A Brief Autobiography
I am Chiemi Souen, a writer and a poet born in Torrance, California and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii from the age of two. In 1995, I earned a bachelor’s degree in Japanese Language and Literature at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa. Then, in 1998 I received the Okinawa Prefectural Government Scholarship to attend the University of the Ryukyu where I studied Okinawan Language and Women’s Studies. I am also a member of Afuso Ryu Gensei Kai Hawai`i Shibu, an Okinawan classical music academy, and the Tamagusuku Ryu Frances Nakachi Ryubu Dojo, a Ryukyuan dance studio.
After being diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome in 2011 and discoid lupus in 2015 at the age of 43, I decided to leave my family’s accounting firm to be a full-time writer.
My work can be seen in the Hawai`i Herald, Hawai`i’s Japanese American Journal, and the Uchinanchu, a newsletter for the Hawai`i United Okinawa Association. I am also the stylish editor for the Seiwajyuku Journal, a quarterly business philosophy publication. I created a series of Writing for Wellness workshops aimed at addressing emotional healing. I was invited by the Sjögrens and Lupus Foundation of Hawai`i to conduct a workshop on the benefits of writing for emotional wellness for the past two years.
I write poetry to give a voice to Okinawan-Americans of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation descendants of contract sugar plantation workers who immigrated from Okinawa in the early 1900s and remain faceless in literature.