The Post of Everything Reading

First off, in case you missed it, my short story “Earn Your Breath,” is a staff pick of 2018 at Cast of Wonders and has been re-released with a new intro/outro by community manager, Dani Daly. You can listen to/read it here. My happily child-free heart is very fond of this story and I’m grateful to Dani and Cast of Wonders for bringing it to the forefront again.

Also—the Hugo Awards nomination period is now open, and this story is eligible in the short story category. I am also eligible for the Campbell.

Next up, my 2018 reading challenge results. I didn’t quite make it on either the Book Riot Read Harder challenge or the Badass Reading Challenge, though I did get close. For 2019, I’m paring it down somewhat and going with the Book Riot Read Harder challenge because I’m really drawn to this year’s list. I was going to keep it to one challenge, but then the King County Library System announced their 10 to Try challenge, and it almost entirely coincides with the Book Riot one so I figured, why not?

Here’s the list of what I read for each of the challenges in 2018:

Badass Reading Challenge:

  1. A book about a problem facing society today: Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
  2. Author with the same first or last name as you: Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, by Jane Mayer
  3. A book with your favorite color in the title: Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery
  4. A book written by a local author: The Cold Eye, by Laura Anne Gilman
  5. A book about nature: Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, by Paul Greenberg
  6. A book written by a person of a different ethnicity than yourself: Unexpected Stories, by Octavia E. Butler
  7. A celebrity memoir: The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher
  8. A book about or has a character with a mental illness: Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo
  9. A book about time travel: Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, by Kelly Robson
  10. A book about a villain or antihero: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, by Julie C. Dao
  11. A book tied to your ethnicity: Invisible Asians: Korean American Adoptees, Asian American Experiences, & Racial Exceptionalism (Asian American Studies Today), by Kim Park Nelson
  12. A book recommended by someone else in this challenge: Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, by Jessica Townsend
  13. A book from a viewpoint of a nonhuman: The Tea Master and the Detective, by Aliette de Bodard
  14. A book with a song lyric in the title: The Way You Make Me Feel, by Maurene Goo
  15. A book written by a male author the same age as you: Red Rising, by Pierce Brown
  16. A book of poetry written in the last ten years: Citizen, by Claudia Rankine
  17. A book set on another planet: The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi
  18. A book that become a movie: The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan
  19. A book published in 2018: How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays, by Alexander Chee

 

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge:

A book published posthumously: Unexpected Stories, by Octavia E. Butler

A book of true crime: The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession, by Susan Orlean

A comic written and illustrated by the same person: Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson

A book about nature: Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, by Paul Greenberg

A western: The Cold Eye, by Laura Anne Gilman

A comic written or illustrated by a person of color: Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Vol. 2, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

A romance novel by or about a person of color: A Bollywood Affair, by Sonali Dev

A children’s classic published before 1990: Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery

A celebrity memoir: The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher

An Oprah Book Club selection: Becoming, by Michelle Obama

A book of social science: Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande

A one-sitting book: Deer Woman: An Anthology, ed. by Elizabeth LaPensee and Weshoyot Alvitre

The first book in a new-to-you YA or MG series: So You Want to Be a Wizard, by Diane Duane

A scifi novel with a female protagonist by a female author: Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty

A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image: March: Book One, by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin

A book of genre fiction in translation: Memoirs of a Polar Bear, by Yoko Tawada, trans. by Susan Bernofsky

A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ author: Devil in a Blue Dress, by Walter Mosley

An essay anthology: All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism, ed. by Lydia X. Z. Brown, E. Ashkenazy, and Morenike Giwa Onaiwu

A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60: A Finely Knit Murder, by Sally Goldenbaum

I like the reading challenges because they push me to read outside my comfort zone, and am looking forward to nailing it for 2019. I read 108 books in 2018, and honestly, I’d like to scale that back a bit. My tentative goal is 75 for this year. I read hardly any short fiction in 2018 and have a huge backlog of e-mags to catch up on. Not sure if I’m going to count those in my reading log or not. Feels like I should since most of them are longer than the graphic novels and some novellas I counted last year.

