Book Beginnings/Friday 56 – The Calculating Stars

 

Beginning:

Do you remember where you were when the Meteor hit? I’ve never understood why people phrase it as a question, because of course you remember.

 

56:

Oh, we were all pretending like it was business as usual, but you could have ignited the atmosphere in the glassed-in viewing area above Mission Control. I wasn’t on duty this shift, but there was no way I was going to miss the launch.

 

 

Fridays are for Book Beginnings on Rose City Reader, Friday 56 on Freda’s Voice

 

 

 

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Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong

I came across this book via the 500 Great Books by Women Group on Goodreads. It’s a group that discusses the list in the book by Erica Bauermeister. It’s also a list on List Challenges if you like ticking off things online and that sort of thing.

And like in Family Trust by Kathy Wang, a book I was also reading at around the same time, it’s a book set in San Francisco. Unlike the 2018-published Family Trust, Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong was originally published in 1945, and it’s quite telling of its time, with a 73 year difference between publication of these two books.

Fifth Chinese Daughter is an autobiography but is written more like a novel. And it has a rather educational tone to it, like it’s trying to teach the (presumably) white person reading it. So as a modern Chinese-Singaporean reading this book, it sometimes is amusing but more often it feels a bit heavy-handed and didactic.

I must admire Wong’s life and her determination to be educated and find a career. It wasn’t easy at that time for women, and I must imagine, even more so for a Chinese woman living in the US. Her father, while pushing education, especially Chinese-language education, when she was younger, is unwilling to pay for college, as he’s already paying for her brother’s medical school.

“You are quite familiar by now with the fact that it is the sons who perpetuate our ancestral heritage by permanently bearing the Wong family name and transmitting it through their blood line, and therefore the songs must have priority over the daughters when parental provision for advantages must be limited by economic necessity. Generations of sons, bearing our Wong name, are those who make pilgrimages to ancestral burial grounds and preserve them forever. Our daughters leave home at marriage to give sons to their husbands’ families to carry on the heritage for other names.”

She then begins working as a housekeeper for various families and manages to also find herself a scholarship to a college.

It’s an interesting account of various Chinese traditions, such as a funeral, a baby’s first full month with red eggs (which is something that Chinese families in Singapore still do) and pickled pigs’ feet (that was new to me).

Fifth Chinese Daughter may be a bit dated but it does offer an insight into the life of a young Chinese-American growing up in San Francisco at the time and trying to find a balance between her traditional Chinese upbringing and the more American lifestyle she’s becoming accustomed to as she goes to school and finds a career for herself.

This is my read for Back to the Classics – Classic From a Place You’ve Lived as it’s set in the San Francisco Bay Area

 

Library Loot (February 20 to 26)

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!

Hope you all are having a great week! It’s actually been a sunny week here in the Bay Area. Chilly still but sunny. Can’t wait for it to be warm enough for outside reading!

The Calculating Stars – Mary Robinette Kowal

Claire’s post reminded me of this new series by Kowal and I’m excited to borrow it!

A meteor decimates the U.S. government and paves the way for a climate cataclysm that will eventually render the earth inhospitable to humanity. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated timeline in the earth’s efforts to colonize space, as well as an unprecedented opportunity for a much larger share of humanity to take part.

One of these new entrants in the space race is Elma York, whose experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too – aside from some pesky barriers like thousands of years of history and a host of expectations about the proper place of the fairer sex. And yet, Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions may not stand a chance.

PS I Still Love You – Jenny Han

I recently watched the Netflix movie (it was cute) and thought that I should read the rest of the books!

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.
She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

 

 

The Perfectionists : How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World – Simon Winchester (audiobook)

This is the year of me listening to more audiobooks! I’ve listened to six audiobooks (all nonfiction) so far!

The revered New York Times bestselling author traces the development of technology from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age to explore the single component crucial to advancement–precision–in a superb history that is both an homage and a warning for our future.

The rise of manufacturing could not have happened without an attention to precision. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in eighteenth-century England, standards of measurement were established, giving way to the development of machine tools–machines that make machines. Eventually, the application of precision tools and methods resulted in the creation and mass production of items from guns and glass to mirrors, lenses, and cameras–and eventually gave way to further breakthroughs, including gene splicing, microchips, and the Hadron Collider.

