Reading Lately (February 2019): Lots of Variety!

Once again I’m joining Modern Mrs. Darcy‘s mid-month Quick Lit, where we share short and sweet book reviews of what we’ve been reading lately.

It’s been an unusual reading month for me with very varied reading for a wide variety of reasons which resulted in more books completed than usual! One book was for my Scandinavian Book Club, a couple were read-alongs with my 6th grade son, one was for an author talk, and a couple just because I felt like it. Some books fulfilled prompts for reading challenges, others didn’t. It was a fun month of reading! What have you been reading lately?


The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

This was the second of three books for a schoolwide reading program that I read along with my 6th grade son. It’s a historical fiction book set in England during World War II. Ten-year-old Ada and her younger brother Jamie have a miserable homelife in London until they escape by joining other kids headed to the countryside as the threat of German bombings begin. Ada and Jamie are assigned to curmudgeonly Susan, and so begins a heartwarming relationship between Susan and the kids, but not without some bumps along the way. I’d been meaning to read this for a long time, and now I’m eager to read the sequel, The War I Finally Won.

Reading Challenges:


Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Here’s another book that’s been on my TBR list for a while (since reading Salvage the Bones). I was planning to read it sometime this year thanks to the Reading Women Challenge, but when I saw that Jesmyn Ward was coming to town to speak, it jumped to the top of the list. This book drops you in on 13-year-old Jojo, son of a White father and Black mother, who lives in rural coastal Mississippi with his Black grandparents along with his toddler sister and mostly absent mother. He and his sister are joining their mother and her friend on a roadtrip to get their dad who is being released from prison. The story takes place over about 4 days. During this time, the complicated and heartbreaking history of the family is revealed through memories shared and visits by ghosts from the past. It is beautifully written. And hearing Jesmyn Ward speak about her writing experience was icing on the cake.

Reading Challenges:


One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

I didn’t intend for this book to be for me, but rather for my 9th grade son. However, I’m the one who ended up reading it. It’s a young adult novel described as Pretty Little Liars meets The Breakfast Club. I don’t know Pretty Little Liars, but I was a fan of The Breakfast Club and was intrigued. It’s about five high schoolers who end up in detention together. One dies while they’re all there, and the other four are then suspects and a murder investigation ensues. These teens are your typical stereotypes of high school kids – the jock, the princess, the brain, the outcast, and the bad boy – but with some modern-day diversity. And all your stereotypical high school behaviors are there. Despite that, it was an addictive, fun, and fast read.


Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

This was the final of three books I read along with my 6th grade son for a schoolwide reading program. It’s the story of three boys who plan and execute a very special goodbye for a favorite teacher who can’t complete the school year due to a cancer diagnosis. We see the day unfold through their eyes; each chapter is from a different boy’s perspective. I really enjoyed the slow reveal of finding out why Ms. Bixby was so special to each of them. Being a former teacher, I always love finding a “teacher-making-a-difference-and-being-appreciated-for-it” story and this was a sweet one. A great big thank you to my sister who gave it to me for a birthday – and an apology for waiting so long to read it!


Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito

(Translated from the Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles)

The author takes us into the mind of 18-year-old Maja who’s on trial for her involvement in a school shooting in a wealthy suburb of Stockholm, Sweden, that left her boyfriend and best friend dead, along with others. We alternate between her time in the jail cell and in the courtroom along with flashbacks to her life leading up to the shooting. The book started a little slow, but as I got further into it, it was a page-turner that had me very eager to find out how it all could have come to this. Many timely issues to consider: school shootings, mental health, immigration, gun violence, wealth, class, parenting… We had a great discussion at my Scandi Book Club meeting. I highly recommend it! (This book has been adapted into a TV series coming to Netflix April 5.)

Reading Challenges:


Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

I’m fascinated by lesser known World War II stories, and this is a young adult book that delves into such a topic, the Soviet annexation of Lithuania in 1940 and the subsequent deportation of thousands of Lithuanians to Siberia. In particular it’s about Lena, a 15-year-old Lithuanian girl, who is rounded up along with her mother, younger brother, and many others and transported via cattle car to a labor camp in Siberia. It is a brutal and harsh time. The occasional kindness and sympathy from others make it more bearable. Lena is an artist and a strong and bold girl determined to record atrocities and survive and be reunited with her father who was arrested and imprisoned elsewhere. The mother is an admirable woman as well. It was an eye-opening book which I’m glad to have read and highly recommend. (A movie based on the book, titled Ashes in the Snow, came out January 2019 and can be found at hoopla.)

Reading Challenges:


What have you been reading lately?

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March 2019 Los Angeles Culture Challenge: Norwegian Shrimp & Art!

A new month means new opportunities to explore the rich diversity of Los Angeles. Some special events this month include Los Angeles Lantern Festival, festivals and activities for Nowruz (Iranian New Year), and Mardi Gras celebrations. One of my favorite LA events, CicLAvia, is taking place this weekend, Sunday, March 3, in the Culver City, Palms, and Mar Vista areas, and a new favorite Norwegian event, the Norwegian Church’s Annual Shrimp Party, will happen on Saturday, March 23. Read on for more details.

Before moving on, though, I’d like to give Scandinavian enthusiasts a heads-up about a favorite Scandinavian event returning at the beginning of next month. During the weekend of April 6 and 7, the 44th annual Scandinavian Festival will take place at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. Mark your calendars now so you don’t miss it!

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month?

* WEEKEND OF MARCH 2 & 3 *

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 3/2, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. (Offered every first Saturday of the month). Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more! This 2 1/2 hour walking tour will take visitors to a number of off-the-beaten-track points of interest and will guide those interested in shopping to some of Chinatown’s best bargains and its trendiest shops. Be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of LA’s Chinatown.

Los Angeles Lantern Festival, Chinese American Museum, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, Downtown LA, Saturday, 3/2, 12:00 p.m. –  6:00 p.m. The Chinese American Museum marks the end of the Chinese New Year festivities with this annual festival which includes lantern making workshops, crafts, entertainment, artisans, children’s activities and cultural exhibits. Event will be held rain or shine!

30th Annual Mardi Gras Celebration, The Original Farmers Market, Los Angeles, Saturday, 3/2, & Sunday, 3/3. L.A.’s favorite Mardi Gras celebration returns for its 30th year straight. It features the finest New Orleans and Zydeco music, strolling parade bands, activities for kids, bead throwing, and much more.

CicLAvia – Culver City Meets Mar Vista + Palms, Sunday, 3/3, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Culver City, Mar Vista, and Palms will host the country’s largest open streets event! Streets will be closed to cars and open for cyclists, pedestrians, runners, and skaters to use as a recreational space. CicLAvia is not a race. There’s no starting point or finish line – begin where you like and enjoy the day your way.

