Tuesday, November 26, 2013

An excellent book...

Just finished reading listening to The Latehomecomer, by Kao Kalia Yang, this evening.  It's been keeping me company the past week or so while I've been driving, and then I couldn't put it down (so to speak) and brought it in the house the past couple nights to listen some more.  It is a beautiful, challenging, sad, and love-filled memoir of a young Hmong woman who was born in a refugee camp in Thailand and came with her family to the U.S. in 1987 when she was six years old.  I especially loved listening to her tell the story of her family; the relationships, the resourcefulness, the history... all of it came alive with her wonderful writing.  One of the things that struck me the most was that the author read the story herself.  Authors often do read their own work, but I realized about halfway through the book how amazing it was that she did this. She tells how she had great difficulty speaking English for many years after her family came to the U.S.; she would only speak in a whisper, or just nod or gesture, even though she was capable of speaking and she could understand spoken English and read just fine.  So it was a powerful statement of how much she had grown, and somehow healed from the traumatic events of her early years.  She is very honest about her feelings and some of the very difficult times she experienced. I got the impression that she was making a strong effort to find a balance in her storytelling, and it worked very well.  The story carried me away to places and events that were so very outside my own experience, but somehow the author recreated those events in a way that made them very vivid and real.  Her book touched me deeply; I don't know how else to put it.

(The only other book I have read about the Hmong people was The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman, which was also excellent but a very different kind of book, and from a vastly different perspective.  The Latehomecomer helped me to understand the people and events in this book so much better.)    

Saturday, October 05, 2013

My other job... or one of them, anyway...

For the past year or so I have been doing some part-time work for WomenArts, a unique organization dedicated to supporting women artists, writers, filmmakers -- any sort of woman artist.  It has been fascinating work, opening up a whole new world to me, among other things.  For the past few months I have been updating lists on the website, mostly lists of funding sources, but other types of lists as well.  Today I came across some excellent websites from our Women Artist Directories page, and I want to share a few of them to give my readers some idea of what is out there...

Varo Registry of Women Artists

Sisters in Cinema, particularly this section

Women in Photography  Among other things, there are some beautiful photos in the 2013 Juried Exhibition section, and there are links to individual photographers (click on Member Links on the left side of the page)

That's going to have to be it for now -- will try to write more later!!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Food -- I've been cooking again...

...so, just thought I'd post some of the things I've happened upon on food lately.  First, a book: In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan.  Years ago when I was active in La Leche League, our guideline, "Eat a variety of food in as close to its natural state as possible," along with the LLL cookbooks (most notably Whole Foods for the Whole Family) helped me to gradually change and improve my diet and the diet of my family.  I was surprised and delighted to read Michael Pollan's three guidelines:  "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."  As he fleshed out these ideas, it appeared that his guidelines mesh very nicely with the LLL ideas about food.  I highly recommend both books!

One other book that I want to give a plug to is Veggie Revolution, by Sally Kneidel and Sarah Kate Kneidel.  This is a book about (among other things) how to move from the "normal" American diet to a diet that is healthier and more plant-based, and gives both the why and the how-to in excellent prose and photos as well as delicious recipes.  (I actually wrote a review of the book when it first came out; you can read it here.)  Sally and Sarah also write a wonderful blog by the same name.

Another website I came across tonight:  100 Days of Real Food.   Hmmm... I had to move all the way to California to find a website about a family who live in... Charlotte, NC!  Looks like a good one, from what little I've seen.  I'm making quiche tomorrow and they had some ideas I am going to use (though I made the crust from a different recipe.)  Since my cookbooks are almost all in storage, I have been using the web to find recipes, and especially the proportions of what is in things that I already know how to make, like quiche and pie crust.

This is it for now, but I hope to add more, and I welcome comments from my readers (if I still have any!) with suggestions for more books and websites about cooking real food.   I do have the comments moderated, but if you comment I will try to get your comment posted within a day or so. 

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Favorite authors...

This article, by Margo Rabb, in the NY Times Book Review from July 28 (which I just got around to reading this morning) was very well-written, and great food for thought...  It brought back memories of my "encounters" with my favorite authors.  Here are some of the ones that have come to mind as I have reflected on Margo Rabb's article.

