The Partner Track by Helen Wan

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I hated being singled out for reasons I’d had nothing to do with. As long as I could remember, high-er-ups—not just bosses but teachers, professors, deans, recruiters, and HR directors—were forever asking me to serve on this committee, come to that reception, be a mentor, speak on a panel. I didn’t flatter myself by thinking that because I was pos-sessed of such wit and charm, such keen legal acumen, my absence was unthinkable. I knew the rule: When you find an attractive, articulate minority woman in your midst, who’s neither too strident nor too soft-spoken, who speaks English without accent or attitude, who makes friends easily and photographs well—you want her.

Ingrid Yung is a senior associate at a top Manhattan law firm and she’s up for partner. As one of the “women of colour” at the firm (or really, one of the few non-whites), she’s the “golden girl”, their diversity representative. And when some shit happens at the firm’s annual outing, the firm has to scramble to do damage control, that is, a “Diversity Initiative”. And of course Ingrid gets dragged in, her boss more or less makes her get involved, dragging her away from a very important deal that he already assigned her to.

“This country isn’t ready yet to ignore race or gender,” I snapped, regretting it the instant it was out of my mouth.

Silence. My words hung there in the air.

“I didn’t know you felt that strongly about it one way or another, Yung,” Murph said softly.

“Yeah,” Gavin finally said. “I mean”—and he said this gently, in a conciliatory tone—“I wasn’t even talking about Asians.”

Murph shot him a you are fucking hopeless look.

Gavin went on, “Seems to me like Asian Americans have done all right.”

“Gee, thanks,” I said. “I’m really glad it seems that way to you, Gavin.”

“Come on. I’m just saying that by any objective economic measure, Asians are right up there with whites.”

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This is workplace fiction. Law firm fiction. Not the more exciting courtroom drama kind of story but the kind of law that deals with mergers and acquisitions, deals, finance. That sort of thing. Nothing that I have the faintest idea about nor the slightest interest in. But what drew me in was Ingrid Yung. She is an Asian woman in a white man’s world. A determined, intelligent, confident woman, one who just happens to be Chinese-American. Her mom calls her often, worried about her single status, still wondering why she didn’t become a doctor. She was the kid in the elementary school cafeteria who ate all the funny foods. She was relatable. She was hardworking, determined, but also very human.

I did not appreciate Murph or anyone else scrutinizing what I was eating. It always felt, just a tiny bit, like I was back in my fourth-grade cafeteria, shyly unwrapping the scallion pancake or shrimp toast my mother would pack in aluminum foil in my lunchbox. “What’s that?” Becky Noble would wrinkle up her nose, her own tidy baloney-and-cheese sandwich raised halfway to her mouth, causing all of the other girls to giggle.

 

Helen Wan is herself an attorney so she writes a pretty good workplace novel, although some parts of the dealmaking went over my head, she did set the place well and I enjoyed immersing myself into that cutthroat Manhattan law firm world for a little while.

I had completely bought into the myth of a meritocracy.

Somehow I’d actually been foolish enough to believe that if I simply kept my head down and worked hard, and did everything, everything, that was asked of me, I would be rewarded.

So the best way to describe this book is that it is about race in the workplace. It hits hard in some places but still manages to have a light, breezy tone, one that makes it easy to read, but also a little predictable and perhaps a bit too stereotypical. To explain that more would reveal a little too much of the storyline. I came into this book with no expectations, it being a completely random choice from the Scribd catalogue (because Scribd forces us to use up our credits or not get any new ones!). I hadn’t heard of the book before, nor the author, and the cover, well, you might know that I am not a fan of the half-hidden woman, especially the half-hidden Asian woman, much less the woman seen from behind, so I do not like these covers at all. But don’t let that stop you, don’t let the ugh covers push you away, ignore the fact that you’ve not heard of the book (unless you actually have!!!), and just go ahead and read it. It’s not for everyone of course, it is contemporary fiction, set in New York, in a law firm, a little predictable, but it has at its heart a wonderful main character, a strong (yet vulnerable) Asian woman. And you know what, we could always do with more books like that!

