Tagged with expatriates
Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China
I loved reading DeWoskin's two novels, and I also love memoirs, especially about being caught between two cultures, so I was jazzed to finally get around to Foreign Babes. Usually that's a set up for disappointment, but although I didn't find FB quite as dramatic as her fiction, I still read it with great interest.
Repeat After Me
Why is it I can never do my favorite books justice when it comes to reviews? I've been telling everyone to read this book about a young woman teaching ESL after having left Columbia University for St. Luke's psych ward for treatment for bipolar disorder. She somewhat inexplicably falls in love with one of her students, a Chinese dissident. The story is told half in Morningside Heights just post-Tiananmen and St. Luke's and half in Beijing at the turn of the 21st century. I loved reading it, but why? The writing is really good. Want some quotations...
You know how I'm always complaining about stories told in multiple voices? (They should come with a warning on the cover!) Well this is another one. Maybe because they take turns so frequently in this book that you don't get attached, it isn't as much of a problem as usual. Still, maybe because I didn't get attached to any of the characters, it feels the whole time like you're waiting for the book to happen. The connecting stories are compelling enough, but what's really interesting is the look at life in Kuwait. I don't know much about the country, other than remembering learning how rich it is. In elementary school we didn't talk about how you can't be rich without having poor people take care of you. In Kuwait, all Kuwaitis (not including Kuwait-born Palestinians) are pretty well off, which means they have to import their servants and even many of their professionals. Most of the characters in the book are American, Filipino, Indian, or Palestinian, rather than Kuwaiti. It takes a lot of non-rich people to take care of the rich people, I guess.
No History, No Self #1
Johanna, one of my favorite zine publishers, hadn't made a zine since issue 4 of Sisu came out in May 2006. For some reason, although I acquired No History, No Self from StrangerDanger back in November, I didn't get around to reading it until just now. (I have a serious cataloging backlog problem, which I hope to clear up by the end of the year!) I'm a fool for letting it go so long, but at least I finally read it. Like all of Johanna's zines, NHNS has strong political content, particularly regarding race, mixed race identity, and identity politics. She has put in her time as an activist and has plenty of cred in that arena (also in feminist science-fiction and vegan communities), so what is particularly affecting to me in this new zines venture is how personal and open she is, about missing New York, trying to make friends, being depressed and contemplating therapy. She lists some great self-care suggestions for dealing with depression, the top three being sleep, cats, and tea, things I can totally get behind. That emphasis on self-care I think in this case extends to the rest of the world. NHNS is gentler than its predecessors. Johanna, who doesn't suffer fools lightly, is more inwardly focused this time around, maybe because repatriated to the UK she's missing her friends from home around whom she can actually be herself. Reading this zine I wanted to give Johanna a hug. I also want to know when issue 2 will be out.
But at the same time I'm not ready to throw labels completely out. Look at the people in the US who want government to stop keeping statistics on race. What would happen? You wouldn't be able to point out, for example, that the worst-performing schools with the least resources happened to have predominantly students of color, or that police stop people of a certain race way out of proportion to their population in the community...because you wouldn't be allowed to keep track. Ignoring race doesn't make racism go away.
I also think the focus on getting rid of labels is part of a homogenizing "colorblind" approach to race that has liberals pretending there's no cultural differences between people, which is offensive & blatantly not true or helpful.
LCSH Week 16: of Evidence-based library science and Steampunk comix
The Lower East Side Librarian Library of Congress Subject Heading of the Week for Week 16, April 21, 2010 is...
Also, check out this new good intentioned but large and ugly footer on the Weekly List and presumably many other loc.gov pages:
Carla Olivares spends a year in Mexico City trying to engage with the Chicano side of her heritage. At first she spends time only with fellow expats, starting with her trustafarian (her description) ex-boyfriend with whom she lives with for the first few months. She knows very little Spanish in the beginning of the story, but as she works at immersing herself in Mexican culture, she also learns the language.
I almost put this book down because I disliked the opening so much, but I persevered. When possible, I try to stick with Nancy Pearl's recommendation that you give the book 50 pages to convince you. Plus it was the only book I had at Eric's place, so I had to either give it more of a shot or brave the cool, wet June weather and walk the two blocks to my house for a better selection.
What I didn't like in the beginning was how childishly de Rosnay portrayed a child, but that got better as soon as the kid broke out of the Vel' d'Hiv, thus avoiding death at Auschwitz. That sort of thing matures a ten-year-old fast, and even the person writing her life has to respect that.
By page 40 or so, the story, which is told alternately in the third person about the ten-year-old (Sarah) and from the first person point of view of an American expatriate (Julia) living in Paris with her French husband and daughter, gets pretty compelling.