Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Hokey Pokey Purification Dance

The other day, had another small miracle.  I got to see three Japanese friends I'd known in Singapore, Japan, the US, and who now live in Tokyo.  It felt like a time warp.  A dream.
They took us to Iidabshii to visit a special shrine which is all the rage in Japan--a shrine where you pray for the power of love.  It was filled with young women, and my two sons were two of the only men there, much to their embarassment.  They weren't quite sure what to do and weren't quite sure how this shrine differed from the other one we had gone to.  I wasn't either, except that this one didn't have the bamboo circle.
At the first regular old shrine, there was a Tori gate at the entrance and our friends were all excited to see this large round circle made of bamboo.  It was large enough to walk through, and there were directions right next to it.  Bow, walk in to the left and circle back around.  Bow again, walk through to the right and circle back around.  Bow again, walk through to the left and circle back around.  Bow and walk forward to make your prayer. 
For some reason I kept thinking of the Hokey-Pokey.  Walk around to the left. Bow. Around to the right. Bow.  Do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around.  I asked our friends what this was all about--they had no idea. 
I said, "Perhaps it is a practical joke to see how many people will just follow the directions, no matter how silly they seem." 
Oh, no, no, no. 
One of our friends asked a person working at the shrine.  Apparently it is for purification, and by doing the left-right-left dance you become pure before meeting God.  They only put it out twice a year.  So we were lucky to have had this chance.
It seemed funny. (Before I started thinking of all the similar ridiculous motions I've gone through in churches--sitting, standing, kneeling, etc.)  If purification is the pronouncement, I'll dance.:)

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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