Categories
Essays Memoir

The Body Geologic – Metamorphosis

Muscle weighs more than fat. That is indisputable. What’s weird is that the muscle in my thighs morphed into fat and then, like grains of windblown sand, migrated upward and deposited themselves as dunes on my torso.  I did not suspect this shift in body shape because my weight didn’t change. My exercise routine hadn’t […]

Categories
Fiction Picture Books

Believe Your Beloved

Relationships are hard, Covid or no Covid.  Many of us have squeezed into too-close quarters going on a year and a half. We assumed at the start of Covid that our enforced togetherness was make-shift, temporary. With the delta surge and vaccine-resistance, normality keeps retreating into the future.  But, it’s not too late – or […]

Categories
History Memoir Non-Fiction

Rice and Race and Politics

“In the 1700s, South Carolina was the largest exporter of rice in the world.”  So read the display at the Rice Museum in Georgetown, South Carolina. That must be a mistake. I remember my disbelief, even now, over twenty years later. Which part of the statement was wrong, though?  Rice! I am Chinese. I know […]

Categories
Non-Fiction

Inspiration

Not long after I started my Dr. Bookworm blog three years ago, I found out what I really wanted to do with my life. I aspire to blog about a book the way each episode of the podcast Aria Code cracks open a single operatic aria. This is my first podcast review. In Dr. Bookworm, my goal is to introduce the reader […]

Categories
Being Chinese History Non-Fiction

Frantic Flight

The boat in the title of Helen Zia’s book, the Last Boat Out of Shanghai, is not a literal boat. It stands for the desperate rush of millions of people fleeing the Chinese Communist Revolution in 1949…

Well, my mom missed that boat. And with her, me and my baby sister.

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 […]