An Uncommon Chinese American Memoir
“Just Like Really”– An Uncommon Chinese American Memoir details the fascinating life of Cherylene Lee, a Hollywood child performer during the 1950s and 60s. From the glittering nightclub acts of Las Vegas, to the studio sets filming TV sit-coms and movies, Lee experienced a childhood quite unlike any Asian American stereotype. “I took to performing easily, and since I had started out so young, making movies or doing shows didn’t feel like anything special. It was a part of my childhood — like going to the dentist one morning, or going to school the next.”
During the “awkward years,” Hollywood’s term for “too old to be cute, too young to be an ingenue” Lee discovered paleontology. While completing her MS degree in geology, she returned to the stage to perform in the Broadway musical A Chorus Line. Through writing poetry, short fiction, and finally plays, she found her life’s work as a playwright by exploring the contradictions in the Chinese American experience.
Her life of reinvention, resourcefulness, and resilience is revealed through lessons, anecdotes, and most memorably, through dialogues with her 94-year-old mother, who repeatedly told her throughout her life, “you’ll be just like really” (meaning better than than the original), even when the author faces a terminal disease.