May 2019 Los Angeles Culture Challenge: Norwegian 17th of May Celebrations & More

May is a big month for Norwegians worldwide. We celebrate our national day, Constitution Day, on May 17. Here in Los Angeles, Norwegians can commemorate the day with a traditional celebration on the actual date of May 17 at the Norwegian Church in San Pedro. Or, if making it to San Pedro on a Friday is tough, there’s the annual Sunday celebration at Nansen Field in Rolling Hills Estates on Sunday, May 19.

But there’s more to May than Norway’s national day. Angelenos can take advantage of many special events and activities featuring a variety of countries and cultures.

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

* WEEKEND OF MAY 4 & 5 *

Photoville LA, Annenberg Space for Photography, Century City, Thursday, 5/2 – Sunday, 5/5. Photoville LA features exhibitions of local and international photographers, bringing together LA-based organizations and institutions and LA’s cultural and photographic community for two consecutive long weekends (this being the last of the two weekends) of nighttime projections, talks, workshops, and family-friendly activities all under the creative and magical environment created through exhibitions using repurposed shipping containers, photo cubes, and special installations making it a unique and festival atmosphere with multiple galleries for Angelenos to explore all for free.

Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, Select Cinemas in the Los Angeles Area, Thursday, 5/2 – Friday, 5/10. Celebrating its 35th edition in 2019, the festival will bring the best and brightest of new Asian Pacific American cinema to Los Angeles audiences. Check festival website for information and program schedule.

Venice Cinco de Mayo Parade & Festival, Oakwood Park, Venice, Saturday, 5/4, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Celebrate Mexican American heritage and history in Venice at the biggest Cinco de Mayo parade festival on the Westside. The Venice Cinco de Mayo Parade & Festival is a historical event in Venice that has existed for 59 years. The event originated in the 1960’s during the Chicano Movement and the Civil Rights Movement. The parade will be a culturally rich and festive event featuring Mexican American innovations and Venice’s finest classic cars. The parade will be followed by a festival with live music, food vendors, informational booths, Aztec dancers, Folklorico dancers, Mariachi, face painting, raffles, piñatas, games, and much more.

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Throughout Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 5/4, 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. 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 L.A’s Chinatown. RSVP here.

Cinco de Mayo Celebration, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument, Olvera Street, Downtown LA, Saturday, 5/4, & Sunday, 5/5, 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. Join the weekend celebration of Mexico’s surprise victory over French forces in Puebla, Mexico in 1862. The festive weekend festival features popular and traditional music, exhibitor booths, cultural dancing and plenty of delicious Mexican food.

“Taste of Chinatown” Walking Tour, Far East Plaza/Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 5/4, 12:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. This China Week exclusive “Taste of Chinatown” Walking Tour will feature a sampling of Chinatown’s most delicious bites, from classic favorites as well as trendy hot spots, calligraphy lesson, and conclude with a condensed walking tour of historical and cultural highlights of Chinatown. This ticketed event will include food and beverage (cannot accommodate substitutions for dietary restrictions), calligraphy lesson, and a 90-minute walking tour. Buy tickets here.

Mexico – Aztec Gods (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 5/5, 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.

Cinco de Mayo Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 5/5, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Celebrate cultures from around the world with dance, music, art, and a special salute to Cinco de Mayo. Enjoy face painting, art projects such as amate bark painting and sand painting, and a free delicious treat!

The Art of Charles White (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 5/5, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month (also 5/12, 5/19, and 5/26), learn how love, hope, dignity, and education were important values in artist Charles White’s work. See how he combined his superb drawing skills with the social and political concerns of the 60s and 70s Black Arts movement. Inspired by White’s powerful work in the exhibition Charles White: A Retrospective, make your own art in workshops.

* WEEKEND OF MAY 11 & 12 *

Undiscovered Chinatown Tour, Throughout Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 5/11, 1:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. This additional tour is held in conjunction with China Week May 1-14. 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. 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 L.A’s Chinatown. You must RSVP as group size is limited.

Hungary – Floral Motif Wood Box (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 5/12, 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.