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I read this for Akilah’s Diversity on the Shelf challenge

It’s Monday and I’m listening to Patrick Stewart read a plastic surgery haiku

 

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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

 

 

Over the past week I’ve been trying to figure out if I want to get out of a wordpress.com url and get my own. I’ve changed the title of the blog, but not the URL so far, as I’ve been wondering, should I just get myself a “.com” address instead! When I first started this blog, ages ago, I had used ‘olduvai’ as a name to hide behind but I don’t want that anymore. If you are on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve changed my username there to real.life.reading which I think reflects better on how I feel about reading and Instagramming (and blogging) these days. So I have to ask, those of you who have made the switch from a free host (i.e. blogspot or wordpress) to your own website, how was that transition? Any tips to give someone who is pretty much clueless about websites? What web hosting service do you use? And then the thing is, I keep wondering, do I really want to pay for something that is a hobby and will never make me any money?  (Also, see Andi’s piece about book blogging and money-making).

Then I also wonder, does my very inconsistent blogging require an actual website? I keep going back and forth on all this! 

Anyway, let’s see what I did last week….

Oh, the husband was away in Orange County, just for one night. His return flight was delayed (of course) so he ended up getting back around 9pm. And the five-year-old was really upset by that and he kept crying and crying, even after Daddy got home. Poor thing.


I went down to the city (SF that is) to pick up my passport from the Singapore consulate. I got to wander around the Ferry Building a bit, bought some books from Book Passage, sat outside in the sun to watch the boats come in, the traffic on the Bay Bridge, and have a really expensive (but SO GOOD) mocha. Then I headed back on the Bart, normally a 45-minute ride, and I had planned it so that the Husband could pick me up from the station and then get the kids from preschool which was a few minutes’ drive away. Of course, the train I was on went out of service, there was a medical emergency at some station, then there was police activity at another! The 45-minute ride ended up being 1 hour 15 minutes long. I’m just glad I don’t have to do this everyday although the Husband has to.

  


Some books I bought recently. One from Book Passage and the rest from Book Outlet. 


Also made asparagus risotto with pan-seared scallops for Friday dinner. The Husband said, hmm something is different from the last risotto. Yup I didn’t do bacon this time. 


Also made chwee kueh, a popular breakfast item at hawker centres in Singapore. The white part is a steamed cake made of rice flour. The topping is a sweet-savoury preserved radish and dried shrimp. Easier to make than I expected!

Currently…

 

Reading:

 The Song Poet – Kao Kalia Yang


I won this from a Library Thing giveaway, and it is so moving and beautiful. Yang and her family are Hmong. She tells the story of her father, Bee Yang, who escaped Laos and brought his family to the US. In the Hmong tradition, the song poet recounts the story of their people, their history and tragedies, folk tales and more.

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The Summer Guest – Alison Anderson

This is for an upcoming book tour. But I must say, it is SO GOOD.

 

 

 

Watching:

 

Listening:

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Yes Please! – Amy Poehler

Another great audiobook! This one has not just Poehler but also Kathleen Turner, Seth Myers, and best of all, Patrick Stewart reads a plastic surgery haiku (it is seriously worth listening to just for that alone but if you just want to listen to Patrick Stewart, you can go ahead and do that right at this link. Seriously, go). I have to admit I have never seen Parks and Rec, and have only seen a few episodes of SNL (I grew up in Singapore, late night TV there didn’t really include things like SNL).

 

Eating:

Chocolate swiss roll

Drinking:

Tiekuanyin

Cooking:

It promises to be a cooler week so maybe some oxtail stew, some oven-roasted chicken drumsticks, some noodles for sure as we always resort to noodles when there’s nothing else on hand.

Browsing:

Added to the TBR (at least for the kids) is A Morning with Grandpa by Sylvia Liu, illustrated by Christina Forshay (via BookDragon)

The nominees of the Shirley Jackson awards

 

Last week:

I read:

 


Who Slashed Claire’s Throat? – Maryse Conde (my thoughts)
As you wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride – Cary Elwes
Mr Splitfoot – Samantha Hunt

I posted:

TLC Book Tours: The Bridge Ladies by Betsy Lerner

Recent diverse reads:

Books I picked up on a whim

 

TLC Book Tours: The Bridge Ladies by Betsy Lerner

 

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Old age is nothing if not managing losses: physical ability, appearance, memory, spouses, friends, economic independence, and finally freedom.

As a child, Betsy Lerner was fascinated by the Bridge Ladies, who would show up at her house, “their hair frosted, their nylons shimmery”, and settle down to play Bridge, “communing in their strange language of bids and tricks”. But as she got older, like most teens, she wanted to be different, she hated life in the suburbs, dreamt of living in New York, and saw the Bridge Ladies as “conventional”, nothing more than mothers, daughters and wives. In her forties, she finally returns to New Haven “crucible of my pain”, where her mother still lives on her own. With her mother recovering from surgery, the Bridge Ladies take turns to come by every day, and Lerner marvels at their friendship and seeks to understand their relationships, their lives, their game.