Many years ago I read The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry, for the first time, and loved it.  I read an English translation, I knew very little French -- just what I have picked up in reading and listening over the years -- and still don't.  Anyway, it was my favorite book then and for many years, and some years later when I found that Saint-Exupery had written other books, I read some of them also: Wind, Sand and Stars and Night Flight.  Wind, Sand and Stars especially spoke to me, but I loved both these books for their evocative writing, the glimpse into another time and place, and Saint-Exupery's insights into friendship and the human spirit.  Then, many years later -- just a few years ago -- I read a biography of Saint-Exupery, The Tale of the Rose: The Love Story Behind The Little Prince.  It was a real eye-opener, and got me to thinking about the same issues that come up in this article.  Of course, Saint-Exupery was a product of his times, but it was still appalling the way he treated the women in his life.  It didn't at all reflect my imaginings of him as a sensitive, caring, and honorable individual.  I had dreamed up an idealized Saint-Exupery who was very different from the man who actually wrote these books I love.  At the time, I was crushed, but since then have begun to understand just what the author discusses in this article.

I have also had some connections with authors that were much better than I could have hoped.  One was my encounter with Pat Kenschaft, the author of another of my favorite books, Math Power: How to Help Your Child Love Math Even If You Don't.  When I first read this book, which I found serendipitously at the library, it resonated with me more than any other book about math or math education ever had.  The author and I shared so many ideas and values.  Several years after I read the book, after it had suddenly gone out of print and I could no longer find copies to share with people, the author and I met purely by chance at a math conference.  We spent a lovely hour chatting about the book and our lives and ideas, and have continued to stay in touch since then.  I was happy to be a small part of helping her to bring the book back into print (the same title, but a revised edition) and even helped to write a little bit of it, in the appendices.  Quite a positive encounter! 

Gerald Jonas wrote a poem that was in a book I owned as a teenager.  The book was The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction, Sixteenth Series, a gift from my parents.  I lost the book many years ago (along with many of my personal belongings which succumbed to a flood in the basement of our house on Haven Ridge Dr.) and I lost the copy of the poem that I carried in my wallet when that wallet was stolen back in the early 70's.  But I always remembered the book and the poem, and wished I could have a copy of the poem again.  So a few years ago, I looked for the book on the internet and found it, and ordered a copy, and rediscovered Mr. Jonas's delightful poem.  And then I found some contact information for Mr. Jonas on the web also, and wrote him to tell him how much I liked his poem, and he wrote back!  He was quite a delightful person, and very grateful that I remembered the poem and took the time to write him.  (I still have the letter he wrote me, and the book, though they are in storage at the moment and I can't get at them...or else I would be putting the name of the poem in here...)

I once heard Leon Uris in an interview with Diane Rehm on her show on NPR.  I had read several of his novels years ago when I was in my late teens and 20's, and enjoyed them all very much, particularly Exodus and Trinity, his book about the history of the 20th century conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.  But in this interview, he was surprisingly quite cantankerous.  He was also rude to one of Diane's callers, so much so that she insisted he apologize to the caller and to her listeners.  That was an eye-opening experience!

Rachel Naomi Remen is an author whom I encountered in person, though I didn't get to have a conversation with her.  A friend and I were fortunate to be able to attend a lecture she gave at Temple Beth El in Charlotte a few years back.  In person, the warmth, humility, kindness, and spirit which shine through her books Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather's Blessings shone through in her bearing, her face, her speaking.  She was in person just like she was in her books.  Her talk left us with hope and inspiration to carry with us.      

One thing I always do when I begin reading a book is to find out a little about the author from the dust jacket or the short bio in the book, or from the web.  But as the years pass, more and more I try to keep in mind whenever I am reading that, though the author has a talent in writing (and undoubtedly worked hard for many years to develop that talent) and probably also has a passion for writing and for his or her subject, he or she is subject to the same human condition that we all are.  Beyond any credentials, talents, and skills in writing that the author possesses, he or she is a human being like any other, with successes and failures, struggles, achievements, things left undone, messy relationships and (hopefully) some healthy ones -- in short, not a person to be put on a pedestal or in a "box" of my making.     

Monday, April 01, 2013

No Fooling -- It's National Poetry Month!

Just a heads-up to all you poetry lovers out there!  You can find more info at this link.
The first poems I remember hearing, beyond nursery rhymes, were those of A. A. Milne, the author of the Winne-the-Pooh books. It is true, at least for me, that our mother's voice always stays with us: I can hear, in my mind, my mother reading this poem to me. It speaks so much to me of the playfulness and wonder of childhood...
(And it is appropriate for today in the Bay Area -- it rained all night!)

