Friday, October 28, 2011

The Biggest Ghost in Our Family's Past

With Halloween coming up--and kids digging through the crafts box to figure out what to dress up as--I was reminded of the biggest ghostly incident in our family.

We were living in Singapore and had traveled to Bintan Island, Indonesia for a holiday. They had nice shacks lining white-sand beaches, coconut trees swaying in the breeze, lovely coral filled the water. It was idyllic except for the neighbors who started drinking before noon and got progressively louder.

We quickly took the kids out for a swim, enjoying the lovely coral, the pretty fish, the warm water. We stayed out all day, only coming in as the sun was setting and we were hungry, tired, and salty.

As we passed the neighbors, there was no more raucous laughter. "Did you see a middle-aged man out there swimming?" One of them came up to us and asked. "Our friend Suzuki is missing. "

There had been a bunch of teens splashing around near the rocks, a lone woman snorkeler. But no Suzuki.

My husband went off to help locate the inebriated Suzuki. The sky was turning a light shade of pink. It would be dark soon.

I took the kids into the shack alone to help them shower. As I stood in the shower, I felt a shiver. Why would Suzuki just disappear like that?

We dressed and hurried to join the search party. Now there were dozens of people lined up along the beach. One of the friends suddenly tore off his shirt and raced into the water. "I'm coming." he shouted as he swam toward the deep waters. "Hold on."

"You found him?" I asked looking into the dark water. For now it was so dark it was hard to see.

"There." My husband pointed.

I squinted at the dark, menacing waves and could just barely make out a head. I held onto my children, remembering how much this man had had to drink all day and wondering why in the name of anything he was out here swimming.

More people gathered, pointing and murmuring. Finally, a motorboat sounded in the distance. A rescue was on the way.

"What's everyone doing out here?" A man came racing down the beach. He was dressed up for dinner. He was loud.

"Suzuki?" Someone called. "Is that you?"

It was. He had been waiting in the restaurant the whole time. So who was in the water being rescued?

The rescue boat shone its light across the waters... on the swimming heroic friend and then "Suzuki"...a big bobbing coconut.

We all got a good laugh out of that. But, it made me realize how we are so easily dominated by imagined fears. How quick we are to see dangers that don't exist. It is a reminder--although my kids are usually the ones to do the reminding--to embrace adventure and not look for the bobbing coconuts.

Book of the week:
Inkblot by Johnson Naigle is a fun young adult story about a teen who creates this ingenious personality profiling software which he hopes to one day use for the good of society. Unfortunately his love interest decides it could be used for the good of her career first. It is an easy, cute read.

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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