Growing up, Helena Ku Rhee, had to go with her parents to their jobs as night shift janitors at a law office in LA. With no money for a babysitter, Rhee’s parents had to juggle doing their janitorial duties on top of keeping a young child entertained in the late hours of the night.
Rhee told NPR “On those very long, late nights, my parents actually turned a very unpleasant situation into something magical. They would tell me funny stories about the people who occupied the offices by day. They zoomed me around in empty wastebaskets like they were race cars.”
The magic Rhee’s parents created for her during those night stuck with her throughout her childhood and into adulthood.
“I wanted to write a book about that magic and wonder they instilled in me.”
Rhee, now a corporate lawyer, used her time during the night to recall those special memories and write her book, The Paper Kingdom. The stories she tells is almost identical to the one she experienced, but the only difference being the male main character, named Daniel.
Rhee wanted to show that even though she was a child, she recognized how hard her parents worked to raise her and provide for her.
“I know that they thought they weren’t doing enough for me. I know they felt bad that they had to take me to work with them late at night.”
It was an emotional moment when she told her parents about the book she was publishing. “We were sitting in a restaurant and it was the first time I saw my dad weep.” So Rhee wrote this book to show her parents that fond memories can still come from hard times.