Reading Lately (February 2020) & #ScandiReadingChallenge Update

February was a productive, varied, and very enjoyable month of reading for me. First of all, I finally completed my 2019 Scandinavian Reading Challenge at the beginning of the month. I have compiled all my reads at What I Read for the 2019 #ScandiReadingChallenge. Secondly, I continued strong with my reading intentions for 2020. And considering what’s going on this month, it looks like March will be a good reading month, too.

Here are my latest reads. What have you been reading lately?


North Wild Kitchen: Home Cooking from the Heart of Norway
by Nevada Berg

I was already a fan of the author’s blog North Wild Kitchen so when she published a cookbook I knew I would buy it. The author is from Utah, and in the introduction, she explains how she ended up buying a mountain farm “deep in the belly of Norway” and began exploring the country’s cuisine. I enjoy how the cookbook is organized thematically by source reflecting Norwegian food culture: foraging, fishing, farming (“Seteren”), harvesting, hunting, storing (“Stabburet”), camping, and baking. It includes both traditional Norwegian meals as well as Norwegian-inspired recipes. I was happy to see many favorite foods, such as “boller” (sweet buns with cardamom), “grovbrød” (multigrain bread) and “bløtkake” (layered cream cake with fresh berries), as well as some new-to-me dishes like “plukkfisk” (fish and mashed potatoes with roasted carrots, sauteed leeks, and bacon) which seemed reasonable to attempt at home. The commentary on Norwegian food culture is insightful, the recipes manageable (I appreciate the tips on substitutions for some of the more “exotic” ingredients like moose and grouse), and the photos are delightful. It’s a beautiful addition to any kitchen, but especially to one with a cook with Norwegian roots.

Reading Challenges:


American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
(Audiobook narrated by Yareli Arizmendi)

This was high on my TBR list after I first heard about it in the fall of 2019, but then on the day of its release with all the surrounding controversy, I became uncertain as to whether I actually wanted to read it. However, before I had a chance to think much more about it, my audiobook hold became available so I decided to give it a try. At least I’d know specifically what the controversy related to. I did really enjoy it. I found it engaging and eye-opening. It’s the story of a mother and her young son on a journey to survive. They have to flee Acapulco after her journalist husband and many family members are killed by the cartel. They make their way north along with other migrants who are from different places and on the journey for various reasons. I was familiar with the general picture of migrants from Central America making their way north and the troubles at the border. I knew of El Bestia, the Mexican freight trains that carry migrants northward, and the dangers involved. However, the book gave me a closer and more personal look at what that journey is like – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and I appreciated that. I always make an effort to read diverse authors and now I have added even more books by Latinx authors to my TBR, books exploring a variety of Latinx experiences.

Reading Challenges:


Dødevaskeren (The Dead Washer) by Sara Omar
(Translated from the Danish to the Norwegian by Hilde Rød-Larsen)

This is an amazing and heartbreaking novel dealing with the oppression of Muslim women, in particular in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The author was born and raised in Kurdistan, but she had to flee as a young teenager in the late 1990s due to war. She eventually made her way to Denmark. I was very eager to read this book when I first learned about it from the Scandinavian bookstagram community. When it was published in Denmark in 2017, it was hailed as “the year’s most important book.” The author had to have police protection due to the backlash from the anti-Islam content.

The book is about a girl named Frmesk born in Kurdistan in 1986 (just like the author; I wonder how much of the novel is autobiographical). She is unwanted by her father because she’s a girl. She is sent to live with her mother’s parents because the mother is afraid for the baby’s life if she stays at home. Her grandparents are very kind, loving, open-minded “parents” to Frmesk in a world where the Koran rules and women’s rights and freedoms are non-existent. The story moves between Frmesk’s life as a young child in her grandparents’ household and Frmesk’s life in Denmark 30 years later when she’s alone in a hospital bed for unidentified procedures. Real events, such as the 1988 Halabja chemical attack, are included in the story. It was an extremely engrossing and engaging story despite the difficult subject material. I certainly hope it’s translated to English so it can engage many more readers. Sara Omar’s second book, Skyggedanseren (The Shadow Dancer), a follow-up to the first, was published in Denmark in November 2019 and I’m very eager to read it when it’s released in Norwegian in May 2020.

