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 […]

Categories
Classics Self-Help

Flattening the Curve: The Plague and COVID-19

“Should we go see the grandkids in Virginia?” We have the plane tickets. We’ve reserved the hotel and the rental car. And I would love to luxuriate in the embrace and enthusiasm of my young grandsons. But COVID-19 casts a pall. Maybe we should drive. Less proximity to potentially-infected fellow passengers. Except neither of us […]

Categories
Fiction

Love and Nordic Noir

Human desires are fickle. Human needs are constant. I am not trying to sound philosophical or profound. It’s just the conclusion I came to after my two-week vacation in Florida. *** “Another f***ing day of sunshine.” I can’t believe those words popped out of my mouth as I squinted at the bar of glary light […]

Categories
Non-Fiction

High Expectations — And Then There’s Real Life

Remember when you had homework? I do. I brought home a pile of books: my intentions were so lofty. In those days before backpacks, I bundled them in my arms. The books often slid out of my grip. It was annoying. Come Friday night, I wanted to relax. On Saturday, pangs of guilt nibbled at […]

Categories
Classics

Giants and Gods and Dwarfs

I remember the first movie I ever saw. I was about six. We lived in a refugee settlement in Hong Kong, having fled China. I had no idea what to expect when Mom took me to the dark, spacious theater. I had to be very quiet. Then the movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs […]

Categories
Memoir Non-Fiction Picture Books

Iran: What We Don’t Know

General Suleimani Who? Is it legal to kill another country’s official when we are not at war? Does this mean Guatemala can assassinate Mike Pence for the two dozen deaths of Central Americans in ICE custody? And what’s the deal in Iran? They’ve been chanting “Death to America” for forty years now. I was full […]

Categories
Self-Help

I’m Dead. Now What?

My mother left me some exquisite Chinese dresses. They are called qi pao. Below a high collar, the dress sinuously hugs the body. I have one in silk, one in wool with embroidered trim and a lacy one. They fit me, which is amazing, as they were tailored to my mom’s measurements. I wear them […]

Categories
Classics Fiction

Willa Cather, Greta Thunberg and Me

Willa Cather’s novel about pioneer life in Nebraska — My Antonia — was published a century ago in 1918.  This book casts a nostalgic look at the Midwestern prairie at the time it was being turned into farmlands and towns. Men and women from America and from Europe, primarily Eastern Europe, struggled to make a […]