It’s the time of year when I pore over the log of books I’ve read since last January. I will definitely be adding to my cumulative list of favorites:
The Year of the Dog, an autobiographical novel by Grace Lin (2006), and by extension its sequels The Year of the Rat (2007) and Dumpling Days (2012). The author is within a few years of my age, and it really brought back the feel of a 1970s childhood in a mostly-white town. (With a perspective outside the white-kid one I had.)
One of the lovely things about this series is that the main character and her best friend are based on the author and real-life friend Alvina Ling, now an editor of kids’ books! They are still friends and even have a podcast together where they catch up on each other’s lives and talk about current topics in kidlit. I like to have it on while I’m doing routine work stuff– a very satisfying parasocial relationship.
I also read a couple of Grace Lin’s picture books this year, including one with a Year of the Dog connection that I won’t spoil, but haven’t yet read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and its sequels. I’d like to do that in 2022.
Just finished:Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Takemori. This was right up my alley! The pleasures of commodification, a simple life, how performative and imitative social life can feel. I like the cover, too.
Next up: going on vacation with some books written under pseudonyms by authors I love! The first two Crooked Rock Urban Indian Center romances by Pamela Sanderson (aka Pam Rentz)– the third one just came out in ebook and paperback’s coming soon. And Rain Mitchell’s, aka Stephen McCauley’s, Tales From the Yoga Studio.
Recently read: Linda Sue Park’s first novel, Seesaw Girl (1999), about a girl named Jade in a wealthy family in 17th-century Seoul. The book does such a beautiful job balancing Jade’s very constrained societal role (girls don’t read or write, they never go outside the walls of the family compound until they marry and move to their husband’s home, and then never come back except maybe for a parent’s funeral. And even wealthy women spend a lot of time on laundry) and giving her enough autonomy to make her story at least somewhat satisfying to a contemporary reader accustomed to spunky girl protagonists. She didn’t bust out but she didn’t buckle under either. Delicate work!
The seesaw comes on the scene quite late in the book, and was my introduction to Korean-style seesaws. I think I read in an interview somewhere that Linda Sue Park had one in the backyard for her own kids!