Simon Winchester takes us back to origins of the Industrial Age, to England where he introduces the scientific minds that helped usher in modern production: John Wilkinson, Henry Maudslay, Joseph Bramah, Jesse Ramsden, and Joseph Whitworth. It was Thomas Jefferson who later exported their discoveries to the fledgling United States, setting the nation on its course to become a manufacturing titan. Winchester moves forward through time, to today’s cutting-edge developments occurring around the world, from America to Western Europe to Asia

 

The kids’ loot:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What did you get from your library this week?

 

This post contains affiliate links from Book Depository.  If you buy via these links it means I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you). 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I loved with <2000 Goodreads ratings

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is:

 Books I LOVED with Fewer than 2,000 Ratings on Goodreads

(links are to Goodreads)

 

The Lost Garden by Li Ang (26 ratings)

This book by Taiwanese author Li Ang was originally published in 1991 and this edition, translated from the Chinese, was published in 2015. My thoughts here

The Perfect Egg by Aldo Buzzi (63 ratings)

I read this in 2007 and rated it 4 stars. It’s a short read with various essays on food.

Flight by Oona Frawley (77 ratings)

I wrote in my review: Flight takes time to get into. But when you do get into it, it is a gem. It is a story about feeling lost, both within the world and within themselves. It is unsettling, it is emotional. It is a thoughtful story that makes you examine your own life, your own situation, and where you belong

Read the rest of my thoughts here

Naming Monsters by Hannah Eaton (81 ratings)

A really interesting graphic novel about a teenager dealing with the death of her mother

The Old Garden by Hwang Sok-yong (124 ratings)

I wrote in my review: “The Old Garden is essentially a just-out-of-prison story. A political prisoner,  Oh Hyun Woo, is released after twenty years and he discovers how much life has changed on the outside. It’s not about learning about new technology that kind of thing. But a reflection on how South Korea has changed over the years. Hyun Woo also discovers that the woman he loved is dead, but he finds her letters and paintings and learns about her life in the past twenty years.”

Read the rest of my review here

The Cosmopolites: The Coming of the Global Citizen – Atossa Araxia Abrahamian (134 ratings)

A great quick (162 pages) nonfiction read about citizenship and globalization. A rare nonfiction read which felt like it could have been longer.

The Fourth Star: Dispatches from Inside Daniel Boulud’s Celebrated New York Restaurant by Leslie Brenner (139 ratings)

A great read for anyone interested in the restaurant scene. Read my review here

 

 

 


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 it’s a long weekend

 

So we had these great plans to go up to Tahoe with friends and all four kids would take ski lessons together. But then this storm decided to stretch into Sunday and various agencies were warning against travel up to Tahoe and so we decided to cancel. We didn’t want to risk the drive (the I-80 was closed for most of Thursday night and Friday because of whiteout conditions) and realized that it probably wouldn’t be the funnest of first ski classes if it was in freezing weather (it was forecast as -15/-4C or 5/25F).

Oh well, we’ll just have to try for another weekend.

Meanwhile, in our part of the Bay Area, it’s been a very rainy week and super windy too. The elementary school is in a neighbourhood lined with towering palm trees and boy is it dangerous to live near palm trees on a very windy day. There’s always branches and leaves clattering down!

Anyway lots of baking this week – baguettes and mixed berry muffins.

 

 

Currently…

 

Reading:

 

 

 

Watching:

The Bodyguard. Or rather I just finished binge-watching it. I decided to give the first episode a try and it was so exciting I watched two episodes. Then the next day, another two and then the next and that was it. It was so thrilling!

Listening:

 

Eating:

Looks weird but this was a raspberry swirl pound cake in the making

Drinking:

Nespresso with milk

Cooking:

We had lunch at Buca di Beppo and they’re known for their large portions and so we have a lot of leftovers!

I was thinking of cooking taco rice

Crafting:

An Erigeneia shawl in a rectangle

Browsing:

This earthquake-proof, climbable bookshelf (My Modern Met)

Look at all these beautiful illustrations for Howl’s Moving Castle

I did not know that Yiyun Li’s latest, Where Reasons End, is about a mother’s grief, and that her own son took his life.

