Life in the time of COVID-19

We are under lockdown. Schools have been closed. People are working from home. Non-essential businesses are closed. Restaurants are takeout or delivery only. I’m going to try to update this blog a bit with what’s happening in our locked-down house with two kids aged 6 and 8, one in first grade, the other in third grade, and me forced to homeschool them.

Luckily with the third grader, his teachers have been familiar with the online world for a while now. They’ve been running a class website for a few years, the kids use Google Classroom and a variety of online apps and websites like Newsela, Seesaw, iChineseReader. So really, it’s a bit like being in school. The first grade teachers had to scramble over the weekend, making videos of the work they do in class, like the writing of the Chinese characters and Math work. First of all, I should explain that my kids attend a Mandarin immersion programme in a public elementary school. They start off in kindergarten with 90% Mandarin, 10% English, and every year, the Mandarin percentage decreases slightly, so in first grade it is 80-20 Mandarin-English, and with the third grader, it’s 60-40.

So in terms of Math work, it’s all in Mandarin, but their books are the standard California Common Core texts in English. Quite a few parents don’t actually speak Mandarin so it’s helpful to have the kids watch the Mandarin-language Math videos from their teacher. In my case, I learnt Mandarin as a second language (or as Singapore calls it, Mother Tongue), since Primary One until I was 18. But everything else taught in Singapore was in English, so I am a bit clueless when it comes to teaching Math in Mandarin.

The teachers have done an amazing job in such a short time and the parents have also been helping each other out, starting WhatsApp groups and asking questions and getting answers.

And the variety of online activities we have these days, we work on Mystery Science videos and activities (you can sign up for a free account valid until June), we watch Brainpop videos (also has free access for those with closed schools) and answer their quizzes. I’ve also resorted to Netflix which has Mandarin language options for some kids shows like Magic School Bus – it’s a combination of science class and Mandarin class!

We take time to go out and have some exercise and fresh air – the PE teachers have asked us to keep a log of sorts for at least 20 minutes of physical education a day. And reading time of course. But sometimes we just need a random break, so we dance, we sing, we jump around, we check on classmates via Zoom conference call.

How are things going on your side of the world? Let me know how you’re doing!

 

Library Loot (March 18 to 24)

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

 

Hello from day 3 of COVID19-no-school-for-three-weeks-or-possibly-more.

The county I live in is under lockdown until April 7 and so all libraries are closed!

Today we will be trying out something new – piano class via FaceTime! The music school location is closed for the same two weeks so the piano teacher is trying out online classes for now. Hopefully it works. Our piano is located in the part of our house which has the worst wifi signal, although the husband added a repeater so we will see how that goes!

How are things going in your part of the world? Are you working from home? Are your kids (if any) home?

Meanwhile, link up your library loot here or let me know in the comments. Stay safe, stay healthy!

My first Sanderson. Not sure if this is the right one to start with? Oh well, that’s what I’ve borrowed!

The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) – Brandon Sanderson

Where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. Criminal mastermind Kelsier teaches Allomancy, the magic of metals, to another Mistborn, urchin Vin 16. The unlikely heroine is distracted by rich Venture heir Elend. Can Kelsier’s thieving crew take on the tyrant Lord Ruler and bring back colour to their world?

The Pomegranate Lady and her Sons – Goli Taraghi

Rich in characters both whimsical and deeply poignant, humorous and real, the stories of Goli Taraghi have made her one of the world’s most beloved contemporary writers from Iran. A best-selling author in her native country and widely anthologized in the United States and around the world, Taraghi’s work is now made fully accessible to an English-speaking audience in this standout and long-awaited volume of selected stories.

Drawing on childhood experiences in Tehran during the reign of the Shah, her exile in Paris, and her subsequent visits to Tehran after the revolution, Taraghi develops characters and tales that linger in one’s mind. In the title story, a woman traveling from Tehran to Paris is obliged to help an old woman–the Pomegranate Lady–find her way to her fugitive sons in Sweden. In “The Gentleman Thief,” a new kind of polite, apologetic thief emerges from the wreckage of the revolution. In “Encounter,” a woman’s world is upended when her former maid becomes her jailer. And in “The Flowers of Shiraz,” a group of teenagers finally manages to coax a shy schoolmate out of her shell–only to once again encounter tragedy.

