Please take a look and vote---the beautiful blue rose picture is his. Merry Holidays.
Monday, December 26, 2011
Please take a look and vote---the beautiful blue rose picture is his. Merry Holidays.
Friday, December 16, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
Quiet as they Come by Angie Chau is a series of short vignettes about a family of Vietnamese who are trying to make it in America. They live one family to a room in a dilapidated apartment. There is never enough food or clothing--even love is sometimes in short supply. The writing is beautiful, the stories very touching. It's well worth the read.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Monday, October 17, 2011
On October 6, 2011 the Senate (finally) passed S. Res. 201--the resolution addressing and expressing regret for the Chinese Exclusion Laws--by unanimous consent. We could not have done this without the considerable constituent support that all of you provided, or the inspiring and tireless leadership of our prime sponsor, Senator Scott Brown. Now we're hoping for similar success in the House.
Friday, October 14, 2011
"Who cares about plot? If they can't get the story across without cussing a blue streak, then I don't want to hear it." That was my motto.
But I didn't stick to it. As the years went on, I realized I was missing a lot of good movies. I think I was the last one on earth to see Saving Private Ryan.
That same motto was not relaxed with books...until recently.
Over the summer, my son came home with a book. He wouldn't show me the title, but I often heard him off in the corner giggling and finally I couldn't stand the suspense. He was busting his gut over Shi*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern.
I was immediately turned off by the title. But the memory of those giggles stayed with me. So, the other day, when I saw it on my other son's Kindle, I thought I'd read a bit.
I happened to be at my youngest daughter's piano lesson--not in some studio waiting room, but in the living room of our neighbor three feet away from my daughter and her teacher. I soon found myself giggling so hard I thought my stomach would break and trying not to given the circumstances. Afterwards, my daughter asked, "Mom, why were you crying?"
It's definitely worth reading, although perhaps not at a piano lesson and not with your youngest daughter...too many swear words.
Monday, October 10, 2011
Thursday, October 6, 2011
As it turned out, Kansas City is very close to China--
Edward Snow was born here and his legacy continues,
Kansas City is sister cities with Xian,
Missouri State has an amazing Asian Studies Program, and
the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum has a huge Chinese art collection.
Everywhere I turned there was a link to China.
I guess the lesson here was not to judge a state by a musical (although I did see my fair share of ruby slippers.)
I'm pleased to say that Missouri State has a copy of My Half of the Sky in their library and the Nelson Atkins has autographed copies for sale in their bookstore.
Books of the Week: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. Ford writes of the period during WWII when the US was in a panic and every Japanese was spy material. His hero is a young Chinese boy who must wear a badge around which reads, "I am Chinese." He doesn't understand the point of this until his new best friend, a Japanese girl, is taken away to a relocation camp. The badge turns from something pointless to a valuable shield. It's a fascinating and well-told story. (My only complaint is that the Japanese translations are off.)
A Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer--This was really long and overdramatic story which couldn't decide if it was a romance or a mystery. However, the history in here about the development of penicillin (and the way people dropped off like flies before it) was fascinating.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Friday, September 9, 2011
Five years ago a friend set up a website for My Half of the Sky. I didn't get the chance to use it—as KOMENAR publishing had different plans. And, while recently the publisher gave me the green light, my friend had moved onto different projects. So any updating and setting up of a website was now in my lap. Ugh.
This past weekend, my computer engineering husband took pity on me with my html-code cheat sheet. But even with the two of us hovered next to the screen, we spent all the holiday sighing and looking at the ceiling and asking the screen, “What do we do now?” Days of intense labor. Please come take a look.
I had a worst-books kind of week. I just read a book put out by a big publisher (Houghton-Mifflin), so I assumed it would be wonderful. The writing was choppy and disjointed with points of view popping up for no apparent reason, with chapters hinging on unbelievable details (like a guy having sex with his girlfriend and not noticing she is five months pregnant.), with main characters acting deliberately dumb. The author got lost in what felt like a moral crusade to preserve life. The book was instructional to me on how not to write. But gosh, it was painful to read. Have you read anything good lately?
Friday, September 2, 2011
Last weekend, I had the chance to hear Ying-Ying Chang talk about her new book, The Woman Who Could Not Forget. I had not heard of the book, but I knew Mrs. Chang was the mother of Iris Chang, an incredible author who wrote several books including the most definitive, well-documented (and readable) book on the rape of Nanking. Iris Chang suffered depression and shot herself in 2004.
Her mother, Ying-Ying, in an effort to squash rumors surrounding her daughter’s death, wrote a book. It’s a charming read, one that is so sad, yet so full of hope. She talks about Iris’s life as a child, a mother, a writer. One line stuck out for me in an e-mail Iris had sent her mother: “Words are the only way to preserve the essence of a soul.”
So true in many ways.
Iris Chang believed words were one way to be immortal—marveling at the works of Churchill and Darrow and Napolean. Another author believes that words are one way to keep the soul alive. Masha Hamilton, who has also written many wonderful books-- my favorite being the Camel Bookmobile—started a writing project a little over two years ago to give Afghan women a voice.