Norouz Persian New Year Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 3/3, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Welcome the Persian new year with dance, music and art from the richness of this ancient Iranian culture. Admire the beautiful haft-seen table (ornamental display of traditional items celebrating the beginning of spring) and enjoy a traditional Persian treat. Art projects include decorating scarves and eggs.

Andell Family Sundays—Flowers and Footprints: Art of Sri Lanka, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 3/3, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. (Offered every Sunday in March except 3/24). Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays! Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 pm. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. Create memories together and have fun! This month, check out the exhibition The Jeweled Isle: Art from Sri Lanka. From precious stones and intricate flower patterns to artworks symbolizing the Buddha’s footprints, be inspired to make your own art books and clay tiles in workshops.

Celebrating Mardi Gras, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 3/3, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. At 1:00 p.m. enjoy a concert with the New Orleans Traditional Jazz Band. In advance of Mardi Gras, the New Orleans Traditional Jazz Band takes the stage for an afternoon concert inspired by the exhibition New Orleans Second Line Parades. The Los Angeles-based band includes members from New Orleans who will pause throughout their performance to discuss the history of American music since 1803 (the year of the Louisiana Purchase) and leading up to the Swing Era. At 2:00-4:00 p.m., Fowler Families presents Little Mardi Gras with the New Orleans Traditional Jazz Band. Follow the band in a lively procession into the Fowler’s Davis Courtyard, where jewelry-making and mask-decorating activities will be available to children of all ages.

* WEEKEND OF MARCH 9 & 10 *

France: Lascaux Cave Painting (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 3/10, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

Anime (Free Second Sunday), USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 3/10, 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Discover the art of anime. Learn to draw your own anime-style characters, see an anime film, enjoy storytime for kids, and go on a docent tour of the special exhibition Tsuruya Kōkei: Modern Kabuki Prints Revised & Revisited.

Celebrating Nowruz: Iranian New Year, UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 3/10, 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Join Farhang Foundation for the 11th annual celebration of Nowruz at UCLA’s Royce Hall and Dickson Courts. The event includes musical performances, children’s activities, dancers, a Haft Sîn display, and the annual Persian Costume “Spring Walk” open to children and adults of all ages. The Nowruz event is free. Parisa performance at 6:00 p.m. is ticketed. Please see website for program information.

Andell Family Sundays—Flowers and Footprints: Art of Sri Lanka, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 3/10, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. (Offered every Sunday in March except 3/24). Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays! Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 pm. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. Create memories together and have fun! This month, check out the exhibition The Jeweled Isle: Art from Sri Lanka. From precious stones and intricate flower patterns to artworks symbolizing the Buddha’s footprints, be inspired to make your own art books and clay tiles in workshops.

* WEEKEND OF MARCH 16 & 17 *

International Children’s Festival, Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, Saturday, 3/16, & Sunday, 3/17. The annual International Children’s Festival celebrates the amazing talents of children of many cultures. West African, Mexican, Pacific Islander, Cambodian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Persian, Irish, Slovak, and Czech dance are among the children’s performances, along with martial arts demonstrations and an international children’s choir. Kids of all ages can partake in a percussion circle, Japanese origami, Native American crafts, and Pacific Islander traditional children’s games.

Ireland: Celtic Animal Art (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 3/17, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

Andell Family Sundays—Flowers and Footprints: Art of Sri Lanka, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 3/17, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. (Offered every Sunday in March except 3/24). Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays! Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 pm. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. Create memories together and have fun! This month, check out the exhibition The Jeweled Isle: Art from Sri Lanka. From precious stones and intricate flower patterns to artworks symbolizing the Buddha’s footprints, be inspired to make your own art books and clay tiles in workshops.

* WEEKEND OF MARCH 23 & 24 *

Annual Norwegian Shrimp Party, Norwegian Church, San Pedro, Saturday, 3/23, 3:00 p.m. Come enjoy shrimp the Norwegian way: peel-your-own Arctic shrimp with freshly baked “loff” (white bread), Norwegian Mills mayonnaise, and dill along with  potato salad. (Based on last year’s event but not confirmed for this year yet, for those who do not eat shrimp, there will be lasagna.) Cost: adults $25, children $5, families $50.) Please RSVP to Margrete at mbe@sjomannskirken.no.

Borderless: Scandinavia Opening Reception, Gabba Gallery, Los Angeles, Saturday, 3/23, 7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. Gabba Gallery presents Borderless: Scandinavia, the second exhibition in their international series, Borderless, which showcases outstanding artists from different parts of the globe. This show will feature work by three Scandinavian artists: Ari Behn (Norway/Denmark), Espen Eiborg (Norway), and Mikael Persbrandt (Sweden). The opening reception is free and open to the public. No RSVP required. Visit website for more details. After the opening reception, the exhibit will be on view through April 6 (normal gallery hours Wednesday through Saturday noon – 3:00 p.m. or by appointment).

Persia: Tiles – Nowruz Festival (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 3/24, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

* WEEKEND OF MARCH 30 & 31 *

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 3/30, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Relive history and learn about present-day Little Tokyo with JANM docents. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Weather permitting. Buy tickets in advance. $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission is included. Limited to 20 participants.

India: Wahrli Art (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 3/31, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

Andell Family Sundays—Flowers and Footprints: Art of Sri Lanka, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 3/31, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. (Offered every Sunday in March except 3/24). Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays! Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 pm. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. Create memories together and have fun! This month, check out the exhibition The Jeweled Isle: Art from Sri Lanka. From precious stones and intricate flower patterns to artworks symbolizing the Buddha’s footprints, be inspired to make your own art books and clay tiles in workshops.

Feel free to add events for the current month in the comments below. If you have suggestions about future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email the details. Thank you!

Norway’s Telemark Canal & Family History, This Time with Kids

My paternal grandparents took great pride in showing their grandkids the greatness of Norway. We went on a variety of trips with them, most of them outdoorsy, both near and far. The last trip my sister and I took with them was a boat ride along the Telemark Canal in southern Norway in 1997. Bonding while experiencing the Telemark Canal with its historic canal boats, numerous locks, and beautiful scenery was not the sole purpose of the trip, however. Dalen, a little town at the end of the canal route, had familial historical significance which our grandfather wanted to share with us.

We are reminded of this piece of family history every time we’re in Oslo because the name of my parents’ home, Mosto, comes from that time in our family history. The home even has its own nameplate on the gate post.

