Monday Magpie

Of the articles I have read and stashed over the last several weeks, two still stand out:

A Conversation with Gene Luen Yang about growing up Chinese American Catholic.

I Will Never Forget My First Gay Friends, by Oregon federal judge Michael McShane. An elegy. I wonder what led him to write and publish it now.

belated Friday Five

Questions courtesy of littledupont at LJ:

Would you rather shop or sunbathe?

Sunbathe, but there must be short duration or ample shade, because I burn easily.

I am surprisingly fond of shopping online, and do it for Sanguinity sometimes. Most recently, workout capris from SparkleSkirts— love their stuff.

Would you rather dance or sing?

Sing, probably. You can do other stuff while singing. And in public I’m probably less self-conscious singing than dancing. And I like the vibrations of singing.

Would you rather watch college football or watch NFL?

Um. Is it like basketball where college ball has more evident defense? I don’t watch much football, just study up on the Broncos a bit if I’m going to be visiting my folks, so I can follow the chitchat among my relatives. The moneyed interests and policies in both the NCAA and NFL may be incompatible with my values.

Would you rather write or read?

Oh, read. Hundred to one, reading.

Would you rather chat online with friends or hang out with friends?

Hang out with friends. I don’t like chat at all and very rarely do it. I just can’t get the hang of it, I always end up waiting around for the other person to say something or feeling very rude for going away mid-chat. That said, I do love seeing my friends’ blogs and social media go by and interacting asynchrously as the spirit moves me.

Medusa: An Approximated Dialogue

cover of Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, by Alison Bechdel

Sanguinity: What is this? This package here with your name on it… that’s still sealed?

Me: Well… I did something that I am ambivalent about.

Sanguinity: You are ambivalent about opening a package?!

Me: Not opening the package is the expression of my ambivalence.

Sanguinity: About…?

Me: I bought the big hardback Dykes to Watch Out For collection from Amazon.

Sanguinity: What’s the part you’re ambivalent about?

Me: …

Sanguinity: That it’s from Amazon?

Me: Mo would be disappointed in me.

Sanguinity: Mm.

Me: I looked for a used copy at Powell’s, several times over several months!

Sanguinity: Let’s put this in perspective. How often do you think Mo is disappointed in herself?

Me: Almost all the time.

Sanguinity: How often is Mo, when she’s going through her day, like “That thing I just did, that was good, go me.”

Me: Hardly ever.

Sanguinity: Hardly ever. Mo has not made peace with being caught in late capitalism. She is still wrapped up in the idea that her individual actions can somehow escape it.

Me: Mm.

Sanguinity: Now, I do insist that you blog your disappointment in yourself.


Books I Read in 2017

I finished my list!

I read 142 books in 2017, and achieved my goal of 50% books by non-white authors. Thank you, Jason Reynolds. :D

Some notes from my 50% project:

  • It’s like those studies with teachers who think the girls in their class are talking at least as much as the boys, probably more– but when you count it all up it’s more like 30 percent from the girls. Imbalance is normal in my experience, so 50/50 feels like POC authors are strongly predominant.
  • Despite all the POC stars in kidlit right now– Jason Reynolds, Jacqueline Woodson, Gene Luen Yang– there are strong pulls from the culture to drift towards white. The books from the library that I have to read and return because someone else requested them, the books I request because there’s buzz about them online, the classic books that characters in newer books read and refer to– turns out these are mostly by white authors.
  • I worked hard to find series by POC authors to balance out my Animorphs and Dear Canada runs. Other than manga, I came up mostly with trilogies– Sook Nyui Choi’s autobiographical novels, Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before confections, and waiting-impatiently-for-book-threes from Nnedi Okorafor (Binti) and Linda Sue Park (Wing and Claw). Do POC authors have trouble getting contracts for longer series? Maybe I should poke around in mystery or romance for adults.
  • I am definitely repeating the 50% goal this year. I feel like I need it there to counter those cultural currents I mentioned above. But I hope that as I get acquainted with more POC authors and books, the network will become robust enough that I’ll feel I’m being led along from book to book.