I've been following the project since its infancy, marveling at the stories these women share, despite the danger to themselves and their families, despite the long and arduous journeys they must often make to get their words out. This month, I am privileged to get to work with some of these writers.
Please stop by
Afghan Women Writers Project
, see what they’re writing about, and leave a comment or two. Your comments and encouragement mean the world.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Friday, May 27, 2011
Talking with her inspired me to take my own advice. This time of year is always stressful. It's the end of the school year--my children are already celebrating with beach days and pajama days. I'm still trying to force out another chapter--some days even another paragraph would be welcome. After talking with my daughter, I got on the computer, not just to stare at the cursor on my current chapter, but to look back at all the projects I've done over the year (and okay, I looked back even further.) I got lost remembering the fun of that project, the inspiration for that, the multitude of tasks I'd forgotten I'd accomplished. I haven't felt so de-stressed in weeks. You should try it.
Book of the Week: Bossypants by Tina Fey. Tina Fey has a witty stream-of-consciousness style that makes you feel like you're sitting against the bleachers with your best buddy. I haven't laughed so much in a long time. If looking back isn't your thing, this is a good 'water break.' I'd do both.
Monday, May 9, 2011
"I don't want to. What if I lose?"
"Just run the race, Love. Run the race."
Her raw fear feels true to me everyday--it's so much easier to sit on the field (whether you have finals coming, a concert, a book project, whatever) then to stand up and give the project in your heart your damndest and fail.
I still congratulate these young National Pen women scholarship applicants for running the race. For winning.
Along this theme, fellow author Jane Parks-McKay pointed me to a great video: Artist Michele Theberge talks about how to move forward when your mind is giving you a thousand reasons why not to work on your project : I don't know how to start it. I don't have all the research. I don't have all the materials. Who will be interested? She calls it Imperfect Action and says, "Just take one step. Action begets action." A great reminder. (www.themindfulartist.com/2011/05/whats-so-great-about-perfect/
Book of the Week: Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown . The book's construction was fascinating, told from the we-POV of the sisters. It was as if these three sisters were one body telling this story. For that alone, I think it is worth the read. That and the lovely turns of phrase. The plot? Uh--well, that kind of fell off the table....
***As a side note: If you know of any young (I know we're all young, but in this case highschool and college age young) female artists, musicians, writers, who are live in the Bay Area, point them in the direction of the National Pen Women. The scholarship info for next year should be up on the website in a couple of months. http://www.nlapwsantaclara.org/.
Friday, April 22, 2011
A Helmet for my Pillow by Robert Leckie. HBO did a series called The Pacific, which documented some of the worst battles in the Pacific during WWII (and with Steven Spielberg directing, no gore was left to the imagination.) While I had trouble watching the series, covering my eyes each time bombing started, I was fascinated that the characters in the series were based on real men. One such man was Robert Leckie who wrote a bunch of books about his wartime experiences. A Helmet for My Pillow was like reading someone's letters home--funny, endearing, heartwrenching.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Friday, April 1, 2011
Thursday, January 20, 2011
A pile of cards later, he looked more frustrated. How would he ever remember all these battles? Dates? Cell parts?
Hmmmm, what about the internet? Perhaps someone had developed a game--like jeopardy or concentration--which would make the info fun and easy to remember.
Nope. He found something even cooler.
Perhaps I'm the last neanderthal to have made this discovery. But just in case there are a few others remaining, let me say it is the greatest tool. You create your own flashcards and then can test yourself. What's more, for a small fee, you can download the info to your ipod. All week, wherever my son went, he could pull out his ipod and test himself.
I'm now looking at a pile of index cards on my desk--not for midterms, but for my novel. An unwieldy bunch of cards, denoting characters and their traits, place names, chapters and their happenings. I'm thinking it's time for me to join the new century and do some of this online flashcard stuff....but then perhaps there's a better internet application specifically for writers. Any thoughts?
Friday, January 14, 2011
We couldn't find her. At least not on the track. After numerous races, a diaper change, a juice-box break, I spotted her sitting on the field surrounded by a bunch of friends.
"Why aren't you joining any of the races?" I asked.
"I don't want to," she mumbled.
"What if I lose?"
That raw emotion stays with me. I was reminded of it this week when my son did his best to ignore impending finals--surfing the web, making plans to build half pipes, playing video games.
I'm reminded it of it each time I put off my own writing in favor of something mundane like cleaning out a closet. For certainly it's easier to say I didn't have time to put my whole self into something then to do my damndest and fail.
But as I said to my daughter that day, as I told my son, as I must remind myself everyday:
Run the Race.
Book of the Week:
Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt. It's been months (a long time for me) since I found a book that grabbed me, one that I looked forward to reading for more than sedative purposes. Pictures of You kept me up half the night as I longed to find out what happened to these dear characters thrust together as the result of a horrific car crash. A good--and fast--read.
What People Are Saying About My Half of the Sky
"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
"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.”
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