John had
Great Big
Boots on;
John had a
Great Big
John had a
Great Big
Mackintosh --
And that
(Said John)

Sunday, March 31, 2013

A response to great loss

I have been continuing my part-time work for WomenArts... Currently my work involves systematically researching broken links on the website and fixing them.  Sometimes -- actually very much of the time -- this research exposes me to new ideas and/or women artists that I have not known about, or knew about but hadn't investigated before.  One of these is Isabel Allende.  In my searches today I uncovered this short video and it resonated with me, so I want to share it with my readers.  (It somehow seems appropriate for Easter also -- a day when we celebrate the ultimate act of giving, and its joyful outcome.)


Thursday, March 07, 2013

Support Women Artists Now!

It's March, which means that SWAN Days are here!  I've been working with WomenArts for the past six months or so, and the SWAN Day project is one of the many things that WomenArts has done/is doing.  Check out the link below for a good example of a SWAN Day event -- this is just one of the 77 SWAN Day events/locations taking place this month!

SWAN Days in Jamestown, NY  

Wednesday, February 06, 2013


This morning on the way back from my PT appointment I saw something I haven't seen in awhile:  a Bookmobile!  (I didn't get a photo of it -- I was not quick enough -- but if you click the link in the previous sentence, you will see what it looks like.)  It brought back such memories... when I was a little girl, we would sometimes get books from the bookmobile in Minneapolis.  At least, I remember being in one when I was very little. 

Of course I have loved libraries for as long as I can remember, which is probably why I remember the bookmobile.  I can remember vividly many of the libraries I have visited in my life, which is saying a lot: my memory isn't all that great.  One of the first public libraries I ever went to was the Children's Library, which I think was in Edina, Minnesota, or perhaps in Minneapolis quite near to Edina.  The librarians were all very nice to us kids, and there were little tables and chairs, and we could sit and look at the books for a long time.  I remember this place as a free-standing children's library, but perhaps it was just the children's section of a branch library.  In any case, it was wonderful. 

Later on I went to libraries in other places I lived and many of the places I have visited.  The downtown branch of the Atlanta Public Library, which I visited often as a teenager in the late 60's, was a particularly memorable place.  The librarians there were very strict about silence.  Also, there was a certain place on the mezzanine, a pass-through from one section of the library to another (all lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, of course) where the floor was squishy, as though it were made of that stuff that now often forms the surface under a jungle gym or the swings in a public park.  It looked like solid floor, but was actually probably rotting out underneath.  I always found that place and walked across it when I went to the downtown library.  More often I would visit the Ida Williams branch in Buckhead, which had its own particular charm.  It was our library, the one my family most often went to and where they always knew us.  It is not there anymore -- it's been replaced by a newer building.  But it still brings back fond memories, as I am sure the new building will bring to its visitors many years hence.


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Morning thoughts...

This morning's observations:
  • There is so much that medicine and science still don't know.  I read an article about gluten sensitivity this morning in which one of the researchers stated, w.r.t. the how to reasonably identify it, "We have absolutely no clue at this point." The researchers/doctors/scientists don't really understand why this affects some people and others not at all, but they have recently classified this as an actual medical condition, separate from celiac disease. 
  • Vectors are very interesting...  I had the opportunity to work with a student who is taking precalculus yesterday and we worked on vector problems the whole time. I would love to learn more physics.
  • I love books, and libraries.  We have one where I work and I get to work with it some.  I would like to read about half the books in it. I sometimes wish I had become a librarian...
  • It is important, if you have an earworm, that it be one that you appreciate.  I like mine this morning.  Most of the time I do, actually.
  • Math is everywhere.  I already knew this, but was reminded of it again when Frances brought some Broccoli Romanesco (see photo below) home from the market a few weeks ago and then again last weekend.  (It is also delicious!)
  • It is hard to think of something to post about every single morning.  But I'm going to keep on for as long as I can! I just need to start a little earlier in the morning... 

Monday, February 04, 2013


After posting briefly yesterday I thought, Maybe a daily post will be possible...?  Worth a try.

Perhaps posting links to some of the things I am reading or listening to, or sharing a great side trip, or just a photo with or without comment...
I took this photo at Stuff, a store near where I am currently living, that has lots of it.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Good job!

You know how it is...  you're not looking for the next thing to write in your blog, you don't even have time or energy to write blogposts these days...  but then in searching for something very specific on the web, you find something else that you would love to post to your blog.  Well, that just happened to me.  And here is the article that distracted me.  This article addresses something that has been bothering me for awhile, but I never took the time to write about it... and the author of this article does a Good Job, so I'll let the article speak for itself.