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The Hippie Bookworm

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  • Felicia Rogers
  • November 07, 2013 09:21:04 AM

A Little About Us

Bookworm is the reading hippy who uses books to escape reality and take far out trips. In the afterglow of her trips, Bookworm is always struck with enlightenment from what she just read. She sees how modern literature is influencing cultures, society and even future histories. If you dig it, stay tuned as Bookworm shares her thoughts and ponderings related to the books she's reading.

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Favorite Modern Chinese Literature

The 2022 Winter Olympics are well underway now in China. But watching the opening ceremony a couple weeks ago reminded me of some of the most beautifully written modern stories...

The 2022 Winter Olympics are well underway now in China. But watching the opening ceremony a couple weeks ago reminded me of some of the most beautifully written modern stories set in China or featuring Chinese main characters. Below are my top favorite pieces of Chinese or Chinese-American literature that I’ve read most recently.

White Ivy by Susie Yang

white ivy by susie yang

Ivy Lin, a first generation American from a Chinese family, is a thief and a liar, though you would never know by looking at her. Growing up in Boston, she has worked hard to fit in with her classmates including the Speyers, a stereotypical Wasp family. But Ivy may not be the only one harboring a secret identity. If Ivy gets everything she thinks she wants, will she truly be happy? Or does happiness lie in an unexpected place?

Susie Yang is ingenious in how she weaves the story of Ivy’s Chinese roots, her unstoppable will and her undeniable blind spots when it comes to ambition. I was fortunate enough to be in a book club who spoke with Yang about her debut novel and it left us all waiting in anticipation for her next story.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I’ve written about this book over the years. But the undeniable truth woven throughout this book is the misunderstanding that comes when American-born Chinese Rachel Chu falls for the most eligible bachelor in Singapore and heir to one of the largest fortunes in Asia. Will love prevail over all obstacles? Or will Rachel be found out for the imposter and gold digger Will’s family believes she truly is.

Among other things, this novel gives us an intimate look at the wealth and lifestyle that has infiltrated Singapore. From Chinese superstitions that will never go out of fashion to the night life, food and fashion of modern day Singapore, the descriptions in this novel will transport you across the Pacific.

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China follows three generations of women as they experience some of the most extraordinary political upheaval in China’s history. While this is not actually fiction, but a retelling of Jung Chang’s own family history, it still depicts an extraordinary time in the history of China that I couldn’t leave it off the list.

Chang’s grandmother has bound feet and is married off at an early age to be a concubine of a high-ranking General in order for her to escape the poverty she was born into. Bao Qin was taken from the General’s household when her mother feared for her life after the General passed away and she was raised in Manchuria by her mother and new father, a doctor. Bao eventually joined the Communist Party and worked her way up the ranks meeting her husband, a high ranking communist official. Eventually she had Jung and four other children. While Jung started out as a member of the communist party, the eventual downfall of her parents within the party leading to the untimely and painful death of her father led her to disavow the party and eventually move out of the country.

Jung’s descriptive language and exotic backdrops leave the readers in awe and sickened all at the same time. The flow of the story allows for a story-like reading that makes you forget that you are reading the real life experiences of actual people.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan is a timeless immigrant story focusing on four mothers who immigrated to San Francisco, CA from China and their four American-born Chinese daughters. Through a string of short stories, we follow the stories of these four immigrant families from post-World War II China to the United States and how their experiences have impacted their view on life. Each family is connected by the fact that they play Mahjong together every week and come to call their group the Joy Luck Club.

Again, the beautifully written and exotic subjects provided by Amy Tan in this novel transport readers to a different time and place. It gives us a taste of the perspective from immigrants and first generation Americans that, at the time the novel was written, was sorely lacking in modern literature.

What’s next on the horizon?

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While I thoroughly enjoyed each of these books and some I admit to reading over and over again on a regular basis, there are still more pieces of work by Chinese and Chinese-American authors that I can’t wait to read.

Next on my list is Land of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen, her debut novel. Published last year, this book is a collection of stories that show us a unique perspective on modern China and how it has risen to what it is today. I can’t wait to begin reading this recently published book that has captured the imagination of a wide audience including former President, Barack Obama.

Find these reads on Amazon

Tell me what Chinese or Asian literature have you been reading recently?

Leave your answer in the comments below.

Book Review of The Orphan Master's Son

Bonus: See my review for The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson – an amazing fictionalized look inside the walls of North Korea.

