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

 

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.

First Blog Post- Review of The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson

I’m not a professional book reviewer so these reviews may be random or digress.  I’ll point out what I liked, what I didn’t, perhaps ways I thought things should’ve gone or could’ve been improved.  Star ratings aren’t really my thing so I’ll probably “grade” more along the lines of if I’d recommend the book or not.  I make no promises about being completely objective, but I will not be mean for funsies.

The Emperor’s Soul, by Brandon Sanderson.

Pub. 10/10/2012, 176 pages, by Tachyon Publications.  Hugo Award winner- Best Novella

I had the kindle format for this book and don’t recall any formatting boo-boos.  Refreshing, because I’ve read a few books that obviously weren’t formatted correctly (or checked over) for the kindle.

Emperor’s Soul takes place in the same world as Elantris, but the novella is a stand alone and you won’t be missing anything by not having read Elantris first.  Really, the only way they’re linked is through the mentioning of ethnicity and locales encountered in Elantris. 

This story follows Shai, a thief and skilled Forger–someone who can change the history of an object using soul stamps–who has been captured during a botched attempt to steal one of the empire’s relics.  She’s facing execution, but is given the seemingly impossible task of Forging a new soul for the brain-dead emperor in 100 days in exchange for her freedom.

This is a nice and quick read.  Plenty of worldbuilding for a short work, and the magic system is well thought out.  The description of the world and magic isn’t always delivered fluidly, as there are some long passages where it’s just Shai explaining how Forgery works via dialogue to someone else.  But the detail and way Shai goes about her Forging is interesting and described well.  I did think Shai was a bit too “perfect” because there are times in the story where she’s able to figure things out with no explanation, but unable to know similar things later on.

The antagonists are a bit one-dimensional, with the exception of Gaotona and the Emperor himself, but given the short page count it makes sense.  Otherwise, Shai has no trouble dealing with the other arbiters and their minions because they fit perfectly into her presumed mold.  It was all a little too neat for me, but Shai’s real conflicts were of a more personal/philosophical nature.

The only glaring issue that stood out to me was the complete lack of attention or explanation for the Imperial Fool.  This is the guy who supposedly turned on Shai and escaped while she got caught during the switheroo they were trying to pull with the scepter relic.  If he’s the “Imperial” fool, then I’d think the arbiters would be at least a bit concerned about his role in the attempted burgling of the empire’s treasures.  I understand the story is left open for Shai to go on and hunt him down if she pleases, but it’s a bit too unbelievable that his betrayal of the empire wasn’t seen as more of a problem.  I also thought she’d try to throw him under the bus upon her capture, but apparently not.

The pace is good and moves right along.  Never felt like there was a dull moment, which is good considering this novella clocks in at less than 200 pages.  The story progresses out by the day as it counts to 100 and Shai’s deadline, which fits well for the base plot of her needing to Forge the Emperor’s soul and escape.  There’s not much of a surprise to the ending, but I thought it fit well with the tone of the story.

Recommended, and I’d love to see Sanderson return to this world and flesh it out more.