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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Happy October! There are so many reasons to celebrate this month: October is Filipino American Heritage Month and LGBT History Month! If you’re reading this in ~real time~, I’m likely with my mom at a Filipino arts exhibit at the Asian American Art Museum. Amidst all of this celebration, I’m so excited to share with you one of my favorite YA books of the past year – definitely something to pick up this special month. Read on for a tale of high school friendship, budding romance, and a spectacular cast of LGBT superhero teens!
I know. I am the last person in the world who hasn’t seen this show. It’s like that I’m in that Twilight Zone episode – you know, the one where the man wakes up in the future, and everyone around him has alien features and is like, You haven’t seen Community?!
The aftermath of the 2016 election was a brutal blow for all women. Nearly a year later, it still pains me to revisit that night: The long walk to my dorm. My hopes for progress on gender equality dashed by the grim confirmation that America once again chose the side of misogyny. I was likely not the only ambitious young woman who thought, So this is the world I am graduating into. This is how that world treats women who want more for themselves.
The November 2016 election is the starting point for Anne Helen Petersen’s collection of essays, Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman. Petersen holds a Ph. D. in media studies; you may recognize her as a senior culture writer at Buzzfeed. In the Introduction, Petersen describes about how she, like many of us, was crushed when she saw perhaps the most prominent woman in America, the toughest and most capable in her field, lose to a man who openly boasted about sexual assault. The election, and what it revealed about how severely society delimits the definition of “a good woman,” was the impetus for Petersen’s collection.
Enter seven unruly women. For the subjects of her essays, Petersen chose to examine a prominent woman in the public eye who has somehow been deemed “unruly,” improper, deviant. In this state of national uncertainty, Petersen argues that “unruliness,” in all fields and from all women, is more necessary than ever.
This weekend, my friend So Yun and I meandered through the crisp, perennially sweater-weather air of San Francisco. We were in Hayes Valley for the San Francisco Urban Air Market, a marketplace that features independent artists and sustainable design. Vendor tents lined several blocks of the neighborhood, with a free painting party in the center and live musicians tucked into the corners. So Yun and I weaved through wares from jewelry makers, illustrators, alpaca fleece weavers, and a surprising number of handmade baby clothes makers.
Welcome to the first installment of Friday Night In! Today, I’m talking about a TV series whose premature cancellation (15 years ago!) did little to erode its lasting cult following.
Set in a future ruled by the tyrannical interplanetary Alliance, Firefly follows the roguish crew of the space vessel Serenity. Firefly fuses genre conventions of sci-fi and classic Western – a combination that might be played off as wacky and disingenuous in the wrong writer’s hands.
Thankfully, the creative lead on Firefly is none other than Joss Whedon. (Bless that man.) His work – Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D – is defined by action-packed fantasy that doesn’t lose sight of the ethical, emotional issues that drive a story.
Fireflyis, thus, gritty and multidimensional: There are deep-space fight scenes and clever cowboy retorts, moments of grief and beauty in turns.
Here’s why Firefly (and Serenity) should be your date on a Friday Night In: