Thursday, January 30, 2014

Lunar New Year Remembrance

Today, is not just the last day of the year of the Snake. It's the 35th anniversary of Deng Xiaoping's visit to the White House following the formal establishment of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China on Jan. 1, 1979. 
President Jimmy Carter's welcome included these comments,  
"Yesterday ...was the lunar New Year, the beginning of your Spring Festival, the traditional 
time of new beginnings for the Chinese people. On your New Year's Day, I am told, you open all doors and windows to give access to beneficent spirits. It's a time when family quarrels are forgotten, a time when visits are made, a time of reunion and reconciliation. As for our two nations, today is a time of reunion and new beginnings. It's a day of reconciliation, when windows too long closed have been reopened."
May the Year of the Horse be a time of warm reunions and grand new beginnings.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Funny Knock-Offs in China

My teenage daughter spent all last year moaning about how she just had to have UGGs. I didn't get the point of spending hundreds of dollars for a pair of slippers which had a silly word on the back. (Still don't) I thought these $4 pair of knock-offs I spotted in China would do just fine....well, except for the polka-dots.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Ghost Cities in Most Populous Nation in World

When we visited my brother-in-law a couple of years ago in Hangzhou, he had just moved into a new condominium. He mentioned that 40% of the place was still empty. I didn't think anything of it--it was a new condo after all--until my son passed me the following video on Ghost Towns in China.
According to this dateline special, China--which surpassed the U.S. in manufacturing last year-- builds ten new cities each year. One would think this is an inevitable response to an ever-burgeoning population.(Last count 1.36 billion.) But the reality is that the two are unrelated--at least for the moment.
Building is a way to meet a GDP target. The populace, with an average income of $6,000/year, cannot afford the price tag of these new condos which average $70-100,000. Thus there are 64 million empty apartments. It's hard to imagine even one empty building in China, much less 64 million.  It's fascinating...and frightening.
It will be interesting to see what solutions arise.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Chinese Traditions that Could Get You Arrested

It always strikes me anew how ceremonies and life-marking events seem to bring out bad traditions. A few months ago, I was trying to find a gift for my friend's newborn and was inundated with pink and blue. In November as I prepared to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner--although I cut up meat the other 364 days of the year--suddenly all the guests looked to my husband to carve the roast beast. But this doesn't just happen in the U.S.
This past week I went to Fujian for my nephew's huge village wedding. One of the underlying themes that kept rearing its ugly head was not only that the bride should have a baby, but it should be a boy. When the groom went to pick up his bride and bring her home, only his friends/relatives who were married with sons were allowed to ride along. The groom was given boys to hold, as that was supposed to increase his chances of making one. And on the second day, there was an all-male poobah gathering--the bride went back home and invited her father and a male relative back for a meal.
The male relative turned out to be the bride's young cousin who was barely 14. Still, he sat with all the men, was given several packs of cigarettes as a gift, was offered wine to toast the couple. Each time I protested, ("He's still a baby." or "What message are you giving this child?") my brother-in-law said, "You just don't understand our customs."
As I sat next to a wine-drinking 14-year-old whose pockets bulged with cigarettes,it struck me that were I in the U.S. I'd get a call from Child-Protective Services or be arrested for serving a minor.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Book Facts That Will Astound

My cousin--whose mom was a librarian and held a degree in all things library-- just forwarded me the following U.S. statistics:
33% of high school graduates will never read another book in their lives.
42% of college grads never pick up another book.
70% of adults have not been in a book store in the last five years.
80% of families did not buy or read a book last year.
It's astounding, but gels with an experience I had last year at one of the fairs where a friend and I sold our books. His first question to people approaching our table was, "Do you read books?" I thought it a stupid question as "Who doesn't read books?" By the end of the day, my whole perspective had changed: a majority of people didn't read. Not couldn't. Just didn't. I told my son, and he said, "That's normal, Mom. My friends at school don't read."
This year, for every holiday I can think of, I will ask only one thing of my kids: READ A BOOK.
I hope you'll read, too.

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