bites of the juicy fruit.

Mother and daughter sighed and enjoyed the miles of afternoon stillness.

“What do you want for dinner?” Umma broke the silence.

AJ thought for a moment, “Can we have soup? With rice cakes and dumplings?”

“Of course, my favorite Dalemi.”

“But I’m your only daughter,” AJ rolled her eyes.

Her mother grinned affectionately, “It doesn’t change that you’re my favorite Dalemi.” She stood and took the plates to the sink, “Do you want to learn how to make the soup?”

AJ nodded and then paused, “But is it hard?”

“No, it’s very easy.”

Under Umma’s watchful eye, AJ pulled out green onions, rice cakes, and dumplings. Her mother sautéed a side of beef while AJ began roughly chopping the vegetables. The familiar aroma of dinner filled the kitchen.

“Here is my special ingredient. Extra garlic,” Umma held up a handful of cloves and looked at her. “Do you think you could make it again?”

“You mean for the whole family?”

Umma nodded, “For anyone.”

“Probably. It’s kinda fun.”

Umma nodded her approval.

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