Oct 28, 2023

Illumination: A Guide to the Buddhist Method of No-Method by Rebecca Li: Sunday Salon


Author: Rebecca Li    Publication: October 31, 2023 by Shambhala
Source: Wiley Saichek of Saichek Publicity 
My take on reading the Introduction and part of Chapter I, is that silent illumination means accepting and looking closely at your thoughts as they come while you sit in meditation. And not by trying to make your mind blank by focusing only on your breathing, etc. 
I have heard something similar to this meditation technique before. Allowing your thoughts to arise, examining them, seeing your reaction, and then letting them go. 
I will have to read more of the book to see how close that is to Rebecca Li's point. I am now curious!

From the Publisher's summary:
A modern guide from Chan Buddhist teacher Rebecca Li.
The practice of silent illumination is simple, allowing each moment to be experienced as it is in order to manifest our innate wisdom and natural capacity for compassion.

Rebecca Li shows us how we can recognize and unlearn our ... habits of mind that get in the way of being fully present and engaged with life. 

Illumination offers stories and real-life examples, references to classic Buddhist texts, and insights from Chan Master Sheng Yen to guide readers as they practice silent illumination.
Currently also reading:

For Book Club which I may or may not attend in December, I am reading, just in case I do go to book club, a novel on writing and plagiarism, 
Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot  (May 2021) is a psychologically suspenseful novel about a story too good not to steal, and the writer who steals it. (goodreads) Was it okay for Jake to take his deceased student's plot and make it into his own novel, even though the student never wrote the book before he overdosed and died?
Lots to think about and discuss, especially since this is the third recent book with the same theme of writer plagiarism. The most recent was Yellowface by R.F. Kuang, which addresses plagiarism, stealing in the publishing world, and cultural appropriation. I reviewed this book in January 2023.
Review of novel on writer plagiarism reposted:
Yellowface by R.F. Kuang, May 2023; William Morrow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I realized by a third of the way into the book that the title, Yellowface, refers to the old practice of using ethnic white actors to portray East Asian characters in film and on stage.

The title was fitting for this novel, I thought, as the main character and book narrator, June Hayward, not only stole the unpublished manuscript of her Yale college friend - acclaimed Chinese American author, Athena Liu - but also tried to claim to be Chinese by changing her name from June Hayward to Juniper Song. Her book photograph also made her seem to be Asian.
Athena's book detailed the World War I Chinese Corps of workers who went to Europe to help the Allies by doing the drudge work of war. June had to justify knowledge of that subject matter and appear to be an expert also on the Chinese and Chinese history.

This was a complex novel as it was told from only June's point of view. I didn't know whether to hate or to pity her for her devious strategies to gain fame and fortune from the stolen manuscript and to maintain her false identity as a Chinese writer. 
I saw the book had two purposes, however, to show the history of Yellowfacing and racism, and also to reveal the pitfalls of the publishing industry for writers. June felt the publishing world's need for diversity, which led them to focus on promoting promising authors like Athena Liu, giving extra publicity and help to get a book on its way.

I thought this novel was a brilliant addition to literary fiction and Asian American literature.

What's on your reading schedule this week and/or the rest of thejmonth?i

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday.

Oct 21, 2023

Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant by Curtis Chin: Sunday Salon



This is a reprint of a February 2023 review posted on this blog. I am reprinting it as the author has an extensive list of cities he is now visiting for book signings and readings, including in this city!

Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant: A Memoir by Curtis Chin  October 23, 2023, Little, Brown and Company

Genre: memoir, family drama, multicultural interest, LGBTQ

Setting: Detroit

The memoir is about growing up Asian in Detroit in the 1970-1980s. The publisher sums the book up best:

Nineteen eighties Detroit was a volatile place to live, but above the fray stood a safe haven: Chung’s Cantonese Cuisine, where anyone—from the city’s first Black mayor to the local drag queens, from a big-time Hollywood star to elderly Jewish couples—could sit down for a warm, home-cooked meal.
Here was where,... surrounded by his multigenerational family, filmmaker and activist Curtis Chin came of age; where he learned to embrace his identity as a gay ABC, or American-born Chinese; where he navigated the divided city’s spiraling misfortunes; and where ... he realized just how much he had to offer to the world, to his beloved family, and to himself.

My comments: 

As an Asian American living in the Midwest, I saw Detroit as both fascinating and dangerous, even as it declined economically and socially when it lost the auto industry and its economic power, and became a literal war zone, with riots and fires, a city soon abandoned by many long time residents.

I was delighted to read of this Chinese family that stayed and thrived even in dangerous conditions, because of their well-known restaurant with customers from all classes, races and religions, the common ground being love of Chinese cuisine.

