My Friend Amy ~ The Kool-Aid Flavor of the Week

Kool-Aid Mom's Award

My Friend Amy

Amy at My Friend Amy is this week’s Kool-Aid Flavor of the Week for stepping out of her comfort zone and saying what needed to be said, regardless of whether it offended readers.  It wasn’t something she wanted to do, offend people, but she felt she needed to say what was on her mind because it was the right thing to do.

Before I had read this post, I hadn’t known anything of the whitewashing of covers.   Amy’s post also made me aware of other bloggers out there that I hadn’t read like Susan of Color Online and Ari of Reading In Color, who led me to several other wonderful new blogs, as well.  My Google Reader has nearly doubled in subscriptions, and I’m better for the diversity it has brought.  Her post has also made me think about how I, a white person, have been fairly cacooned to a lot of the issues people of color face.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about what it means for Maggie, especially, being half-Vietnamese in a community where there are few Asians.  There have been candid conversations with her recently in which she’s expressed how she sometimes wishes she was all of one or the other instead of biracial.  Recently, her classroom finally received a second Asian, but to her dismay, the new person is a boy.  Besides the fact he is a BOY, and icky by gender (she’s in 5th grade, lol), she’s not terribly fond of him as a person (he says “Man!” a lot, and is disgusting and ill-mannered, according to her) and she says he looks like her daddy.  I’ve not seen the boy yet, but since he’s on the basketball team and she’s a cheerleader, I will see him at their first home game.  One of the things that distresses her most about Day Day is that all of their classmates are trying to push them together as boyfriend and girlfriend, just because he’s Asian.  Honestly, I think she’d like him as a friend, she does shows occasional admiration for him and, apparently, he has the redeeming quality of standing up for others from stories she’s told.

All of that paragraph was to say that Amy’s post On Being Offended has made me think a lot about how can I help Mags navigate through growing up and try to be supportive and understanding.  I can understand to an extent what it’s like for her, but I can never fully understand.  I see her beauty, grace and athleticism, and intelligence and listen to her talk about being an 10-year-old girl, and I am perplexed by the mystery of it all.  I was an overweight, social misfit, and never understood the social play that went on between my peers until I was in my mid-twenties.  Add to that the fact that when people look at her, they see a person of color and have reactions to that, either involuntary or conscious.

Most who meet Mags for the first time think she’s Hispanic, partly because there is a lot more Latinos than Asians, but also because most of her close friends are Spanish.  She is already beginning to feel the pains of racism as one of her classmates is known to “hate Mexicans”, and another accuses Maggie of being racist because she’s interested in Asian things.  And I’m beginning to see it having an effect on her this year as she’s starting to become a bit more shy and reserved, and less of the outgoing little girl who knew, at 18-months-old, how to get strangers to help her do and get the things she wanted.  I don’t know what to do to help her, other than love her and encourage her and to remind her who she really is.  AND I know this will only get harder for her as she gets older.

Well, this post is NOT where I wanted it all to go, but it kept winding back that way all the same, and perhaps that is part of what Amy’s post has done.  Her post, along with Lenore’s International Book Bloggers Mentor Program and Dawn’s Kiva posts, has made me think and think a lot about my place among so many both in the blogosphere and in the world. They impressed me enough that I wanted to tell others how much so by started the Flavor of the Week.

And now I’m out of Flavors that I had in the can, so I want y’all to let me know who has inspired you to think?  What Blogger is your Flavor of the Week?  What posts have made you reach outside of yourself and do something community-wise? 

Don’t forget to check out On Being Offended at My Friend Amy, it’s an excellent post 🙂

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The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Title:  The Namesake

Author:  Jhumpa Lahiri

Paperback:  291 pages

ISBN:  9780618485222

For being a foreigner, Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy – a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts.  It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been ordinary life, only to discover that that previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding.  Like pregnancy, being a foreigner, Ashima believes, is something that elicits the same curiosity from strangers, the same combination of pity and respect.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, pages 49-50

My first experience with the Ganguli family happened two years ago when I brought the DVD copy of the movie home from the library.  I thought then that it was a beautiful and rich story, and was excited to find out it was also a book.  After a few months of picking it up and putting it back, I finally bought a paperback of it from Waldenbooks about a year or so ago, but it sat on the shelf since then… calling to me whenever I looked in the general area of the bookshelf where it sat.  And after reading Confessions of a Shopaholic, I decided it was time for something a little more lasting and meaningful, so I finally began the journey and story of Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli, and their children Gogol and Sonia.

