Apr 13, 2024

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



Corky Lee's Asian America

Fifty Years of Photographic Justice

Publication April 9, 2024; Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed Press, NG

Photos celebrating the history and cultural impact of the Asian American social justice movement, from a beloved photographer who sought to change the world, one photograph at a time.

Corky Lee
American activist, community organizer, photographer, journalist, and the self-proclaimed unofficial Asian American Photographer Laureate. He called himself an "ABC from NYC ... wielding a camera to slay injustices against APAs." Wikipedia

I heard a lot about Corky Lee and his photographs showing Asian American activism in the U.S.

Introduction to the book

John J. Lee, Chee Wang Ng & Mae Ngai

This is the story of a man who endeavored to change the world, one photograph at a time. Who dared to create a record of an upheaval—of thoughts and beliefs that held a people down, of an ignorant nation that prevented the growth of ideas new and better. The truth and a bit of justice. This is the story of our brother and friend, whom the world came to know as Corky Lee.

With each photograph he took, Corky aimed to break the stereotype of Asian Americans as docile, passive, and above all, foreign to the United States. He insisted that Asian Americans are Americans, that they were, and are, part of this country, of its history and the ongoing project of its making. As he wrote after 9/11, “Do not let anyone tell you to go back to the country of your ancestors. You belong here. Immigrants built America. It was created for you and me.”

Published April 2, 2024; Algonquin Press, NG
Genre: magical realism, historical fiction

The Cemetery of Untold Stories asks: Whose stories get to be told, and whose buried?  Julia Alvarez reminds us that the stories of our lives are never truly finished, even at the end.

The plot: Alma Cruz, the writer in The Cemetery of Untold Stories, inherits a plot of land in the Dominican Republic, her homeland; she creates a graveyard for the manuscript drafts and revisions and the characters whose lives she tried and failed to bring to life and who still haunt her. 
Among them: Bienvenida, the abandoned second wife of dictator Rafael Trujillo, consigned to oblivion by history, and Manuel Cruz, a doctor who fought in the Dominican underground and escaped to the United States.
Alma wants her characters to rest in peace. But they have other ideas, and the cemetery becomes a mysterious sanctuary for their true narratives. 
The characters defy their author: they talk back to her and talk to one another behind her back, rewriting and revising themselves.


left the Dominican Republic for the United States in 1960 at the age of ten. Her books and poetry have garnered wide recognition. In the Time of the Butterflies was selected by the National Endowment for the Arts for its national Big Read program, and in 2013 President Obama awarded Alvarez the National Medal of Arts in recognition of her extraordinary storytelling.

What are you reading/watching this week? Are any of them new releases? 

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

Apr 6, 2024

TV Drama, Thriller, Rom Com: Sunday Salon

 Watching TV

I've found a few good Korean, Chinese, and Japanese tv dramas dubbed in English or with English captioning, such as Midnight Diner, set in a district of Tokyo and based on the manga by Yarō Abe titled Shin'ya Shokudō. 

Queen of Tears promotional poster (Wikipedia)

The Korean drama I'm watching is Queen of Tears, and am waiting for the 9th episode airing tomorrow. There are 16 episodes in all, so I'll have to wait week by week to see them all. 

The story:  a haughty department store owner marries a lawyer from a poor farming family who courts her thinking she is sweet but poor girl. After she commits a terrible betrayal in their marriage, the two become estranged for over several years, though he continues working for their wealthy family in Seoul. The couple faces multiple crises but may find their way back together. Just how and if they will make it is the theme right now as the husband has come to despise his controlling wife, keeping divorce papers on hand.

Why do I watch K dramas?  The romance plots and family dynamics are complex, and so are the interesting and often humorous side characters populating the many episodes, more than any one book can hold!  The cinematography is usually very good. 

Currently reading

House of Glass by Sarah Pekkanen, August 6, 2024 by St. Martin's Press, NG

Genre: thriller, domestic drama, child advocate

What I've read so far: Nine-year-old Rose stopped speaking after seeing her nanny Tina fall to her death from an upstairs window. A lawyer and child advocate is sent to determine which of the parents Rose should live with after their upcoming divorce. This is the setting of the thriller. 

The advocate, Stella, is determined to find out if the pregnant nanny's death was an accident or a murder and by whom. Everyone in the house seems to be lying, making it harder for the lawyer to make any decisions about the child's final custody.

Flashbacks to Stella's own childhood trauma, hearing her mother's murder, haunts this story as Stella decides to also find out the truth about her own mother. 

Rom Com in the Mail

Thanks to Avon Books for One Last Word by Suzanne Park, April 16, 2024

Many rom coms are hit or miss but this plot looks entertaining.