The memoir describes a volatile Detroit during those changing times and the lives of the Chinese family, the Chins, as seen by third son, Curtice, a second generation son. Curtice's book covers his life there until he left after graduating from the University of Michigan to find his own way, as a film maker in NYC.  

The heady topics of his sexuality, his position in the family as the middle child of five, plus racism and discrimination, and the dangers of Detroit are offset by the humor with which Curtice Chin tackles his own personal life there.  The memoir is entertaining as well as informative and very considerate regarding many of the people he came in contact with in school, at work, and in daily life. This, in spite of the fact that the Chinese community there could not forget the murder of a family friend, Vincent Chin, considered an act of discrimination that was never fully punished. 

I can see that it took this long for the author to write this book, perhaps because of the sensitive subjects and also because gay rights and legal immigrant rights are now fully established. (At least, we hope so.) Kudos to Curtis for writing with so much insight and honesty, and presenting himself with delightful humor in between the very serious topics.

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the Shelves.

Oct 14, 2023

Sunday Salon: Everyone Here Is Lying; Daughter of Ashes, and Cheerfulness

A review

Everyone Here is Lying by Shari Lapena
Published July 25, 2023, Pamela Dorman books. Library book
Genre: mystery thriller, suspense

It was interesting, sometimes distressing, to see how some families living on the same street interacted and responded when a nine-year-old autistic child went missing. Several people had secrets that prevented them from telling the truth to the police, and to each other, and slowed down the process of finding the missing girl.

The author captured people and families in distress who hide secrets so very well. It was an enjoyable suspense, although also disturbing to read about the hidden sides of some very realistic characters.

Caveat: I was a little concerned that the characteristics/personality of the autistic child in this novel could lead to generalizations about autism.

In my mailbox   

Daughter of Ashes by Ilarila Tuti, December 5, 2023; Soho Crime
Genre: thriller, Italy, crime fiction
Setting: mountains of Northern Italy

This is the fourth and final book in the Italian crime fiction series with aging detective, Therese Battaglia, who battles creeping dementia while she tries to solve an old crime that has haunted her for decades.

I was especially interested in how this detective would go about her work in spite of her escalating dementia. The setting in Italy also interested me, as well as that this is Italian noir!

Update: see my full review on goodreads.

And now for something more cheerful!

Cheerfulness by Garrison Keillor, May 13, 2023; Prairie Home Productions
Genre: personal anecdotes; nonfiction
Source: Wiley Saichek Publicity

Publisher: Veteran radio host Garrison Keillor uses personal anecdotes that inspires to choose cheerfulness in daily life. (publisher)

What's on your reading schedule this week and/or the rest of thejmonth?i

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday.

Oct 7, 2023

Sunday Salon: Visit to Toronto, Ontario and New ARCs


I didn't get much reading done this past week as we took a brief trip to Toronto, Ontario, a city I love for family get-togethers at fabulous dim sum restaurants, plus eating Jamaican patties from a local bakery. This was my first time eating the patties the traditional Jamaican way, folded inside a roll of coco bread. 

Coco bread, africanbites.com

Coco Bread – a popular staple bread in Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean made primarily with flour and coconut milk, then slightly sweetened just to tickle your tastebuds. Buttery, slightly sweet with a spot on firmness on the outside and softness on the inside. (africanbites.com)

Jamaican patties, Mission-Food.com

Jamaican patties are half moon shaped flaky pastries with bright yellow-hued dough and a spiced savory filling. They are considerably easy to make, are baked and not fried, and are excellent as a snack, light lunch, or party food.

Historically the concept of Jamaican patties was inspired by Cornish pasties which were brought to the island by immigrants. Curry and chiles were introduced by Indian laborers and African slaves. The combination has become a true Jamaican revelation. (Mission-Food.com)

How to eat: unfold the coco bread, place a whole patty on it, refold, and enjoy! Double the carbs!

Back at home I'm still finishing the rom com, Lunar Love by Lauren Kung Jessen, and added new books to my bulging ARC digital library! 

A Nero Award–winning author got my attention. In Murder Crossed Her Mind, investigators 
Pentecost & Parker (Lillian and Will) look into the disappearance of a shut-in, an elderly woman with a phenomenal memory who might have known too much.

The blue wilderness book cover made me interested in Never Come Back. A family involved in lies, betrayal, and murder is the theme of this suspense by Edgar Award winner, Joe Hart.

What's on your reading schedule this week and/or the rest of thejmonth?inly202

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Voices of the Old and the New: Corky Lee and Julia Alvarez

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