When thinking about how to describe The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, the word that keeps coming to mind is “quiet”.  Lahiri slowly weaves a beautiful tapestry of the love and living and feelings of being an immigrant family.  The different customs and how the culture of the land in which you live can so overtake you and change you in ways you can’t even realize.  First and foremost, it is a love story:  The love of a man and wife, the love of parents for their children, the love for one’s family, and the love of one’s homeland.  It’s also a story of the journey we all must take of self-acceptance, and, after that, the acceptance of others.  Of course, the “Indian-ness” of it is also beautiful and intriguing.

One of the things I find fascinating from this book is the realization that all people everywhere share the burden of growing up, of culture, and of the hopes and expectations of their parents.  For the majority of us, we caring these burdens among our own people… fellow humans who share similar experiences in this and this helps us not feel so alone.  However, for those who have left their native lands, there can be a constant ache and isolation as they endure the struggles of life without the ability to lean on someone who can understand how they feel.  What’s more, the first generation born in another land are even more isolated, having one foot in the old and new country, they can neither relate to their parents who have no understanding of the way things are in their adopted homeland, nor can they fully relate to their peers who either don’t have any concept of their home life or they find it a curiosity.

Interestingly, after reading this book, it has made me take a second look and given me a deeper respect for Maggie’s dad, who left his own homeland of Vietnam more than ten years ago and has recently become a naturalized US citizen.  Not that I didn’t have respect for him before, but rather gained a bit more empathy for him.  It’s also given me another perspective with Maggie, who made a passing comment recently how she sometimes wishes she was either all Vietnamese or all white, as being both sometimes makes her feel outside of either culture.

For it’s quiet beauty and it’s lasting effect, I give The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri 4 and a 1/2 out of 5 stars.

TSS ~ Half-done Is NOT Well-begun

The Sunday Salon.com

Oh, how I wish I were a speed reader with photographic memory, that way I could zip through all those lovely books and then digest them later!  Or, that I had clones, each with a feed into my own brain, so that I could read all the blogs and comment on them, read all the books and write their reviews, get all the house work done and cook and walk the dog and….. *sigh* and just the other million and one things I would do, meanwhile I would lay back and receive the feed and process it all.

But, alas… it is just little ol’ me.

But li’l ol’ me did manage to get a lot done this week.  I figured out how to work Google Reader, but I’ve promptly forgot to CHECK IT EVERYDAY… now I’m scared to look at how many new posts will be waiting.  I finished Emmaby Jane Austen… finally… and I’ve started the review, but I just don’t know exactly what I want to say or how I feel, so it sits in the drafts pile, waiting.  The Cable modem had a malfunction and I was without internet for about 26 hours, so in the absence of my feed (addiction), I managed to read Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay (have yet to start the review), get about 2/3 the way through The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards, and get a good start on The 19th Wifeby David Ebershoff, but had to set aside Of Bees and Mistby Erick Setiawan until after the blog tour books since they take precedence as they have specific dates to post.

I got on the stick and started sorting clothes for keepers, winter clothes, Goodwill and trash, and now my kitchen table is covered with laundry, the job half done, so now we can’t eat at the table.  We just kinda disperse to which ever cave, er, I mean “room”, we prefer to huddle in front of TV or monitor or book while consuming our food.  It feels so separate and distant, I can’t see how people do that on a regular basis. 

Maggie’s dad’s suffering the economic crunch, and this multiple-times Employee-of-the-Month-where-ever-he-goes will be outa a job as of Wednesday, the company he has worked for for six years is closing their doors.  So my coming weeks will involve helping him with unemployment paperwork, filling out job apps, looking up openings online and helping him talk to potential employers.  I do all of that because he’s Maggie’s daddy and if he gets a job here, then he’ll stay in the area and she’ll get to grow up as much with him as possible.  When he first found out about the closing, he talked about moving back to California with his parents.  Mags wanted me to let him live at our house, but I had to set her straight.

Me:  “Maggot, that’s NOT going to happen.”

Daddy’s Princess:  “Why not?  He can sleep on my top bunk.”

Me:  “Honey, if daddy were to move back in with us, it wouldn’t be long before you’d be an orphan because I’d be in jail for killing him”

Needless to say, he and I are great friends but we did not get along under the same roof AT ALL.  I enjoy our relationship now that I can tell Mr. Anal-Retentive to “Go home if you don’t like my messy house.”  The very things that I love and admire in him drove me insane when living together.

Yeah… As the sands through the hourglass, such is The Kool-Aid Mom’s life. 😀

BTT ~ All Things Vietnamese

There are certain types of books that I more or less assume all readers read. (Novels, for example.)

But then there are books that only YOU read. Instructional manuals for fly-fishing. How-to books for spinning yarn. How to cook the perfect souffle. Rebuilding car engines in three easy steps. Dog training for dummies. Rewiring your house without electrocuting yourself. Tips on how to build a NASCAR course in your backyard. Stuff like that.

What niche books do YOU read?

