Categories
Memoir

Does the Universe Make Sense? Should We Care?

She held tight to the slowly rising rope. When it had hoisted her far enough, she bent her knees to lift herself off the ground. Everyone – family and servants – took a turn.  Holding up the rope, and below it, the round scale, was the family cook, and the strongest man in the compound, Shi […]

Categories
Essays Non-Fiction Picture Books

Natural World Musings

I feel like a voyeur. On the pond down the hill, Canadian geese have paired off for mating. I watch them from my kitchen window. Couples circle around each other, splashing and bobbing their heads in and out of the water. I do not avert my eyes when he pounces on her back, his beak […]

Categories
Fiction

Black and White and Yellow

“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.” Debate continues about this line from the 1974 noir movie Chinatown. Interpretations include: You are in over your head. Things don’t make sense. You can’t win. In Chinatown.  How should Chinese people consider this comment? Are we different? Charles Yu explores the question of being Asian in America in his National Book Award-winning novel Interior […]

Categories
Fiction

Hillary and Louise’s Excellent Adventure – Or – Hillary Gets Even

State of Terror, the political thriller by Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny, is a satisfying romp.  Sticking close to her bailiwick, Clinton casts her heroine, Ellen Adams, as the US Secretary of State. Ellen’s girlhood friend, Betsy, functions as her Counselor. I googled whether Secretaries of State really had Counselors. Yes, they do.  Both women […]

Categories
Non-Fiction Self-Help

Who You Going to Believe – You or Your Lying Brain?

I’m going to let you in on a secret. The reason I can claim over 11,000 views on my blog this year is because husband Bill – God bless him! – stacks the deck by running up my numbers. Come on! What are the odds that some person reads over twenty essays every morning before […]

Categories
Classics Poetry

Bad Parenting

What are you doing for Christmas? Hannukah? Chinese New Year’s? (Or for my lucky grandkids, all of the above!) In the second holiday season of our pandemic, everyone is improvising what festivities they feel are safe for them. As we slouch into our third year of global death, everyone faces choices for how best to […]

Categories
Fiction

Over Seventy: Miles Per Hour and Years of Age

Highway driving used to be like playing Pac-Man. I’d catch up to a car and gobble it up, or at least put it in my rear view. When did I get so timid? Fearful, even? Bill had already packed the car. We left at St. Louis at 8:15, only fifteen minutes late. For once, we […]

Categories
Fiction

Good Grief

I’ve been thinking about death. Why?  Could it be because US Covid deaths are closing in on three quarters of a million lives? Could it be because I’m 74 years old, and I’ve already lived the bulk of my life? Could it be that, just this week, I’ve had to write condolence notes to two friends? […]

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 […]