Friday, September 23, 2011

Sentiments that live through the ages

Several years ago, a Korean gentleman approached me. “Your book reminds me of old Korea.Will you help me tell my story?“ This man grew up in Korea during WWII and the Korean War (1950’s). His father (A Christian minister) and two older brothers were killed during these wars, all by different regimes. He wasn’t out to point a finger and say, “This country was bad to us.” However, he wanted people to understand that when a country has a bad leader—any country—the innocent suffer. He said his deepest wish is that all people of the world hold hands across the oceans in peace and brotherhood. This past week, one of the lovely Afghan Women writers wrote a poem, the following of which is an excerpt: Dear people of world and friends Dear people who are black, white, yellow, and from every race, every country Let us put our hands together To help prevent another murder I was struck by the similar image, an image many of us dream of but cannot grasp. (In fact, I’m often struck by how I have so much trouble with just the people next door.)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Memories from around the world

As I mentioned, this month I'm lucky to be able to mentor Afghan women writers, as they work to express their thoughts. Today, one of my writers--Yalba --is featured on the blog as she recalls what 9/11 meant to her family. It's an amazing story. Please visit Islamabad and 9/11 and leave feedback.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Labor Days

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

An interesting book and fascinating project

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.

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