As many of you may know, my youngest, Maggie, is half-Vietnamese.  Now, in my honest opinion, it should be her dad teaching her all things Vietnamese.  However, that’s not often the case.  And the distance between him and us also makes it a bit more difficult for him to impart his cultural wisdom to her.  So I read what I can, then pass it along.

Some of the Vietnam-related books I have are cookbooks, with stains on several pages… Pho Bo gets made a lot, as does Mung Bean soup.  I also have a Kinh Tanh (Vietnamese Bible), and an English-Vietnamese dictionatry.  I’ve read The Boat by Nam Le and also interviewed him.  And I’m always on the lookout for Vietnamese kids books and folklore books.

That’s our little niche, what’s yours?

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Edited to add this vid clip. I felt so incomplete leaving this post without any media. For the most part, the recipe in this video is how I make Pho Bo, except I don’t use meatballs, nor have I ever ate anyone else’s soup that did. What we always do is slice a nice cut of beef paper thin, put the raw beef strips on the top of the noodles and everthing else, and when you pour the hot broth over it, the beef cooks. Very nice that way. Interesting point, btw, I char the ginger on my electric stove’s coils… so ghetto, I know, but it’s the only way I can do it.

YUM!

Viral Video Wednesday -Numa Numa

One of my favorite posts I’ve done on Mt. TBR was Fred Discovery, in which I shared a few fun videos and asked you to share your favorites with me. Julie offered Fart in the Duck, fyreflybooks posted Where the Hell is Matt?, and Suey confessed an addiction to VlogBrothers. It was a lot of fun sharing our vids, so I want to make it a regular thing on Mt. TBR.

I enjoyed the post and kept going back to it to watch the vids again and again. If anyone wants to join me in VVW, post your link in the comments. It’d be so much fun to make a meme of it! I’d love to see what y’all find and share 😀

And now, my first Viral Video Wednesday: The Numa Numa Dance

Okay, so Numa Numa isn’t exactly a new Viral Video, but it’s fun to see what all has been done with Numa Numa. First let’s start with the original Numa Numa video… not Gary, but the REAL music video by the Moldovan band, O-Zone. The actual name of the song is “Dragostea Din Tei”.

Then, along came Gary Brolsma, aka The Numa Numa Guy, who posted this video on Newgrounds.com in 2004…

This video is the 2nd most viewed viral video in history second only to The Star Wars Kid, according to Wikepedia.This vid got Gary on ABC, NBC, and VH1, who listed him as Number 1 on the Top 40 Internet Superstars (I didn’t even know there was a list!). He got his own website titled… wait for it… Gary Brolsma & New Numa

Wait, New Numa? Yes, Gary made a new Numa video:

However, this drew some flak from video viewers everywhere, because Gary decided if Milli Vanilli could get rich by lip synching, why couldn’t he? Mr. Safety made this parody called, “I Will Not Pay”

Evidently Numa has paid Gary well, because he held a contest “New Numa Fatty Contest”, paying the Grand Prize winner $25,000 with a $10,000 and $5,000 prize winners, as well. (List of the winners for your perusing pleasure)

Other bizarre but hilarious Numa Numa videos:

Kitties, Meerkats, and what the hell is that thing??!

Win over a hot chick doing the Numa Dance:

Who knew all we had to do was play Numa Numa outside the caves to get Osama?!:

Yoda does the Numa Numa, too:

If you want to graduate from the 5th grade at this school, you had to Numa Numa:

Numa Numa Navy:

WTF? Numa Numa on (Foreign) Idol? OOOOH…. I sooo wish Simon was there!

Spanish… um, amigos de Dorotea?… Doing the Numa:

They are doing Numa Numa all over the world:
Israeli Numa, Japanese Numa, Chinese Numa, Vietnamese Numa (gotta show this to Maggie), Indonesian Numa, Korean Numa, Thai Numa, Spanish Numa

In case you’ve ever wanted to know what they were singing, here’s an English language version:

AND, if all THAT wasn’t enough…. How ’bout Numa Opera!:

There are Lord of the Rings Numa, Pirates of the Caribbean Numa, Shrek Numa, silly kids in class Numa, If you’re not already ready to drive a phillips number six into your eardrums from Numa-overload, go nuts with a Numa Numa search!

One More Year by Sana Krasikov

Title:  One More Year
Autor: Sana Krasikov
Pages: 196
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (a division of Random House, Inc.)
Publish Date: August 2008
ISBN: 9780385524391

She was tired, tired of waiting for some big event to happen in her life, while things only dragged on and on… Everything in her life was about waiting.

-Better Half, p 91

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One More Yearis a collection of eight short stories by Sana Krasikov. It is a lopsided effort. A couple of the stories are brilliant, one is a one of the worst things I’ve read lately, and the rest are, mneh.

