Thursday, May 31, 2018

Emergency Contact (by Mary H.K. Choi)

A charming young adult romance about Penny, a girl off to college for the first time, and Sam, a boy who works and lives in an Austin coffee shop. Their romance evolves in a realistic way, with each of them having some real issues to work through as they find intimacy with each other and work throug relationships with their parents and friends.

At first the overuse of slang is a bit off-putting ("bless," "slay, hunty!" etc.), but it doesn't take long for the reader to be completely charmed by Penny's voice (and Sam's too, but Penny is the one we really root for). By the end, I appreciated how Choi integrated contemporary slang, and the voice of the characters (whether in dialogue or by text) feels very authentic.

Also, I'm currently working on a draft of my own novel, and one thing I admired here is how Jude (who seems like a classic sidekick character) had a real story arc and dimension by the end of it. I'm working on adding depth to my characters and I found it really useful. I'm also writing one non-white character and I like how Penny's Korean-ness is clearly an integral part of her personality but not in a stereotypical, over-emphasized way. This is a novel I not only truly enjoyed, but was inspired by. So hats off to Mary H.K. Choi!

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk (by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish)

This book was recommended by my sister and her partner many years ago, and it was one of the many books I bought when Mina was a baby that I never got around to reading. But it was always on the top of my list and made it to my 2018 master to-do list, which motivated me to finally cross it off.

I definitely think it is a worthwhile read and has a lot of good tips in it. (It also validates some of the things that we are already doing.). It does feel regressive and dated at times -- for example, the cartoon fathers are doing crosswords and paying bills, while the cartoon mothers are ironing and vacuuming.  There are also kind of offhand references to hitting children as if it's a common thing to do (in my Northern Californian parent community, it is definitely not). 

I think where we could use the help as parents is in encouraging more independence and autonomy.  So I liked the tips around that, and will photocopy the cheat sheets to keep as reference. We are also guilty of "did you have fun?" and this book made me think about the downsides of that question.  I think you can pick and choose what resonates with you, but if you're a parent, I would be surprised if you didn't get at least one good tip out of this book!

Could use some updated cartoons, though.

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Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Vegetarian (by Han Kang)

The New York Times recently listed The Vegetarian as one of its top 15 books by women; I've loved most of the other books on the list that I've read (with the notable exception of Mislaid, blech) and we even had this in the house in real-life paper book form.

Well, I loved it. It's the eerie story of a Korean woman named Yeong-hye who reclaims her autonomy (after being abused by her father and dominated by her husband) by giving up meat. The story is told from the perspectives of her husband, her brother-in-law, and her sister, all of whom have various degrees of concern and a desire to control her.

As you can tell, I read it allegorically in many ways -- especially with the mirror of her sister at the end, it seems like a meditation on male rebellion to patriarchal power.  It also has beautiful, poetic imagery and is also at points quite creepy and sad. Loved it all!

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