Monday, March 9, 2009

Important Stories

Thanksgiving two years ago, we were all gathering at the dinner table ready to feast. My eldest daughter, however, was missing.
“Oh, she went down to the mailboxes for a minute,“ my husband said.
The mailboxes? On Thanksgiving?
When mouthwatering steam no longer rose from the turkey slices, I decided to check the mailboxes.
I walked down (our boxes are a ten-minute walk) and there was a car parked haphazardly across the road. My daughter sat in the car next to some boy without a shirt on who gestured wildly to his chest where there were some red markings. I went up to the car and knocked on the window, expecting the boy to get out and introduce himself, perhaps even explain what he was doing here...on Thankgsgiving...without his shirt. Instead, he locked the doors and continued talking--no, shouting--at my daughter. My daughter rolled down her window, saying “Mom. It's okay. He needs my help.“
The boy wanted my daughter to accompany him to a temple somewhere to do some ceremony that would keep him from dying that night. Mentioning Thanksgiving dinner on the table as an alternative activity seemed frivolous, but I did. Would he like to stay?
The whole night he talked of God. How he was God. We were all God. We could do anything. I kept thinking this lonely kid had ingested more during the day than turkey and cranberry sauce. God ended up spending the night on our couch (with my husband sitting vigil), as he was afraid to go home.
As soon as the holiday was over, I called the boy’s mother. She listened, and while I expected her to say she'd investigate a 12-step recovery program or contact CASA, she broke down and said. “He has Lyme’s disease.“
At least that was what I thought until last night when I saw the movie Under Our Skin. Lyme disease, caused by tick bites affects 200,000 Americans every year. It's more rampant than West Nile Virus and AIDs.
The disease affects every part of the body and is often misdiagnosed as Lupus, MS, Parkinson’s, craziness--or drug problems . The best treatment so far is long-term antibiotics (2-3 years), but health insurance companies don’t want to pay for that so they do their best to keep doctors from finding Lyme’s disease, including registering complaints against and having licenses revoked from some of the best-known Lyme Disease doctors.
The movie was quite an eye-opener.
Another eye-opener on a much grander scale was Greg Mortenson’s book, Three Cups of Tea. I’m probably coming late to this tea party, as the book won the Kiriyama Book Prize, was a New York Times bestseller, and every club I know has read it. Still, on the off chance you haven’t read this phenomenal story, I wanted to mention it.
Mortenson, a nurse with a passion for climbing, was conquering K2 (Pakistan) one year when he got separated from the other climbers and lost. A porter found Mortenson wandering around the next day, hungry, dehydrated, and disoriented. Mortenson was so grateful to this porter that he offered to build a school for the man's village. He thought it was a one-off kind of thing, that he would build the school and then “get on with his life.” However, one school led to another to another. During the 9/11 crisis and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mortenson was in Pakistan and Afghanistan building schools and trying to help the US government see the humane side to these lands. He's still there.
Two great quotes from the book:
“You have to attack the source of your enemy’s strength,” said Brigadier General Bashir Baz. “In Americas’ case, that’s not Osama or Saddam or anyone else. The enemy is ignorance. The only way to defeat it is to build relationships with these people, to draw them into the modern world with education and business. Otherwise the fight will go on forever. “
“I had no idea what education was,” said Jahan, a Korphe, Pakistan village girl. “But now I think it is like water. It is important for everything in life.”

**This Wednesday, I’ll be doing a talk in honor of Women’ History Month at Foothill College. Please come join the discussion.

**Also, if you haven’t had a chance, please ask your local library to order a copy of My Half of the Sky.
Please leave your opinion about the book at your favorite online bookstore (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powells,/etc.)
Please keep spreading the word.
Thank you!


Anonymous said...

Jana, what an incredible story about your daughter and this boy. So scary. Thanks for the info, too, about Lyme Disease and the med system.

I've been wanting to read Three Cups of Tea--definitely on my list!

Jana McBurney-Lin said...

As I was writing the story, a tick scrambled across my computer screen as if to say, "What are you saying about us?" It was definitely a Twilight Zone moment.

Pam said...

Jana, a friend of mine is very ill with Lyme Disease. She sent me a trailer from the movie....which I would love to see. Where did you find (see) it? My friend has given up hope finding help for a cure in the U.S. and now travels to Switzerland for treatments. She also has a nasty bacterial infection that often goes along with Lyme that they can't stop. Pretty frightening.

Jana McBurney-Lin said...