Unfortunately, the first story in this book, Companion, is about a Russian divorcee named Ilona. She lives in an apartment with Earl Brauer and their relationship is never clear. Is she the live-in nurse? Is she just a friend and roommate? It is a confusing arrangement, and the only thing I am certain of is that Ilona is a self-centered twit who isn’t worth my time to read about. Earl isn’t much better, but at least I can understand a feel a slight twinge of sympathy. He’s lonely and she’s a user, but where he also loses me is that he’s manipulative. This story was so bad, I would have pitched the book had it not been an ARC to review. 0 stars for this one.

The two stories that I felt were brilliantly written and had great character development were Asal and The Repatriates. Asal is the story of Gulia, the unofficial wife of Rashid, who was previously married to a druggie wife-beater with an overbearing mother. She wants Rashid to divorce his legal wife so they can marry, just like he promised. When he won’t do this, she leaves for America to let him stew in his juices. When the call finally comes that he’s going through with it, Gulia’s joy is short lived. (4 out of 5 stars)

It wasn’t despair that had made Nasrin do it, she thought, it was simple vengeance. How did one compete with insanity, she wondered.

-Asal, page 65

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One thing that I liked about The Repatriates is that it shows the occasional immigrant who, upon coming to the US, believes their homeland is the best in the world. I’ve known several Vietnamese who talk this way, and have a Cuban friend who is always on about the marvelous things communism has done for his country. But they always do this with their feet planted firmly on the green grass of a free country, which always irks me.

The first line of The Repatriates tells it all:

The last days of Grisha and Lera Arsenyev’s marriage might have been a story fashioned out of commonplace warnings.

It’s the story of religious fanaticism, delusions of grandeur and trickery, and what it’s like to wake up and realized you’ve been duped by someone who was supposed to love and honor you. (4 out of five stars)

The rest of the stories are mostly just okay. Some are better than others, but nothing I’d buy a book for.

Maia in Yonkers: Maia came to New York City to work for more money than she could make back in the Ukraine. She flies her teenage son to visit her, and he proves that Americans don’t have the corner market on surly teens. (2.5 stars)
Debt: Seems to be about my relatives… Lev and his wife receive an unexpected visit from his niece and her husband. But, like my relatives, she’s come to ask for money. AND like my relatives, if he tells her no, she’ll write him off as a selfish money-hoarder. (2 stars)
Better Half: After staying in America, Anya marries Ryan who turns out to be a pot-smoking dreamer who’s abusive and paranoid-jealous. He hides her paperwork she needs to get her permanent alien status, among other butthole things, and yet… ugh, I wanted to slap her. (3 stars, maybe 3.5)
The Alternate: A man seizes the opportunity to have dinner with the daughter of his old college sweetheart with the hope of an affair. Mneh… (1 star)
There Will Be No Fourth Rome: Another stupid woman putting her freedom on the line for her boyfriend. DUH! Nona says it best in this story, “Don’t you just wish you could kill people lie that with your thoughts?” You see, that’s why I choose to stay single.(3 stars)

This book could be renamed “Women Waiting Around for Their Boyfriends to Divorce Their Wives”. The title “One More Year” comes from the second story; Maia tells her son she’s staying in America for one more year, to which he reminds her she said that last year.

What this book does well is present a picture of Georgia and Moscow the west has not seen. A world of dower-faced, bitter people who are only after what they can graft and out-right steal from anyone, even their friends and family… especially their friends and family. I suppose, if this is a true portrait, it is a mentality born from so much poverty and oppression. Even after they leave the old country and set up in America, they bring the same mindsets with them. In this, Krasikov’s characters are real and imperfect, even if they are loathsome.

However, I think Krasikov tries to put too many characters in her stories, making it impossible to develop them properly. It’s possible they’d make better novels. Another problem I had with this book is I found several parts confusing; places I wasn’t sure who was saying what or what was even going on. There were several times I came jerking to a stop over punctuation, sometimes too much and others not enough. One of those times was a sentence with a comma that tore up the effectiveness of the thought. I read and reread it, trying to figure out what she had meant to say, finally saying, “I hate that sentence” before moving on. I think the fact that the first story was so bad the rest of the book was tainted by that.

For much of this book, I can’t help but think One More Year is the kind of commercialized book Nam Le wrote about in The Boat‘s first story: Ethnic lit for ethnic sake, not for the quality of the writing. “She’s from the Ukraine! Buy her book!” Oddly enough, like Nam Le, she’s a Iowa Workshop writer. Hmm… maybe the fellow student in “Love and Honor” wasn’t from China after all.

After totalling up all the stars and dividing by 8, One More Yearreceives an overall 2.5 stars. Mneh.