Celebrate Mothers at USC PAM (Free Second Sunday), USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 5/12, 11:00 a.m. Join USC PAM this Mother’s Day as you explore the Japanese art of flower arranging known as Ikebana. The tradition dates back to the 7th century when floral offerings were made at altars. What can be more meaningful to mom than an artful arrangement made by you? Enjoy free admission, an art activity, storytime, and a docent-led tour of the galleries and garden.

The Art of Charles White (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 5/12, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month (also 5/19 and 5/26), learn how love, hope, dignity, and education were important values in artist Charles White’s work. See how he combined his superb drawing skills with the social and political concerns of the 60s and 70s Black Arts movement. Inspired by White’s powerful work in the exhibition Charles White: A Retrospective, make your own art in workshops.

Fowler Families: Yoga for Little Travelers, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 5/12, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Join families of all skill levels as Alex Reed leads participants in a 45-minute imaginative yoga session featuring mindful play, breathing exercises, and relaxing stretches. Little yogis (ages 4+) are invited to pack their bags and join Alex on a whimsical journey around the world during this new monthly yoga series. At 2:00 p.m., join Fowler Educators for a family-friendly guided tour highlighting artwork from the session’s destinations in our permanent exhibition Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives. Yoga mats will be provided, but feel free to bring your own! Space is limited to 15 participants, and this program is first-come, first-served.

* WEEKEND OF MAY 18 & 19 *

LA Opera: “Viva La Zarzuela”, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, Downtown LA, Saturday, 5/18, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Zarzuela is a popular type of Spanish-language musical theater. It’s fun, fiery, melodic, silly, energetic… It’s a guaranteed dose of drama and excitement for both performers and audiences. LA Opera’s Zarzuela Project partners with the Mariachi Conservatory offering an afternoon of free public performances highlighting the beautiful and melodic musical theater tradition popular throughout Spain and Latin America.

Norwegian Constitution Day at Nansen Field, Rolling Hills Estates, Sunday, 5/19, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. This is a true Norwegian celebration. It’s a relaxing, laid-back event on a huge open field. The official program kicks off at 11:00 a.m. with a Norwegian 17th of May church service followed by the raising of the American and Norwegian flags, 17th of May speech, parade, and then food, cakes, and games. Solo, waffles, and ice cream will be for sale! You’ll also find vendor stalls with Norwegian goods and there will be plenty of games and prizes for the kids.

USA – Gee’s Bend African-American Paper Quilts (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 5/19, 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.

Fowler Families: Let’s Experiment! Wearable and Sustainable Art, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 5/19, 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Is it possible for an artwork to be both wearable and sustainable? Explore this question with Fowler Educators by examining objects from around the world before designing a small item of adornment, such as a crown, bracelet, or necklace using upcycled and repurposed materials. It’s time to experiment with unconventional art supplies while creating something beautiful! Find inspiration on a 15-minute guided tour in our permanent exhibition Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives at 12:15 p.m., 12:45 p.m., and 1:15 p.m. (For ages 5+)

Celebrate Israel, Cheviot Hills Recreation Center, West Los Angeles, Sunday, 5/19, 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Join thousands of Angelenos from all corners of the community as they come together to mark Israel’s 71st Independence Day. The day’s activities and events include musical performances throughout the day, a marketplace with artists from Israel and local vendors, a kids space, amusement rides, camel rides & petting zoo, food vendors serving traditional food and “street fare” (all 100% Kosher), and more! For more information and to buy tickets, visit festival website.

The Art of Charles White (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 5/19, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month (also 5/26), learn how love, hope, dignity, and education were important values in artist Charles White’s work. See how he combined his superb drawing skills with the social and political concerns of the 60s and 70s Black Arts movement. Inspired by White’s powerful work in the exhibition Charles White: A Retrospective, make your own art in workshops.

* WEEKEND OF MAY 25 & 26 *

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 5/25, 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.

Scottish Fest, Orange County Fair & Event Center, Costa Mesa, Saturday, 5/25, & Sunday, 5/26, 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Enjoy a festival of Celtic entertainment and food. There will be competitions in Piping & Drumming, Highland Dancing, and Scottish Athletics as well as a full schedule of entertainment. The Massed Bands will perform at the opening ceremony on Saturday starting at 12:00 p.m. and at the closing ceremonies on Sunday starting at 5:00 p.m.