Read harder, friends.

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APAHM Link Roundup

Over on Twitter I did a daily recommendation for books/stories/articles/blogs, etc by #AAPI creators for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Here’s a roundup of all the recommendations (clearly this isn’t an exhaustive list of all the work out there by AAPI creators, however, I limited myself to things I’ve personally read/watched/listened to).

5/1: Aliette de Bodard’s scifi novella The Tea Master and the Detective, a race and genderbent Sherlock Holmes style murder mystery in space. /1

5/2: Cindy Pon’s wonderful duology, Serpentine and Sacrifice. Read both! My fave of her works (sorry Want). We need more positive (& same/similar age) female friendships. Bonus, no love triangles. Complicated friendship but they never fight over a boy. /2

5/3: R. Kikuo Johnson’s graphic novel, The Night Fisher. A multilayered, frank look/commentary on growing up in modern Hawaii. Echoes the experiences of a few friends of mine. The art is GORGEOUS. I love chiaroscuro style art /3

5/4: Samira Ahmed’s Love, Hate and Other Filters. A meet-cute romcom that also tackles issues about being an Indian Muslim girl in a small Midwestern town. & no love triangle! (I have a theme) #AsianLitBingo rec /4

5/5: Maangchi. She’s kinda my national treasure. Her cookbook is great, but you really need to check out her youtube channel full of vids on how to make Korean food. /5

5/6: They Call Us Bruce podcast. “An unfiltered conversation about what’s happening in Asian America.” I love this podcast & its variety of topics. Jeff Yang’s laugh is kinda the best. /6 https://theycallusbruce.libsyn.com/

5/7: Lurline Wailana McGregor’s Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me. A somewhat bittersweet look at life in modern Hawaii, family struggles, & coming back to your roots. /7

5/8: Going to shift focus a bit & look at identity & some of the struggles involved w/exploring heritage, being “held” to it, assimilation, being “Asian enough,” & the AAPI experience in today’s times /8a

First up, Ken Liu’s essay from the Lightspeed POC Destroy! SF kickstarter re: issues POC often encounter when writing their culture/life. /8b

5/9: Today’s rec: in a similar vein to yesterday’s rec, S. Jae-Jone’s blog post on being “expected to write or perform [our] own marginalizations.” /9

5/10: Today’s rec: Kim Fu’s article from 2016 on AsAm identity in America. “Your face disappoints everyone, the TV told me. You will fit in nowhere.” /10

5/11: Today’s rec: Jenny Zhang’s article on being a POC creator in a white-dominated field. “Put one more way: white people don’t like it when we don’t do well and they don’t like it when we do. But most of all, they don’t like it when they don’t do well.” /11

5/12: Today’s rec: Mike Jung’s interview with DiversifYA. “…racial/ethnic identity has been such an active and complicated part of my individual life experience. I’m Korean-American.” I feel this so hard. /12

5/13: Today’s rec: Michi Trota’s I Don’t See Color, an essay on learning to embrace AsAm identity, which appeared in the first Invisible anthology edited by Jim C. Hines. I ❤ this so much. /13

5/14: Today’s rec: Kat Tanaka Okopnik’s essay in Invisible 2, on raising her AsAm children in a climate still rife with stereotypes and tropes. “I have two young children who are surrounded by media that are leading them to perform the very same problematic tropes about (East) Asians that I grew up around. It’s 2015. Aren’t we supposed to be done with this?”/14

5/15: Today’s rec: Dawn Xiana Moon’s essay in Invisible 3 (yes I’m promoting Invisible a lot bc it’s a great body of work). “While our society pigeonholes Asians as socially-awkward scientists, perpetual foreigners, and weak submissives, I’m determined to show Asians can be creative, tough, and unconventional.”/15

5/16: Today’s rec: Chris Fuchs’ article on the Model Minority myth and why it’s harmful bullshit. /16

