Back when I first started teaching, I let each one of The Korean Divas for Christ choose an English language name the way my Spanish teacher let us pick Spanish names back in Spanish I. (I went with Juanita.) After I started English the fun way, I had each one of The KDFCs take the name of a famous R & B singer.

Hye Min—who goes by Tina—raises her hand, so I nod in her direction. She says, “A selling the word.”


“That’s right, Tina. You need to sell the frickin’ words. And how do we do that, ladies?”

Front-and-center Kyung Ah—aka Diana—raises her hand, and when I nod at her, she says, “Hips and the hands.”

“It’s all about the hips and hands. And?”

A back row exceptionally tall woman named Sueng Hee—we call her Beyoncé—yells out “Shoulder dips!” without my calling on her, which sorta pisses me off, because I find her outburst threatening to my authority, but I appreciate the unbridled enthusiasm, so I let it slide.

“Shoulder dips. And?”

The oldest KDFC, a wrinkly grandmother we know as Ella, waves at me, so I point at her.

“The souls clap,” she says.

“The super-duper soul clap. That’s right,” I say, and then start clapping slowly, soulfully.

All of The KDFCs follow suit, because they are all frickin’ pros.

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So I add a shoulder dip and a step to the right—clap!

The KDFCs don’t miss a beat and move with me.

Shoulder dip, and a step to the left—clap!

We repeat this for a few times, and then I yell, “Work those hips, ladies! Work what God gave you—meaning yo’ apple-bottom booties!”

So we all let our booties snap with our heads.



When we are nice and warmed up, I yell, “Hit those keys, Chee!”

Father starts playing piano, and then The KDFCs are rocking “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes. The way they sing sounds very staccato, because they are Korean and don’t know English all that well, but they sell the song with the moves I gave them, and I have to say that I am proud of these chippies today, because they are sorta rocking my socks off.

Before we all got so damn good at soul singing, Father had the church buy us twenty copies of The Supremes Complete Songbook and then—using Korean-English dictionaries—the Korean Divas for Christ and I translated all the songs, writing the Korean under the English, so that my students would know what the hell they were singing. Then we worked on pronunciation, and then finally, selling the songs onstage.

I didn’t know that Father Chee could play piano when I thought up the singing-to-learn-English idea, but on the day that we were first going to start singing, the piano magically showed up in the church. When I asked him where the piano came from, Father Chee said that God had put it there. When I asked him who was going to play the piano, Chee said God would play through Father Chee’s fingers. Maybe some corny hooey to you, but I like the way Chee keeps God magical, sorta like Santa Claus when you are a kid. More priests should take this approach, because there is a frickin’ reason why Santa is more popular than Jesus nowadays.

I take The KDFCs through “I Hear a Symphony,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” “Baby Love,” “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” and a few other classics, before we make the power circle, which is when all the women put arms around each other’s shoulders so that we are all linked up in a super-powerful woman circle, and then I yell some empowering hooey I made up a while back.

“What are we?” I yell.

“Strong!” The KDFCs yell back.

“Who are we?”

“The Korean Divas for Christ!”

“Who loves us?”


“Who wants us to be happy?”


“Who rocks?”

“The Korean Divas for Christ!”

“Who are the best Korean soul singers in the world?”

“The Korean Divas for Christ!”

“Hell yeah?”

“Hell yeah!”



And then I break off and run around the inside of the power circle giving each Korean Diva a super high five, which is a two-handed slap above the head. The KDFCs go crazy for this sorta pumped-up ending. They like to hug me before I go, and since I really dig hugs, I go wild with the hugging too. Every KDFC gets a big old hug from me, which takes like ten frickin’ minutes.

When it’s time to go, it’s usually dark, so—in his penguin suit—Father Chee jogs next to me and BBB as I ride my bike through the ghetto. He likes to make sure I get home okay. I smile at damn near everyone in his neighborhood and do the “Hope you are having a great day!” trick, which makes Father Chee laugh and glow in a fatherly proud sorta way.

While I’m riding, I usually confess my sins.

“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned,” I say to Father Chee.

“Confess your sins and Jesus will forgive you,” FC says.

“I kicked Lex Pinkston in the shin yesterday and slapped his face today. But he called me a disgusting single-syllable word for a woman—which I’m not even going to repeat—said he had sex with my mother, and made Ricky say something sexual to a classmate.”

Still running, Father Chee nods wisely—like—a million frickin’ times. “Jesus offered us an example. Turn the other cheek, He told us.”

“That’s why I’m confessing. Do you think I haven’t read the Bible?”

“You are forgiven.”

“No penance?” I ask.

“You’ve done it already. Teaching English to my church members.”

“But I enjoy doing that.”

“God wants us to be happy!” FC says, which makes me smile.