My grandfather was born February 25, 1915, when World War I was raging outside of Norway (1914-1918). His father was an engineer with a specialty in mining, and later that year, he along with his father and others, founded A/S Dalen Gruber (Dalen Mines), a molybdenum mine, of which my great grandfather became the director. Molybdenum was an important metal for the war industry. Once separated from other materials, it was mixed with steel to make armor steel. After the ore was mined, it was crushed, washed, and sent onwards via boat through the canal (which had been completed in 1892). It was mostly exported to England. The mine was in operation from 1916 to 1919, when suddenly there was no more ore to be mined. (View source and pictures of the mine).

In 1997, my sister and I (and my sister’s husband-to-be; my fiancé had to return to LA for work) boarded M/S Victoria in Skien with my grandparents and spent a leisurely day motoring through the Telemark Canal with its eight lock systems connecting lakes and rivers.

We wrapped up our exploration of Telemarkskanalen with a stay at historic Dalen Hotel. Dalen Hotel opened in 1894 and was highly regarded in Europe with visits by royalties and other prominent guests. It’s known as the “fairytale” or “dragon hotel,” its architecture inspired by the Viking era and stave churches. It’s really a sight to be seen!

 

The house in which my grandfather’s family lived in Dalen for three years is the only building left of all mining operations. It is easily seen from the parking lot of Dalen Hotel, the red house up on the hillside.

With my grandfather, we even made our way up to the house for a closer look. When his family left Dalen in 1918, they moved to Oslo and into a newly constructed home. They named the house “Mosto” which is derived from MoS2 (sorry, can’t do the subscript 2), the chemical formula for molybdenite, the principal ore for molybdenum. This is the home my parents now live in.

This summer it was my parents’ turn to show their grandkids some of the greatness of Norway, and my husband and I came along, too. Telemarkskanalen and Dalen were of course on the itinerary (but by car, not boat) and my parents had added some other notable historical and geographical sights as well which I was very eager to see.

Click map for a closer view.

The road trip started from my parents’ summer home in Kragerø along the coast. To get a feel for what Telemarkskanalen is, we stopped at Vrangfoss Locks, the largest and most impressive of the eight lock systems along the canal. Coincidentally, we timed our stop perfectly and had the chance to watch as two leisure boats plus a canoe went through the lock system. It’s interesting to note that all the work – opening and closing of each of the 5 five chambers of the lock system – is still done manually by a team of about 4 people. It takes about 45 minutes to pass through the whole lock system at Vrangfoss.

After our stop at Vrangfoss, our road trip took us away from Telemarkskanalen to Heddal Stave Church, an 800-year-old wooden church and Norway’s largest stave church. Stave churches are a unique feature of Norway’s cultural history. Researches believe there were just under 2,000 stave churches in Norway at one point. Only 28 remain. I’m glad to have added another to my boys’ repertoire. They have now visited three stave churches – Heddal, Lom (last summer’s road trip), and the reconstructed Gol Stave Church in Oslo at the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History.

After exploring Heddal Stave Church and its intricate carvings, we headed up into the mountains for a two-night stay near the mountain top Gaustatoppen and sight-seeing in the area (which will be its own blog post).

Two days later, on our return to Kragerø, we revisited Telemarkskanalen, specifically Dalen. My father pointed out his father’s early childhood home up on the hillside and we discussed the connection to their home in Oslo. At Dalen Hotel we enjoyed a late lunch with a view of the lake before getting back on the road.

   

This wrapped up the experiential family history lesson. I’m grateful to my parents for making this trip possible, and I’m happy my kids now have an understanding of and connection to the name of the Oslo home they visit every summer.

P.S. Would you like to experience the Telemark Canal yourself? You could of course travel to Norway and do so in person, but Netflix also offers you the opportunity to experience the daylong adventure from the comfort of your own coach and at your own pacing at Slow TV: The Telemark Canal (fast forward to 3:36:00 to watch as M/S Victoria nears Vrangfoss Locks).

Reading Lately (January 2019): New Year, New Challenges

I’m excited for a new year of reading goals and challenges. This year my main focus will be on my own 2019 Scandinavian Reading Challenge but I’ll be participating in The Reading Women’s 2019 Reading Women Challenge and Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2019 Reading Challenge as well.

Curious about what I’m thinking of reading for this year’s Scandinavian Reading Challenge? Check out my potential picks for the 2019 #ScandiReadingChallenge. I’d love to hear if you have any other suggestions.


Less by Andrew Sean Greer

This was the first book of the new year for my local book club. I was not a total fan, but I found certain aspects enjoyable. I was intrigued by the mysterious first person narrator who surfaced occasionally. I kept wondering who he was – and how could he have such an overarching view of Arthur Less’ life? I thought Arthur’s jaunts through the many countries were interesting. However, I wasn’t a real fan of Arthur himself. He was uninteresting and frustrating and I couldn’t really relate to him.

Reading Challenges:


One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway — And Its Aftermath by Åsne Seierstad

(Translated from the Norwegian by Sarah Death)

This one took a little longer than anticipated to read. At the time of my last Reading Lately post, I had not yet completed it but counted it for 2018 challenges since I was 70% through a 500+ pages book. This was an eye-opening book because it revealed so much that I didn’t know about the before, during, and after of the July 22, 2011, bombing of the government quarters in Oslo and the massacre at the youth summer camp that followed. I also feel it’s an important book for me to have read because this day was a defining moment for Norwegians, much like September 11 is for Americans.

Reading Challenges:


Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

(Audiobook narrated by Emily Rankin)

I listened to this as my 6th grade son read it for a schoolwide reading program. Turns out it was set in Appalachia, rural Pennsylvania to be exact, so it met a prompt for this year’s Reading Women Challenge as well, which was a welcomed bonus. I really enjoyed this middle grade book! However, it wasn’t quite your typical middle grade read; it was a little darker with some serious themes and harsh scenes. It takes place during World War II, which I appreciated since I haven’t read many WWII books set in the US. The first-person narrator, soon-to-be 12-year-old Annabelle, lives on a farm with her extended family and goes to school in a one-room schoolhouse. She is responsible, trustworthy, and mature. She and her family are friendly and helpful to Toby, a WWI veteran, who lives in a deserted shack and roams the woods. Then Betty, a bully, moves to town and Annabelle’s idyllic life is turned upside-down. The language is beautiful, old-fashioned to coincide with the time period. The setting is well developed. The issues raised made for good discussions with my son.

Reading Challenges:


Simon’s Family (aka Simon & the Oaks) by Marianne Fredriksson

(Translated from the Swedish by Joan Tate)

The book opens in 1939 with 11-year-old Simon who lives in Gothenburg, Sweden. He is from a working class family and goes to school where he becomes friends with Isak, a Jewish boy from a rich family. The two families are drawn together and become an extended family that together endures the trials and tribulations of the times. The book was a little slow-going for me, but it was interesting to see what life was like for families, both Jewish and not, living in neutral Sweden during World War II. Especially interesting for me was that my maternal grandmother grew up in this area during this time (only 2 years older than Simon) and so the book gave me a glimpse of the setting of her younger life.

