While AAPI month is more of an American event, I wanted to highlight some Asian diaspora from Singapore. I’m from Singapore although I’ve lived in the US for over ten years now. But like many other Chinese Singaporeans, my great-grandparents came from China. And I still have distant relatives who live in China, although I’ve never met them and likely never will.
In case you’re not familiar, about 75% of Singapore’s population is ethnically Chinese. About 15% are Malays, 7.5% Indians, and 1.5% Others (these are the official term used).
Are Singaporeans diaspora? Yes, although Singapore is part of Asia, our ancestors migrated from China to Singapore, and there they stayed and started families.
What am I? I’m Singaporean, I’m Chinese, I’m Southeast Asian. But living in the US has made me realize that the term “Chinese” is more closely related to China than what it means in Singapore. So at times when I have to fill in a form and tick off my ethnicity, my pen hovers over “Chinese”. Am I Chinese here? Because there’s also other boxes like Taiwanese, Indonesian, Malaysian etc. Maybe I should just be Singaporean. My kids, after all, have declared themselves “Ameriporean”.
Well, after reading this I’m definitely recommending that you NOT watch Inventing Anna on Netflix.
The Hawthorne Legacy – Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The second book in the Inheritance Games series.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club – Malinda Lo
I loved this one about a teenager living in Chinatown in 1954. Its focus is on the coming of age of a Chinese-American lesbian.
Klara and the Sun – Kazuo Ishiguro
A very disappointing read.
Chef Yasmina and the Potato Panic – Wauter Manner
A fun comic about a young chef and a strange snack problem.
Falling Short – Ernesto Cisneros
A middle-grade novel about fitting in and basketball.
The Love Con – Seressia Glass
A cosplay reality TV show!
The Maid – Nita Prose
I listened to this one. But I didn’t really like the main character.
The Cartographers – Peng Shepherd
I was quite fascinated by this one. It has to do with maps and places hidden in maps. But the characters… I felt little for them.
Intimacies – Katie Kitamura
An audiobook that worked well for me. Fiction audiobooks are never really my thing as I can get distracted easily. But this story set in The Hague with an interpreter as the main character held onto me.
Hide and Geek – T.P. Jagger
A cute middle-grade novel about a group of geeks helping to save their town by solving puzzles.
I guess 5-hour airplane rides are good for reading books. I finished Sea of Tranquility by Emily St John Mandel and was rather impressed by it, although her previous book The Glass Hotel didn’t quite do it for me.
But this time travel pandemic novel really just held on to me and wouldn’t let go. Maybe it was me sitting in an airplane wearing a mask and on the other side of the aisle, the man and his teenaged son were maskless, like maybe about half of the other passengers.
We had traveled to Hawaii when masks were required on airplanes. And flew out of Big Island with most people not wearing masks. We’re still in the midst of this thing, are we not?
This passage in the book especially made me sit up and reread it:
“Pandemics don’t approach like wars, with the distant thud of artillery growing louder every day and flashes of bombs on the horizon. They arrive in retrospect, essentially. It’s disorientating. The pandemic is far away and then it’s all around you, with seemingly no intermediate step.”
I don’t want to give you a synopsis of the story. I went into it not really knowing much about it. And I think that’s the best way of reading this book. Pull on your mask and plunge in.
The husband and I have been talking about visiting Hawaii for quite a few years now. I had been to Maui and Honolulu with my mum 16 years ago when her friend’s son got married. And the husband had been when he was a kid with his family. But we had never gone together. So we finally decided it was time! It was a first trip for all of us to Big Island. And we wanted to make sure we did as much as we could!
The boat ride is only a few minutes, luckily, as it’s quite scary being out in the ocean at night. We were very lucky to have good weather. The waves were not too choppy, although they seemed to get more choppy as we left the area. According to the crew, the hotel near the harbor has been shining lights into the ocean for years now. This has resulted in manta rays coming to the area to feed on the plankton that’s attracted to the lights. The night snorkel excursion has us snorkelers hanging onto a large surfboard that has lights attached underneath. The manta rays swim directly under the board, doing backflips, even brushing up against us a few times!
We also did a regular snorkel excursion to the Captain Cook cove. This was a good place for the kids to try snorkelling for the first time as it’s a sheltered cove and the current was gentle.
Volcano National Park
What a stunning national park this is. It’s on the east side of the island, near Hilo. So it was a 2 hour drive from where we were staying (near Waikoloa). But it was worth the drive. We decided to go in the afternoon and stay until sunset so that we could see the lava glow. There’s so much to see at the park. Like petroglyphs.
I like to make the cake layers ahead of time and freeze them. So that way I won’t get too flustered by having to do too many things on one day! It helps that we have a large upright freezer in the garage.