Reminiscent of the work of Nadine Gordimer and Eudora Welty, Taraghi’s stories capture universal experiences of love, loss, alienation, and belonging–all with an irresistible sense of life’s absurdities

 

As for the kids’ loot, I’m going digital this week, although I don’t like having them read ebooks too much. And you may think I’m paranoid but I think it’s important right now to just stay home, keep to ourselves, practise social distancing.

 

What did you get from your library this week?

Spring TBR list #TopTenTuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is:

Spring 2020 TBR

 

Well, I don’t know if I will be able to get my hands on all these books but these are the March and April releases that have caught my eye! In case you’re new to my blog, I tend towards books by women writers, translated literature, and/or Asian writers.

Have any of these books caught your eye too?

 

The City We Became (Great Cities #1) – NK Jemisin

Five New Yorkers must come together in order to defend their city in the first book of a stunning new series by Hugo award-winning and NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin.

Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five.

But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all

The Beauty of Your Face – Sahar Mustafah

A Palestinian American woman wrestles with faith, loss, and identity before coming face-to-face with a school shooter in this searing debut.

A uniquely American story told in powerful, evocative prose, The Beauty of Your Face navigates a country growing ever more divided. Afaf Rahman, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, is the principal of Nurrideen School for Girls, a Muslim school in the Chicago suburbs. One morning, a shooter—radicalized by the online alt-right—attacks the school.

As Afaf listens to his terrifying progress, we are swept back through her memories: the bigotry she faced as a child, her mother’s dreams of returning to Palestine, and the devastating disappearance of her older sister that tore her family apart. Still, there is the sweetness of the music from her father’s oud, and the hope and community Afaf finally finds in Islam.

The Beauty of Your Face is a profound and poignant exploration of one woman’s life in a nation at odds with its ideals.

The Night Watchman – Louise Erdrich

Based on the extraordinary life of National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich’s  grandfather who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington, D.C., this powerful novel explores themes of love and death with lightness and gravity and unfolds with the elegant prose, sly humor, and depth of feeling of a master craftsman.

Thomas Wazhashk is the night watchman at the jewel bearing plant, the first factory located near the Turtle Mountain Reservation in rural North Dakota. He is also a Chippewa Council member who is trying to understand the consequences of a new “emancipation” bill on its way to the floor of the United States Congress. It is 1953 and he and the other council members know the bill isn’t about freedom; Congress is fed up with Indians. The bill is a “termination” that threatens the rights of Native Americans to their land and their very identity. How can the government abandon treaties made in good faith with Native Americans “for as long as the grasses shall grow, and the rivers run”?

Since graduating high school, Pixie Paranteau has insisted that everyone call her Patrice. Unlike most of the girls on the reservation, Patrice, the class valedictorian, has no desire to wear herself down with a husband and kids. She makes jewel bearings at the plant, a job that barely pays her enough to support her mother and brother. Patrice’s shameful alcoholic father returns home sporadically to terrorize his wife and children and bully her for money. But Patrice needs every penny to follow her beloved older sister, Vera, who moved to the big city of Minneapolis. Vera may have disappeared; she hasn’t been in touch in months, and is rumored to have had a baby. Determined to find Vera and her child, Patrice makes a fateful trip to Minnesota that introduces her to unexpected forms of exploitation and violence, and endangers her life.

Thomas and Patrice live in this impoverished reservation community along with young Chippewa boxer Wood Mountain and his mother Juggie Blue, her niece and Patrice’s best friend Valentine, and Stack Barnes, the white high school math teacher and boxing coach who is hopelessly in love with Patrice.