Valley Greek Festival, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Northridge, Saturday, 5/25, Sunday, 5/26, & Monday, 5/27, 12:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Enjoy a cultural experience for all ages with live music, dancing, gourmet food, homemade pastries, cooking demonstrations, children’s activities, a Greek market, and a variety of shopping boutiques. The festival evokes the sights, sounds and tastes that define the traditional Greek way of life. Enjoy the hospitality of the Valley’s Greek community and experience the simple pleasures of life in a Greek village.

India – Madubani Fish Print-Making (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 5/26, 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.

The Art of Charles White (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 5/26, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, learn how love, hope, dignity, and education were important values in artist Charles White’s work. See how he combined his superb drawing skills with the social and political concerns of the 60s and 70s Black Arts movement. Inspired by White’s powerful work in the exhibition Charles White: A Retrospective, make your own art 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!

Reading Lately (March 2019): A Common Thread of Nature

March was a much more normal reading month for me (3 books versus the 6 books last month): a book for each of my book clubs and an audiobook for when I needed a something in my ear. Coincidentally, they all had a common thread, nature, which was perfect since spring is making its appearance in full force these days. Two books involved scientists studying the natural world, and in the third, the protagonist escaped the everyday world by hiding out in nature (literally, in a rye field as a child and in the cemetery as an adult).

Have you read any of these?


Unsheltered: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver

In this dual narrative novel, the story alternates between two families who live in the same dilapidated house in Vineland, New Jersey, in two different time periods, the 1870s and 2016. Modern-day Willa begins to investigate the house with hopes of finding historical significance in an effort to secure funds to make much-needed repairs. Through her research and the other storyline, we get to know science teacher Thatcher and his neighbor, biologist Mary Treat (actually a real 19th century biologist). It was interesting to learn a bit about the life and times of folk during the years when Charles Darwin’s theories were first being spread as well as seeing the Trump era as a backdrop to a narrative. I enjoyed the book, especially once I got into the second half. It wasn’t a super compelling read, but a thoughtful one with interesting parallels between the two storylines and commentary on society.

Reading Challenges:


Mirror, Shoulder, Signal: A Novel by Dorthe Nors

(Translated from the Danish by Misha Hoekstra)

Sonja, an awkward 40-something translator of violent crime fiction, is still trying to acclimate herself to life in Copenhagen after a childhood in a small, rural town. She struggles with positional vertigo, an estranged relationship with her sister, and late-in-life driving lessons. The book has received many mentions, among them 2017 Man Booker International Shortlist, 2019 Dublin Literature Award Longlist, and 2018 New York Times Notable Book, but unfortunately, I was not a total fan of this one. For those looking for an off-beat character study, this would be a great pick. I was too distracted by the writing style (unrelated clauses in the same sentence) and language (unnecessary vulgarity at times) to fully appreciate the story. It did provide good fodder for our Scandinavian Book Club discussion, though, which is always a plus!

Reading Challenges:


Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

(Audiobook Narrated by the Author)

I got so much more than I bargained for with this book. I thought I was just going to read a memoir about a female scientist with Norwegian roots who at one point spent some time working in Norway. What I got instead was a book about a scientist with Norwegian roots she actually related to as well as a deep book about nature and friendship. It was a personal, and at times emotional, look at the trials and tribulations of the scientific research and life of a female scientist. It touched upon professional struggles as well as the mental illness she endured and her uncertainty about motherhood. I chose to listen to the audio version narrated by the author herself. I was a bit turned off at first due to slow narration and there being more science than I expected, but then I turned up the speed to 1.5x and settled in. It became much better very quickly. It was especially satisfying to listen to the book as I walked and ran in my neighborhood when spring was coming in full force. It certainly made me look at my surroundings in a new and deeper way.

Reading Challenges:


What have you been reading lately?

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April 2019 Los Angeles Culture Challenge: Scandinavian Festival & Festival of Books!