And now, books I’m adding to my life list at librarything. It’s a little hard to explain what this list is– not necessarily the books I admire most, but the ones that if they were DNA would, in combination, come closest to coding me. (With additional conventions, like having only one book per author for the most part, even if multiple books would qualify). This year:

  • The Animorphs series by Katherine Applegate. I missed these when they came out; languageescapes sent me some for my birthday and I am wholeheartedly into it. Such whiplash between slapstick and war trauma! So many twists that make me grin too hard and say WHHAAAAT! and speculate further. And I’m only twelve books in.
  • The Year of  Impossible Goodbyes, by Sook Nyui Choi. Includes the other two books in the trilogy, Echoes of the White Giraffe and Gathering of Pearls. I think I found these when Linda Sue Park mentioned them as the first Korean-American fiction she found to read. So wide a variety of experiences, from a terrifying border crossing to attending a women’s college in the U.S., the kind where a house mother keeps tabs on you and your dorm-mates. I read these on the front porch and on our eclipse vacation this summer and was completely absorbed.
  • I Believe in a Thing Called Love, by Maurene Goo. I mentioned this in my High School Romance post: K-dramas and family bonding and romance, so good!
  • Enter Title Here, by Rahul Kanakia. I thought I wrote a whole post about this, but maybe I just raved to various people. I’ll say it again: sociopaths have dreams too, you know!
  • What Did You Eat Yesterday?, a manga series by Fumi Yoshinaga. A gay lawyer cooks for his partner. Things happen in the background in their relationship and jobs and so on, but mostly it’s recipes and cooking. Satisfies my housekeeping/domesticity thing. I’m up to volume 9, I think there are at least a dozen so far.

Other highlights:

Through My Eyes, by Ruby Bridges
The Best We Could Do, by Thi Bui
It All Comes Down to This, by Karen English
Little White Duck, by Na Liu and Andres Vera Martinez
Binti and Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, by Sidney Padua
Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepatys
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

And old-timey YA by Betty Cavanna! And discovering Jean Little’s Dear Canada books! And listening to Hilary McKay’s Saffy’s Angel, read by Julia Sawahla, as I watered the garden.

My complete list for the year is here.

Dear Lynda

I don’t think I am alone in always being on the lookout for more advice columnists to read. Did you know that Lynda Barry has been writing advice columns for the Paris Review? I think my favorite is what to do if your roommate keeps leaving their diary in the bathroom.

I went to Powell’s today in search of a copy of Portrait of a Lady that will hold up to the several rereadings I expect to do, and that has more legible print than my Penguin paperback. (I never used to understand what my parents were on about when they complained about tiny print. Now I know.) Alas, they had only three copies, all squinchy paperbacks. I think the literature section is smaller than it used to be… but the YA section has grown by a lot, so I won’t complain. It used to be that a trip to the Cedar Hills store was necessary if you wanted to bask in kidlit and YA.

Anyway, Sanguinity suggested that Portrait of a Lady might be read more on screens these days, being in the public domain and all. Maybe I’ll put it on my phone for when the bus driver decides to leave us all in darkness as we ride. This seems to be happening more often lately.

rabbit rabbit!

I’m putting the last touches on my 2017 book list– there were too many books for which I jotted down only the titles before they went back to the library. Now I’m adding in dates, noting whatever impressions of them remain in my head, and finding their place in the list. Next year, I mean this year, I’m going to try a spreadsheet so it’s easier to put in order.

The first book I finished reading in 2018 is Mitali Perkins’ You Bring the Distant Near.

The writing is so assured– the characters seem real, like we’re just dipping in as the three generations live their lives. The resolutions do mostly involve romance, in a way that makes me wonder if Perkins is a Jane Austen fan. (Or maybe it’s just that Sanguinity and I watched the 1995 Sense and Sensibility last night while we waited for the new year.)

It’s been a peaceful holiday season. Christmas was with Sanguinity’s parents, which feels traditional now– eating cookies and reading Yuletide fic on the sofa-bed upstairs while televised football filters up from below. My favorite kidlit-fic this Yuletide is “Completion”, by oxfordRoulette (2106 words). It’s about Lirael from Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series; it has domesticity and refuge, two of my favorite themes. It’s post-canon, so I did miss the Dog.

It’s been a season of good food, too– I made fudge, and Sang gave me a tofu cookbook and made ma po tofu for us. The sun has been shining. I think I’m ready for 2018. Best hopes and wishes for us all!

Smells and Words

I wish I could post smells, because this is Pesto-Making Weekend and it’s sooooo fragrant. I supplemented our garden basil with some from Trader Joe’s, but once the garden harvest was in a heap on the kitchen floor I saw it was more than I expected. Pesto will be abundant this winter, hooray! (We freeze it in ice cube trays, sans parmesan.)

Sanguinity made onion gravy last night and that smell was also heavenly. We ate it on fries, poutine without the cheese curds. (The last few times I tried buying cheese curds, they did not squeak when bitten! I was disappointed.) Right now I’m making mashed potatoes for the leftover gravy.