 

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 – Cho Nam-Joo, translated from the Korean by Jamie Chang

In a small, tidy apartment on the outskirts of the frenzied metropolis of Seoul, Kim Jiyoung—a millennial “everywoman”—spends her days caring for her infant daughter. Her husband, however, worries over a strange symptom that has recently appeared: Jiyoung has begun to impersonate the voices of other women—dead and alive, both known and unknown to her. Truly, flawlessly, completely, she became that very person. As she plunges deeper into this psychosis, Jiyoung’s concerned husband sends her to a psychiatrist, who listens to her narrate her own life story—from her birth to a family who expected a son, to elementary school teachers who policed girls’ outfits, to male coworkers who installed hidden cameras in women’s restrooms and posted the photos online. But can her doctor cure her, or even discover what truly ails her? Rendered in eerie prose, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 announces the arrival of a major international writer.

The Glass Hotel – Emily St John Mandel 

From the award-winning author of Station Eleven, a captivating novel of money, beauty, white-collar crime, ghosts, and moral compromise in which a woman disappears from a container ship off the coast of Mauritania and a massive Ponzi scheme implodes in New York, dragging countless fortunes with it.

Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass and cedar palace on an island in British Columbia. Jonathan Alkaitis works in finance and owns the hotel. When he passes Vincent his card with a tip, it’s the beginning of their life together. That same day, Vincent’s half-brother, Paul, scrawls a note on the windowed wall of the hotel: “Why don’t you swallow broken glass.” Leon Prevant, a shipping executive for a company called Neptune-Avramidis, sees the note from the hotel bar and is shaken to his core. Thirteen years later Vincent mysteriously disappears from the deck of a Neptune-Avramidis ship. Weaving together the lives of these characters, The Glass Hotel moves between the ship, the skyscrapers of Manhattan, and the wilderness of northern Vancouver Island, painting a breathtaking picture of greed and guilt, fantasy and delusion, art and the ghosts of our pasts.

How to Pronounce Knife – Souvankham Thammavongsa

In the title story of Souvankham Thammavongsa’s debut collection, a young girl brings a book home from school and asks her father to help her pronounce a tricky word, a simple exchange with unforgettable consequences. Thammavongsa is a master at homing in on moments like this — moments of exposure, dislocation, and messy feeling that push us right up against the limits of language.
The stories that make up How to Pronounce Knife focus on characters struggling to find their bearings in unfamiliar territory, or shuttling between idioms, cultures, and values. A failed boxer discovers what it truly means to be a champion when he starts painting nails at his sister’s salon. A young woman tries to discern the invisible but immutable social hierarchies at a chicken processing plant. A mother coaches her daughter in the challenging art of worm harvesting.
In a taut, visceral prose style that establishes her as one of the most striking and assured voices of her generation, Thammavongsa interrogates what it means to make a living, to work, and to create meaning.

Braised Pork – An Yu

One autumn morning, Jia Jia walks into the bathroom of her lavish Beijing apartment to find her husband dead. One minute she was breakfasting with him and packing for an upcoming trip, the next, she finds him motionless in their half-full bathtub. Like something out of a dream, next to the tub Jia Jia discovers a pencil sketch of a strange watery figure, an image that swims into Jia Jia’s mind and won’t leave.

The mysterious drawing launches Jia Jia on an odyssey across contemporary Beijing, from its high-rise apartments to its hidden bars, as her path crosses some of the people who call the city home, including a jaded bartender who may be able to offer her the kind of love she had long thought impossible. Unencumbered by a marriage that had constrained her, Jia Jia travels into her past to try to discover things that were left unsaid by the people closest to her. Her journey takes her to the high plains of Tibet, and even to a shadowy, watery otherworld, a place she both yearns and fears to go.

Exquisitely attuned to the complexities of human connection, and an atmospheric and cinematic evocation of middle-class urban China, An Yu’s Braised Pork explores the intimate strangeness of grief, the indelible mysteries of unseen worlds, and the energizing self-discovery of a newly empowered young woman.

 


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018.

 

 

 

It’s Monday and school is closed

 

Happy Monday to you! This is day one of COVID19 school closures. Our district’s schools have been closed for the next two weeks, although the surrounding school districts have planned longer closures of between 3 to 4 weeks so I suspect that this two week closure may end up being longer?? At any rate, we are waiting for more information from the school and teachers about what we are supposed to do, as the school closure announcement only came late Friday afternoon after school was out. Luckily my third grader’s teachers are very adept at online stuff, as they use Google Classroom in class, and they have been maintaining a class website for a few years now. But all the teachers sent the kids home with whatever workbooks they had in class so we will just await instructions!

