So, ok. My last three posts have been about all ways I differ from the mainstream when it comes to pop culture. TV, movies, and music. What’s missing from these lists, you ask yourself? Well, you probably don’t, but I’m going to tell you, anyway. Books, of course. I am obviously a very verbal woman, and I loved reading since I first taught myself to read at a very young age. I don’t know how young, but it was before I went to school. One day I couldn’t read, and the next day, I could. My mom loves to tell the story of how I would sit at the table when I was two, holding the newspaper in my chubby little hands and “read” it–upside down.
I was reading eighth-grade books by the time I was in first grade. I started reading the dictionary for fun. I made it to the “I” section before I stopped. I got teased a lot in school for being fat, Asian, and/or smart. Books were my solace, my escape, and my friends. I read pretty much nonstop after I got out of school until I went to bed. I would take a book with me to whatever lame Taiwanese event my parents made me attend. I would find a nice corner and read. I read The Scarlet Letter when I was ten (didn’t like it) and half of War and Peace before giving up.
I am embarrassed to admit that I devoured the teenybopper romance crap that were precursors to Harlequin Romances. Girl meets boy. Girl likes boy. Boy is with another girl (or just oblivious). Girl chases boy throughout book. In the end, girl gets boy. Rinse, lather, repeat. As a younger child, I read all the Nancy Drew books, the Hardy Boys, and Trixie Belden, too. I read the choose your own ending books, and Encyclopedia Brown as well. Yes, even back then, I liked mysteries.
In college, I started reading Asian women authors once I realized I could, and it was on after that. I started reading anyone of color I could get my hands on–especially women. I went to a Lutheran college (St. Olaf) in the early nineties, just as diversity was becoming a buzzword, so pickings were slim, to say the least.
On Facebook, there are many, “How many of these classics have you read?” memes. They bug me because they are mostly lists of dead white men. Yes, I know most of the classics are written by dead white men, but that doesn’t mean they are the only thing worth reading. I stopped filling out those memes because I don’t need to be any more pissed than I am in general. So, instead of getting mad, I’m going to list some of my favorite books.
Now, remember, this is not a list of the bestest books evah. No, it’s a list of some of my favorite books. Many are by Asian women. Many are mysteries. There are some graphic novels in the mix. Almost anything by Neil Gaiman could have made the list. With that, here we go. Oh, and I buy most of my books from www.half.com.
- The Coffin Tree by Wendy Law-Yone. It’s a story about a Burmese brother and sister who immigrate to the US after the Burmese coup. Both brother and sister are mentally ill. It’s one of the first Asian American books I’ve read, and it’s still one of the best.
- The Forbidden Stitch: An Asian American Women’s Anthology, edited by Shirley Geok-lin Lim. The title says it all. It’s a bit of this and a bit of that, and a great primer on the diversity in the Asian American world.
- NP by Banana Yoshimoto. I love all of Yoshimoto’s work, and this one is my favorite (followed closely by Amrita). It’s a breezy yet disturbing portrait of forbidden love. It’s a slim book and utterly engrossing. Set in Japan, written in Japanese, and translated into English.
I’m really fucking tired, so I’m going to leave this short and finish it up later.
Hm. I think I could say that these books were influential in helping me realize that I, too, could be an author. More on that in the next post.
*Elvis Costello, bitchez. You better recognize.