Reading Challenges:


Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

I have mixed feelings about this book. I didn’t love the first part, but I really enjoyed the second part. The first part about Tara’s homelife with her survivalist family was just a series of horrible experiences. I kept thinking “What crazy thing will happen next?” And something always did. There were accidents of all kinds – car, motorcycle, and junkyard – with total lack of concern by her father as well as physical and emotional abuse by her brother without any intervention by the parents. Once Tara left for Brigham Young University and began discovering the real world, however, I had a hard time putting the book down. I really enjoyed reading about her drive to make sense of the world and figure out her place in it. I was amazed at how she was able to educate herself. She’s an inspiring woman and an excellent writer which made her story even better.

🇳🇴 An interesting sidenote to my Scandinavian readers, especially Norwegian ones… Tara has a Norwegian great-great-grandmother, Anna Mathea (born 1853 in Nes, Hedmark County, Norway, about 100 miles north of Oslo, which I discovered here). “It was her [Anna Mathea’s] voice that brought our family to the church,” explained Tara’s mother (p. 245). “She heard Mormon missionaries preaching in the streets of Norway” and then managed to convert her parents who “felt compelled by God to come to America to meet prophet Joseph.” This sent me down an Internet rabbit hole curious about how Mormonism came to Scandinavia, in particular Norway, its history there and role in emigration, which was fascinating.

Reading Challenges:


What have you been reading lately?

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What I’m Thinking of Reading for 2019 #ScandiReadingChallenge

The 2019 Scandinavian Reading Challenge is underway! Today I’m sharing books I’m thinking of reading for each of the prompts in the challenge.

I’m listing more than one book for each prompt. I want to give myself some choice depending on mood, availability, and book club reads and also give readers some ideas for their own reading. Even though a book may be listed under more than one prompt, I will only count it for one. That’s just my personal rule for this particular challenge. You do whatever works for you. (For other reading challenges, I may double up and count a book for more than one prompt.)

If you would still like to join, it’s not too late. It won’t be too late until the year is over. Just visit 2019 Scandinavian Reading Challenge and let me know in the comments there.

Do you need more ideas of books to read? Ask in the comments or send me an email and I’ll see what I can suggest. I’ve read many that would be good options.

Disclaimer: AVikingInLA.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Any and all click-thrus are much appreciated as they help bring revenue to keep this site going. Thank you!

Now, without further ado…

A book set in a Scandinavian capital:

A Nordic Noir novel:

  • The Legacy: A Thriller (Children’s House Book 1) by Yrsa Sigurdardottir (tr. from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb)
  • Blind Goddess (Hanne Wilhelmsen Book 1) by Anne Holt (tr. from the Norwegian by Tom Geddes)
  • The Keeper of Lost Causes (The First Department Q Novel) by Jussi Adler-Olsen (tr. from the Danish by Lisa Hartford)
  • The Redbreast by Jo Nesbø (tr. from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett)
  • I’m Traveling Alone by Samuel Bjork (tr. from the Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund)

A Scandinavian book published in the last year (either in original language or in translation):

  • Wait, Blink: A Novel by Gunnhild Øyehaug (tr. from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson) – June 2018
  • The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl
  • Dødevaskeren (Dead Washer) by Sara Omar (Danish-Kurdish) – 2018 in Norwegian (not yet available in English)

A book by a non-native Scandinavian author:

  • Demian Vitanza (Norwegian/Italian) – This Life or the Next: A Novel (tr. Tanya Thresher)
  • Berit Ellingsen (Korean-Norwegian) – Not Dark Yet
  • Sara Omar (Danish-Kurdish) – Dead Washer (not yet available in English)

A nonfiction book about Scandinavian culture:

A winner of the Nordic Council Literature Prize:

A historical fiction book set in Scandinavia:

A Scandinavian book recommended or gifted to you:

  • Blå (Blue) by Maja Lunde (not yet available in English)
  • En moderne familie (A Modern Family) by Helga Flatland (English translation coming April 13, 2019)
  • Vær snill med dyrene (Be Kind to the Animals) by Monica Isakstuen (not yet available in English)

A Scandinavian book published before you were born:

A book written by a non-Scandinavian set in Scandinavia:

A Scandinavian book you’ve been meaning to read:

A book from a favorite or unread category from last year’s reading challenge:

  • This one I’ll probably decide later in the year when I see what I’ve already read and what I still want to read, but I’m considering a crime novel by a female author, another book about Scandinavia during WWII, or an immigrant story.

If you’re participating in the challenge, I’d love to read in the comments what books you’re considering to read. And if you have suggestions for me, I’d love to hear those, too!

February 2019 Los Angeles Culture Challenge

February offers many opportunities to discover and explore the richness of Los Angeles. Especially plentiful this month are Lunar New Year celebrations and events celebrating and honoring African American history.

For Scandinavian enthusiasts, this month features the annual Nordic Spirit Symposium, a unique lecture and performance program presented by the Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation and California Lutheran University. The symposium will take place Friday, February 8, and Saturday, February 9, in Thousand Oaks.

This year’s topic is Vikings, Sagas and Runestones: New Findings Change History. “Many exciting Viking era discoveries have been made by archaeologists in recent years, giving a new understanding of the Viking Age… This symposium will treat many of these discoveries and their interpretations. In addition, Icelandic sagas will be treated in two ways new to the symposium series, namely a live drama presentation of The Saga of Gudridur and discussion of putting the sagas to film, illustrated with film clips representing The Saga of Gisli the Outlaw.” For more details on the program and registration, visit their website.

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month?

* WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 2 & 3 *

Museums Annual Free-For-All Day, Saturday, 2/2, & Sunday, 2/3. Dozens of museums—presenting art, cultural heritage, natural history, and science—open their doors and invite visitors to attend their museums free of charge. This offer is for general museum admission only and does not apply to specially ticketed exhibitions. Regular parking fees apply at each museum. Consult individual museum websites for hours, directions, and other visitor information. Visit website to see which museums are participating Saturday only, Sunday only, or both Saturday and Sunday.

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 2/2, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. (Offered every first Saturday of the month). Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more! The 2 1/2 hour walking tour will take visitors to a number of off-the-beaten-track points of interest and will guide those interested in shopping to some of Chinatown’s best bargains and its trendiest shops. Be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of LA’s Chinatown.