5/17: Today’s rec: a roundtable discussion on Asian SFF&H from Mithila Review. Not AsAm specific, but a good discussion on Asian-origin identity, being a creator, & how this intersects with speculative fiction. /17

5/18: Today’s rec: Eunny Hong’s The Birth of Korean Cool: One Nation is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture. Memoir-ish look at S. Korean culture from a KorAm journalist born in the US who moved to Seoul for several years. /18

5/19: Now that we’re well into APAHM, it’s going to get adoptiony here. I have mixed feels about APAHM bc as a transracial adoptee it can feel like my heritage isn’t for me. I’m not the child of immigrants like many earlier recs. I’m an immigrant, but for me, adoption supplants that. Recs focus on adoption (mostly KorAm bc it me) & how it affects identity. /19a

Today’s rec: The Unknown Culture Club: Korean Adoptees, Then & Now, compiled by the Vance Twins. Powerful & at times sad, but important bc these are the words of adoptees, not adoptive parents. Not a “feel good” book. /19b

5/20: Today’s rec: Dreaming a World: Korean Birth Mothers Tell Their Stories, ed. by Sangsoon Han. The title really says it all. This is a tough read—also not a “feel good” book. It’s also the book that’s made me start considering doing a birth search. /20

5/21: Today’s rec: Invisible Asians, by Kim Park Nelson, an academic look at the KorAm adoptee experience. “…as an adoptee, you’re always going to be in between; you’re not Asian enough & you’re not white enough.” Story of my life. /21

5/22: Today’s rec: Mara Smith’s essay on adoption, its complexities, & navigating the demand of being “grateful.” Dear Adoption only publishes work by adoptees & there is a huge variety of viewpoints on the website. /22

5/23: Today’s rec: “Introduction: Rewriting Adoption,” an essay by Nicole Chung. “Adoptees are still trying to find the space to write our lives, instead of being written about.” Also, go preorder her memoir.  /23

5/24: Today’s rec: Lisa See’s The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. CW infanticide. Rare instance of me rec’ing work by writer outside adoption triad. “When did you find out you *weren’t* adopted? How do you know your mother is your birth mother?” /24

5/25: Today’s rec: Karuna Riazi’s The Gauntlet, fun MG fantasy w/great relationship dynamics between siblings, friends, & adult family. “…steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair” /25

5/26: Min Jin Lee’s Free Food for Millionaires. KorAm, child of immigrants, business school, workaholic, poor $ choices, melodramatic AF. It’s a KorAm soap opera in book form. /26

5/27: Today’s rec: Marjorie Liu’s comic/graphic novel Monstress. Beautiful art by Sana Takeda, diverse cast on so many levels (Kippa is my fave), & full of the sweary words. Hugo winner & volume 2 is a current nominee. /27

5/28: Today’s rec: Sister Heart, by Sally Morgan. A bittersweet story told in verse from the main character’s POV: an Aboriginal child stolen from her home & sent to an institution that forces assimilation /28

5/29: Today’s rec: The SEA is Ours, ed. by Jaymee Goh & Joyce Chng. Beautiful anthology of steampunk short stories from SE Asian authors. My faves: The Last Aswang & Unmaking of the Cuadro Amoroso. /29

5/30: Today’s rec: C.B. Lee’s Not Your Sidekick. YA superhero romcom w/bi Vietnamese-Chinese MC. “It’s not that her pronunciation is terrible; it’s just that she should have known it was easier not to try in the first place.” All the feels /30

5/31: We made it to the end! “How Far I’ll Go” cover by several SE Asian singers in (mostly) their native languages. Happy APAHM everyone /31

 

May Reading Challenge or, #AsianLitBingo

For May I’m planning to participate in Lit CelebrAsian’s Asian Lit Bingo reading challenge. The full post can be found here, but a quick recap is that in the US the month of May is Asian American Heritage Month and in honor of that Lit CelebrAsian has put together a reading challenge bingo card.