I always bookmark posts by Bake For Happy Kids and here’s another one – a pineapple chiffon cake!

Last week:

I read:

I posted:

#WeekendCooking Chinese New Year celebrations

#BookBeginnings #Friday56 – No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym

Family Trust by Kathy Wang

Library Loot (February 13 to 19)

Favourite Couples in Books #toptentuesday

 

 

 

 

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

 

#BookBeginnings #Friday56 – No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym

This week’s book is No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym, published in 1961.

Beginning:

There are various ways of mending a broken heart, but perhaps going to a learned conference is one of the more unusual.

56:

Later, when the girl came in, her eyes shining from the impact of coffee bar and London on a fine early autumn evening, Dulcie wondered if the time was approaching when she would have to enjoy herself in the lives of younger people, as mothers were said to – waiting up eagerly to hear about the dance and what the young man had said, and often getting precious little out of it, for all the waiting up with knitting and a dying fire and the kettle or saucepan of milk ready to be boiled for the hot drink. She rejected the picture of herself doing this as quickly as it came into her mind.”

Fridays are for Book Beginnings on Rose City Reader, Friday 56 on Freda’s Voice

Family Trust by Kathy Wang

This book appealed to me for several reasons.

– it’s set in the San Francisco Bay Area and perhaps more importantly, not just the city itself but also the rest of the Bay Area. Don’t get me wrong, I like the city (well parts of it at least), the husband works there and all, but we live in the East Bay and it’s nice to see other parts of the area talked about.

– it’s a story about East Asian immigrants. They are originally from Taiwan, as are many of those in the Bay Area and I’m always interested in stories about immigration, particularly from Asia.

Also it opens with a whopper of a first sentence.

“Stanley Huang sat, naked but for the thing cotton dressing gown crumpled against the sterile white paper in the hospital room, and listened to the young doctor describe how he would die.”

He’s been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and this is the story of how he and his family deal with it.

He has a son, Fred, Harvard Business School grad, who’s been trying to make it big in the fintech industry but hasn’t quite yet. His daughter Kate is doing well at a well-known Silicon Valley company but is struggling with the balance of home and work. Also something seems to be up with her husband who is trying to get his start-up going.

Then there is their mother, Stanley’s ex-wife, Linda, perhaps a less-than-usual Asian woman of her time, one who continued working for decades, and yes, even divorced her husband. She’s even been thinking of dating again!

“What was one supposed to say, when one’s now-ex-husband of thirty-four years was struck with such a diagnosis?”

Stanley’s current wife Mary is 28 years younger than him. She’s a former waitress and has devoted her new life to caring for Stanley but now with Stanley dying, his family is suspicious of her motives.

For Stanley has often hinted at his riches – in the millions! Who deserves it more, the one who’s been caring for him in recent years? His children? Linda is determined to make sure her kids get their fair share.

Family Trust is a Silicon Valley story. It is also an Asian family story. It is also an American story. It’s a story about the pursuit of success, about money, about family obligation. There probably will be Crazy Rich Asians comparisons but as someone not a fan of that series, let me just say that Family Trust is better. Its characters are complex yet relatable, its observations of Silicon Valley life and family relationships are astute and witty. A great debut!

Honestly, Linda has some of the best lines.

“The woman likely didn’t even think she spoke English, regarding her as just another sexless Asian dotting her periphery – someone who could be ignored at will, like a houseplant.”

 

And here’s another – apparently there are differences according to where you landed up as an immigrant.

“Everyone knew that the best Chinese immigrants of their generation were settled in California, and mostly in the Bay Area. There were some in Los Angeles, but then you ran the risk of ending up with some sleazy import/exporter. And Linda had no intention of being matched with some grocery store operator in, say, Reno.”

 

“She knew exactly how Americans saw women like the Mercedes driver – as indistinguishable from herself. An Asian lady consumed with the creation and consumption of money, who neglected to hug her children. Why did white people like to pick and choose from cultures with such zealous judgment? Of course they just loved Szechuan cuisine served by a young waitress in a cheap cheongsam, but as soon as you proved yourself just as adept at the form of capitalism they had invented? Then you were obsessed. Money crazed. Unworthy of sympathy.”