Review of The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

Welcome to my life: A Study of Memoires

People pen their memoirs for a variety of reasons. They believe their story will help or encourage others. They want to have a record of where they started and how...

People pen their memoirs for a variety of reasons. They believe their story will help or encourage others. They want to have a record of where they started and how they got to where they are. Or they just want to remember good times, good stories and good memories that have passed. One thing is for sure, they are inviting you into their life – opening the front door into their home, relationships and experiences.

In the past I have read a number of different memoirs. Here are my five favorites from my recent reading list.

In an Instant by Lee & Bob Woodruff

In January of 2006, after being announced as the new co-anchor of ABC World News, Bob Woodruff’s life was turned upside down. Covering the war in Iraq, Bob’s armored vehicle hit an IED resulting in a devastating brain injury that no one knew if he could recover from.

This memoir, In An Instant, is told mainly from the perspective of his devoted wife, Lee, as she takes us on the journey of her husband’s recovery and of how their lives had led up to this moment in Iraq. Bob also has a few chapters, telling his side of the stories that Lee shares with us about their lives around the world and through the television news hierarchy.

Nanaville by Anna Quindlen

Anna Quindlen is an amazing Women’s Fiction author. But she has also been known to share pieces of her own story and her family within the pages of a memoir. Nanaville is about the role change that all mother’s must undertake when they are about to become first-time grandparents. In her naturally humorous voice, she recounts the joys and lessons of becoming a first-time grandmother to her eldest grandson.

American Daughter by Stephanie Thornton Plymale

Mental health is a huge topic nowadays. From encouraging those who suffer from mental illness to not be ashamed to reach out for help to training public servants on how to de-escalate situations involving those with a mental health disorder.

Stephanie Thornton Plymale tells us all about it in American Daughter. Her family history – including her mother, father and siblings – all suffer from some form of mental illness. Her story isn’t easy to read, as she recounts her days of homelessness, the mysterious disappearance of a younger sibling and her own sexual abuse at the hands of those who were supposed to be protecting her. What her story does give is hope. Somehow, through the bleakness of her beginning story, Stephanie has survived and is thriving with a business and a family of her own.

Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker

Follow us to Hidden Valley Road where the Galvin family was supposed to be the poster family for the mid-century American Dream. Don, an Air Force contractor, and his wife Mimi have 12 children between the time of 1945 to 1965. While picture-perfect on the outside, the Galvin family was hiding a dark secret – 6 of the 12 children (all male) were diagnosed with the mental health disorder Schizophrenia.

Followed closely by the National Institute of Mental Health, the Galvin family would play a crucial role in early modern understanding of their disease as it relates to treatment, genetics and quality of life. While heart wrenching at times, this is the true and complicated story of this extraordinary family.

Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos

What do you do when you have everything except the one thing that you really want – a child? Nia Vardalos is best known for her role in the My Big Fat Greek Wedding. She’s beautiful, charming and living a star-studded life. But at some point, all she can concentrate on is the large empty house she shares with her husband in hopes of one day starting a family.

When traditional and medical efforts produce no results, Nia begins to look into the possibility of adopting from the Foster Care System – essentially becoming an Instant Mom. Nia shares her experiences of working within the foster care system and realizing that maybe what she thought she wanted, needed to be tweaked to give her exactly what she needed.

Each of these books allows us a small glimpse into others’ lives. They have family struggles, life obstacles to overcome, opportunities they couldn’t turn down and reasons to celebrate. I hope you take some time before the sun sets on summer to dig in to a great memoir and walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

Use this image on the right for pinning on Pinterest.

Find these reads on Amazon

What is your favorite biography, autobiography or memoir?

Leave your answer in the comments below.

Bonus: Check out these other nonfiction works I’ve reviewed and recommended over the years.

Non-Fiction Reviews & Recommendations

Humanity never changes – A Review of The Expanse Series by James S.A. Corey

Just this past month, two American companies made history by sending their CEO’s into suborbital space using their very own commercial spacecrafts. Virgin Galactic, owned by Richard Branson, uses a...

Just this past month, two American companies made history by sending their CEO’s into suborbital space using their very own commercial spacecrafts. Virgin Galactic, owned by Richard Branson, uses a stylish, futuristic looking plane that is dropped in high altitude by another aircraft and then piloted further up in the sky by two expert pilots before being taken back down to earth. Blue Origin, owned by Jeff Bezos, used a hydrogen-fueled rocket booster to propel a dome-shaped capsule as high as it can go before it separates and the capsule began its descent back to the earth, landing with a thud in the desert sand.