I'm sorry to hear about your friend. I put the trailer on this blog (just push the movie title) and I noticed that in the upper right hand corner was an ad about the movie...and perhaps where to find it. I saw it at our kids' school, as the Education Committee thought it something worth watching. The movie mentioned the name of several good US doctors, by the way. I'll contact a friend of mine at the school and see where they got the movie.

Jana McBurney-Lin said...

The film will be shown on March 29th at 4 p.m. during the Golden Gate Film Festival in Monterey. The director and producer will both be in attendance. Tickets can be purchased online for $15 each. The website is

Another option is to go to and purchase the video($34.95).

Anonymous said...

I am reading Three Cups of Tea at the momemt also! Its a wonderful read.

yes Lyme's is a very scary disease.

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Lynn said...

Jana, were you aware that Amy Tan had Lyme Disease? She wrote about it (among other things) in a book of essays called The Opposite of Fate. It took her years to get it diagnosed, and the story of her journey to regain her health was fascinating. She got it from being on the receiving end of a tick bite when she was visiting the east coast, but I know we have those ticks here in Calif., too. I'm so glad you walked to the end of the driveway that day!

What People Are Saying About My Half of the Sky

My Half of the Sky was the BookSense Pick for August 2006 as well as a Forbes Book Club Pick.

"McBurney-Lin tells a wonderfully entertaining story with the traditional coming-of-age theme (which is experienced universally)...weaving in the cultural challenges of growing up in China's rapidly changing social system."
Mary Warpeha, co-President of the Minnesota Chapter of US-China Friendship Association
March 2010

"The novel ...includes many of the tales and the folk ways of the people living in the rural areas of South China, still followed provincially. The story takes place in current China, but could relate the dilemma of any young woman in rural China through the ages."
Kitty Trescott, National Board of the Midwest Region of US-China Friendship Association. March 2010

"A lot is expected of a young Chinese girl. My Half of the Sky by Jana McBurney-Lin is the story of Li Hui, a young girl who has just achieved marriageable age. She seeks to make the most of herself, but the expectations all around her make it difficult, as her parents seek to use her as pawn to their advantage, she is faced with what she believes to be true love. She must balance career, romance, and family, all to somehow make everyone happy, a tough endeavor indeed. An engaging and entertaining read from beginning to end, "My Half of the Sky" is a poignant tale of the modern Chinese woman, and recommended for community library collections.
--Midwest Book Review November, 2008

“It is a rare women’s novel that sensitively describes the life of a young educated woman in modern-day China in its full complexity, without resorting to unnecessary sentimentalism. Jana’s deep knowledge of the realities of life in China and Singapore makes the reading extra rewarding. In fact, with every new page the novel gets harder to put down and you find yourself gobbling it up before you know it. Finally, the author has given a voice to the Li Hui in all of us, as we struggle for the golden middle between tradition and the modern momentum of our world.”
Isabella Sluzek
Friends of the Museum Book Review 2008

You'll be rooting all the way for Li Hui as she struggles, ahead of the curve, to be her own woman in an emerging, modern China. Jana McBurney-Lin's My half of the Sky is a beautiful, witty, touching debut novel.
Thomas B. Sawyer
Head Writer TV Series "Murder, She Wrote,"
Author - The Sixteenth Man

A complex and mesmerizingly original tale of a young Chinese woman caught between the modern world and the pull of her ancient culture. McBurney-Lin’s intimate portrait of China sparks with insights and is peopled with characters so rich and alive, they seem to breathe on the page. Dazzling and unforgettable.
Caroline Leavitt,
Author - Girls in Trouble

McBurney-Lin's debut novel is a gift. Li Hui is a memorable heroine, a young woman torn between her heart and her culture.Her daunting journey is a trip into China's complicated soul, and a deeply moving exploration of love, honor, duty, and loss." Frank Baldwin, Author - Balling the Jack

My Half of the Sky is a wonderfully-crafted story that was obviously written with a piece of McBurney-Lin's heart. A masterpiece."
Lee Lofland, Author - Howdunit: Police Procedure and Investigation

My Half of the Sky heralds the arrival of a fantastic new storyteller. With artistry and precision, Jana McBurney-Lin's clear-eyed prose takes the reader on a new journey into a past world that speaks to a modern sensibility, a modern world, a modern woman. This is a book to be treasured.
Emily Rapp, Author - The Poster Child

Through vivid descriptions of sights and smells, Jana McBurney-Lin's My Half of the Sky is a haunting, emotional journey of what it means to be an honorable female in modern China. Jill Ferguson, Author - Sometimes Art Can't Save You