I learned on Tumblr tonight that Merriam-Webster has a Time Traveler feature where you can look up which words and phrases were born (er, first used in print) in a given year. Here are a few the same age I am:

  • bad hair day
  • comfort food
  • granola (!)
  • labradoodle (!)
  • wish list

Surprises from my mom’s era: it says poster child and private eye were both new in 1938.

Friday Five

The Friday Five post isn’t up yet at LiveJournal/Dreamwidth, so let’s use the questions this week:

1. What’s a good movie for October that has nothing to do with monsters or Halloween?

After Life (1998), a Japanese movie that’s contemplative and quirky in just the way I like.

2. What’s a good couple of songs for October that have nothing to do with monsters or Halloween?

Wynton Marsalis and Sarah Vaughan doing Autumn Leaves together. Cat Stevens’ Moonshadow.

3. What are some reasons to love October?

Monsters and Halloween, of course! Also fresh apple cider. Chilly mornings so I don’t get to work all sweaty if I walk. Sunshine with golden leaves and deep blue sky.

4. Radio stations sometimes call this month Rocktober, doing special playlists or giveaways in celebration of rock music. What would be a better rhyming name for this month, and how might it be celebrated?

We have local Walktober promotions. But I’ll go with Socktober, because having enough cozy warm socks without holes is a great feeling.

5. What would be a good holiday to establish in October for those U.S. states not commemorating Columbus Day?

Portland celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ Day on that Monday; I’m good with that.

Black Beans

I slacked off on my A words in ASL and got a B instead of an A on my vocabulary notebook. D: Back to the A word mines!

When I got home from school, I walked in to the smell of bacon. Sanguinity was baking potatoes, to be served with bacon and sour cream and cheese, oh wow. They weren’t quite ready yet, so we had leftover black beans with a fried egg on top while we waited.

I don’t know how much of my relationship with this black bean recipe is that it fits our household very well, and how much of it is that we love it so much that we run the household to fit it. But I don’t have my usual inertia about getting out the food processor for it, and there are always three cans of black beans in the cupboard.

Black Beans

Fry up bacon. We use the cast iron skillet and cook three slices plus a little more to eat while cooking.
While the bacon is frying, dice an onion.
Remove the bacon from the pan and chop it up. Cook the onion in the bacon fat with some cumin.
While the onion is cooking, get a chipotle or two out of the freezer. (Chipotles in adobo sauce come in a can. When you open a can, freeze the chiles you don’t use on a cookie sheet, each with a blob of sauce on it, and store them in the freezer in a plastic bag.)
Drain three cans of black beans. Whirl them and the chipotle in the food processor. It’s okay to add a little water if you need it to make it all process smoothly.
Put the bean glop in the pan with the onions, and stir in the bacon. Let it rest over low heat, stirring now and then, until it’s all mixed and warmed through.
Serve with corn tortillas. Cheese, cilantro, sour cream, green taco sauce, and fried eggs are all optional but welcome additions. (I just had Sanguinity proofread this recipe, and she says Tapatio sauce, not green taco sauce!)

I’m pretty sure this came from a Cook’s Illustrated library book, though I didn’t find it on the internet in a cursory search. I know the chipotle tip did, and that book is also why our freezer usually has rolled-up uncooked bacon strips, tablespoon-sized blobs of tomato paste, and whole ginger root in it.

HFN high-school romance

YA romances I’ve loved this year:

cover of I Believe in a Thing Called Love with smiling girl in miniskirt

I Believe in a Thing Called Love, by Maurene Goo

cover of When Dimple Met RIshi, closeup of smiling girl drinking iced coffee

When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon

cover of Always and Forever, Lara Jean, with girl at dressing table

Always and Forever, Lara Jean, by Jenny Han

(although actually, I liked the first book of the trilogy, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, best.)

I have to admit that from my middle-aged perspective I’m a little unsure how to read romances set in the senior year of high school or summer between high school and college. Maybe in general I’m not as practiced at HFN (happy for now) endings in romance as at HEA (happy ever after), but I think the books share my unsureness at least a little. Dimple and Rishi had some Meant To Be / Eternally cues and that was okay. Always and Forever framed it as “don’t let the world tell you your romance is doomed,” and… that worked as far as it went? But I keep having to stuff down my opinion that taking high-school romance to college usually doesn’t work out well. (Discussing I Believe in a Thing Called Love‘s solution would be spoilery.)

Miscellaneous notes: I Believe in a Thing Called Love has made me want to watch so, so many more K-dramas. (Not a high bar, Mystery Queen is the only one I’ve seen so far. I loved it.) And shooting has started for the movie version of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before!