“Friendships now are often made of geographic convenience and circumstance, not the deeper bonds of religion and community. Facebook may connect us across the world and throughout eternity, but it won’t deliver a pot roast.”

But it is also very much an exploration of her own relationship with her mother, which has been a rocky one, where they “circled each other like wary boxers”.

Lerner at first just sits in on their game, watching, learning, listening to their conversations. But then she starts to learn the game on her own, discovering it to be far more difficult than she had imagined.

I wanted to read this book as I had enjoyed Lerner’s Food and Loathing: A Life Measured Out in Calories. She is remarkably honest about her life, and also is funny. Not easy to do when one is talking about eating disorders and depression, but she still managed to do that. And Lerner continues to write candidly about her life and her relationship with her mother, and somehow manages to get the Bridge Ladies to open up about their lives, their families.

Which is more difficult than it sounds, because one fascinating thing about this group of Bridge Ladies, although they have known each other for years and meet regularly, is that they never really open up about things that bother them.

“I discovered that they never trash anyone, never talk about something that bothers them, and never share a deep feeling.”

So somehow Lerner manages to embed herself into their lives, getting them to talk to her about how they met their husbands, their marriages, their children, even things like birth control and infertility. You really have to admire Lerner for that.

“I had been terrified that I wouldn’t take to motherhood. I was most paranoid about not being able to hear the baby cry out in the night. What if I slept too deeply, or didn’t have that sixth sense, the so-called maternal instinct?”

I still remain clueless about Bridge and have no desire to take it up. But I am so glad I read this book. It made me miss my mother, who lives half a world away in Singapore. When I next see her, I’m definitely going to pass this book onto her. The Bridge Ladies was wonderfully written, funny and sad, and full of heart.

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I received this book for review from its publisher Harper Wave and TLC Book Tours.

betsylernerBetsy Lerner is the author of The Forest for the Trees and Food and Loathing. She is a recipient of the Thomas Wolfe Poetry Prize, an Academy of American Poets Poetry Prize, and the Tony Godwin Prize for Editors, and was selected as one of PEN’s Emerging Writers. Lerner is a partner with the literary agency Dunow, Carlson & Lerner and resides in New Haven, Connecticut.

Find out more about Betsy at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Recent diverse reads:

Ah, that word ‘diverse’. I don’t know about using it, because when I come to think of it, how ‘diverse’ is it, for me, a Chinese-Singaporean living in the US, to be reading a book written, say, by a Chinese-American. If I were to read ‘diversely’, I guess I should be reading something by an old white man (haha!). As diverse more or less means (according to good old Merriam-Webster which I am guessing, was founded by old white guys):

  • : different from each other

  • : made up of people or things that are different from each other

So being different from me would definitely be an old white guy.

But no, we are not talking about reading diversely in that sense. But more of the publishing world at large. That there is a need to expose more people to diverse views, translated works. Because many of the books out there are indeed written by white men. (And yes, white women too)

(Also, if you haven’t yet read this article in Lit Hub by Matthew Salesses about diversity in publishing, please do:

Even when I read, as a boy, about animals fighting medieval battles, I read about animals who were culturally white. When I read about time travel or magic, I read about white time travelers or white magicians. Children who didn’t fit in, sure, but children who fit into an idea about what those kind of books should be like and who could be their heroes.

)

As a reader, who happens to be Asian, I really appreciate stories that aren’t about diverse characters being diverse. As in, the Asian character doesn’t have to be “Asian”. I don’t know how to really explain this. But it’s the reason I don’t really read Amy Tan. And also why “Oriental” covers turn me off!


Fresh off the boat – Eddie Huang

Lots about Huang’s life resonated with me. While I didn’t grow up in America, his anecdotes about growing up in a Taiwanese-American family were amusing and familiar.

“I remember for Thanksgiving at our house we would just eat hot pot or some strange spread of sautéed Chinese items, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole from Boston Market, and sushi from Public ’cause I guess it really made the table pop. These days my Jamaican friends have turkey but it’s flanked by oxtail, beef patties, rice and peas, cabbage, etc. My Cantonese friends have turkey with lobster steamed over e-fu noodles, salt fish fried rice, and stir-fried squid with yellow chives.”

In case you haven’t heard of Huang, he is famous for two things, his New York eatery BaoHaus and the TV series Fresh Off the Boat which is loosely based on his life and was only the third prime time series to center on an Asian-American family (and which he is no longer involved in).