China: New Year Dragon Puppet and Treats (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 2/3, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

Lunar New Year Festival, USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 2/3, 10:00 a.m. Rain or shine, celebrate Lunar New Year at the USC Pacific Asia Museum. The main stage performances include a Lion Dance and martial arts presentation from the Northern Shaolin Kung Fu Association, classical musicians from the Pasadena Symphony, and a special delegation from the Zhejiang Conservatory of Music performing a variety of traditional and contemporary music and dance pieces. There will also be art activities, food trucks, and a musical petting zoo.

Asian Lunar New Year Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 2/3, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Welcome the year of the brave, sincere, and lucky pig! Celebrate with lion, dragon, and classical Asian dance, music, and art projects. Enjoy painting a paper lantern, getting your face painted, and eating a delicious egg roll treat. Fun activities for the entire family. Visit website for complete program.

* WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 9 & 10 *

Pan African Film + Arts Festival, Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw, Thursday, 2/7, through Monday, 2/18. Experience the largest Black film festival in America. From a $100 million blockbuster premiere to newly emerging Hollywood talent, the Pan African Film + Arts Festival (PAFF) showcases a broad spectrum of Black creative works from all over the globe, particularly those that reinforce positive images and help to destroy negative stereotypes. Special programs include StudentFest, Saturday Children’s Festival, SpokenWord Fest, LOL Comedy, PAFF Fashion Show, and more.

20th Annual Nordic Spirit Symposium: Vikings, Sagas and Runestones: New Findings Change History, California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, Friday, 2/8, & Saturday, 2/9. Many exciting Viking era discoveries have been made by archaeologists in recent years, giving a new understanding of the Viking Age. This symposium will treat many of these discoveries and their interpretations. In addition, Icelandic sagas will be treated in two ways new to the symposium series, namely a live drama presentation of The Saga of Gudridur and discussion of putting the sagas to film, illustrated with film clips representing The Saga of Gisli the Outlaw. For details on program and registration, visit website.

Undiscovered Chinatown *Highlighted* Walking Tour, Chinatown, Saturday, 2/9, 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. This is a special walking tour preceding Chinese New Year festivities. Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more! The 1 1/2 hour walking tour will take visitors to a number of off-the-beaten-track points of interest and will guide those interested in shopping to some of Chinatown’s best bargains and its trendiest shops. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of LA’s Chinatown. Please rsvp online here.

African-American Art Festival, STAR Eco Station, Culver City, Saturday, 2/9, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Enjoy African drumming and dancing, art exhibits, interactive art projects, BBQ, games, and local vendors at this outdoor festival at STAR Eco Station, an environmental science museum and exotic wildlife rescue center.

Chinese New Year Festival @ Central Plaza, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 2/9, 12:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. There will be artisan booths featuring brush painting, calligraphy, candy sculpture, clay sculpture, and face painting; arts and craft workshops; a craft and vintage market; a culinary stage; entertainment on Central Plaza Main Stage; live music; roaming performances; food trucks and food booths; a craft beer garden; and more.

120th Annual Golden Dragon Parade, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 2/9, 1:00 p.m. In celebrating over one hundred years of tradition, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles presents the 120th Annual Golden Dragon Parade. With over thousands of individuals lining the parade route and thousands viewing the telecast each year, this colorful celebration along North Broadway in Chinatown has become the premiere cultural event in the Southern California Asian-American Community. The parade includes almost two dozen floats, multiple marching bands, government officials, various dignitaries, entertainers, local business leaders, and cultural groups.

Morocco: Mirrors – Valentine’s Day (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 2/10, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

* WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 16 & 17 *

Pan African Film + Arts Festival, Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw, Thursday, 2/7, through Monday, 2/18. This is the last weekend of PAFF where people from around the globe gather to attend the largest Black film festival in the United States. From a $100 million blockbuster premiere to newly emerging Hollywood talent, the Pan African Film + Arts Festival (PAFF) showcases a broad spectrum of Black creative works from all over the globe, particularly those that reinforce positive images and help to destroy negative stereotypes.

Star System Jewelry Workshop (Kids, Teens & Families Programs), California African American Museum (CAAM), Exposition Park, Saturday, 2/16, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. Magical Afro-futuristic themes in Robert Pruitt’s work celebrate the creative potential of the African American community in science, technology, and culture. Taking inspiration from these grand themes in Robert Pruitt – Devotion, make your own astronomy-based beaded necklace or bracelet and learn more about our place in the universe. Ages 5 and up. Space is limited; RSVP required.

Japan: Jomon Clay Pottery (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 2/17, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

What the World Needs Is… (Kids, Teens & Families Programs), California African American Museum (CAAM), Exposition Park, Sunday, 2/17, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. Protest posters played an important role in the Civil Rights rallies and marches depicted in the exhibition Los Angeles Freedom Rally, 1963. Whether mass produced or put together with house paint and cardboard scraps, these posters are iconic for their use of dynamic symbolism and heartfelt—sometimes humorous—language that delivered the movement’s message. Think about how you would complete the phrase “What the world needs is…” with a symbol or words, then make it into a poster. Ages 7 and up.

Lunar New Year Celebration, The Original Farmers Market, 3rd & Fairfax, Sunday, 2/17, 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. Join Farmers Market and The Grove for a spectacular Lunar New Year Celebration. Festivities include Chinese Dragon and Lion dances, K-pop dance performances, martial arts demos, a pig statue unveiling and other Year of the Pig themed activities.

* WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 23 & 24 *

African-American Festival, Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, Saturday, 2/23, & Sunday, 2/24. Join the Aquarium of the Pacific as it hosts its 17th annual African-American Festival, celebrating the rich diversity of African-American and African cultures. The festival will feature live entertainment and arts and crafts. Festival performers include Mardi Gras second line dancers, hip hop and break dancers, jazz musicians, interactive drum circles, West African dancers, and storytellers.

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 2/23, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Learn about past and present-day Little Tokyo on a walking tour led by an in-the-know JANM docent. From murals to monuments, explore both the popular and lesser-known gems of this bustling neighborhood. $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission included. Comfortable walking shoes recommended. Weather permitting. Limited to 20 participants.

Mali: Bamana People Animal Cloth (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 2/24, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

Edible Adventures: Vegetarian Little Tokyo, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Sunday, 2/24, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Take a healthy stroll through Little Tokyo and listen to neighborhood stories while learning about Japanese vegetables from daikon to gobo to maitake, capped off by a macrobiotic lunch at Shojin, a Japanese vegan/macrobiotic restaurant. $48 members; $60 non-members. Food and museum admission included. Limited to 14 participants.