This time I added some chocolate ganache to go on top.
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Really we should all be advocating for Black Forest cake as breakfast food. There’s calcium in the whipped cream, vitamins and nutrients in the cherries, protein and carbs in the cake, antioxidants in the chocolate, and more. Make cake your breakfast today (or everyday)!
(Also helps when you eat it while reading a hot book like A Lot Like Adios. All that steaminess you read helps burn calories).
I really needed a book like The Turning Pointe at this moment. Dance! 1980s! Prince!
Rosa is a student at a ballet academy, where her father is ballet master. She’s also obsessed with Prince, who happens to be training upstairs for a performance. And the ballet students get a chance to audition for this very concert that the Purple One will be headlining.
I loved Rosa and following along with her struggles as she tries to figure out her own path. Her family is all ballet. And while she’s a star ballet student, there’s a part of her that wants to try something different.
This was an incredible debut. Loved all the 80s vibes and all the wonderful diverse characters.
Ah the things that one does for the book photos. Like going to the doughnut shop. Picking out doughnut flavours. Eating those doughnuts.
All for a book that features a baker and a meet-cute with an actor. He bumps into her and knocks over a batch of matcha tiramisu doughnuts. Alas, this was just your regular Krispy Kreme and their most exciting flavour that day was probably the maple doughnut.
So a (minor) movie star and a baker. Ryan Kwok joins a TV baking competition and hires Lindsay McLeod to teach him so that he won’t flop completely on the show. Of course he thinks she’s cute. And for him, well, let’s just say that he’s trending on Twitter for his abs.
Romance aside, there’s quite a bit going on in this book.
First, grief and death. Ryan’s mom died unexpectedly a few months ago. She’s the glue that held the family together. And now it feels like his family is coming apart. Ryan’s sister just gave birth. His father is just absent and unavailable, except for snarky tweets on his own account (@RyanKwoksFather).
And while this is a romance, and romances are all about the main characters, can I just say that I adored the growth of the father-son relationship? Asian fathers of a certain age tend to be stoic and stubborn, and it was encouraging to see how hard Ryan tried to get his father involved and being part of the family again.
Also, I liked how this book discussed their Asian heritage. Lindsay’s mom is Chinese and was born in Canada. Her father wanted them to be Canadian, to assimilate, “but at school, nobody could see me as being just like the other kids”. She felt different from the other Chinese who arrived later in life, or those who lived in Chinatown. She didn’t go to weekend Chinese school, she couldn’t read or write Chinese, and could barely speak it.
For Ryan, it’s about the movies he’s in. His latest movie didn’t bomb but the reviews and ticket sales weren’t great. He’s worried that he’s now potentially made a mess for other Asian actors: “Movies about guys like him weren’t allowed to flop. People would point at this single movie as proof that no more like it should be made.”
Donut Fall in Love was a sweet read. It’ll make you crave baked goods – cupcakes, donuts, cakes, cookies. Not just matcha tiramisu doughnuts, but orange cardamom, chocolate raspberry, creme brûlée doughnuts, salted caramel cupcakes, lemon meringue cupcakes, and Nanaimo bars (which I’ve never had and am curious about! But also it sounds super sweet).
I have to admit that I went into this book with zero expectations – aside from being surrounded by lots of doughnuts. And emerged satisfied and delighted by the family dynamics, a different setting (Toronto bakery), cute banter, abs, the doughnut-beer pairing event, and a Nailed It!-like baking show.
Good things come in small packages. Like dim sum. Siu Mai and Har Gow are perfect one or two bite dumplings, any bigger and they just seem a bit too much.
And in Ghost Forest, the scenes and vignettes, are sometimes just one or two pages. Sometimes not even reaching one page. But they convey so much.
This is the story of a family that moves from Hong Kong to Canada before the 1997 Handover. The dad remains in Hong Kong to work. He’s known as an “astronaut father”, visiting his family for Lunar New Year.
The story opens with 21 days after the father’s death, and the daughter watches a bird perched on her balcony. She says, “Hi Dad”. That made me think of that huge moth that stayed in our house for a few days after my grandfather’s funeral. Some Chinese people believe that moths are the spirits of your dead loved ones visiting you. And maybe that’s just superstition or us clinging to any little symbol that brings us meaning, but somehow that brought some comfort.
At 272 pages, this is a short and simply written book, but it’s best if you take your time with it. I tend to be a fast reader, so when reading a book like this, I’m forced to slow down, to take a pause between these segments and reflect on them.
Ghost Forest is a quiet and soft read but it managed to wring out all these emotions from me via its spare prose and blank space.