Thursday, July 15, 2010

Watching a 50-ton Miracle

I've been in this fog where night is day and day is night, where one day melds into the next, where there's no concern about time or dates. It's also known as summer. It's not been great for writing, but gosh it's been fun.
Yesterday I took my children whale watching in Monterey Bay. Now, if you're like me you think, "Ugh. Whale watching. A scam with seasickness to boot."
Fortunately, my neighbor works at Monterey Bay Aquarium and hears the lowdown on all the stuff going on in the bay.The whales are back in town. Like they haven't been for the past seven years.
At first we saw water spraying in the air, like little bombs exploding beneath the water's surface. One after another after another. Those bombs were the whales. Our boat was surrounded by them.
We saw them dive down and flip their tails, National Geographic style. We saw them come up and open their long wide mouths. We saw them breach (jumping up into the water and landing). That last one still gives me shivers. According to the naturalist on board, a whale is born weighing about 1200 pounds, gains 100 pounds a day, and reaches a weight of about 1 ton per foot. The humpback whale grows to 40-50 feet. So we were watching about 100,000 pounds fly up from the water. 100,000 pounds.
I now have a new image to aid my writing. Each time I feel stuck and think how impossible it is to move forward, to come up with another line, another word, I will see that humpback propelling its massive 50-ton body into the air like a ballerina. Miracles happen.
Books of the Month:
Chasing Windmills by Catherine Ryan Hyde: The story seems simple, at first--boy meets girl on subway, they fall in love and will march off into the sunset...or the crowded streets of New York. But then both the characters have lots and lots of emotional and physical baggage. One is sure that these two will never end up together. The ending is amazing and wonderful and a refreshing twist on happy-ever-afters, reminding us that life is not like the movies.
Into the Wild by Jan Krakauer: Oh, my God. These are the words that keep running through my head as I read of the true account of a young, intelligent, educated man who ditches everything--family, friends, full bank account, promising future--to live out the "ultimate adventure" living off the wilds of Alaska. While this young man's quest did not end in a happy ever after, he reminds us to live life to its fullest.

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