Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Today's Chinese Bicycle

In the village, my brother-in-law offered us the use of his brand new moped.
"Do you have helmets?" I asked.
"I didn't have time to get those," he grinned. "The store was closing."
I cringed.
The next day, he returned home with two helmets.
As my husband put his on, the strap broke.
"Don't worry," my brother-in-law said, "Just return it. They'll give you a new one."
Wow. What trust in this "little" village. One person can buy something, another one return it for a replacement, all with no receipt.
We drove into town with our protective head gear. There was not just one shop, though. There was moped shop after shop after shop.
"The moped is today's bicycle," my husband said. "In fact, I think I paid more for a bicycle."
When we found the right shop, the man looked at the helmet, nodded, and returned, not with a new helmet, but with a new flimsy plastic piece to be fitted on the strap. I guess the image of meandering slowly down the street on a bike extended to the use and construction of helmets as well.

Monday, April 29, 2013

My Half of the Sky Available at Chinese Culture Center, San Francisco

The Chinese Culture Center located in the heart of San Francisco, is an organization that was established in 1965 to preserve and protect Chinese culture. They have classes and lectures and dances. They have art exhibits and a cute book store (which currently sells My Half of the Sky). Interestingly enough they are located inside the Hilton Hotel. So next time you're at the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco, stop by, check out this place, and pick up a copy of My Half of the Sky.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Some Things in China Not So Modern

While the infrastructure in China--the roads, the bullet train, the high-rises--was impressive and far more advanced than the U.S, I was often hit by things that felt very old (a la 1950s). Smoking was one. Everywhere we went people smoked. In taxis, restaurants, elevators, rehabilitation rooms. Everywhere we went, people passed out cigarettes as an offering.
Once, to escape the smoke of a group of my husband's friends, I ventured toward greenery--a line of trees, a river. On the steps leading to the river, I spotted this cigarette package. "Smoking when pregnant harms your baby."
"Well,that seems like a step in the right direction," I thought.
But, as it was written in English, I guessed this package had not been sold in China. Singapore, perhaps? But then that was another problem....garbage strewn about from everyone.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Night and Day in Shanghai

Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking about My Half of the Sky at the Loma Prieta Women's Book Club. It was a lively discussion of women, many of whom had come from and traveled to many parts of the world--Japan, Costa Rica, the Amazon, Finland, and of course, China. They agreed that LiHui's story--about where to reconcile tradition with modern times--was universal.
One woman asked if I'd noticed much change in China over the past 27 years. I could only think of  pictures: one that I took when I first got off the boat in Shanghai in 1986....
And one that I took last week ...

Like Night and Day.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Camping in Shanghai

While in Shanghai we visited Shanghai Jiaotung University for my husband's reunion. During the day, we were part of the masses flocking to this alma mater. It felt as if everyone on the planet had returned. There were tour buses and police directing traffic and current students waving signs and television crews capturing the moment.
At night a small group of us went 'camping.' One of the classmates apologized in advance for the harsh conditions we would be facing. I imagined sleeping on the ground in a tent.
We drove an hour outside of Shanghai to a small area which reminded me of a suburban block of houses in America, except for the  highway on one side, the muddy river on the other, and the sound of a rock-crushing factory as constant background noise. Our 'tent' was a house with 8 bedrooms, a karaoke machine, mahjong tiles. Our 'campfire' was a separate building which served more food than I've ever seen on one table. (I stopped counting at 18 dishes). Oh, the rugged camping life in Shanghai:)

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Half of Sky #26 in Kindle Store

I want to grab this moment of happiness and share. My Half of the Sky is now #26 in their Kindle store. So nice.

Boston Top News in China

I apologize for not posting stuff from China. Blogspot is not an allowed site. Many Chinese predict that this kind of censorship will not last long. As it is now, people find ways of circumventing the censors (and my husband's company laptop has a special 'zone' that allows him to use whatever site he wants.) I didn't have a chance this time to use that zone.
Despite censorship of individual news items going out, news coming in was fast. On Tuesday (Monday night U.S. time) I was at the market in my husband's village of Fuqin. It's an open-air market with people selling items out in front of what are basically their homes. Each seller also had a television set and every television was tuned to news about the bombing in Boston.

First reports in China were that there were no runners from Shanghai present, and that the suspected bombers were "dark people." We now know that while the bombers were certainly dark people, they were light-skinned, and one of the spectators killed was from China. This memorial was set up Tuesday at the Olympic Forest Park in Beijing. (Photo courtesy of ChinaFotopress)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

China's 30 Million Extra Men

According to the latest issue of US-China People's Friendship Review, China now has 30 million more men than women. This is the result of the combination of modern technology (ultrasound) and the ancient tradition for a preference for males. And now, well, it's chaos. What does one do with all those men? Men that would fill up a country like Singapore six times over. Isn't it  time to change our traditions? Please.

I'll be travelling to the land of men next week for my husband's 30th college reunion, as well as a family visit. I'll try to post pictures.

New Website: Riding the e-book wave, a new website called Libboo has books which you can 'buzz' about, meaning recommend. It offers you a chance to find out about and share books. If you have a chance, please stop by, see what's there, and  (if you feel so inclined) buzz about My Half of the Sky. Thanks.

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