Both companies are looking to use these experiences to propel commercial space tourism. But one company has a higher calling as well. Blue Origin is working on a project called Blue Moon, where humans will be sent back to the moon – this time in order to colonize it and begin space colonization. I wonder what a colonized solar system would be like?

Luckily, we don’t have to ponder much thanks to authors such as James S.A. Corey, whose imagination has unlocked our own thirst for adventure. But will anything change?

It all begins here…

In 2011, James S.A. Corey released his first of 8 novels (and 3 short stories, plus 5 novellas) in The Expanse Series called Leviathan Wakes. In this debut novel, humanity has been colonizing the solar system for hundreds of years. It follows two main characters – James Holden, a washed out UN Naval Officer (Earther) who has been making his living hauling ice from the asteroid belt to belt and moon colonies as part of a team, and Detective Joe Miller (Belter), a disgraced officer on the colony Ceres that is tasked with finding a missing “Earther” named Julie Mao after she defected from Earth to join a outlying militia group of the OPA (the Outer Planets Alliance encompasses colonies from the asteroid belt to Jupiter’s moons).

The Ice Hauler that Holden has been living on is attacked suddenly by a Martian Ship and, through a series of events, he and a remnant of the crew he works with end up stranded on a Martian War Ship they eventually name the Rocinante after the story of Don Quixote. Holden, now captain, takes his crew and begins to investigate why they were attacked in the first place.

Meanwhile, an alcoholic Detective Miller is given the task of finding Julie Mao, daughter to a wealthy and influential Earth family. Not a high priority, Miller’s supervisor hopes this will keep him out of the trouble that tends to follow him like a plague since his marriage fell apart.

As Miller explores the faction of the OPA that Julie had aligned herself with before her disappearance, Holden finds his own investigation has taken him to Ceres after he tracks down the rumors of a new organic alien technology that may somehow tie into his former ship’s attack. Eventually the two team up and together they work to try and save Ceres, and the rest of humanity, from the horrors that this new technology wants to unleash.

Will they find Julie Mao in time? Does she hold the key to understanding this new and frightening alien technology? Who already knows about this technology?

Some things never change…

As our world expands beyond the atmosphere of earth, factions begin to take root among the new landscape as people struggle to find their own identity and identify others. Instead of North Americans, Europeans and Asians, we have Earthers, Martians and Belters. And as the generations have progressed, each “type” of people begin to take on their own unique characteristics. Earthers are often referred to as “short,” “squat” and having a specific muscle tone. Belters who have colonized the Asteroid Belt and some of Jupiter’s moons are known to be lanky with big heads. And Martians are often said to be tall and militarized, some with a fake Western draw to their speech.

This alien technology is something new and unknown to any humans, no matter where they are originally from. Some view this as a danger and want to harness and destroy it. Others want to understand it and find a use for it. While still others want to turn it into a weapon that they can use to submit the others to their authority.

Politics are tricky business. In this futuristic world the Earth has a UN Secretary, Mars has a Prime Minister and the Outer Planet Alliance has a military leader and there are often breakaway factions such as a group who will come to call themselves the Free Navy in subsequent books. Each politician along with their cabinets work together to scheme, lie, placate and, sometimes, cooperate with one another to prevent an inter-solar system war from breaking out. 

The Review

I am obsessed with this book series. I was introduced to it a year ago by accident when I stumbled on to the Amazon Original Series THE EXPANSE starring  Wes Chatham, Dominique Tipper and Steven Strait based on this book series. After watching the first two seasons, I had to start reading the novels. It did not disappoint.

Corey’s imagination with regards to the details is amazing – from explaining air sfiltration systems and organic recyclers to allowing us to understand the time lag that occurs when your landscape is so expansive often military maneuvers take hours or days as opposed to minutes. Could you imagine taking a 7-month trip where you know war will be waiting for you on the other side of your journey?

The series is definitely a slow burn as there is a lot of build up and the essays, short stories and novellas that exist between the actual books are just supplementary, but not necessary reading material.

Overall, I give this book series, and especially Leviathan Wakes, 10 stars! I’m getting ready to start Book 7 now. Jefferson Mays is the voice talent for the entire series including the novellas on Audible and does an amazing job.

Recommended Reads based on space colonization

What is your favorite book series to read? What genre is it in?

Use the comments section below to answer and discuss.

Check out these other articles I wrote about “future thinking” topics and stories.