ETA: May is Asian Pacific Amercian Heritage Month, but I realize some readers here won’t click over to Lit CelebrAsian’s page to see their reason for keeping this Asian American specific. From the website: “*May is technically designated as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. However, a number of Pasifika activists and friends have stated that lumping together Asian Americans with Pacific Islanders results in the erasure and co-opting of PIs and that they want to have their own spaces to discuss their issues. We are respecting that and keeping the two separate for this challenge.”

Asian Lit Bingo 2018 - vers.2

They’ve also compiled an amazing (though by no means complete) list of book recommendations for every category on the bingo card, which can be found here.

I’m planning on tackling the leftmost vertical row (if you’re interested in going for prizes, the contest doesn’t require that you get 5 in a row to be eligible). My planned reads are:

East Asian MC: Rebel Seoul, by Axie Oh or Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, by Julie C. Dao or The Bone Witch, by Rin Chupeco or How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays, by Alexander Chee or Invisible Asians: Korean American Adoptees, Asian American Experiences, and Racial Exceptionalism, by Kim Park Nelson, or…I have so many that fit here. I’m leaning toward Rebel Seoul and Invisible Asians for May.

Rebel SeoulForest of a Thousand Lanterns (Rise of the Empress, #1)The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch, #1)How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: EssaysInvisible Asians: Korean American Adoptees, Asian American Experiences, and Racial Exceptionalism (Asian American Studies Today)

LGBTQ+ Asian MC: A Line in the Dark, by Malinda Lo or No More Heroes, by Michelle Kan

A Line in the DarkNo More Heroes (No More Heroes, #1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

SFF with Asian MC: The Tea Master and the Detective, by Aliette de Bodard or Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee or Jade City, by Fonda Lee or…I have so many that fit here too, including ones from the first category. I’m reading Tea Master as part of a buddy read already for May, and Raven Stratagem fits with my plan to get through as much of the Hugo noms as I can, so those two are where I’m leaning.

The Tea Master and the Detective (Xuya Universe)Raven Stratagem (The Machineries of Empire, #2)Jade City (The Green Bone Saga #1)

Graphic Novel with Asian MC: Totally Awesome Hulk series by Greg Pak. I have the first three volumes, though I’ll probably only read the first one for this particular challenge. I wish Monstress Vol. 3 was out but it’s not due until August.

The Totally Awesome Hulk Vol. 1: Cho Time

Southeast Asian MC: Not Your Sidekick, by C.B. Lee. This series has been on my radar for a while so I’m using #AsianLitBingo as the kick in the pants to get it to the top of the TBR pile. Already placed my hold through the library so there’s no going back, haha.

Not Your Sidekick

I have so many more books on my gigantic TBR pile that would fit here and in the other categories on the bingo card, but the ones listed are ones that I really am hoping to get to this year.

 

Spring Reading Recap

I’ve been trying out book bullet journaling as a way to track my thoughts and do “mini reviews” of books, and I’m liking it so far. I love the concept of bullet journaling with regard to scheduling/planning, but I tried it a few years ago and it doesn’t work very well for me and how I like to organize. But the book review journaling is working out great. Also a nice way for me to feed my new washi tape obsession.

This is just a quick recap of a few of the books I’ve read this year that have stood out for me.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande

October 2014, Metropolitan Books

Reading Challenges: Book Riot- A book on social science. Badass Reading Challenge (BRC)- A book about a problem facing society today

It’s never too early to start thinking about end of life care. While the book does focus on the ageing side of mortality, there are also examples of terminal illness affecting “young” people, and the questions raised apply to everyone. It is sad, but ultimately, I think a hopeful book. Forewarned is forearmed. However, it also perpetuates the notion that disability is awful. There are several quotes from people in the book where they refer to using a mobility aid as feeling like failure. They would rather try to walk and risk a bone-breaking fall than use a wheelchair or a cane. And, I get it, sort of, as someone who acquired disability rather than being born disabled. Losing your ability is rough, and we all deal with it in our own way and at different speeds. But, I was disappointed that the book didn’t look at how mobility aids provide independence. And no, being disabled is not a fate worse than death.

