hi. i’m sorry i’ve been away. and that i disappeared after that last post, no checking in even to say that, hi, i’m okay, i’m still here, i’m doing better.
i’ve been neglecting this space, and that hasn’t been intentional. the summer has been a difficult but busy one, and it’s been a fruitful, productive one. i’ve been taking a memoir workshop online through catapult, and, every wednesday evening, my heart has been swelling with gratitude and love because i’m in a great cohort, and this has been an exciting journey overall, this whole foray into creative non-fiction, which also just wouldn’t have been possible without this blog space and without instagram.
there are changes afoot, though.
two weeks ago, i set my instagram to private and transitioned a different instagram account into a public one. i’m changing the way i approach content here in this space, though i don’t know yet what that will look like — or, really, more accurately, what that will read like. the new public instagram will focus mostly on books, some food and travel scattered in there but primarily books; i wasn’t planning to keep a public instagram page again yet; but i want to continue advocating for great books and, particularly, for great books by asian diasporic writers and that requires a public space.
i do want to transition this space away from the largely, intensely personal and shift gears a little to focus more on books and travel. that doesn’t mean the personal will disappear because i don’t believe it’s really possible to write well about books and travel without the personal, but i don’t know quite how i mean to practice any of that, just that things are shifting and changing, and that’s exciting and scary and, frankly, necessary.
so, let’s talk books — or let’s talk reading.
i haven’t been reading that much this year because the reality is that i just don’t have as much time and energy for reading as i used to. this summer, particularly, has been a busy, agitated one. my boss at work has been giving me more to do, having me take accounting classes online, so every single day is incredibly disheartening and challenging because i feel dumb as rocks at work. i know i’m not dumb; i have a good brain; but it is not one that does well with financial or economic concepts, which is somehow not acceptable to admit, coming from a world where the mindset is don't ever give up on things we deem worthwhile and "practical," even if you destroy yourself in the process. i think a lot about that quote that says something about putting a fish on land and it’ll think it’s a fool because it can’t walk — i feel like that, and i feel like that every single goddamn day because i’m constantly reminding myself, you’re not dumb, you’re not dumb, you’re not dumb. just because you don’t get accounting doesn’t mean you’re dumb. it's okay not to get this shit and admit that.
it’s too bad i waste so much brain space and energy every day.
that’s one reason i haven’t been reading much.
the other reason, though, is a much better one — i haven’t been reading much because i’ve been writing. i’ve been trying to write.
earlier this summer, i finally launched my food zine, the things left behind, and i post to that twice a month. i’ve been trying to figure out how to do an accompanying newsletter to that. i’ve been editing an essay that looks like it might have a future (omg!). and, like i mentioned earlier, i’ve been taking a memoir writing workshop, which means … i’ve been writing a memoir-in-essays.
all that pretty much explains why this space has gone neglected for so long. i feel bad because my last post was pretty intense, though i don’t feel bad for posting it, for filling it with sadness and anger and fury at a judgmental, condescending world that takes lives. i do feel bad because it’s a heavy thing to leave at the top of a page for so long, to leave without following up to say, hey, i’m okay. i’m still here. i went through a bad depressive, suicidal episode earlier this summer, but i got through it with my puppy, my therapist, my meds, my people, and social media.
and so we go on.
i went to alaska this summer, and i’d intended for that to be my “comeback” post, but it just won’t write. alaska was beautiful, and the trip was fine, but it was also complicated in the way that personal shit is complicated, and there was an ugly dramatic lead-up to the trip that didn’t need to happen.
i also wanted to write about that bullshit SCOTUS cake decision, but i haven’t been able to sit down and parse through my feelings and write down my arguments in a cohesive way.
i also wanted to write a post about glossier and skincare and beauty … but, again, these words haven’t been coming, and i haven’t been able to sit down and try to find them, not when i’ve already been doing the emotionally intensive act of writing a memoir. and so i’ve been thinking — how can i best use this space? what sorts of stories should i tell here?
i’m drafting this in mexico city, and i’m here for a few days. i’ve been looking forward to this trip for months, making lists of things to eat and bookstores and libraries to visit, and i was hoping for it to be a full-on creative holiday, except i couldn’t finish my accounting coursework, so i’ve had to bring it with me. i’m not happy about that, but i didn’t get to it in the lead-up to this trip because i was writing — i have the structure of this memoir-in-essays scaffolded, and i have a few pieces drafted, and it’s in the hands right now of my catapult cohort. i was also working on my posts for my food zine. both these things were due the day or two before my flight, and i’m stupid proud of how much writing i did, how much my output can be.
