Categories
Being Chinese History Non-Fiction

Stranded in America

My parents lived together for two years after they were married. Then they did not see each other for the next seven. For some of that time, they couldn’t even write letters. Dad was in America. Mom, my sister and I were in China, and then Hong Kong. Our family was separated by 8,000 miles […]

Categories
Fiction

Do We Really Know?

In 1960, we eighth-graders at St. Raphael’s Catholic school took a series of standardized tests. Solemnly, Sister Cyprian went desk to desk handing each student a multipage test booklet and a number two pencil. We were tested on language and math skills, and I don’t remember what else.  For inexplicable reasons, the results came to […]

Categories
Memoir Non-Fiction

Ben Franklin and My Covid Year

I seem to have the soul of an 18th century Yankee — industrious, leaning toward practical virtue, and optimistic. Then again, that is not unlike the striving, entrepreneurial spirit of my Shanghainese parents. I’ve been thinking about these traits in the context of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and my Covid year. In this memoir, Franklin (1706 […]

Categories
Poetry

Blind-sided by Grace

I was blind-sided by grace on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021. I say grace because I don’t have a better word. It was unexpected.  It was not earned. It was something I didn’t know I was missing until it came my way. And it was wonderful. I didn’t have much expectation for the Covid-curtailed Inauguration.  I wanted […]

Categories
Memoir Poetry

Following Basho’s Steps in St. Louis

In the spring of 1689, the Japanese poet Basho mended his cotton pants, sewed a new strap on his bamboo hat, rubbed herbs on his legs, and embarked on a walking tour. He walked 1,500 miles throughout Honshu, the largest of the Japanese islands. He memorialized this journey in Narrow Road to the Interior, a travel […]

Categories
Fiction

Remembrances of Just a Little While Ago

“Oh, it’s heavenly,” I said to Bill, as I bite into a piece of the piping hot lemon bread. The corners of the loaf were just this side of burnt, a bit of crust. The top had a sweet drizzle in contrast to the moist citrusy inside. (I associate this level of moistness with butter […]

Categories
Essays Picture Books

The Big Deal

“So, you’re a lady doctor!” In 1980, when I graduated from medical school, women physicians were still relatively rare. I would smile in what I hoped was a self-deprecating way. Really, what is one supposed to say? In my mind, I’d be thinking, “What’s the big deal?”   Sometimes, I would tell these well-wishers about my […]

Categories
Fiction

Social Misfits

Nothing fits!  I tossed and turned. I was losing sleep over … the elections? Corona? Hurricanes and wildfires? No, no and no. I had just finished reading John Banville’s Snow, ostensibly a murder mystery, and my mind was churning over why I felt so unsatisfied.   I started the book on election day because I needed distraction […]

Categories
Classics Fiction

Brilliant! Excellent! Amazing!

“We need to think about how to get you more readers.” Laurie says this like a dear aunt who might be concerned about a teenager’s grades or her social life.  “I know, I know.” I bleat.  We’ve had versions of this conversation for over a year. Why bother writing book reviews with a personal take […]

Categories
Memoir Non-Fiction

Finding Hope in the Trump Era

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death that late September Friday seemed too much to bear. For about twenty-four hours, I numbed myself by watching “Monk.” Events in our country were taking their toll: The epidemic. Black killings by police. Four year’s worth of Trump’s tromping on Kurdish and European allies; Muslim and Central American immigrants; birds, wolves, […]

Categories
Being Chinese Fiction

Food! Glorious Food!

Magic happens when dough meets sizzling oil. Donuts! Funnel cake!  Churros! Indian fry bread! For us Chinese, it’s youtiao, or in English, OIL STICKS. What’s not to love? I’ve had a hankering for the foods of my Shanghai and Hong Kong childhood. Covid lockdown has made me nostalgic for, well, almost anything pre-Covid. Also, Incensed: A Taipei Night […]

Categories
Non-Fiction

Crosswords: A Love Letter

The summer of 1972 was a sizzler. It was 100 degrees the July day I got married. It was also the summer that an interest was sparked that has only grown hotter and brighter over the years. That summer, I discovered crossword puzzles.  A paperback of crossword puzzles had somehow come into my possession. Margaret […]

Categories
Memoir Non-Fiction

What Women Want

When I started medical school in 1976, my class was 15% women. St. Louis University was quite proud of being so broad-minded. Yet, two years later, when the chief of surgery at St. Louis City Hospital found out that he had two medical students with the same first name in the operating room, he called […]

Categories
Being Chinese Fiction

We❤️ Our Grandkids

She wore clothes that I had only seen on servants: light blue tunic, dark pants and cloth shoes. She was short, almost squat. The nape-length hair went straight across. She wore no make-up. Her appearance was a sharp contrast to that of my mom and her lady friends. They wore tailored, silk qipao. They dabbed on lipstick […]

Categories
Being Chinese Self-Help

It’s Not Easy Eating Green

Fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables. As a physician, I have recommended “fruits and vegetables” to a gazillion patients. “Mike, your cholesterol is too high. Eat more fruits and vegetables.” “You want to lose weight, Carol? Fruits and vegetables.” “Callie, you’ll lower your blood sugar eating fewer refined carbs and more fruits and vegetables.” In […]

Categories
Non-Fiction

23 and Thomas Jefferson

What? Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson’s enslaved concubine, in the parlance of the day, was half-sister to his deceased wife Martha? What? Sally and Thomas’s children, legally slaves, were 1/8 African and 7/8 white? WHAT? At his death, all but five of Thomas Jefferson’s slaves – some of them, Sally’s great nephews and nieces – were sold […]

Categories
Picture Books Poetry

Isn’t There a Rule About That?

Twenty faces in Zoom cubbies scrunched up in thought. Max, the teacher had asked, “What do you think of when you hear “poetry?” My heart fluttered – a kind of panic. “There are rules, but I don’t know what they are,” I said. “There’s no wrong way to write a poem,” Max was saying. I […]

Categories
Self-Help

Gonzo Mindfulness Meditation: What I learned when I explored my brain

In this time of “social distancing,” my friends are knitting, sewing, quilting, gluing and painting every sort of art project. They have assembled umpteen jigsaw puzzles and gotten Zoom drunk with friends.  They’ve elevated binge-watching to an art form. They’re reading books, baking bread, deep-cleaning their homes, and posting on Facebook dozens of times daily. […]

Categories
Essays Picture Books

Purple Mountains Majesty _ As Seen from the Hoosegow

Got COVID cabin fever? Me too! When I fantasize about open spaces and freedom of movement, my mind always travels to the American West. This is not unusual. Traveling west to get away from entanglements has been a staple of the American narrative since before the United States was a country. “Go West, young man,” […]

Categories
Classics Fiction

COVID Anxiety

I can let my hair go gray! I haven’t seen my hair in its native state for two decades. I can catch up on my 23 episodes of This is Us and, coincidentally, my 23 episodes of Call the Midwife on my DVR. In what is the opposite of binge watching, I watch these shows […]