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)

Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo

September 2015, Henry Holt and Company

Reading Challenge: BRC- book about or has a character with a mental illness

This was my first introduction to Bardugo’s work, and before I’d even finished Six I ran out and bought the sequel (Crooked Kingdom), and the first in her Grishaverse trilogy (Shadow and Bone) which takes place before Six. So, yea, I enjoyed it a lot. Great worldbuilding, fast-paced heist plot, and I loved all of the characters. Also, a YA novel with romances that didn’t annoy me! No love triangles, no being crap to your friends to spend time with the love interest you barely know. The relationships were all interesting for me and I liked that they were all at different stages—new love, relationship long-time in the making, tumultuous, etc. I don’t have PTSD, but thought it was portrayed well and respectfully. Kaz’s cane usage…didn’t read as realistically for me, a former cane-user, but this is a good place to point out that disability isn’t a monolith. It didn’t stop me from enjoying this book. And, for audiobook types, the husbeast listened to this and also enjoyed it a lot. He had his misgivings going in since there are a lot of narrators (6 or 7), and that’s not usually his jam, but he thought it was handled well and has already listened to (and liked) Crooked Kingdom.

The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor, #1)

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, by Jessica Townsend

October 2017, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Reading Challenge: BRC- a book recommended by someone else in the challenge

This book is adorable. I loved the magical world, though I hope wunder is explored/explained more in the next book, because yes, there is a sequel supposedly coming out this fall and I can’t wait. I hate to call any book the “next” anything, but I think this series would be a nice successor to Harry Potter. It’s the HP for this generation of sixth graders, and beyond. There are a lot of similarities, but Nevermoor is still its own thing. I liked the characters a lot. Found Morrigan likeable and brave yet sensitive. I sympathized with her right away as she’s got to put up with some kind of heavy stuff for a middle grade book with regard to her crappy family. I’m always up for a platonic m/f friendship and got that with Morrigan and Hawthorne. But, I was disappointed that there wasn’t a positive same-age female friendship, though by the end there looks to be the start of one. Still, there’s a lot of mean girl-type rivalry going on and no same-age girls genuinely being friends.

The Ambrose Deception

The Ambrose Deception, by Emily Ecton

February 2018, Disney-Hyperion

This one isn’t part of either of the reading challenges, though in hindsight I’m realizing it would count for the BRC challenge under “a book published in 2018,” but I’m probably going to use The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton for that one. I’ve been upping my middle grade game this year and loving it. This is a clue-based mystery, and I was a little worried about how that would play out on the page. I think it worked quite well. The three main kids are all interesting and distinct from one another. I also loved the side character drivers who are assigned to each kid—they bring a level of “adult” humor to balance with the kid humor. I usually don’t like contemporary books set in a big city (*cough cough* anything set in NYC) because they tend to read like love letters to the city, and I usually haven’t been there and feel like I’m missing context for the book. This book takes place in Chicago, which I’ve never been to, and while there are some things that read like they’re Easter eggs for Chicagoans, I never felt like the location was keeping me at arm’s length. I recommend reading either the print or ebook for this one as it had a nice production budget for multiple fonts and images that tie into the story.

 

A non-reading challenge…goal, that I set for myself is to get through as much of the Nebula and Hugo nomination lists as I can. I’m nearly there with the novellas (JY Yang’s Black Tides of Heaven and Martha Wells’s All Systems Red are looking like my picks, but I still have a couple left between the lists to read), and midway through with novelettes. The short story categories are so strong for both lists. My heart is with Caroline M. Yoachim’s Carnival Nine, but all of the stories Are. So. Good. Not sure how many of the novels I’ll get through. And, what am I currently reading? Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond, because apparently, I’m good at saying “I must read X” and then promptly not reading it. I’m going to need something light and happy after this book though.