Please welcome author Susan Blumberg-Kason as she joins me on the blog book tour for her new memoir, Good Chinese Wife (Sourcebooks, July 29, 2014), which is already receiving rave reviews. Susan grew up in Chicago dreaming of the neon signs and double-decker buses of Hong Kong. When she moved there, she thought she met the man of her dreams, until her cross-cultural romance turned into a nightmare. Good Chinese Wife recounts her years in a Chinese family as a wife, daughter-in-law, and mother. Today she shares with us the importance of place in a cross-cultural marriage:
When Cross-Cultural Marriage Can’t Find a Home By Susan Blumberg-Kason
When I first met Baba, my former father-in-law, he told me a Chinese proverb—ai wu ji wu. It took me a few minutes to understand the English translation relayed by my then-husband, Cai. After discussing it between ourselves for a bit, I figured this saying was basically the Chinese version of “love me, love my dog.”
I teach dance in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and one of my Khmer friends from work asked me to present a contemporary dance duet at her wedding. Leak was having two weddings: one for her family in Battambang and one in Phnom Penh. I asked one of my dance students, Dara, to perform with me. We practiced our routine for weeks, then off we went to Battambang for the first edition:
The day begins at 5:45 a.m., but while my 18-year-old student Dara and I are bleary-eyed, the wedding tent has already taken over the street and music is blaring when we arrive. I’m ushered inside to find my friend Leak being turned into a goddess by a team of makeup-and-hair artists.
Because up until now I’ve mostly posted nonfiction here, let me to give you a heads up: the following short story is fiction, brilliant, and not written by me. Please welcome my guest today, author Benjamin Dancer, whom I recently met when I gave a craft talk for his high school students on behalf of Lighthouse Writers Workshop. I hope this will just be the first of many appearances here by Benjamin and other fine authors of fiction.
By Benjamin Dancer
Adam was sitting on the sidewalk outside his mother’s townhouse when I pulled up four minutes early. He was still alive: that was something. His beard looked good, too.
He got in my truck.
To me, life is one (hopefully) long journey, full of dirt roads, blind alleys, and exhilarating straightaways. Some people pick a target and spend their days marching inexorably towards it, while others zig and zag, trying to see as much as possible. It’s doubtful that there is a wrong choice, since we’re all headed for the same place, and my only advice for travellers is to wear comfortable shoes.
In my first novel, The Last Prospector, many journeys start with the birth of a special baby. All of the characters are travelling separate roads to the same place.
Travelling is a metaphor for living, and there are many kinds of travellers. Some people make their finest discoveries at home, because a journey of the mind is as valuable as a physical one. Some people can think their way down a road with the same ease as walking, and they reap the same rewards. Other people pack a bag and literally travel, seeing the world with their physical eyes and leaving a mark on all the places they visit.
“Forty percent of bullies are women, and when women are bullies, they choose women as targets 71% of the time. Sadly, when the bully finds his or her target, the target pays with his or her job.” – Dr Gary Namie
Dr. Gary Namie started The Workplace Bullying Institute in 1998 after his wife, Ruth, experienced bullying firsthand at the hands of a female supervisor. That sour experience prompted their research into bullying to support the passage of laws to curtail workplace abuses. In fact, they say the need is even greater today since their research shows that women are now being bullied by other women 80% of the time, a 9% increase in six years.
I’m delighted to introduce a new guest blogger just in time to kick off my new blog. Anastasia Zhivotov is still in high school, but has already developed a delightful and distinctive creative voice that I believe will make you eager to visit her ancestral home in Ukraine. As you’ll also see from her post, I remain committed to a spirit of adventure, although I’m moving away from the Girls Trek Too name. Some days my posts will be shorter, in hopes that I can post more often while also devoting more time to my historical novel, Tortillas from the Chungking Cafe. And guest bloggers will continue to be welcome, in my ongoing quest to support fellow writers and share new voices with readers. In that spirit, please welcome Anastasia:
Coming Home To Someplace I’d Never Been
By Anastasia Zhivotov
After over ten years of shitty Skype calls and poorly translated emails, I was meeting my extended family. First were my great-great-uncle and his son – waiting outside baggage claim with flowers. I was barely learning to use my legs again when a hug, a kiss, and a bouquet of pink flowers came from men I’d only heard and not truly seen. I finally understood the phrase “a camera adds ten pounds” because what on Skype seemed to be a pudgy man and full-figured son were really a short well-fed uncle and a well-dressed cousin with predominant cheekbones.
Home, the place others might call Lviv, Ukraine.
Finally, after flying halfway across America and hopping along Europe, I was home. Home, where the air was thick with moisture and the clouds hung bloated with rain. Home, where women wore heels across cobble roads and men walked with their toes turned out. Home, where age was determined by width, but gender couldn’t be defined by color. Home, where the tongue was foreign but somehow I understood everything. Home, the place others might call Lviv, Ukraine.
I went to Hanoi expecting to be filled with anger and rage only to leave it with a sense of hope and peace. That was in November, 2012 – my first time to visit the Vietnamese capital – during one of those business trips that I often mix with some leisurely sightseeing. Hanoi was on my must-see travel list. I was intrigued by the city’s French Indochina sine qua non. Unlike its southern counterpart – the brash, ambitious, and masculine Ho Chi Minh city – I found Hanoi refined, mystical, and feminine.
I found Hanoi refined, mystical, and feminine.
But my impression of Hanoi had to take a back seat while I sat in the cab with other journalists on a Friday afternoon. We were on our way to a center that is now home to victims of Agent Orange.