Meanwhile, it was a very wet weekend, a much appreciated wet weekend! So a lot of staying in, Legos, baking, cooking, reading, and of course, Netflix.

 

Made some laksa using a premade paste and udon noodles

 

Currently…

 

Reading:

 

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

 

The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson

 

 

Watching:

Ford vs Ferrari (the husband’s choice)

Listening:

Double Cup Love by Eddie Huang

Eating:

Chocolate olive oil cake

Drinking:

Nespresso

Cooking:

I’ve got some tangzhong-style milk bread in the oven and I made laksa for lunch.

This week, I plan on making shepherd’s pie, maybe some chicken curry. Pasta probably.

Browsing:

Observer critics suggest ways to while away the long days of self-isolation during the coronavirus crisis

24 new books we couldn’t put down (Buzzfeed)

Playing scrabble in a pandemic (Slate)

Marjan Kamali on visiting the homes of her readers (Lit Hub)

Last week:

I read:

The Right Swipe – Alisha Rai
Empty Hearts – Julie Zeh
The Threads of the Heart – Carole Martinez

I posted:

Library Loot (March 11 to 17)

Review: Know My Name by Chanel Miller

 

 

badge
It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date

 

Library Loot (March 11 to 17)

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

 

Happy Wednesday!

Claire has the link-up this week

 

The cover doesn’t attract me, but the description does! Also, this is a “skip-the-line” ebook loan so I only have 7 days to read it! Oh the pressure…

Gideon the Ninth – Tamsyn Muir

Gideon the Ninth is the most fun you’ll ever have with a skeleton.

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.

Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as necromantic skeletons. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.

 

The Sweetest Fruits – Monique Truong

A Greek woman tells of how she willed herself out of her father’s cloistered house, married an Irish officer in the British Army, and came to Ireland with her two-year-old son in 1852, only to be forced to leave without him soon after. An African American woman, born into slavery on a Kentucky plantation, makes her way to Cincinnati after the Civil War to work as a boarding house cook, where in 1872 she meets and marries an up-and-coming newspaper reporter. In Matsue, Japan, in 1891, a former samurai’s daughter is introduced to a newly arrived English teacher, and becomes the mother of his four children and his unsung literary collaborator.

The lives of writers can often best be understood through the eyes of those who nurtured them and made their work possible. In The Sweetest Fruits, these three women tell the story of their time with Lafcadio Hearn, a globetrotting writer best known for his books about Meiji-era Japan. In their own unorthodox ways, these women are also intrepid travelers and explorers. Their accounts witness Hearn’s remarkable life but also seek to witness their own existence and luminous will to live unbounded by gender, race, and the mores of their time. Each is a gifted storyteller with her own precise reason for sharing her story, and together their voices offer a revealing, often contradictory portrait of Hearn. With brilliant sensitivity and an unstinting eye, Truong illuminates the women’s tenacity and their struggles in a novel that circumnavigates the globe in the search for love, family, home, and belonging.

I found this on the New Arrivals shelves.

Dear Scarlet: The Story of my Postpartum Depression – Teresa Wong

In this intimate and moving graphic memoir, Teresa Wong writes and illustrates the story of her struggle with postpartum depression in the form of a letter to her daughter Scarlet. Equal parts heartbreaking and funny, Dear Scarlet perfectly captures the quiet desperation of those suffering from PPD and the profound feelings of inadequacy and loss. As Teresa grapples with her fears and anxieties and grasps at potential remedies, coping mechanisms, and her mother’s Chinese elixirs, we come to understand one woman’s battle against the cruel dynamics of postpartum depression.

Dear Scarlet is a poignant and deeply personal journey through the complexities of new motherhood, offering hope to those affected by PPD, as well as reassurance that they are not alone.