While others may be exploring foreign cultures and new places while traveling abroad during spring breaks, Angelenos can do much of the same while staying right here in Los Angeles. Visit Scandinavia and its Nordic neighbors at the 44th annual Scandinavian Festival the first weekend in April, Japan at a variety of festivals during the month (see below), and Ukraine at the Pysanka Festival also this month. Attend art workshops, concerts, and exhibits to explore even more cultures, and join walking tours in Chinatown and Little Tokyo to get to know our own city better.

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

* WEEKEND OF APRIL 6 & 7 *

Borderless: Scandinavia, Gabba Gallery, Los Angeles, on view through Saturday, 4/6. This is the second exhibition in Gabba Gallery’s international series, Borderless, which showcases outstanding artists from different parts of the globe. The exhibit features work by three Scandinavian artists: Ari Behn (Norway/Denmark), Espen Eiborg (Norway), and Mikael Persbrandt (Sweden). Normal gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday 12:00 – 3:00 p.m. or by appointment.

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 4/6, 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. 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 L.A.’s Chinatown.

Guatemalan Masks Opening Program, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Saturday, 4/6, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. At 6:00 p.m., exhibition curator Patrick A. Polk will introduce the masks on view in the context of Guatemalan masquerade traditions, offering insights into how these performances communicate regional identities, religious heritage, and popular history. At 7:00 p.m., preview the exhibition and enjoy cocktails in the Davis Courtyard and a musical performance by Marimba Chapincita and a traditional Guatemalan dance by Brinco del Chinelo Amigos por Siempre on the Fowler Terrace. RSVP here.

Scandinavian Festival, California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, Saturday, 4/6, & Sunday, 4/7, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. The Scandinavian Festival returns for the 44th year. Both days of the festival are filled with music, dancing, food, lectures, demonstrations, vendors, and activities for young and old alike. The Viking Encampment and Sami Village will once again be present. Family activities include making head wreaths with real flowers, raising the Maypole and dancing around it, learning the ancient Viking game Kubb, playing croquet, and a variety of arts and crafts representative of the Nordic countries.

Renaissance Pleasure Faire, Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, Irwindale, Saturdays & Sundays only, April 6 to May 19. Travel back to the 16th century and experience the glory of life during the Renaissance era. The faire provides “a cornucopia of diversity where we are unified in inviting our guests to enjoy an environment we have created to escape from the stresses and demands of the modern day.” There will be artisans of all media, entertainment galore, food trucks and booths, games and rides (including pony and camel rides), a Kids Kingdom (with games, crafts, storytelling, song, shows, and characters), and a gnome quest!

Mali: Chiwara Sculpture (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 4/7, 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.

Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 4/7, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Spring is in bloom and the Bowers is celebrating with traditional Japanese dance, music, and art. Enjoy face painting, fish printmaking, sumi-e (Japanese brush painting), and a special Japanese treat.

Ukrainian Pysanka Festival, Ukrainian Culture Center, Los Angeles, Sunday, 4/7, 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Enjoy Ukrainian food, music, dance performances, and crafts. Learn how to make traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs. The Ukrainian Art Center will offer workshops to learn the traditions of Pysanka.

Wearable Pattern & Color (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 4/7, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays! Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, be mesmerized by the vivid colors and patterns in the exhibition Power of Pattern: Central Asian Ikats from the David and Elizabeth Reisbord Collection. Learn about this textile tradition on a family-friendly tour, then make your own wearable creation, or a handmade book of colorful patterns in artist-led workshops.

* WEEKEND OF APRIL 13 & 14 *

Folkroots Festival, St. John’s Presbyterian Church, West Los Angeles, Saturday, 4/13, 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. Festival features drumming, singing and jamming; dancing from African and Appalachia; folk film; workshops; concerts; food trucks; and more. Visit website for details.

Bunka-Sai Japanese Cultural Festival, Ken Miller Recreation Center, Torrance, Saturday, 4/13, & Sunday, 4/14, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Come enjoy Japanese culture at the 46th annual Bunka-Sai Japanese Cultural Festival sponsored by the Torrance Sister City Association. Enjoy children’s games and activities, tasty plate lunches, baked goods, craft items, and cultural performances. Visit website for performance schedule.

