Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Hello Kitty Must Die

Hello Kitty Must Die
by Angela Choi

It is time to enter the world of the weird and ‘dark’ humor of Angela Choi through her book Hello Kitty Must Die.  Great title, huh?  Well “Kitty” in this case refers to a woman’s private part…you can see where this is going.   Well, not completely.  Fiona Yu is a 28-year-old Asian lawyer who graduated from Yale University.  All of the stereotypes of Asian culture appear in the story.  So what was the storyline?  Fiona (Fi), daughter of traditional Asian parents, is asked why she isn’t married yet to a UC Berkeley graduate (the quintessential degree-offering college of west-coast Chinese, per Choi).  In the meantime, Fi learns her hymen broke and wants to get It repaired and visits a doctor who specializes in reconstructive surgery.  Guess who her doctor is…Sean Killroy, a classmate from elementary school who was sent to juvenile detention for burning a classmate!  Yes, he not only burned one student but permanently injured another - and all “by accident”. But was it?  We find out through the book that Sean has upped his game to murder (remember, this is a dark comedy)!  Sean and Fi have a great deal in common as ‘besties’ and continue to have their relationship escalate when Sean helps to “off” Fi’s new law firm boss who’s having a love affair.  Lots of other characters die at the hands of Sean, and later Fi.  But as Fi says, karma is never a good thing, which becomes most true for Sean.  There are moments of absurdity that make you laugh and, at times, made me groan.  High frequency of sexual jokes, if that’s your thing. This is a classic stereotype novel to the extreme. Quick read, it was okay…

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Island at the Center of the World

The Island at the Center of the World
by Russell Shorto

Do you know the history of the colonization of Manhattan by Europeans?  If not, you may enjoy this well-researched book by Russell Shorto: Island at the Center of the World.  In 1624, the Dutch came to the then-new land that is known today as “Manhattan” and called it New Netherlands. Shorto’s book builds upon the full-time forty-plus year work of Charles T. Gehring, who was hired in the 1970s to translate hundreds of documents from early settlers of what we now know as New York.  The Dutch escaped from their war-torn homeland and developed a free-trade market. They were people of ‘tolerance’ as described by Dr. Gehring, but a number of leaders diverged from that belief and started to uphold a Protestant-only society.  Manhattan was the center of the world for many as a result of its waterways connecting the north (Albany up the Hudson River through the Mohawk to the Great lakes) along the coast to Boston and South to Delaware and further south to Virginia. Additionally, they only paid $24 for the island to purchase it from the Indians.  Much of the story focuses on the takeover of land from the native tribes, the Dutch leadership (Peter Stuyvesant), the demise of the Dutch to the English (under Oliver Cromwell’s leadership), and the various historical landmarks throughout Manhattan. I was especially interested in the discussion of my neighborhoods and how they were developed, the historical Dutch names of the boroughs, and the impact of the Dutch in upstate NY (my hometown area of the Capital District (Albany area)).  Many of the words we know in popular culture (cookies, Santa Claus, cole slaw, etc.) have Dutch influence, as does our legal system.   The inner fighting between members from the home land of the Netherlands and the “New” Netherlands people allowed the English to eventually take up roots and remove the Dutch from power.  I believe everyone should know their roots and this book provides an in-depth read on the people, the land, customs and decline of power of a national leader into our world.  Yes, Manhattan remains the iconic place in today’s world, and we have the Dutch to thank for that.  Very good book!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


by Hector Garcia & Francesc Miralles

Do you know what your Ikigai is?  Welcome to the book Ikigai by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, the story of the Japanese secret to a long and happy life.  The Japanese word for Ikigai means “the reason you breathe, the reason for living.”  We find our reason for living by concentrating on what is good/important/what gives us joy and not focusing on what appears urgent in our lives. Ikigai is our passion, our mission and the work we love to do.  The authors study a place in this world with the most centenarians: Okinawa, Japan.  They interview and learn many things about stress (some amount is good for us), how we eat (or should), how much sleep we get (7-9 hours, more than that will make you retire), be around good people (talk often and engage) to form your community, and do what you love… forever. Never retire, do what you love, and be around people who love you.  The book ends with the following ten rules to incorporate Ikigai in your life:    

1.       Stay active don’t retire, keep doing things of value – people die when they give it up

2.       Take it slow, walk slowly and you will go far

3.       Don’t fill your stomach, less is more.  80% rule don’t stuff ourselves.  Be like those in Okinawa, eat small portions

4.       Surround yourself with good friends, they are the best medicine

5.       Get in shape for your next birthday, and be like water...as water moves, it’s best when it flows – be like it

6.       Smile.  A cheerful attitude attracts others.  Be in the “here and now” and find the possibilities that life offers

7.       Reconnect with nature. Be a part of the natural world and get back to the roots of life

8.       Give thanks to nature and ancestors and family and friends and to that which gives you joy

9.       Live in the moment, that’s what we are given.  Don’t regret the past nor fear the future. Today is all that you have - make the most of it and make it worth remembering

10.   Follow your Ikigai and give meaning to your days and share YOU.  And never forget…your mission is to discover your Ikigai

A really simple and thoughtful read.  Good ideas that, if we all embraced, we would feel less stressed and more confident/self-assured.  Go find your meaning! 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Truth About Stories (Extra Book)

The Truth About Stories
by Thomas King

I decided to read a book that was recommended to me at the NASPA Conference this year as I have always been interested in the art of storytelling.  So picking up The Truth About Stories by Thomas King was a no-brainer for me.  King is a Native American and discusses the history and importance of story-telling as a form of education and community-bonding among his families.  Storytelling has been long associated with the Native American community, and King begins with the story of “how the world began” and the who influenced his storytelling.  I love this statement from him in particular: “the truth about stories is that that’s all we are… through my language, I understand I am being spoken to, I’m not the one speaking.  The words are coming from many tongues and mouths of the people from the land around them….”  He shares that “you’ll never believe what happened” is a phrase that captures the listener and begins the storytelling journey.  King notes, “we have choices, a world in which creation is a solidary, individual act or a world in which creation is a shared activity… a world that begins in harmony and slides toward chaos or a world that begins in chaos and moves toward harmony; a world marked by competition or a world determined by cooperation.”  That is our dilemma.  The series of chapters (essays) examines the role of oral presentation through history and how it is linked to the culture of the Native people.  King divulges personal hardships in drawing the reader into his philosophy, from a colleague who commits suicide, to an adopted child who is physically challenged, to how family members are removed from their community, all with special meaning that needs to be evoked in the story.  He has a talent to draw the reader into his life and the unique lives of the Native people.  I have much to learn from enhancing my skills as a storyteller from readings of an educator who has dedicated his life to listening and bringing to life people who have crossed his path.  A book well worth reading.