Description: an aspiring tech entrepreneur develops an app, which sends messages to loved ones after you pass. She accidentally sends her final words to all the important people in her life—including the venture capital mentor she’s crushing on.

What are you reading/watching this week? 

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

Mar 30, 2024

An Island Romance and Two Mystery Novels: Sunday Salon

 Now Reading

Romancing on Jeju by Hyun-Joo Park, translated from Korean by Paige Morris, publication August 20, 2024; Amazon Crossing, NetGalley
Genre: romance

Romi, a young illustrator from Seoul, meets an enchanting beekeeper from the island of Jeju in South Korea, but he disappears from her life after a chance meeting at the airport. She is determined to find him, and goes searching for him among the 100 beekeepers on the beautiful and lush island of Jeju.

I was attracted to the book by the setting on Jeju island that featured on several contemporary Korean dramas on tv. The romance novel might be just so-so but learning more about the island was a plus for me. Bee keeping? Who would have guessed. (Jeju also is the setting for Lisa See's historical novel, The Island of Sea Women.)

A Farewell to Arfs: Chet and Bernie Mystery #15 by Spencer Quinn, publication August 6, 2023, Forge Books, NetGalley

I was chuffed (pleased to bits) to be approved for Spencer Quinn's most recent dog mystery, A Farewell to Arfs. For those who are not familiar with the series, Chet the dog is the artful narrator in the mystery series set in Arizona; he is an amusing and clever partner in crime solving with his human, PI Bernie Little. And he gives us a dog's eye view/point of view of what's going on.

In this book, Bernie's next door neighbor, Mr. Parsons, is scammed of his life savings by his son Billie. Billie has disappeared and Mr. Parsons is in the hospital. Enter Bernie and Chet to find Billie and find out just what the score is. 

I've read all 15 books in the series and find them very entertaining. This is the 15th book in the series, and Spencer Quinn is already working on the next one! 

You Know What You Did by K.T. Nguyen, April 2024; Dutton, NG

Genre: thriller, OCD disorder

I'm eager to start reading this one, just to see what OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) is all about! I throw that term around, but what do I really know? 

Description: In this thriller, a first-generation Vietnamese American artist must confront nightmares past and present…
Annie “Anh Le” Shaw grew up poor but seems to have it all now: a dream career, a stunning home, and a devoted husband and daughter. When Annie’s mother, a Vietnam War refugee, dies suddenly one night, Annie’s carefully curated life begins to unravel. Her obsessive-compulsive disorder, which she thought she’d vanquished years ago, comes roaring back—but this time, the disturbing fixations swirling in Annie’s brain might actually be coming true.

A prominent art patron disappears, and the investigation zeroes in on Annie. She distances herself from family and friends, only to wake up naked in a hotel room next to a lifeless body. The police have more questions, but Annie doesn’t have answers. All she knows is she will do anything to protect her daughter—even if it means losing herself. (publisher)

To learn more about OCD symptoms, treatments, and resources, visit the website of the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF dot org). —K.T. Nguyen 
K. T. Nguyen is a former magazine editor now settled just outside Washington, D.C. 

What are you reading/watching this week? 

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

Mar 23, 2024

Three Novels: Japanese Mystery; Family Drama; Ecuadorian

 Books in the mail

The Night of Baba Yaga by Akira Otani (translated from the Japanese). July 2, 2024, Soho Crime

This is an unusual novel. It's my first time reading a book described as a queer mystery thriller from Japan. It's listed under these genres in Goodreads:  ThrillerQueer JapanLGBT Romance Adult Mystery


A fierce mixed-race fighter develops a powerful attachment to the yakuza princess she’s been forced to protect in this explosive queer thriller: Kill Bill meets The Handmaiden meets Thelma and Louise

Tokyo, 1979. Yoriko Shindo, a rugged, brawny outcast, is kidnapped by the Naiki-kai, a branch of the yakuza. Having brutally beaten nearly every member of the gang in an attempt to escape, Shindo is permitted to live if she will become the bodyguard and driver for Shoko Naiki, the obsessively sheltered daughter of the gang’s boss. 

Originally disdaining her ward, Shindo soon finds herself more invested in Shoko’s well-being than she expected. But every man around them is blood thirsty and trigger happy. Shindo doubts the two can survive unless something changes. 

Akira Otani’s explosive English-language debut moves boldly through time and across gender, stretching the definitions and possibilities of each concept. Translated by International Booker–shortlisted Sam Bett, this lean, mean thriller proves that bonds forged in fire are unbreakable.

Thanks to Soho Crime for an ARC of the book, which comes out July 2, 2024.

Sunset Lake Resort by Joanne Jackson, June 1, 2024, Stonehouse Pub  Genre: Saskatchewan, adult fiction, family drama


When Ruby's father passes away, but fails to leave her the millions some expected, Steve, her husband of 35 years, moves out. Alone, Ruby is torn between panic and relief. When she investigates the remote beach cabin her father had left her instead of his estate, she discovers a dilapidated beach resort in a remote location, seemingly untouched since its former owner died under mysterious circumstances.