Double Cup Love: On the Trail of Family, Food, and Broken Hearts in China – Eddie Huang (audiobook, read by the author)

In the follow-up to his bestselling coming-of-age memoir Fresh Off the Boat, now a hit show on ABC, celebrity chef Eddie Huang tells a powerful story about love and family and what really makes us who we are. After growing up in a wild first-generation immigrant family in the comically hostile world of suburban America, Huang begins to wonder just how authentic his Chinese identity really is. So he enlists his brothers Emery and Evan and returns to the country his ancestors abandoned. His immediate goal is to sample China’s best food and see if his cooking measures up to local tastes—but his deeper goals are to reconnect with his homeland, repair his frayed family relationships, decide whether to marry his all-American (well, all-Italian-American) girlfriend, and figure out just where to find meaning in his life.

The kids’ loot:

What did you get from your library this week?

 

Review: Know My Name by Chanel Miller

I’ve been struggling with this, trying to figure out the best way to write about this book.

What can one say, what should one say, when reading this? It’s not an easy book to read, but it is such a brave and powerful book.

I soon learned that I couldn’t read this in bed, I couldn’t read this before falling asleep as it made me very tense, it made me grit my teeth while reading it, it made my head full of thoughts, angry thoughts, swirling around and keeping me awake instead of lulling me into a deep sleep. I learned to read it in the daylight.

“They were deciding whether I’d make a good victim: is her character upstanding, does she seem durable, will the jury find her likeable, while she stay with us moving forward. I walked out feeling like, You got the job! I did not want this job. I wanted my old life. But let him walk away? I could not let it happen. Pressing charges was my choice, they’d say, but sometimes you feel you don’t have one.”

As I read it, I kept thinking, but this is so readable. It reads so easily, it reads so beautifully. But really, why am I reading this at all? Why did this book exist? Because of Brock Turner, a man, a vile person who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman behind a dumpster on the campus at Stanford University. And a judge, who decided that putting this man in jail for six months was enough punishment for such a deed. He was released three months early.

As a review in The Atlantic put it: “When trauma is transformed into art, there will always be a paradox at play: The art’s existence is beautiful. But it shouldn’t have to exist at all.”

So many people have written about this book more eloquently than I can. So I’ll point you to Book Marks, which has already put together links to reviews of this book.

“His fault, her fault. How quickly victims must begin fighting, converting feelings into logic, navigating the legal system, the intrusion of strangers, the relentless judgment. How do I protect my life? From the investigators? The reporters? I was being equipped with a prosecutor, going into battle, but no one could tell me how to hold all this hostility, this wrecking sadness.”

What I can tell you is what I took away from this piece of writing. This is an important book by a brave young woman. This is also a brutal read. It is precise, unflinching, as Miller takes us through the whole process – being swabbed, photographed, examined all over at the rape processing rooms; and that ridiculously time-consuming legal process. I didn’t really follow the news at the time, so it was disheartening to see how the media portrayed both Miller and Turner.

“They counted my drinks and counted the seconds Brock could swim two hundred yards, topped the article with a picture of Brock wearing a tie; it could’ve doubled as his LinkedIn profile.”

Know my Name is powerful, heartbreaking and infuriating (teeth-clenching and all), and I am full of admiration for Miller who writes her story with such wit and determination.

 

 

It’s Monday (March 9)

 

 

 

Shopping in the time of COVID-19: very little rice left at the Asian supermarket on a Sunday. Luckily I was only looking to pick up some brown rice (which I didn’t find the right brand of) as I have enough jasmine rice and short grain rice at home (for now!).

I did however have problems finding the kind of noodles I wanted. There were still instant noodles but not the rice noodles I wanted.

We had some rain on Saturday after weeks of dry weather. February is usually the wet month but it was so dry. The gorgeous rainbow (actually a double but I couldn’t quite capture that in the car) was a nice end to a rainy day.

 

 

Currently…

 

Reading:

The Right Swipe – Alisha Rai

 

 

Watching:

Parks & Recreation. I’ve never seen it!

Eating:

Homemade raisin bread

Drinking:

Tea

 

Last week:

I read:

Know My Name – Chanel Miller

Night Sky with Exit Wounds – Ocean Vuong

I posted:

 

Library Loot (March 4 to 10)

#TopTenTuesday: Single-word Titles

 

badge
It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date