anyway, so, i’m in mexico city, and i have my accounting coursework that i’ll do in the evenings with beer and mangoes and snacks, and, to be honest, i’m typing out this last bit of this post on the flight in. i’m planning on checking in at my airbnb and going straight for tacos and churros, maybe making a quick pitstop first for water and mangoes at the market that’s supposed to be across the street from my airbnb.
the next few days will hopefully be a blur of food and architecture and colors, all of which i can’t wait to share. it’s a good opportunity to figure out how to tell stories of travel.
i’m doing a fair amount of traveling this fall actually. in two weeks, i’m home in brooklyn for the brooklyn book festival, then i’m planning on hopping up to the bay area at the end of september or in early october. i’ll be in austin at the end of october for the texas book festival and then in portland for 36 hours for the portland book festival. my family’s going for either our usually extended family gathering in baltimore or a smaller extended family gathering in boston during thanksgiving, and that’s a trip that was going to end in boston, anyway, so, wherever the family gathers, i’ll be in boston for a few days at the end of november.
all of this travel is only made possible by the fact that my mum has kindly given me many of her miles and points. and hurrah for airbnb and friends who so kindly let me crash on their spare beds!
nix what i wrote above — i’m writing this last bit of this post in a cafe, and my phone has 5% battery left, and i need to make sure to have enough to get back to my airbnb. i slept like shit last night, partly because of an uncomfortable bed, partly because i don’t sleep well in new places in general, partly because i just don’t sleep well in general. apparently, the altitude here makes sleep harder, too.
this isn’t supposed to be a post about CDMX, though, so maybe i’ll just end things here. or maybe i’ll throw in some book talk while i’m here and while i’ve got you because i have been reading, just very little and not as often.
i read porochista khakpour’s sick (harper perennial, 2018) on my flights to and from anchorage, and it was my online book club’s pick for july. i’m afraid to report that i didn’t love it, that i tried hard to love it but couldn’t, found it fairly shallow and hard to track sometimes because there's a lot in there and because all of khakpour’s boyfriends sound like the same person — he’s always white, always privileged, always has some familial connection to lyme. i did love the rare moments when khakpour becomes more reflective and offers thoughts on her experience instead of simply relating her experience — though, yes, i acknowledge and agree that there is huge value in a woman simply narrating her experience with chronic illness and with being a woman with chronic illness, her physical pain dismissed unless it is somehow linked to the psychological.
that said, i’m not the biggest fan of memoirs that are just narrative tellings because i personally look for more. i want self-reflection, self-awareness, and maybe that’s a lot to ask for, but i wonder what the purpose is in a memoir otherwise — memoirs that simple recount narratives and focus entirely on one’s self feel often like navel-gazing, which maybe sounds more cynical than i actually intend. and, also, which is not something i necessarily think khakpour is doing in sick.
i also recently finished sakaya murata’s convenience store woman (grove, 2018), which was short but so, so smart, deftly capturing the workings of a japanese conbini and commenting on japanese society overall. i don’t know how other people have been reading this novella, but i found it pretty uniquely japanese, that, while there is a universal application, maybe, to the points murata makes, she is specifically addressing japan, directing her criticism to that society.
personally, i find books like convenience store woman and, even, han kang’s the vegetarian interesting because they’re books in-translation and they read (to me, at least) as fairly unique to their respective societies and cultures — and that’s interesting because, clearly, someone in the west found them interesting, too, connected with something, though, sometimes, i wonder if that’s more to do with exoticism and that sense of the Other, which, again, maybe sounds more cynical than i actually intend. i find there’s a shit-ton to explore when it comes to translation; there’s so much we should question about how books are chosen and decided upon and who these gatekeepers are.
i mean, we should be examining that shit all the time, even when it comes to the books we’re reading that don’t go through the additional hurdles of translation. there’s a reason mostly dead white men are the authors of books we’re taught are “classics” and “the greats," and that's bullshit.
i've also been reading nicole chung’s forthcoming memoir, all you can ever know (catapult, forthcoming 2018), but i haven’t finished it yet because i’ve been sitting on the last twenty pages. i don’t want this book to end because nicole’s writing is just so full of heart and love and wisdom and grace, and i’ve been going around saying this all over social media, but i’ll say it here, too: if you read one book this year, let it be all you can ever know. it is just so. freaking. good.
there are other books i’ve been reading recently that i could talk about, but i think i’ll give my thumbs a break and leave y’all with photos from alaska instead. i wanted to have longer posts about alaska, but i unfortunately keep coming up blank. there will hopefully be a few mexico city posts, though — if anything, there will be quite a few added to the food zine!