Comics & Graphic Novels: Helping Kids Learn New Reading Skills

As a young reader it seemed that every book series was designed to capture my attention. There was The Boxcar Children, The Babysitters’ Club and The Ramona Books – all...

As a young reader it seemed that every book series was designed to capture my attention. There was The Boxcar Children, The Babysitters’ Club and The Ramona Books – all written mainly for little girls.

While I was digging into these chapter books, the boys my age were purchasing and trading comics books. Whether a Marvel fan or a DC fan, these boys were devouring comics at the pace or even faster than I was reading my books.

While some adults and educators believe that these mediums are not “real books,” I found five good reasons to encourage the reading of comics and graphic novels.

It slows the reader down

Let’s face it, comics and graphic novels have a limited amount of words making every word the author writes and the reader reads more valuable.Plus, the combination of words and graphics means there’s even more to look at on each page.

This is a great feature for young readers who read quickly, but aren’t retaining the information or making the necessary connections.

Readers learn the skill of inference

Reading between the lines can be a very important skill for reading comprehension and for life in general. With the sparse text, readers will need to also pay attention to the graphics in order to follow the plot. This is especially important for children with learning disabilities.

Harry Potter Book Series

It can be less intimidating than chapter books

We all love The Harry Potter series, but the first book alone has over 300 pages. While I did write an article about how Harry Potter increased global literacy, comics and graphic novels can be less intimidating to kids who are not yet strong or confident readers. Those who are dyslexic can rely more heavily on the images to carry the story making the reading less intimidating.

A  wrinkle in time graphic novel

Graphic novels can be paired with classic literature

Did you know that a lot of classic novels are now also graphic novels? To Kill a Mockingbird, A Wrinkle in Time and even Pride and Prejudice all have graphic novel counterparts.

Likewise, modern graphic novels can be paired with classic literature to drive home a theme or idea. I read a Scholastics article where they talk about pairing The Scarlet Letter with Smile by Raina Telgemeier to drive home the impact of alienation.

cleopatra in space

They stand the test of time

Though the technology and cultural references are dated in the older classic comics, the themes of doing good, goodness persevering over evil and understanding you belong to a larger community and you get to choose how you fit in to that community stand the test of time.

Today there are even more graphic novels and comic book series than ever before – all geared towards a new generation of readers. A lot of them are available online and therefore are more accessible.

A plus for adults who grew up reading comics, is they can share their love of reading with their kids. Answering questions about what a telephone booth was and why Superman uses one to change before springing into action is a great way to engage your kids in the world that comics offer to them.

Did you read comics as a child? What did you love about reading them?

Read my exploration of adult graphic novels in this 2016 article.

Recommended Reads Based on this Article

Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers comes to Hulu

I am a big fan of Hulu. The ability to stream it from anywhere is a big plus. I watch everything from documentaries to full series dramas that I watched...

I am a big fan of Hulu. The ability to stream it from anywhere is a big plus. I watch everything from documentaries to full series dramas that I watched as a kid. I also enjoy a lot of their original series – especially their adaptations such The Handmaid’s Tale.

Likewise, I am a big fan of the work of Australian author Liane Moriarty. She is a masterful storyteller and creates the most neurotic, quirky characters you can imagine. The Husband’s Secret, Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers are some of my favorite novels by Moriarty. 

So when I learned that Hulu, Moriarty, Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman were working to bring Nine Perfect Strangers to the screen in a miniseries,  I marked the series premiere on my calendar and circled it in red.

Ahead of the August 18, 2021 premiere, let’s dig into the novel a little deeper.

Francis Welty, the formerly best-selling romance novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House with eight other strangers looking to cure her bad back and broken heart. Her fellow guests, while not necessarily needing the health benefits, have all come with a purpose in mind. They want a life reboot, they want to salvage their personal relationships or they are looking for answers that are eluding them.

While her fellow guests make for excellent people watching, the person who she is most interested in is the eccentric director and owner of the resort, Masha.

Francis struggles to immerse herself into the process and things get very interesting to say the least as the group begins to unravel.

The Review

Francis, while a successful author, is an everyday woman. Her adjustments to the dietary restrictions, exercise regime and group activities of this ultra-posh resort will leave you laughing out loud. You can almost place yourself in her shoes – feeling as if you’ve landed in an alternate universe. 

The polarizing Masha, meanwhile, will leave you slack-jawed staring at the pages. You wonder if she really cares for these people or if she’s just finding ways to mess with them. 

