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
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
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
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
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 […]

Categories
Being Chinese Fiction

No Tickee, No Shirtee

I recently reread Robert van Gulik’s The Emperor’s Pearl: A Judge Dee Mystery to see if his depictions of Chinese culture still rang true. This book is one of a series of mysteries set in 7th century China about a crime-solving magistrate. When I first encountered these books as a teenager in St. Louis in […]

Categories
Fiction

Istanbul: Glimpses After Death

As a physician, I am skeptical that consciousness and memory can remain intact after the heart quits pumping. There may be reflexive movement or some random cellular metabolic activity after blood flow stops, but that’s all. As a human being, I find the idea of a period of awareness after death intriguing, yet I know […]

Categories
Classics Fiction

The Lord of the Rings: A Love Story

All stories live and die on their relationships. I have found the sweetest of relationships in, of all things, a three-volume fantasy novel — J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. This story about hobbits (pint-sized creatures noted for hairy feet), wizards, elves, dwarves, men and the One Gold Ring has stayed with me since I […]

Categories
Fiction

To Be Old and Useful Is a Happy Thing

Even though Texas in 1870 is very far in time and space from my life in 2019 St. Louis, Paulette Jiles’s 2016 novel News of the World, touches on subjects very close to my heart. The story is about an old man who transports ten-year Johanna four hundred miles through lawless Texas territory to her […]

Categories
Fiction

A Gentleman in Moscow?

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles spent over a year on the New York Times Best Sellers list. The novel is about a Russian nobleman who was forced to live within the confines of a Moscow hotel on orders of the new Bolshevik government. It is an elegant, charming jewel of a novel, a […]

Categories
Fiction

The Pleasure of Detecting

“You are reading my favorite author,” said the white-haired hospital volunteer leading me to my bone density x-ray. I was holding Louise Penny’s latest mystery: Kingdom of the Blind. Then we shared a knowing smile and spoke simultaneously: “You have to read them in order.” We both knew that Penny would incapacitate, even kill off, […]

Categories
Fiction

Back to the Present

Everyone knows the story of putting a frog in tepid water and heating it up. The idea is that the change is so gradual that the frog will not realize it is being boiled alive. I’m not a frog, but I see myself adjusting to the changes in my life over the past 50 years […]

Categories
Fiction

Tell Me A Story

“How can we convince people that we are right?” “The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story.” The Overstory, by Richard Powers, a monumental book that takes us across the globe and across millennia of time, contains dozens of overlapping stories. […]

Categories
Fiction

The Life I Want

We all have an image of what our “best” life would look like. Mine would include having a perfectly supportive husband, eternally appreciative children; insightful conversations and gourmet dinners with friends; disciplined daily exercise and writing routines; and a wildly successful blog. Before I retired from doctoring, smart and considerate co-workers were important. So, if […]

Categories
Fiction

Mending the Living

“There’s been a car accident. The ambulance is taking your son to Barnes Hospital,” said an unfamiliar male voice. On the way to the hospital, I tried to block out the “What if’s,” but scenarios clicked through my brain like a photo slideshow. Fractures, casts, crutches. Scars. Or the more ominous “internal injuries.” Or worse […]

Categories
Classics Fiction Picture Books

The Little Prince and Me: It’s Complicated

Everybody loves The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Except me. Every time the name comes up, there is a universal “Oh, I love the Little Prince,” accompanied by a wistful, faraway look. I’m never sure if they mean the book or the character. I quite like the little guy myself, especially from his pictures: […]

Categories
Fiction

A Birding Guide to “War and Peace”

To say that War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy is about a bunch of aristocratic Russians during Napoleon’s 1812 invasion is like saying that Games of Thrones is about politics. This is a grand, epic story. There’s war and peace, love and death and a cast of thousands. But wait, there’s more! Here are the […]