– Over at BookRiot, Swapna talks about minorities and mainstream reading:
“You don’t have to write a minority story in order to embrace a minority character.”
Thank you for that, Swapna. It’s exactly how I feel. As a Chinese Singaporean, I try to read more Asian and Southeast Asian literature, but most of the time read more, er, general works, often by American or British writers (who tend to be white). Having grown up and lived most of my life in Singapore where I wasn’t a minority (Chinese make up about 75% of the population), I never thought much about whether I read books with non-white characters. These days though, I’m far more aware of that. And I think it’s even more so when I select books for the kids. I do appreciate that the drawings are becoming more diverse, that they reflect people of different colours and backgrounds (sure wasn’t like that when I was growing up!). And there are picture books by authors like Wong Herbert Yee (Tracks in the Snow and Who Likes Rain?) which aren’t about being Asian or Asian culture but use Asian-looking children as their main characters. Of course we do enjoy books like Grace Lin’s Dim Sum for Everyone and Roseanne Thong’s Round is a Mooncake which are specifically about Chinese culture, but it is nice to be able to read them a picture book that uses a minority character to illustrate a situation that any child, no matter the colour of their skin, can relate to, such as playing in the rain.
– On a similar note, Tao Jones writes in the Wall Street Journal about the Fresh Off the Boat TV series based on Eddie Huang’s memoir, musing first about Margaret Cho’s All-American Girl series (20 years ago!):
For decades, Asians had been all but invisible on this most mass of mass media, flickering on and offscreen again in bit parts or as background scenery; when primetime deigned to include us, it was nearly always in roles that presented us as buffoons, monsters or victims (and sometimes all of the above). The idea that millions of people across the nation might be gathering to watch a show in which they’d be invited into an immigrant Asian household, experiencing our unique issues and aspirations through the humanizing lens of comedy — this was incredible. It was groundbreaking. It seemed like the culmination of decades of struggle for cultural relevance and social inclusion. And from May to September, it was all that my friends and family members could talk about.
But when the show finally arrived, all those expectations came crashing to the ground.
– Buried in Print is back after some database issues and has a great post about standalone mysteries, many of which I’ve not read yet. Onto the TBR list it goes!
– I was rather struck by that picture of Benedict Cumberbatch on the cover of Derry Moore’s An English Room, which Lynn at I prefer reading posted about. It was like, wait is that who I think it is? It sure looks like him, but it seems so more quiet and gentle than the Sherlock that I know! 😛
– Barnes and Noble Review has a nice interview with George Saunders on Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness, a revised and expanded edition of his 2013 commencement address at Syracuse University. I especially liked the last bit in the interview, where the interviewer tells Saunders that he had first met Saunders at the National Book Awards, and Saunders had been very kind to him:
Actually, that night, I got a lesson in kindness from my wife. That event is kind of exciting. You’re there with your editors and your agents, and it’s really exciting. Then, when you don’t win, you feel a bit like, “Oh God, I’m in public and I just didn’t win.” Just a little bit. But afterwards, my wife just said, “Let’s dance.” I went, “Well…” She says, “Yeah, come on. I got all dressed up. We’re gonna dance.”
BNR: You can’t ask for better than that.
GS: No, exactly. It was a physical cure to whatever whininess or hurt feelings I had, whatever was embarrassing and uncomfortable. She fixed it with this physical gesture of taking my hand. “Let’s go dance.” You dance for two minutes and you’re like, “Yeah, we’re happy.” She used to be a ballet dancer, so her way of being in the world is very physical, very joyful. I remember thinking, “I don’t want to dance; it’s embarrassing; I’m not going to…” But then I couldn’t say no. She looked so beautiful. I’m not going to say no to her. Within a couple of minutes, you’re back to yourself again. And I didn’t do that. She did it. So that’s marriage. A good marriage.
– Cheese, vegetable and egg muffins at Averie Cooks
– The James Beard Award for best cookbooks
– I just made oatmeal cookies (half chocolate chip, half raisin and coconut) and now I wish I had seen this recipe for brown butter chocolate chip cookies from Joy the Baker. Yum
– I’ve never cooked polenta or fennel before but this recipe (and the lovely photos) makes me want to give them both a try!
– Garlic Roasted Tomatoes with Fish sounds like what I need to make for dinner another day!
– Mmmm, laksa. I miss that rich spicy coconutty broth.
– Check out these crazy-luxurious suites on an airplane!!
I was always delighted to see pictures of Chinese looking children in books – even those terrible primers we used to use at Saturday school to learn how to read Chinese. My children love the plot and setting of Monsters Inc, but I think the fact that Boo looks a bit Chinese really added to the charm for them.
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