Fowler Families: World Travelers, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 2/24, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Decorate your very own passport before taking an imaginative journey across the globe! Explore and learn about artworks from countries around the world with Fowler Educators while gathering stamps for your passport at each stop.

Feel free to add events for the current month in the comments below. If you have suggestions about future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email the details. Thank you!

Scandinavian Film Festival LA 2019: One Weekend Down, One to Go

Long time subscribers to my blog will know that the Scandinavian Film Festival LA is one of my favorite annual Scandinavian events in the Los Angeles area. This year the festival opened the first weekend in January and it continues this coming weekend, January 19 and 20, in Beverly Hills. The first weekend did not disappoint, and the second looks to be promising as well.

This year the festival celebrates its 20th anniversary. A full house of Nordic film enthusiasts was at the Opening Gala on Saturday evening of the first weekend to celebrate this milestone. Along with a buffet of favorite Scandinavian foods, the festivities included a champagne toast and delicious Princess Cake from Copenhagen Pastry at the end of the evening.

Compared to other film festivals, this is a small one. But it’s very welcoming and friendly. Many festival goers come for multiple screenings. They hang out in the lobby between films. They chat and enjoy food from the Nordic Café, the best part of which is the pastries from none other than Copenhagen Pastry.

Last year I volunteered for the first time and I did so again this year because it was such a fun and rewarding experience. The festival is basically a family-run operation with Jim Koenig as head of the festival and his sister Flo Niermann in charge of ticket sales and volunteers. And they are so grateful for their volunteers.

During the first weekend I saw four films: Sweden’s Border, Denmark’s The Guilty, Iceland’s Woman at War, and Norway’s The 12th Man. I would have seen a fifth, Norway’s What Would People Say, if I hadn’t already seen it (highly recommend it, read more at What Will People Say by Iram Haq: An #OwnVoices Immigrant Story from Norway).

My absolute favorite of the weekend was Iceland’s Woman at War directed by Benedikt Erlingsson. I highly recommend it. Go watch it when it opens in theaters March 1. It’s about a single woman in her fifties who’s an ardent environmentalist intent on sabotaging Iceland’s aluminum industry. She’s independent, bold, and strong — my favorite type of female protagonist. Then suddenly, she receives the unexpected news that she’s been approved to adopt a girl from the Ukraine and she has to rethink her actions. Viewers get glimpses of Iceland’s beautiful landscape. There’s an interesting musical aspect that adds a surreal and humorous touch. The actress Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir is wonderful. (This movie was the winner of Nordic Council Film Prize in 2018.)

I also very much enjoyed Denmark’s thriller/drama The Guilty directed by Gustav Möller. It’s about a police officer who’s been demoted to work as an emergency dispatcher. He expects nothing more than a boring evening answering calls from drunks and druggies. However, he gets a phone call from a woman who’s been kidnapped and so begins a desperate search from his desk for the woman. It is extremely suspenseful with interesting twists. At the same time, viewers wonder and learn more about the officer’s demotion. The lead actor, Jakob Cedergren, is perfect for the role which is good because the whole movie is focused on him.

As a festival bonus, director/writer Gustav Möller and producer Lina Flint were at the screening and answered questions afterward. It’s always interesting to get a glimpse behind the scenes of a movie, and their story as friends from film school in Denmark was a great one. Find out if there’s a showtime near you or watch it at home. Interestingly, there will be an American remake of The Guilty with Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead so see the original before that comes out.

Sweden’s Border directed by Alli Abbas was not at all what I was expecting. I did not do my research properly and went in blindly. I was expecting something realistic about border issues, which was not at all the case. I later saw the movie described as a “dark romantic fantasy fable.” Had I known this, I may have enjoyed it more since my expectations would have been different.

It’s about Tina, a customs officer who uses her extraordinary sense of smell to identify people who are smuggling. She also has an extreme connection to the natural world. One day when traveler Vore walks past, Tina senses something suspicious about him but nothing is found. However, an attraction develops between them, and when Tina begins to develop a relationship with Vore, she discovers his true identity and also learns the truth about herself.

I wrapped up the first weekend with Norway’s The 12th Man directed by Harald Zwart. I brought my family along to this film since I had previously seen it at a special screening at The Museum of Tolerance and thought it was an amazing World War II story of survival, will to live, and kindness to others despite tremendous risk. The movie is based on the true story of Norwegian resistance fighter Jan Baalsrud who was the only one of 12 Norwegian resistance fighters on a mission from Shetland to sabotage Nazi activity in Northern Norway to escape when they were discovered by Nazis. It chronicles his journey towards neutral Sweden which would not have been possible without the kindness and help of locals who risked their own lives.

It turns out my family was not as enthralled with the movie as I was. They thought there was too much brutality (Germans against captured Norwegians), too much gruesomeness (German torture of captured Norwegians and Jan’s physical condition throughout his journey), and too much repetition of plot elements. I thought it was important for my kids to see the local Norwegian resistance in action as both my grandfathers had been a part of it before one escaped to Sweden and the other was sent to a camp in Germany. Also, the Norwegian landscape was beautiful and I loved the unexpected glimpse into Sami culture.

This coming weekend I will see Utøya – July 22 directed by Erik Poppe, a film about a teenage girl who struggles to survive and to find her younger sister during the July 2011 terrorist mass murder at a political summer camp on the Norwegian island of Utøya. I expect it to be a difficult film to watch considering the subject matter. I have read Åsne Seierstad’s non-fiction book One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway — And Its Aftermath so at least I won’t be totally surprised by the scale of terror and horror.

I have not yet decided on which other films to see during the upcoming weekend. It will depend on when I’m there as a volunteer. Estonia’s Take It or Leave It, Sweden’s The Cake General, Denmark’s Becoming Astrid, and Finland’s One Last Deal all look interesting (see schedule). I’d be curious to hear your thoughts about the festival if you’ve been or plan to go.

Join the 2019 Scandinavian Reading Challenge!

I invite you to join the 2019 Scandinavian Reading Challenge, a reading challenge that focuses on the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

There are 12 prompts. I realize not everyone is as much of a Scandinavian enthusiast as me, so choose to participate at whatever level suits you: a book a month, one book every other month, or even just a couple of books in the upcoming months. I welcome all levels of participation!

New this year… There will be a Scandinavian-themed prize (something edible or readable) for a participant at the end! Each book you read for a prompt qualifies for a chance to win. Just take a picture of your list with whatever books you’ve read and email it to me by January 1, 2020, to enter the drawing.

Visit the page 2019 Scandinavian Reading Challenge to see the 12 prompts and to download a printable PDF to keep track of your reading.