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, USC Campus, Exposition Park, Saturday, 4/13, & Sunday, 4/14. Enjoy two days of not only books and authors, but also music, food, art, culture, and fun. The Festival of Books is Los Angeles Times’ annual celebration of ideas, creativity, and the written word. The Festival brings book lovers and fun seekers of all ages together with their favorite authors, artists, chefs, musicians, and entertainers.

21st Annual Chumash Day Powwow and Inter-Tribal Celebration, Malibu Bluffs Park, Malibu, Saturday, 4/13, & Sunday, 4/14, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. This year’s 21st annual Chumash Day Powwow will celebrate Native Americans from all over the country. Hundreds of tribes will gather at Malibu Bluffs Park. Native American food, craft vendors, tribal ceremonies, and dances will be a part of the event on both days. Rain or shine.

Japan Family Day 2019, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, Sunday, 4/14, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Japan Family Day at Santa Anita Park was started as a way to introduce Japanese traditional culture and to interact with the people of Southern California. Through the years, it has become one of the most popular spring festivals in southern California. Featuring cultural events and demonstrations, Japan Family Day has something for everyone. Visit website for schedule of events and coupon for free general admission.

Southeast Asian New Year (Free Second Sunday), USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 4/14, 11:00 a.m. Come celebrate Southeast Asian New Year with fun activities for the whole family! Create your own ceremonial banner, build a sand stuppa, paint with water balloons, and more. Enjoy free admission all day, gallery tours, and storytime for kids.

Wearable Pattern & Color (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 4/14, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays! Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, be mesmerized by the vivid colors and patterns in the exhibition Power of Pattern: Central Asian Ikats from the David and Elizabeth Reisbord Collection. Learn about this textile tradition on a family-friendly tour, then make your own wearable creation, or a handmade book of colorful patterns in artist-led workshops.

* WEEKEND OF APRIL 20 & 21 *

Edible Adventures: Graze Little Tokyo, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Saturday, 4/20, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. On this culinary walking tour, explore the hidden corners of Little Tokyo and hear stories of the neighborhood’s past while sampling tasty dishes from its restaurants. Food stops will include renowned mochi makers Fugetsu-Do, mochi ice cream inventors Mikawaya, and popular imagawayaki (red bean cake) seller Mitsuru Café, while neighborhood stops will include Union Church of Los Angeles/East West Players, Koyasan Beikoku Betsuin of Los Angeles, JACCC Plaza and James Irvine Japanese Garden, and Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple, among others. $28 members; $35 non-members. Museum admission and five food samplings included. Limited to 15 participants.

Blessing of the Animals, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, Downtown LA, Saturday, 4/20, 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. This centuries-old tradition of blessing the animals, for all the benefits they provide mankind, is celebrated with a colorful procession on Olvera Street led by the Archbishop of Los Angeles. All pets are welcome to join!

* WEEKEND OF APRIL 27 & 28 *

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 4/27, 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.

Family Day – Storytime, Chinese American Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 4/27, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Listening and sharing our stories is a great way to learn about each other. Come for scheduled book readings at the museum. Hands-on activities will accompany the storytime readings throughout the day including a Spring tea meditation and art-making. This family program is free and open to the public; however, RSVPs are kindly requested.

Bali: Shadow Puppets (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 4/28, 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.

Wearable Pattern & Color (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 4/28, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays! Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, be mesmerized by the vivid colors and patterns in the exhibition Power of Pattern: Central Asian Ikats from the David and Elizabeth Reisbord Collection. Learn about this textile tradition on a family-friendly tour, then make your own wearable creation, or a handmade book of colorful patterns in artist-led workshops.

Concert: UCLA Near East Ensemble, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 4/28, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. The Near East Ensemble presents music and instruments from the Arab world, including a performance by master percussionist Souhail Kaspar. Its repertoire includes old court music genres from the Ottoman era, mystical works related to the Sufi Islamic sect, modal and drum improvisations, nightclub pieces, and songs from rural folk celebrations. Related Exhibition: Dressed with Distinction: Garments from Ottoman Syria

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 (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.