 Despite the condition of the property and rumours it is haunted, Ruby decides to move to Sunset Lake Resort, determined to find out why her father bought it, and why he left it to her.

About the Author

Joanne Jackson is an award winning Canadian author of three novels. 'A Snake in the Raspberry Patch, '  'The Wheaton'  and her forthcoming novel, 'Sunset Lake Resort', due spring of 2024. 

Thanks to Wiley Saichek of Saichek Publicity for an ARC of this book.

Reading from NetGalley


Catalina by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, July 23, 2024, One World, NetGalley


A year in the life of Catalina Ituralde, an Ecuadorian American. A student at Harvard, she "navigate(s) an opaque past, an uncertain future, tragedies on two continents, and the possibilities of love and freedom.

The first part of Catalina was enjoyable to read. Catalina's personality was captivating and her points of view unique. However, I found that the plot became cumbersome, began to lack focus with too many disparate events and ideas thrown in. I'm still reading it and skimming, hoping it will pick up again in interest. 

These are my new books this week. What are you reading/watching? 

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

Mar 15, 2024

Sunday Salon: French Windows and The Venus of Salo

 In the Mailbox

French Windows by Antoine Laurain, publication June 25, 2024 by Gallic Books
Source: ARC from Meryl Zegarek Public Relations, Inc. 

I was intrigued by the stories in French Windows, written by Nathalia about her neighbors in the building across the street. She is a photographer who says she witnessed a murder there, in the style of the well known suspense movie, Rear Window. But her first story, told to her therapist, made me wonder how she could know so much just from observing from her window? I'll have to finish the novel and read the other four stories about her neighbors to get the full picture.


Antoine Laurain’s new novel of intrigue, murder and neighbourly curiosity ....  Nathalia, a young photographer, has been seeing a therapist. Having accidentally photographed a murder, she finds that she can no longer do her job.  Instead, Doctor Faber suggests that she write about the neighbours she idly observes in the building across the street. 

But as these written snapshots become increasingly detailed, he starts to wonder how she can possibly know so much about them. With each session, Doctor Faber and his mysterious patient will get closer and closer to the truth. 

 Bestselling author Antoine Laurain serves up a dose of suspense and intrigue in Rear Window fashion, with a Parisian heart

Antoine Laurain (born 1972) is a French author. He previously worked as a screenwriter and antiques dealer.
His works have been translated into 14 languages and partly made into films. 

by Ben Pastor
June 25, 2024 
Source: Bitter Lemon Press

October 1944, in the Republic of Salò, a German puppet state in the north of Italy and the last fascist stronghold in the country. Transferred to the town of Salò on Lake Garda, Wehrmacht colonel Martin Bora must investigate the theft of a precious painting of Venus by Titian. While Bora’s inquiry proceeds among many difficulties, discovering three dead bodies throws an even more sinister light on the scene.

Caught in an unforeseeable web of events, hounded by the Gestapo (for years at his heels on the charge of anti-Nazi activities), hopelessly in love with an enigmatic, real-flesh “Venus,” Bora must resort to all his courage and ability – not only to solve the mystery and expose the perpetrator, but also, in a breathtaking crescendo, to try to save himself from the firing squad, and secure an unlikely way out...

These are my new books this weekWhat are you reading/watching this week? 

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

Mar 11, 2024

Nature Images in Poetry: Guest Post by Anique Sara Taylor, author of Civil Twilight

 Poetic Book Tours 

 Anique Sara Taylor’s chapbook Civil Twilight is the winner of the 2022 Blue Light Poetry Prize.

Guest Post

The Nature of Nature in Poetry 

When we think of Naturein poetry, we often mean the beauty that nurtures us. The outer part of the universe that mirrors our own inner world and provides us with endless, glowing metaphors. 

I grew up beside a natural swamp that bordered hundreds of acres of wild forest, a lake with small islands and a waterfall. It wasnt ours, but we were free to roam there for hours in all seasons. I knew many of the ancient trees and could climb huge boulders left by glaciers, inhale green fragrances of the pine forest, and scurry down the sharp side of cliffs. Id lie down by the brook, soothed by its sounds. These were my favorite places where I was safe, and I could sing at the lake’s edge until I was calm again. 

I wondered about the other tribes that had lived there before us, what their lives had been like. In so many ways, these lands sustained me. But I also understood the lakes thin ice, the black water with dark weeds just below the surface that could entangle us and pull us under. How one could fall in if we skated too close to the edge of moving water. Of woods so deep that if something happened, if we fell and couldnt move, if night set in, we might never be found.         

