Monday, May 10, 2010

Is Today Mother's Day?

There seemed to be a lot of confusion over Mother's Day this weekend. On Saturday, my husband came home with a dozen roses. My youngest handed me a poem she'd written at school. "Is today Mother's day?"

Mother's day can be loosely tied to ancient spring celebrations in Greece honoring Rhea, the Mother of Gods. Or to celebrations in England honoring the Christian Mother Mary (Mothering Sunday). But our present holiday is thanks to one ordinary woman--Anna Jarvis-- an unmarried, childless woman who cared so much about her mother that she went about creating a day to honor mothers. Three years after her mother's death, she held the first mother's day on May 10, 1908. The idea caught on, and eventually (1914) Woodrow Wilson made it a national holiday.

Yesterday, while my eldest son prepared a feast, I went to hear Anne Quindlen discuss her latest book Every Last One at the
Commonwealth Club. A mother's day treat for myself. She discussed her writing process, saying she often felt as if she was channeling the feelings of another person. That she was just the conduit. Often she'd sit down to write and get so involved that when she looked up at the clock, several hours had gone by.

One shouldn't be watching the clock, counting the pages, the words, the letters.

I thought, yes, when the stars are aligned and all goes right.

Just like one shouldn't be watching the date. When it goes right.
Every day is Mother's day. At least it should be. Right?

But then the magic isn't always there.

This morning, I took my son to school. He turned on a rock station, the guitar notes making my eyes twitch. I turned the radio off. He turned it back on, switching stations to a no-less jarring tune. He gave me an impish grin.

"Whatever happened to Happy Mother's day?" I asked.

"That was yesterday."

Here's hoping that magic happens--in your writing and your life--more times than not.

Books of the Week

I am Nujood Age 10 and Divorced< by Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui
Escape by Carolyn Jessop with Laura Palmer

By coincidence both of these books are about women who, due to religious and cultural constraints, were forced into arranged marriages with men many times their age. One of them was from Yemen, and one of them was from the good ole U.S. of A. Both stories-although not literary gems- are fascinating.

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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