Notes from Lake Tahoe

About last Saturday night: I was sitting cross-legged on the second-floor landing of an elegant rental house in the mountains of South Lake Tahoe, nursing a plastic cup that I hadn’t bothered to fill with anything and wondering if I was doing my youth wrong. Below me, in the kitchen, people with whom I had been affable all weekend were already several shots into the evening. They danced to Top 40 songs and occasionally erupted into peals of laughter.

I was persuaded to come on this trip months ago, when the long late-summer days exacerbated my loneliness. I was new to the Bay Area, newly far away from everyone I had loved. A snow-mantled weekend in the mountains, sharing a house with the other 20-somethings in my company, seemed like a good idea at the time.

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An unexpected death and the slow unspooling of family secrets in ‘Everything I Never Told You’

When I duck into the bookstore before Celeste Ng’s talk, I feel conspicuously literary. The Wordsmith Bookstore is in San Francisco’s historic and grungy Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. The attendees are mostly University of San Francisco MFA students—vibrant, leaning forward in their seats, just older than me. (Later during Ng’s talk, I notice that the MFA students punctuate her poignant lines with a low “mmh,” as if they were verbally underlining sentences.) On top of it all, I’m wearing a black faux-leather jacket that looks like it reads Allen Ginsberg poetry whenever I’m not inhabiting it.

I’m here because I have just read Ng’s debut novel Everything I Never Told You in a breathless sitting, then found out that she would be giving her talk about and reading from her latest novel, Little Fires Everywhere in San Francisco.

As I found out during the talk, both of Ng’s novels are grounded heavily in where Ng herself came from. Ng grew up in a Chinese American family in Ohio. She describes her suburban hometown as inclusive the point of self-consciousness. On the surface, one saw manicured lawns, cordial neighbors. But behind closed doors, there resided the kind of shame that motivated the desperate desire for perfection, the kind of desire that compelled the residents to keep their trash cans behind their houses, away from the open street, and have garbage collectors surreptitiously pick it up and carry it away.

Everything I Never Told You opens with a sense of perfect suburban calm, violently destabilized: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. 1977, May 3, six thirty in the morning, no one knows anything but this innocuous fact: Lydia is late for breakfast.”

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“Mrs. Maisel” kicks off a year of clever, confident, marvelous women

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

I’m kicking off my pop culture calendar with strong, unapologetically smart women of entertainment, and there’s no better way to do it than with “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” now streaming on Amazon. It’s the latest show from the bard of quick-witted banter, Amy Sherman-Palladino. (Her name is probably emblazoned in your mind from the end of the Gilmore Girls opening song.)

The pilot opens on a wedding reception, in the late 1950s. Miriam Maisel, who goes by Midge, delivers a toast while dressed in her bridal white. She’s self-assured and has a talent for comedy; and as of moments ago, she’s been happily just-married to her college sweetheart.

We jump to four years and two young children later. It’s the late 1950s, and Midge is preparing to host the grandest Yom Kippur breakfast the Upper West Side. She’s as glowy and confident as a newlywed—until the evening of Yom Kippur, when her husband walks out on her.

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In 2018, I’m Choosing Purpose Over Perfection

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

I’m skeptical of New Year’s resolutions. There, I said it! If I were being completely honest, I think that New Year’s resolutions are inherently tenuous. At worst, they are destined to flounder by March. I usually make resolutions in September because the structural transformation of the new school year always seemed to make more sense to me.

January, though? Every December, we see a crop of articles giving people quantifiable(!), actionable(!) tools for keeping resolutions. And yet the reality is that gym memberships spike for the New Year, only for attendance to peter out as the year progresses. Yeah, take it in.

So this year, I’ve decided to move away from formula. I’m starting my year with a mindset, which I think is far more productive than a self-improvement-y “resolution.” And, more importantly, it’s easier to keep than a gym membership. And most importantly, it’s free.

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Just as I was ready to cast off the awfulness of 2017, my dad was hospitalized (and more thoughts on health and the new year)

Heads up: This is a longer, somber post about the end of my 2017, and a powerful experience that informed how I resolved to take on 2018. Some content concerns hospitalization and physical trauma.

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All told, 2017 has been famously terrible. Flamboyantly, laughing-while-weeping terrible. Basic human rights and Internet freedom were imperiled, and disasters—natural and man-made—seemed to succeed each other before we could catch our breaths again.

In February (was it really last February?), the president announced his first attempt to ban entry from seven majority-Muslim countries. The next morning, my habitually prompt English professor stormed into our classroom a minute late. Her eyes were blazing.

“I’m fine,” she said to us, a small tempest of shuffling papers. “Personally fine, nationally frustrated.”

In the coming months, personally fine, nationally frustrated became the epigraph of 2017. I graduated from college; the families of undocumented people are at risk. I started a job that I enjoy; female survivors of sexual assault are faced with condemnation for speaking out.

But when, a few weeks ago, my mom called and told me that my dad fallen off a ladder while cleaning the garage, that he landed squarely on the right side of his skull, that anything could happen as long as his brain kept bleeding, the accumulated exasperation that was 2017 dissipated. In an instant, my thoughts narrowed to my most immediate concerns: get home, be with family, hope furiously that everything would be okay again.

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5 things that NaNoWriMo taught me about being a writer

Did you do National November Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) last month? It’s a month-long sprint that challenges writers to produce 50,000 words between November 1st and 30th.

Despite being involved with creative writing for my whole life, I’ve only participated in NaNo for the first time this year. (I know!!) Though I should note: Because Novembers are uncharacteristically busy for me—I prioritize a lot of family celebrations, which entailed traveling for almost half of the month—I set my personal word count far lower than 50,000.

So while I can’t speak to meeting that lofty goal, I learned a lot about myself as a writer, the creative process, and writing at airports.

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What’s in store for December on La Pia en Rose?

Every year, I’m dumbfounded by the pace of Novembers. The rapidity was most distinct when I was living in New England: At the start of the month, the gold-crimson leaves crown the tops of trees and litter the sidewalks. By December, the leaves are gone, and the tree branches cut emaciated silhouettes against a gray swath of sky.

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La Pia en Rose is Going Dark for November

Happy November, everyone! Just chiming in with this image of a black abyss to say that the blog will be dark while I pursue more writing projects. Specifically, I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month, lovingly known as NaNoWriMo. This means that all of my free time will be devoted to the rigorous pursuit of my creative writing projects outside of this blog.

I’ll try to check in a handful of times this month. Until then, read that novel you’ve always been meaning to read (or write it yourself!). Go to a museum. Hug a puppy. I’ll see you on the other side.

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Celebrating Filipino Art & FilAm Identity

Ceremonial deity (bulul), Ifugao people of Luzon, approx. 1930.

Earlier this month, I took my mom to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco to see their Filipino American History Month celebrations. (By the way, happy FAHM, fam!) I’m abashed to say that it was the first time that I had ever seen Filipino art on display. On top of that, I was visiting with my mom, which deepened another, far more personal and meaningful dimension to the exhibit.

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My First Hackathon

Photo by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash

Every day last week, I came home from work and crammed online HTML/CSS and JavaScript tutorials late into the night. I took neat, color-coded notes in a spiral notebook. Hunched over my laptop tapping out simple lines of code, I imagined myself painting black streaks below my eyes, like an athlete in preparation for the Superbowl of intellect.

That’s right. My company hosted a 24-hour hackathon. I don’t have a computer science background, but I do have drive and a lust for victory. And all of these pretty colored pens.

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