Sunday, January 24, 2010

Reaching for the Lights

Due to heavy winds and storm, we were without power and water for three days. Despite this, my son invited his band over to practice after school one day. An acoustic practice. But they were hungry first and raided the cave (which is what the kitchen, piled high with dirty dishes, seemed like even in sunlight).
"All you have to do is push it down," I heard my son fussing around.
Curious, I entered the cave to see what food needed pushing to eat.
He and one of his friends hovered over the toaster, my son offering a lesson on how to use the machine.
"What magic do you think that thing possesses," I asked as they banged on the toaster trying to make the button stay down. "That allows it to work when the rest of the house is without electricity?"
Oh, yeah.
But while my son and his friends were certainly the funniest, we all repeated this exercise. My husband plugging in his laptop, my daughter asking if she could watch tv, me reaching for the lights in the middle of the night.
As I explore in my novel, My Half of the Sky, traditions are difficult to change. As was evidenced by us all this past week, even the silliest little ones--like expecting electricity--provided a stumbling block.

Ice Soldier by Paul Watkins is the story of a man--William Bromley-- who is sent on a mountaineering mission during WWII. He fails, and resolves never to climb again. Then a mountaineering pal of his dies, forcing William to make one final climb. It is an amazing tale for its description--of sights, sounds, smells--however I often felt as if we were trudging through waist-deep snow: one step forward, breathe, breathe, look back, ponder, rest.


Anonymous said...

I hear you about the "no electricity" thing. Couldn't blow dry my hair, couldn't get the car out of the garage (electric garage door opener.)

Couldn't even prepare for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award ( contest. I am a expecting a South Bay Writers' sweep if you enter too.

- Luanne

Jana McBurney-Lin said...

Dear Luanne,
You're a dear. I'll expect a sweep anyway. I'll keep my thoughts on you--by the way, can observers follow the contest?
And as to the garage door thing--we discovered last time we lost power that there's an emergency release catch (at least on our electronic opener) that allows you to manually lift the door.

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