The funny thing is he is proud of being Asian and also very proud of not being your typical Asian (i.e. the studious, obedient, parent-approved Asian). And he’s always reminding the reader about that.

“It wasn’t that I wanted people to carry around little red books to affirm their “Chinese-ness,” but I just wanted to know there were other people that wanted this community to live on in America.”

The thing is, I want to like Huang. I kind of understand the issues he went through as a minority kid growing up in the US (note, I didn’t grow up in the US, but my kids are, and I wonder whether they will face similar issues when they go to school). But he is hard to like.

Then of course he writes something like this:

Whether it’s food or women, the ones on front street are supermodels. Big hair, big tits, big trouble, but the one you come home to is probably something like cavatelli and red sauce. She’s not screaming for attention because she knows she’s good enough even if your dumb ass hasn’t figured it out yet.”

I mean, I understand the sentiment behind this quote but ugh.

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Mayumi and the search for Happiness – Jennifer Tseng

This should have really worked for me. It had all the right boxes ticked – Asian female character, set on a small island (I have a bit of a fascination for small towns), and bookish, for Mayumi is a librarian (who recommends Elena Ferrante!), so there is plenty of book talk. But I felt so distanced from the book.

I was as common as the weather, as was he, as were we. Show me a middle-aged woman who lacks desire and I will show you a liar. Show me an unusual young man and I will strip him down to commonness. I have no intention of making public excuses. I do find myself looking within for reasons I might give, if only to myself, for my own behavior. I obsessively recount the past in search of my mis-steps.

Mayumi has a failing marriage, a young daughter, and an unhealthy obsession with a teenaged boy she first meets when he comes to the library. And starts sleeping with him. In case that’s not enough, she becomes friends with his mother.

I marveled at Tsung’s writing, her phrases and words, beautifully written. But Mayumi is not a likable character. I suppose that may be the point, this flawed woman in a strange relationship with her own husband and child, creating an even weirder, uncomfortable (at least for the reader) relationship with this teenaged boy. All while living on this little island, working in its library. Not all characters have to be likable. But surely at least one character in a story has to be? I didn’t care for this young seduced boy, I really didn’t like Mayumi’s in-the-background husband or demanding child, and as for the boy’s mother, I’m not sure if I really had any feelings for her either. So I am quite puzzled by this book. It is a story about obsession. An unrelenting obsession.

Perhaps in an attempt to normalize my questionable undertaking, I developed an appetite for stories of deviant love: Lolita, The Price of Salt, The Cement Garden, King Kong, Beauty and the Beast, even The Thorn Birds, which was, though not particularly well-written, with its blasphemy and incest, doubly satisfying. That spring I read more queer novels than I had read in my entire adult life. (Queer was a term I was borrowing with increasing looseness and frequency. Indeed if this was queer society, I too was a member.) I both relished their transgressive hotness and tortured myself with the fact that many a homosexual would find me morally repulsive. Heavily peppered with scenes of socially unacceptable sex, descriptions of guilt, fear, and forced secrecy, fascination with beauty and frustration with an uncomprehending world, such novels were like compact mirrors that I carried in my cloth bag. One could always pop one open, look in, and see oneself reflected there.

However, while I have mixed feelings about this book, I would definitely read more of Jennifer Tseng’s work!

 

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Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari

I am going to give two thumbs up for the audiobook version! Because Ansari is an excellent reader. He reads fast, he reads quotes in funny accents just for fun, and he occasionally makes an aside to the audiobook listener, like pointing out that there’s an awesome graphic here but as we’re listening, we can’t see it so he’s going to have to describe it. Also they kick off the audiobook with some incredibly sleazy music. Hilarious.

But audiobook version aside, this was an interesting listen/read. I am not sure if I would have picked up the print version otherwise actually. I was looking for books to use up my audiobook credits on Scribd (because that evil corp limits the number of credits that can be accumulated) and just happened to enjoy the preview then picked it up as a full title credit.

Wow is dating these days difficult or what. Sure dating sites and apps have opened up a whole new world and people whom one would not ordinarily meet but it’s like that thing where you stand in the supermarket trying to buy some jam and you end up not buying any because you can’t decide which one to buy as the mind is completely bamboozled by the options.

 

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Paper Menagerie and other stories – Ken Liu

Liu’s short story Paper Menagerie won SO MANY awards (Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy) and it is easy to see why. It is achingly beautiful and sad. (And hey you can read it for yourself here. Now, don’t just ignore this link, go read it. It will move you and break your heart.)