It was years later that they fashioned a name for the strange childhood symptoms that had plagued me from the onset of double digits into adulthood. The undiagnosable symptoms that followed me as closely as a shadow through ensuing decades. I learned about the microscopic universes inside me, creatures that spun bacteria into a mutiny of cells gone wrong chronic Lyme Disease.         

As beauty and challenge entwine in our world, I try to reflect it in my poems. Both the gifts and the challenges of nature. 

Poetic Tools Often Used in Relation to Nature: 


Poetry can often synthesize deep experience because of its non-linear form. Metaphor is one of its interesting tools. Without explaining, it links two things that are usually unrelated. This can open up unexpected layers of sensation or insight and bring about new possibilities. This can spark surprise or awaken, strengthen or animate life in a poem.


Imagery allows us, in a few almost picture-like words, to invoke vivid sensations. Visual, yes, but it can also call upon any of the senses. Plus, movement, emotion, and physical response. A tool of unfolding, it can trigger imagination to generate vibrancy. Minute details are often described. Nature imagery can parallel human experience and in that way intensify meaning. 


Although also a form of metaphor, personification is when we attribute human characteristics to something non-human. This assignment of our emotions, feelings, behaviors to the non-human can help frame an imaginative link between our own attributes and those of nature, to envision a more complex intimacy between us.

 A Note, the Speaker: 

People often tend to believe the I” in poetry is the writer, implying that the poem is nonfiction. But the I” in a poem can be the writer, or it can be the point of view of almost any entity the writer imagines. Therefore, in discussing a poem, the I” in a poem is often referred to as the speaker. 

Below are examples of ways Ive tried to work with metaphor, imagery and personification to create something more interesting and intimate without explaining it outright, as one would do in an essay. To leave a new brocade of word, thought and image, open and spinning. 


 Civil Twilight

Blue Light Press

To describe the feeling of emotional emptiness that can be left by the loss of a loved one, by referring to stars:                   

Now only the brightest stars will ever be enough.

 Using bird attributes to render the speaker helpless, as she tries to steady herself through daily-life anxiety: 

Even lying featherless

in dusk, I carve each day with care.

 In asking Aprils first-flower shoots if they question the meaning of their existence, as humans tend to do:

                                      “…Swollen pop of hollow reed, blushing

bones brake naked through bedrock crust,

do they wonder what they came here for?

 • Illness is also part of nature. How it circles inside us, not unlike planets in the outer universe.

                              Invisible illness’ eccentric orbits buried inside marrow

 Even in graceful language, a bird falling can be the harbinger of human damage to Earth. Where metaphor allows us to talk about tragedy in a subtle way, and not hammer the reader with it directly. 

A cardinal plummets to the ground

like fallen fire, reinventing the darkness.

 The speaker refers to self with bird-parts, reflecting that even with difficulties, she moves forward with whatever she has, the way she is:

Clutching bundled words, I stumble

forward, neck frozen between beak & wing.

 The glory of eagles mating is straight forward here, but the metaphor is in calling their ritual a waltz. Waltz, a symbol of coupled grace, beauty in movement. A nod toward everything in the universe being connected. 

Eagles grasp claws swirling

endlessly downward. Can you hear the waltz? 

 Poetry and Our Own Nature Through the Prism of Nature

 I am thankful for the gifts of poetry that split apart linear thought. I am thankful for poetrys relationship with nature that uses imagery, personification and metaphors

to enrich and enable the poem to enter a complicated experience with fewer words. How this can reflect cognitive dissonance, magically juxtaposing the fierce and the beautiful, the sinister and the ecstatic, at the same time. The macrocosm and the microcosm. And our place within it. Exquisite beauty, torment, death, nature-driven illness beside the geometric perfection of pattern repeats. (For a treat, look up the Fibonacci sequence in nature.) 

And what may be the strangest thing about this essay is that the more we look to nature to immerse ourselves in what is outside of us, the more it refers to us as an integral part of nature. Though we consider people to be separate entities in the world, examining our atoms, cells, tissue, even our motion through time, separation becomes more of an illusion. 

As you continue through your daily life, I hope you will experience our world with an unfolding awareness of how nature can be more than sun, moon, spring and flowers. 

I close with a devotion to Edna St. Vincent Millay who more than a hundred years ago in her poem “Gods World”, expresses an almost unbearable beauty: 

“Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me,—let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.”

Thanks to the author for her guest post.

Anique Sara Taylor’s book Civil Twilight is Blue Light Poetry Prize 2022.  FacebookXInstagramLinkedIn, and her blogher newsletter.

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

  NEW RELEASES Corky Lee's Asian America Fifty Years of Photographic Justice by  Corky Lee Publication April 9, 2024; Clarkson Potter/Te...