Everyday I Write the Book*

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

22 Responses to Everyday I Write the Book*

  1. I too read form a very early age. A story my mum likes to tell any prospective partners she may meet is when my elder sister had a parent’s evening at the secondary school (I have no idea on the US equivalent – basically, 2 or 3 years from leaving at 16). I was taken along with mum to this evening and as one of the meetings was in the library, I wandered off and was looking at the books. After the meeting, the teacher (condescendingly) said to me “Would you like to read these books when you’re at big school?” (I was probably 4 or 5 then). I, with my characteristic wit gave her a dirty look and said “Already read them.” The teacher laughed right up until my mum piped up with “Actually, he has – he reads his brother and sister’s books as soon as they bring them home.”

    So, there you go – had my own library card at age 3, never really stopped reading since…but mainly junk novels.

    And it’s important to stray away form the ‘mainstream’ regarding books, music and most other things – else we’d all be sheeple.

  2. How odd Minna, I posted two Elvis songs yesterday.

    I too started reading at a young age. Once I learned I devoured my mother’s book collection. I can remember by 3rd grade kids were teasing me relentlessly for my vocabulary.
    Funny that now I notice people for their words.
    I like reading Minna because she often uses words I love so a lot of times her words just feel good to me.

  3. Whabs nailed it. I was the geeknerd with the vocabulary that made my cohorts blink a few times. I read books well above my grade level, and loved them all.

    Snee, I had to laugh at your story. When my sister was in 10th grade (about the same age as your sister was) she was taking biology, which included, of course, human reproduction. At one point when my sister was babysitting me, she couldn’t find me. I was camped out on her bed with her bio textbook, in that chapter. She tweaked, and I said, “Wait a sec…I get this part, and I get these, but I need you to explain this bit here.” I was relentless, much to her embarassment, so she did indeed explain.

    When she “confessed” to my mother later and apologized, my mother just shrugged and said, “Well, you know how she is. She gets a hold of a book, and that’s it. Nothing else you could’ve done.”

    As for the -rest- of the birds-n-the bees? I’m just waiting on Minna to teach me those. =)

  4. snee, that story is priceless. I swear, if I were a bloke with a devastating British accent rather than an Asian grrl with a bland, boring Midwestern accent, I would be you.

    whabs, you just love me because I say “fuck” a lot! Kids used to tease me about everything, and I would shoot back with something like, “You are idiotic, unintellectual imbeciles” (I told you I reached the I section in the dictionary)just to watch their faces scrunch up in confusion.

    Kel, how old were you in that story? That’s a good one, too. So, it seems, that many of the people who flock to my blog were precocious readers. That makes sense to me. Kel, I don’t think there is much I can teach you about sex that you don’t already know. If you have any questions, I may be able to give you private lessons.

    snee, whabs, Kel, if you three are gonna take a sex class from me, I think it would have to be an advanced class. I highly doubt any of you would need Sexing 101. If I do have a class, all the work will be done in groups. We need more guys, though. Three to one are not fair odds.

  5. Whabs, baby, any day, any time. =)

    Minna — I was 6. In first grade, about to skip to third.

    You may not need to “teach” the Sex Class, but I bet that among the four of us, we could share some reaaaally good ideas!

    Snee — You’re quite right. Whabs, like Minna, has super powers!

  6. I’m still wondering about these ‘unfair odds’…are you saying it’s unfair to whabbs and kel, or to me?

    Kel – I like the way you think! 🙂 so, what you doing Saturday? 😉

  7. I changed my mind. Instead of me teaching the class, we’re going to collaborate on an instructional DVD. We’ll pool our collective heads (especially snee’s) and see what we can put together. How does that sound?

  8. Snee — I think it would be a blast to hang out with you for the day! We’ll grab Whabsie and Minna and my two girls and take off. You’ll be in the company of 5 gorgeous women (although two are 100% unavailable for you!). What more could a man ask?

    An instructional DVD…now this could be interesting.

  9. Kel, I am so there. Man, if snee ever does come to this side of the pond, we all need to hook up somewhere in the middle. Wait, that would be in Minnesota! Imagine that.

    The instructional DVD could be called, 76 Ways to Please Your Lover (Without Even Touching Him/Her). It has the subtle flavor of teh Orients, you know.

  10. Okay, I’m a reader, but I’m going to pass on the sex ed class, thanks.

    My learning to read story is a little different. My parents tell it this way…I started first grade knowing how to read but my best friend from kindergarten was in the class behind me so I stopped reading so I could be moved back to be with her.

    I didn’t really pick it up again until about 4th grade when I was tricked into it. My father had bought a bunch of Scholastic books and had them on a shelf in my parents bedroom. I remember him showing them to me and telling me that every time I did something “good” whatever, I’d get to choose one. So I was rewarded with books and of course what do you do with books but read them. After that my love affair with books was an essential part of who I was.

    But what about poetry? Are you going to discuss poetry?

  11. Crystal, heh. Yeah, I don’t know how that subject came up. Wait, yes I do. It’s Kel’s fault!

    Your story of learning to read is a fascinating one. So, you knew how to read early, but didn’t really fall into it until your father bribed you with books, eh? That’s a sweet story. I remember the Scholastic books very well.

    Poetry: Alas, I am not a poetry reader. I used to write it, but even then, I rarely read any. I am open to suggestions, though.

  12. I recently found Mary Oliver (thanks to my daily dose of the writer’s almanac). I got her book Thirst where she’s dealing with the grief that came with the death of her partner of 40 years. I love the imagery she uses. I connect very strongly to both the images she uses and her struggle with her loss.

  13. Heeeey now. It was NOT my fault!!

    Oh wait…maybe it was. Shit!

    I’m not a huge poetry reader either. I do occasionally write it but if I try to write anything remotely serious, it sounds trite and insipid. So I tend to stick with humorous poetry instead. =)

    Meet Me In Minnesota? There’s a musical in there somewhere…

  14. Crystal, thanks for the recommendation. I will check her out.

    Kel, yes it was. Even if it wasn’t, I am blaming you. My poetry was actually pretty good. I just found prose to be more expressive.

    Hey! I’m working on the quintessential queer Asian woman musical. I’ll let you know when I finish.