I will make suggestions for the prompts as the year progresses. I would love to hear what books you choose to read as well. If you’re not already a subscriber to my blog, subscribe now so you’ll receive my Reading Lately posts which will include #ScandiReadingChallenge ideas. Also, follow me on Instagram at @AVikingInLA for reading ideas (among other things).

I hope you’ll join me for some Scandinavian reading this year. Share your intention to participate in the comments below, in an email, in a blog post (don’t forget to share with me!), or on social media using the hashtag #ScandiReadingChallenge. I look forward to seeing your progress and book ideas along the way!

January 2019: Los Angeles Culture Challenge & Scandinavian Film Festival LA #SFFLA

Happy New Year! January brings new opportunities to venture out and explore the cultural richness of Los Angeles.

January also brings one of my favorite Scandinavian events back to town, the annual Scandinavian Film Festival LA (SFFLA). The festival takes place this weekend, January 5 & 6, in Beverly Hills and continues the weekend of January 19 & 20. For a look at what’s being offered this year, check out 20th Anniversary of Scandinavian Film Festival LA: A Preview. I’ll be at the festival a lot as a volunteer and hope to see you there!

How will you take advantage of all that Los Angeles has to offer this month?

* WEEKEND OF JANUARY 5 & 6 *

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 1/5, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. (Offered every first Saturday of the month). Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more! The 2 1/2 hour walking tour will take visitors to a number of off-the-beaten-track points of interest and will guide those interested in shopping to some of Chinatown’s best bargains and its trendiest shops. Be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of L.A’s Chinatown.

Queen of Katwe: Screening + Discussion with the Queen of Katme Herself, Phiona Mutesi, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Saturday, 1/5, 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Witness a celebration of the human spirit in Disney’s Queen of Katwe, the story of a Ugandan girl’s life which changes forever when she discovers her amazing talent for chess. Screening is followed by a discussion with Phiona Mutesi, whose vibrant true story is the subject of the film. Hop over to Kidseum after for a chess demonstration with the Queen of Katwe herself!

Scandinavian Film Festival LA (SFFLA), Writers Guild Theater, Beverly Hills, Saturday, 1/5, & Sunday, 1/6 (also weekend of 1/19 & 1/20). This is a yearly showcase of films from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland and their Baltic neighbors Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The festival not only screens the films submitted by these Nordic and Baltic countries to the Academy for consideration in the “Best Foreign Language Film” category, but also other national feature films, short movies, and documentaries. (See this blog post for more info.)

Canada: Inuit: Standing Sculpture (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 1/6, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

India Festival of Kites, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 1/6, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Celebrate the beauty and excitement of Indian culture with artmaking, face painting, dance and music including a special performance by SADUBAS, aka The Sadhus of Bass! This duo converges classical Indian rhythms with ‘70s Bollywood vibes to create psychedelic soundscapes that are one part trip-hop and two parts cinematic South Asia. DJ/producer Ameet Mehta and tabla artist Robin Sukhadia present visuals and sound inspired by Bollywood funk and Indian Classical music.

Oshogatsu Family Festival – Year of the Boar, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Sunday, 1/6, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Welcome the Year of the Boar with crafts, food, cultural activities, and performances! Highlights of the day will include live art performances combining taiko and calligraphy; mochitsuki (rice pounding) demonstrations, with mochi samples for tasting; an artist conversation with Mark Nagana followed by a toy and print signing;  tasting of osechi-ryori, traditional Japanese new year foods; and candy sculpting. There will also be a variety of craft activities, souvenir photos, and more. Visit website for schedule of events and activities.

Three Kings Day / Dia de los Reyes, Olvera Street, Downtown LA, Sunday, 1/6, 6:30 p.m. Celebrate the arrival of Los Tres Reyes, also known as the Ephiphany. Hear the story of the journey taken by Three Kings, or Wise Men, to find Jesus after his birth. Though the celebration has Christian and Catholic roots, all are welcome to participate. Rondalla del Sol will perform for the evening and then guests are invited to follow the Kings to the rosca. The traditional rosca, or sweet bread, is given to all in attendance. Inside of the bread are randomly placed plastic babies (representing the baby Jesus). Tradition dictates that the person(s) who finds the baby has to plan the party for next year. But at Olvera Street, the lucky ones who find these babies will win a prize that evening—a gift from the Kings!

* WEEKEND OF JANUARY 12 & 13 *

USA: MLK I Have A Dream Collage (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 1/13, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

Fowler Families: Being Brave: Tell Your Story, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 1/13, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. What does bravery mean to you? Children of all ages are invited to explore this question in a zine making workshop. Join Fowler Educators for a 15-minute guided tour exploring bravery in the permanent exhibition Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives before learning how to illustrate your own courageous tale. Guided tours begin at 1:00 p.m. and occur every 30 minutes.

* MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. WEEKEND OF JANUARY 19 & 20 & 21 *

Scandinavian Film Festival LA (SFFLA), Writers Guild Theater, Beverly Hills, Saturday, 1/19, & Sunday, 1/20. Don’t miss the second weekend of SFFLA, a yearly showcase of films from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland and their Baltic neighbors Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The festival not only screens the films submitted by these Nordic and Baltic countries to the Academy for consideration in the “Best Foreign Language Film” category, but also other national feature films, short movies, and documentaries. (See this blog post for more info.)

Greece: Mosaic Gods and Goddesses (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 1/20, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

Sand Mandala: Opening Blessing Ceremony, USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 1/20, 12:00 p.m. USC Pacific Asia Museum is proud to host Tibetan monks from the Drepung Gomang Monaster. They will spend one week creating a sand mandala, a Tibetan Buddhist tradition that involves the creation and destruction of paintings made from colored sand. Once completed, it is ritualistically dismantled to symbolize the Buddhist belief in the transitory nature of material life. The opening blessing ceremony will take place on Sunday, January 20, at 12:00 p.m. and the closing dissolution ceremony will take place on Saturday, January 26, at 12:00 p.m. Museum visitors will be able to observe the creation of the mandala during regular public open hours. Free with museum admission.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration, California African American Museum, Exposition Park, Los Angeles, Monday, 1/21, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by surrounding yourself with art, culture, and community. Enjoy an array of vibrant programs and activities for all ages. Bring the kids for art-making activities, a march, and delicious food truck fare; visit our exhibitions, hear a marathon reading of King’s lesser-known speeches and sermons, groove to DJ-provided tunes, and much more—free for everyone! Visit website for schedule of events and activities.

* WEEKEND OF JANUARY 26 & 27 *

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 1/26, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Learn about past and present-day Little Tokyo on a walking tour led by an in-the-know JANM docent. From murals to monuments, explore both the popular and lesser-known gems of this bustling neighborhood. Buy tickets in advance. $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission is included. Limited to 20 participants. Weather permitting.

