Milwaukee Talks: author Kay Rush
It's been a long time since area native Kay Rush lived in Milwaukee, but she's never forgotten about her hometown.
Rush, who now lives in France, spent much of the past 27 years living in Italy, where she has worked as a journalist, a model, a certified sommelier, a broadcast personality, an actress and now a novelist.
Rush's first book, "Il seme del desiderio" ("The Seed of Desire"), has been published by a major publishing house in Italy and, folks who know her will be unsurprised that Milwaukee features heavily in the book, which is rooted in her own story about a young woman moving to Europe to seek new challenges, but, she says, the novel is just that: fiction.
We recently asked her, via e-mail from France, about the novel, about her long and varied career and about Milwaukee, where she still has family.
OMC: Tell me a bit about growing up in Milwaukee? Where did you live and where did you go to school?
KR: My mother is Japanese, she came to the United States in 1959 and she raised my brother, Michael, and I on her own. She is my heroine! We grew up in the housing projects, Parklawn, where I have only fond memories. One day, I plan to write a book about life in the projects in the sixties. (A) great place to grow up, as long as you can leave one day! My mother later remarried a man by the name of Karl Sandvick, whom I consider my father. My brother is a detective with the Milwaukee Police Department.
I went to grade school at Congress, junior high at John Muir, high school at Custer and I did one year at UWM, where I first began to study to be a writer.
I left Milwaukee when I was 18 years old to go to New York, then to Paris and within the same year - 1980 -- I ended up in Italy where I have been ever since. I became a journalist, I wrote and hosted numerous television and radio programs in Italy and later in Spain where I lived for four years. I now reside in Milan, Italy and in Chamonix, France.
OMC: Is your family still here? Do you get back here much?
KR: Yes, my family still lives in Milwaukee. I don't get back to Milwaukee very often because it's so far away and my parents prefer coming to Europe to see me.
I returned to Milwaukee to get married in 2003 at Atonement Lutheran Church. My husband is Spanish and his name is Ismael. He was a professional basketball player in Europe until he met me and 'discovered' the mountains -- I mountain climb -- that's how we ended up living in the French Alps.
OMC: What do you think of the city you see here now? Is it hard to imagine it was the same place you left?
KR: I think Milwaukee has improved greatly. America's best kept secret. Every time I go back, I am more and more impressed at what has been done. As a teenager, I was always hanging out on the East Side of the city and that is still my favorite area to go to when I return. I love the Calatrava addition to the museum! And what's been done to the Third Ward and the Milwaukee River is quite impressive. Many scenes in my novel, "The Seed of Desire," take place in Milwaukee and I mention all of few of these areas. The main character in my book is an Italian-American born in Milwaukee.
I guess you could call it my tribute to the city of my birth. I wish it were closer because I would certainly return more often.
OMC: Growing up did you ever dream of leaving Milwaukee? Could you have imagined the life you've had since you moved to Europe?
KR: Yes, yes, yes. I think I was born with the travel bug. And although Milwaukee is surrounded by total flatland, I yearned to live in the mountains. Italy and France were always in my mind and even as a young girl, I recall buying many of the foreign magazines to check out what was happening in Europe. I remember skipping out of school one day and taking a bus to Chicago because I had heard about the Fiorucci store opening up and I had to see it!
I have always been fascinated by different cultures and languages and my travels have taken me to all parts of the world. At the moment, my favorite area to travel is the Himalayas, especially India and Nepal.
OMC: Tell me a bit about leaving? When did you go and what led you away?
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