This Local Book Helps Children Deal With Absent Parents
A new book by a successful banker who abandoned her family for drugs could prove useful to young children who’ve been left behind, whatever the reason.
“Any household can be affected by incarceration and drug abuse,” says Lois Kim, who’s written a book, Mommy Loves You, intended for children whose mothers aren’t present in their lives, whether for work, travel, illness or, as in Kim’s case, because she was in prison.
PHOTO: DAVID CROXFORD
A first-generation Korean-American, Kim grew up in a family that modeled success. Her father was an engineer; her mother, Kyong Suk Kim, was “known as The Godmother of the Korean Restaurant,” she says. “She’d take over a bar or an establishment, grow it and then sell it.”
No slouch herself, Kim combined work and studies from the age of 15. “I put myself through college while working at the Bank of Hawai‘i.” With graduation, she became a credit analyst, groomed for management. “I worked, got married, had a child,” she says, “and became a vice president.”
But the sudden death of her father shook her badly, especially as her mother had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and left the decision to take him off life support to Kim. “I didn’t have the tools to grieve. I just lost it. I began to go out a lot, drink a lot; that road leads you to people who have access to drugs.” She found release. “Hey, I didn’t feel so bad anymore. I can make it through the day.”
In our interview, after a glance at her teenage daughter, steeling herself for what comes next, Kim locks eyes and says: “I used to consider myself an extremely strong person, but crystal meth has a way of taking over the strongest person.”
She left home, maxing out her credit cards and emptying her 401K. “I lived on the street,” she says. At places where she used to shop, she took up shoplifting. Once, her mother tracked her down to beg her to come home. “She broke into tears and said, ‘I thought you had died.’ I asked for some money for food, bought drugs and didn’t come to Thanksgiving.”
Kim was convicted in 2011 for boosting a Marc Jacobs bag and a Coach wallet; in 2012, after a parole violation, she ended up in the Women’s Community Correctional Center. She was still there when her mother died. “I couldn’t go to her funeral.”
Simple affirmations written and illustrated by Kim, Mommy Loves You was begun in prison with Haku Mo‘olelo, a program offered by Read to Me International. “The aunties of Mo‘olelo said, if you want, you can write. The head of the education department, Miss Molly, said ‘just do it.’” The original version caught the attention of George Engebretson of Watermark Publishing, who was struck by the appeal of the book to families that might need Kim’s reassuring perspective: “Mommy always loves you.”
Today, Kim works as a billing specialist for CARE Hawai‘i and is trying to rebuild her family. Mommy Loves You is available for $9.95 at bookstores, retail outlets, online booksellers or direct from the publisher at bookshawaii.net.
Watermark Publishing and this magazine are both owned by aio Media Group.