In Paper Menagerie, Jack is the son of an American who wed a Chinese he picked out of a catalogue. His mother makes these paper animals that come to life, which he plays with at first, but as he grows older,  he becomes ashamed of them and of  his Chinese heritage.

One of my favourite quotes from Paper Menagerie:

Mom looked at him. “If I say ‘love,’ I feel here.” She pointed to her lips. “If I say ‘ai,‘ I feel here.” She put her hand over her heart.

Dad shook his head. “You are in America.”

As with all short story collections, there were some that I liked more than others. But unlike some other collections, there was not a single one that I skipped. I liked how many of his stories brought in bits and pieces of Asian culture. Like Good Hunting, which involves a father and son demon-hunting team searching for a fox spirit. The Litigation Master and the Monkey King has a man who communes with the Monkey King. And they span various genres like SF, fantasy, steampunk and dystopia. The only thing I would say is that the stories tend to have an tinge of sadness, gloominess. So this collection is something that you would kind of need to be in the right mood for.

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Who Slashed Celanire’s Throat?: A Fantastical novel – Maryse Condé

This is my introduction to Condé (although this is her 12th novel!) and it was a beguiling and colourful one. Condé was inspired by a real-life crime on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, in which a baby was found abandoned on a heap of garbage, her throat slashed.

The bewitching Celanire, always with a scarf around her neck, turns up in a village to take over a home for ‘half-caste’ children and proceeds to turn life upside down for the villagers, empowering women, enthralling men, and leaving death, violent deaths, in her wake (the director of the Home she has come to assist, for instance, dies after a giant spider bites him on his penis).

The story moves from Africa to Celanire’s native Guadeloupe and to Peru. And it is lush and colourful and enveloping. A little meandering and mysterious, but full of passion and poison.

 

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I read these books for Akilah’s Diversity on the Shelf

 

Books I picked up on a whim

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Books I Picked Up On A Whim (however you decide to interpret that (bought or read or something else) — I know most people read based on recommendation but we want to know those books you picked up without really hearing about or knowing much about!)

 I’ve been reading randomly on Scribd, mostly to use up my credits which (HUGE SIGH) Scribd (*coughbastardscough*) doesn’t allow accumulation of too many audiobook and ebook credits. (I am pretty much going to cancel once my annual subscription is up in August!).

 

Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari

  • didn’t really know much about Aziz Ansari except that he’s a comedian and has a show on Netflix
  • hadn’t a clue what the book was about other than its title although that is a rather obvious title

Bluets – Maggie Nelson

The only thing I knew was that it was by Nelson, who wrote Argonauts, which has been talked about everywhere. But I have yet to read anything by Nelson so this was a first. Also, it was a very short book (113 pages).

Nextwave Vol 1 – Warren Ellis, Stuart Immonen (via Scribd)

This one was quite fun. And poked fun at the superhero comics.

A lot of the comics I read recently were random grabs off the comics shelves at the library.

Nijigahara Holograph – Inio Asano (my thoughts)
Hadn’t heard of this before but the cover was enticing!

Beauty – Kerascoët (Illustrations), Hubert (my thoughts)
I had read another comic illustrate by Kerascoet before, but wasn’t really all that fond of it. However, this one’s cover drew me in.

Andre the Giant – Box Brown (my thoughts)

All I knew about Andre the Giant was that he was in The Princess Bride. But it turns out he was a wrestler too! This was a great comic.

Memetic – James Tynion IV and Eryk Donovan (my thoughts)

Once again, pulled in by the cover art. What’s up with that sloth??

The Old Garden – Hwang Sok-yong (my thoughts)
A browse on the Overdrive library catalogue and I came across this. I like reading Korean writers but every Korean writer I’ve read so far is female. So I just wanted to read something by a male Korean writer, just to see what he wrote about.

What did you recently pick up on a whim?

It’s Monday and I finished reading 5 books last week

 

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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

 

 

So last week was a good one and also not a good one. I had started it out with such wonderful intentions, joining both Bout of Books and Armchair BEA. Both are such fun events and unfortunately happened to be on the same week! Anyway, I started out wells do even won a prize from Armchair BEA for their Instagram challenge. Then sickness hit and I just couldn’t be sitting at the computer. So I didn’t do much updating on the blog other than what I had planned for the week.

Saturday saw me mostly lying down in bed or on the couch. But when Sunday rolled by, after a NyQuil-fueled solid ten hours of sleep, things were looking up! We went to the farmers market, out for lunch at a Korean restaurant then home to make a peach-apricot pie (my first homemade pie!), and hotpot for dinner.