The rest of the quirky characters are endearing, shady, fun-loving and intriguing to say the least and it’s her ability to bring these characters to life that really make the stories come to life on the screen when the books are adapted.

I recommend you read the book ahead of the premiere so you can compare notes. You must know I’m re-reading this book as we speak. I’m very interested in seeing how the end turns out.

What novels would you love to see turned into a miniseries for TV?

Answer in the comments below and check out my old post about books that I would love to see adapted into movies from 2015. If I Could Dictate The Next Adaptations…

*No copywrite infringement was intended by the use of any images or videos.

Back in Action! Quarantine Top 5 Countdown

Wow! These last couple of years have been crazy! But it has given me a lot of time to think and plan both personal and professional goals. One of those...

Wow! These last couple of years have been crazy! But it has given me a lot of time to think and plan both personal and professional goals. One of those goals is to relaunch The Hippie Bookworm with new and exciting content about adaptations, new reads and brand new content about writing.

[insert instagram photo here]

So, what has the Hippie Bookworm been up to these last few years? Reading! Of course!

Yes, I have read a lot of old favorites and a lot of new favorites too. A few months ago I joined an online book club where we read one book every 2 weeks. Sometimes it’s hard to get through the material so quickly, but sometimes I find myself finishing the books within days of opening them. 

With this in mind, I’m giving you my new favorites in a Quarantine Top 5 Countdown.

Social Crimes by Jane Stanton Hitchcock

Jo Slater is a key figure in New York high society. But when her husband dies and leaves his fortune to a mysterious French countess, Jo finds herself on the outside looking in. With her new perspective and some old friends she’s able to uncover the countess’s past and what may have led to her husband’s death.

While it’s an easy read for a sunny day, Barbara Rosenblat does an amazing narration for the audiobook version.

The Lending Library by Aliza Fogelson

Dodie is a small-town art teacher who takes on the project of running a lending library out of her front porch after the community library shuts down indefinitely. The project eventually takes on a life of its own as she navigates the wants and needs of her eclectic neighbors. When she receives news that she may be able to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a mother through adoption, the fate of the lending library and her new budding romance are called into question.

White Ivy by Susie Yang

Ivy Lin, raised outside of Boston by her Chinese immigrant family, learned from her maternal grandmother how to steal, lie and manipulate. Not surprising that she soon falls into the influence of her friend Roux – who is also navigating the world of being first-generation American. Her true love is a boy named Gideon, whose affluent family represents everything that Ivy aspires to in life.

As an adult, Ivy finds herself dating Gideon and being enveloped into his quintessential WASP lifestyle including summer weekends at the cape. Just after Ivy begins to feel like she belongs with the Speyers, Roux resurfaces richer but no more classy than when they were kids. Ivy must make a decision between following her path to becoming a Speyer or taking a chance with an uncertain future with Roux. Will her decision lead to a lifetime of happiness or a lifetime of regret?

A fast and easy read, White Ivy is full of twists and turns on every page. Just as you think you’ve figured these characters out, they surprise you with another layer uncovered.

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

Wade, Samantha, Aech, Sho and Ogden Morrow are back in action as another Easter Egg Hunt is released in the Oasis – putting the virtual world at risk once again. Follow the now-famed High Five as they make new friends and allies by exploring even more 80’s inspired planets as they search for the Seven Shards to restore to the Siren’s  Soul. 

If you are a fan of 80’s pop culture and/or Ready Player One, then you’ll love this sequel. It doesn’t hurt that it came out on my birthday last year.

American Dirt by Jeanie Cummins

Follow Lydia and her son Luca as they leave Acapulco, fleeing the reach of a new drug cartel boss, and head towards the United States borders. Their harrowing story of riding atop the Mexican freight trains, hiding out in temporary migrant camps and being smuggled over the border by a coyote. If they make it into the States, their story will just be beginning.

The story itself is beautifully woven and the Audible version, narrated by Yareli Arizmendi, brings more substance as Lydia is literally given a voice.

This book has sparked quite a conversation after Mexican-American authors called Cummins out for her stereotyping and lack of understanding and sensitivity to the Latin American immigrant story. They even called out Oprah for putting the book on her Oprah’s Book Club list, where I found it. One thing is for certain, it’s definitely opening up a conversation that obviously is needed in this country.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Quarantine Top 5 Countdown. Stay tuned as more content is coming soon!

What are your new Top 5 Reads from the past two years?

Answer in the comments below.

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