In 1976, when I was eight years old, my Korean American father, a produce wholesaler and former farmworker, decided to become a full-time farmer. My Japanese American mother, descended from a long line of farmers and farmworkers, wanted it too. They had spent their childhoods dreaming of a home on the land, so we moved from Los Angeles to a tenant farm thirty-five miles away.
I grew up in a farmworking family.
No, that’s not accurate—it’s incomplete.
I grew up in a family of farmworking women.
The hands of our sisters, tías, cousins, mothers,
and abuelas have worked the fields, worked to feed us,
worked to raise us, worked to protect and provide for us.
I love my mom but the truth is that my sisters raised me.
Farmwork would not survive without women,
nor would farmworker families.
in the coachella valley
children go to school and learn how to internalize silence
girls sit pretty with pigtails wrapped in bubble-ball hair ties
learn how to cast their eyes downward
so that when they ask the class what do you want to be when you grow up?
boys respond, i want to work in the fields like my dad
Lifting Visqueen veils spread over little darlings, selecting seedlings to set each predawn rise. We coffeed up, chewed rumors, shared ourselves wherever needed without a hint of roundworm belly, malathion burn, or pay bounce still to come.