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Currently…

 

Reading:

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Mr Splitfoot – Samantha Hunt
I’m loving this book but it is also a little bit difficult to keep reading it. I will probably finish it this week though as it is due back at the library (and I’ve already renewed it once)

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As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride – Cary Elwes and some of the Princess Bride cast and crew

I’m listening to this one via Scribd and it is the best thing ever. First of all, Cary Elwes has a great voice. And it’s also narrated by Rob Reiner and cast members like Robin Wright, Christopher Guest and more. It’s also such fun to learn what went on behind the scenes of one of my favourite movies. If you’re thinking of reading this one, listen to the audiobook version! It is fantastic!

 

 

Watching:

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Love how funny this ad for Deadpool is

Deadpool 

Eating:

Well it is Sunday night as I’m typing this and I am so full because of the hotpot and the pie.

Drinking:

Water

Cooking:

Bak kut teh or pork rib soul with Chinese herbs and lots of garlic. Best eaten with you tiao or fried dough sticks.

Fried noodles

Pasta

Browsing:

Naomi Novik, Nnedi Okorafor won Nebula awards

The Millions interviews MariNaomi

The Illustrated Page lists some 2016 SFF releases on her radar

Book Skeptic on her first RK Narayan book as part of Deepika’s RK Narayan readalong which I unfortunately didn’t manage to take part in! Next time!

Last week:

I read:

Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling (non-fiction)
The Portable Veblen – Elizabeth Mckenzie (fiction)

A quirky book that involves a squirrel and an impending marriage. Don’t worry the squirrel isn’t the one getting married but the woman who is to be married talks to the squirrel. Quirky, I said, quirky. Also, maybe a bit weird. I like that it’s set in the Bay Area. And it was a fun enough read. I figure that if I don’t write a note about it now, I never will. I do however plan to write a bit more about those other books, because two of them belong to the Diversity on the Shelf challenge. Let’s just hope I get it together and write about them soon.
A Bride’s Tale – Kaoru Mori (manga)
Bluets  – Maggie Nelson (non-fiction)

The Assistants – Camille Perri

Somehow I forgot about this one, which I read in one day. An assistant to a media mogul gets the opportunity to pay off her student loan when there is an error with her boss’ expense report. And this spirals into a sort of Robin Hood-embezzlement scheme with several other assistants involved. A quick read. Can see this being made into a movie starring Anne Hathaway. Which coming from me isn’t a compliment because I don’t like her. But you know she stars in this kind of fluffy office type movies like The Intern so she probably would be on the list. Fun enough. But doesn’t say much if I just read it and forgot about it.

I posted:

The Book of Memory – Petina Gappah

Bout of Books Day 1 and 2

Armchair BEA – Day One

Recent comics: Beauty; Nijigahara Holograph; Black Science; Low; Nextwave

Top 10 Tuesday: Some of my favourite food sites

 

The Book of Memory – Petina Gappah

Ah this book was an intriguing one. It opens with a woman in prison in Harare, Zimbabwe. Her name is Memory and she has been convicted of killing her adopted father, a white man named Lloyd. In the first chapter we learn that when she was nine, her parents sold her to Lloyd. She recounts that day, wearing the clothes they usually wear to church “because if you are going to hand your daughter over to a perfect stranger, you need to look your best”.

Her memories from her childhood pop in here and there. For our memories are never accurate, never exact. We might remember something someone said but not exactly when they said it or why. And adults may never tell us the whole truth, even when asked. Such as when Lloyd spoke of how Memory came to live with him, always in euphemisms.

But this is what Memory is trying to achieve here, she is writing down her story in notebooks given to her by an American journalist. Her first visitor, other than her lawyer, in the two years, three months, seven days that she has been in prison. And as she writes, “the memories are flooding my mind, faster than I can write them down”.

This is a story about Zimbabwe. One seen from a prison cell, one seen from the eyes of a child, as Memory introduces her family, her life story, and tries to figure out what happened, how she got here.

“Until you attempt to write the story of your life, you cannot quite understand just how hard it is to grasp at the beginning. I wish I could start this the traditional way, by telling you all about my father and mother and how they met and who their parents were and all the begats that preceded their lives, but I cannot. Until they sold me to Lloyd, and I moved away, I knew nothing about them beyond the fact that they were my mother and father.”

 

 

I read this book for the Diversity on the Shelf challenge hosted by Akilah @ The Englishistdiversity