Sand Mandala: Closing Dissolution Ceremony, USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Saturday, 1/26, 12:00 p.m. USC Pacific Asia Museum is proud to host Tibetan monks from the Drepung Gomang Monaster. They will spend one week creating a sand mandala, a Tibetan Buddhist tradition that involves the creation and destruction of paintings made from colored sand. Once completed, it is ritualistically dismantled to symbolize the Buddhist belief in the transitory nature of material life. The opening blessing ceremony will take place on Sunday, January 20, at 12:00 p.m. and the closing dissolution ceremony will take place on Saturday, January 26, at 12:00 p.m. Museum visitors will be able to observe the creation of the mandala during regular public open hours. Free with museum admission.

France: Clay Gargoyle Sculpture (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 1/27, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

Fowler Families: Doors to Our Dreams, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 1/27, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Discover the elaborately carved doors featured in the special exhibition World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean before illustrating your own door using paper and a variety of mark-making materials. Find inspiration as a Fowler Educator reads David Weale’s short story Doors in the Air, in which a young boy marvels at how stepping through a doorway can transport him from one world to another. Where will your door lead you? The reading will occur in this special exhibition at 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m.

Feel free to add events for the current month in the comments below. If you have suggestions about future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email the details. Thank you!

Reading Lately (December 2018): Reading Challenges Wrap-Up & End-of-Year Reflections

December was all about completing my self-made 2018 Scandinavian Reading Challenge and seeing how much of three other challenges (Reading Women ChallengeModern Mrs. Darcy Challenge, and Read Harder) I could complete before year’s end.

I successfully completed my own challenge (see a compilation of all the books I read at What I Read for 2018 #ScandiReadingChallenge) but unfortunately not the other ones. One thing the other challenges did for sure, though, was help guide my reading when I was looking for my next read because my reading wasn’t just about reading Scandinavian books. The other challenges were an incentive (and they provided great resources) for me to read books I would not otherwise have tried — new genres, authors, and perspectives — and for that I am very grateful.


On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman

I needed an audiobook that I would quickly get absorbed in and would eagerly want to return to, and this one did the job. I came across the recommendation at Modern Mrs. Darcy’s post 6 recent audiobooks I thoroughly enjoyed. I liked the main character and enjoyed how she dealt with her various problems—flaky boyfriend, new house with disturbing history, parents separating due to father’s midlife crisis, and new love interest. It was a fun book with nothing too serious, a nice palate cleanser.


The Ice Swimmer by Kjell Ola Dahl

(Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett)

Kjell Ola Dahl is a new-to-me Norwegian crime writer, though he’s been writing since 1993. I jumped into this Oslo Detectives Series with book #6 and I don’t think it mattered that I hadn’t read the previous ones. I liked the setting of Oslo and the crime was interesting. However, I was not a fan of the female detective Lena Stigersand. I like strong, smart female characters, and Lena made some dumb decisions with both a new relationship and her work responsibilities. I almost did not finish the book, but I was over half way done and wanted to know the resolution. Also, I needed it for my Scandinavian Reading Challenge. (I do believe this is Lena’s first appearance so maybe previous books in the series are better.)

Reading Challenges:


The Saboteur by Andrew Gross

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in a little-known history event involving people willing to risk everything for the love of their country. This is a historical fiction book about the sabotage of a Nazi-occupied factory in Norway during World War II. A by-product of the factory was heavy water which the Germans needed to continue their atomic bomb work. A group of Norwegians were trained in England to disrupt those plans. This book was especially fun to read since we had visited the site of the factory this past summer. I could visualize the factory and the landscape around it, which plays a significant role in the missions. I was thrown off a little by the fictional characters who were added to the story (like the American!) but the author’s note at the end put those doubts to rest. My 14-year-old son read and enjoyed it, too.

Reading Challenges:


The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

(Translated from the Swedish by Alice Menzies)

This was a fun and sweet read! It’s been on my radar for a long time (must have been the bookish title and cover), but I didn’t know until somewhat recently that it’s actually a Swedish book in translation. It’s about a young Swedish woman who goes to visit her elderly penpal in the USA. However, her penpal dies right before she arrives in Broken Wheel, Iowa. It’s a story about a dying small town, unlikely friendships, new beginnings, and the power of books and a bookstore to make a difference in people’s lives. The audiobook narrated by Fiona Hardingham and Lorelei King is also very good. I both listened to and read the book and highly recommend both versions.

Reading Challenges:


Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

I had great plans to read Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology for this challenge prompt, but due to time constraints I opted for this related middle grade book by him instead. Both the book and the author have been on my TBR list for a while so I’m glad I can finally check them off, but I do feel I cheated a little. Odd and the Frost Giants was a quick, enjoyable read which briefly introduces the Norse gods Thor, Odin, and Loki and their enemies the frost giants. I will return to both the author and the topic some time in the future. (I gladly welcome suggestions as to which Neil Gaiman book I should read next.)

Reading Challenges:


One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway — And Its Aftermath by Åsne Seierstad

(Translated from the Norwegian by Sarah Death)

This author and book have been on my TBR list for a long time. When I saw that a film had been made based on it (Netflix original July 22 directed by Paul Greenglass), I prioritized it. This is not a quick and easy read. Not only is it 500+ pages but the subject matter is not very uplifting. (As of the writing of this post, I actually haven’t finished it yet, but I am more than 70% through it and determined to finish it and therefore counting it for my 2018 reading challenges.) I am alternating between the Norwegian edition and the English translation. Some parts, such as the political history of Norway, right-wing extremist Anders Breivik’s philosophy, and the bomb and weapon technicalities, are easier for me to read in English while the family narratives are fine to read in Norwegian. The book basically follows three people and their families before, during, and after July 22, 2011. Readers learn about Breivik’s childhood and what drove him to this horrible act. Of the many youth victims, readers get to know native Norwegian Simon Sæbø and recent Norwegian citizen Bano Rashid, a Kurdish refugee, and how their paths led to this political youth camp at Utøya. Stay tuned for more thoughts in another post once I finish the book and have watched the Netflix movie plus another July 22-themed movie which will be screened during the second weekend of Scandinavian Film Festival LA later in January.

Reading Challenges:


End-of-Year Reflections

What am I most proud of from 2018?

What am I looking forward to in 2019?

  • Reading books in translation from more areas of the world
  • My self-made 2019 Scandinavian Reading Challenge (join me!)
  • Seeing how much of other reading challenges I can complete with books I already own
  • Continuing to read and discuss books with my IRL and Scandinavian book clubs

How was your 2018 reading year?

What are you looking forward to in 2019?

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