When we get pretty deep into my neighborhood, he says, “I’m going to return to the church now.”

I stop riding my bike and we look at each other, smiling face-to-face, both knowing that we kicked butt for God today—making The KDFCs happy and hopeful.

I pretend that Father Chee is my dad, and maybe he pretends I am his daughter.

“Can I get a hug, Chee,” I say.

“Of course,” he replies, and then he hugs me like any good father would.

“How ’bout some love for B3?”

Father Chee pats BBB’s head, so lovingly, and I say, “You’re a good man, Chee,” just before I pedal away.

I look back, and—as always—Chee is there watching, making sure I get to Donna’s okay, and that makes me smile and feel like there is so much good in the world.


When I arrive home, Ricky is still doing math problems at the kitchen table, so I feed Bobby Big Boy some wet canned stuff and start cooking Donna’s dinner. I decide to go with rice, red peppers, and chicken. So I defrost the chicken in the microwave, chop up two red peppers, boil some rice, and dig out the wok.

After I cut up the chicken and the red peppers into thin strips, I put it all in a big old silver bowl and douse it in a load of soy sauce and sesame seeds.

Next, I get a shot of Jack Daniels from the liquor cabinet and dump that onto the chicken and red pepper.

“What the hell,” I say, and then pour some Jack onto the now-hot wok, which makes a sizzling noise and produces a good warm wheat smell.

I stir-fry it all up, and it smells pretty delectable.

Ricky is STILL doing math problems, and BBB is chillin’ on the kitchen mat, looking up at me, watching my every move, because the dashing mutt’s totally in love with me.

Donna comes home at exactly six thirty; she is one regimented woman.

“Like I’ve told you a million times before, you don’t have to cook for us, Amber. But it sure smells good,” she says as she tosses her keys into an old crystal ashtray that she keeps on a stand by the kitchen door, and sets down her bags and hangs up her overcoat.

She runs her hands through Ricky’s hair and kisses him on the forehead, and I get a little jealous, I must admit, because my mom is so uncool compared to Ricky’s.

“How’s my boy?”

“Doing math problems. Do not talk to—”

“What time is it?”

Ricky looks at the clock on the wall and then shuts his workbook. “Time for Ricky Roberts to eat his dinner with Mommy Roberts and Amber Appleton.”

“That’s my boy,” Donna says to Ricky. To me she says, “How was your day, Amber?”

I nod and then shrug, like a tool.

“Okay,” Donna says. “Can we eat?”

I serve everyone, and we begin to eat.

“Is there Jack Daniels in this?” Donna says after tasting my newest dish.

“Yep,” I say.

“Tastes divine,” Donna says. “Got you a present, Ricky.”

“Mommy Roberts got Ricky Roberts a present!”

“See that bag by my briefcase? Over there by the door?”

“Ricky Roberts sees a bag!”

“Why don’t you go see what’s in that bag.”

Ricky stands and walks over to the bag. He picks it up and shakes it like a Christmas present. He even holds it to his ear. A hand finally goes in and comes out full of camouflage. “Ricky Roberts gets a shirt.”

“What does it say on the shirt?” Donna says, fork in hand.

Ricky holds the shirt above his head and reads the words written in hunter orange. “Franks Freak Force Federation!”

It is the coolest shirt I have ever seen.

“How many are in that bag, Ricky?” Donna says.

Ricky counts. “Seven!”

“One for every member involved in the mission.”

I swallow hard; I love Donna so much. She was in court all day—a murder case—but she still got us team shirts for the mission. She rocks!

“There are FIVE members of Franks Freak Force Federation. Mommy Roberts brought SEVEN shirts. Seven.”

“Well, your attorney needs to dress the part. And I thought Franks might want one, so I had my assistant make up seven. What the hell, right, Amber?”

I nod dumbly. I want to have an assistant someday who will make freaky teens cool T-shirts so that they can do good things in style. I want to be Donna. So frickin’ much.

Donna winks at me, and then eats some more of my stir-fry.

Ricky strips off his Utley jersey and puts on some camo. “Franks Freak Force Federation!”

“You like?” Donna says.

“Ricky Roberts likes very much!”


I nod fifty times, like a moron.

“There’s one in there for you,” Donna says.

I sprint to the bag and find that there is a fitted girly tee in there for me, so I go into the other room and put it on, checking myself out in the hallway mirror. The cut makes my boobs look perky, and the coloring makes me look dangerous—sorta like Sarah Michelle Gellar playing Buffy the Vampire Slayer or maybe Uma Thurman in Kill Bill: Vol. 2. I feel so ready to fight for good tonight.

I walk back into the kitchen and Donna says, “You look like a knockout. How am I going to wear a fitted tee if I need to stand next to young sexy you?”

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