Reading Challenges:


Beyond All Reasonable Doubt by Malin Persson Giolito
(Translated from the Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles)

This was my second Malin Persson Giolito book. I really enjoyed Quicksand, her English language debut. There are many similarities between the two books. They are both legal thrillers in which the subject matter is heavy and discussion-worthy, and the narrative structure is one in which the story jumps back and forth in time. Quicksand was about a school shooting; this book explores a possibly wrongful murder conviction (of a man who happens to be hated by society for an unrelated alleged child molestation). This story alternates between contemporary times, when the criminal defense lawyer is looking through the case again, and 1997/1998, when the 15-year-old girl was killed and a 35-year-old man convicted and sentenced to life in prison. I felt the book lacked in certain areas, like character development of Sophia Weber, the lawyer, and advancement of the plot. I learned later that this book is actually the second book in a series featuring this lawyer (the first does not have an English translation) so that could explain the missing background information needed to understand some of the lawyer’s actions. Plot-wise, the lawyer didn’t agree to take the case until practically half way through the book which was frustrating. The book provided thought-provoking material, but unfortunately, I did not feel satisfied at the end.

Reading Challenges:


The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
(Audiobook narrated by Jack Hawkins and Louise Brealey)

I’m confused by this book. I loved it while I was listening and couldn’t wait to return to it. It was extremely engaging and kept me wondering. But then when the pieces started falling into place, I became confused. I thought I had a handle on the timelines – the events leading up to the killing that took place years earlier and the therapist’s current life situation – but then it didn’t make sense to me. When I had finished, I felt like I needed to go back and reread to see where I had missed something. Did I listen too fast? I would have loved to discuss this with someone who had read it at the same time as me. Thinking back about it now I realize I’ve already started forgetting little details so it’s hard to attempt to clear up my confusion.

Reading Challenges:


What have you been reading lately?

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March 2020: Los Angeles Culture Challenge

3/14/2020 Update:  Rekefest i hagen, or Shrimp Party in the Garden, at the Norwegian Church has been canceled. The Scandinavian Festival is canceled for this year as well and returns next year April 10 & 11, 2021.


For Scandinavians and Scandinavian enthusiasts, this is the month when the Norwegian Church hosts its annual Rekefest i hagen, or Shrimp Party in the Garden. It will take place on Saturday, March 21, at 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. Come enjoy shrimp the Norwegian way! Peel-your-own Arctic shrimp with freshly baked “loff” (white bread), mayonnaise, and dill along with potato salad are served family style along community tables set up outside. Price is $25/adult, $5/child, or $50/family. Register to attend by emailing iwa@sjomannskirken.no.

And while you’re at it, mark your calendars with the dates for this year’s Scandinavian Festival in Thousand Oaks. On the weekend of April 4 & 5, celebrate the festival’s 45th anniversary with live entertainment, children’s activities, food demonstrations, a Kubb tournament, lectures, a Nordic food court, Nordic craft vendors, and more! They are always looking for volunteers. If you’re interested in volunteering, email scanfestvolunteer@gmail.com.

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

* SUNDAY, MARCH 1 *

Red Envelope Show, Chinese American Museum, Downtown LA, ongoing until March 29. Exchanging red envelopes is a beloved tradition in many Asian and Asian American communities. The color red symbolizes good luck and prosperity. During Lunar New Year, these envelopes are often handed out to provide good luck. From whimsical to elegant, red envelopes often bear designs that represent auspice and special occasions. Red Envelope Show takes a fresh look at this ephemeral art, which features hundreds of red envelopes decorated with original artwork by over 250 contemporary artists from across the country.

Japan: Sakura – Cherry Blossom Lanterns (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 3/1, 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.

Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 3/1, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Enjoy a full day of fun for the entire family while celebrating Japanese culture and the arrival of spring! Scheduled events include Kishin Daiko Taiko; Shan, candy sculptor extraordinaire; Fujima Seiyumi Kai Japanese Classical Dance; Ikebana flower arranging demonstration by Ikebana Teachers Association, and L.A. Taiko Drums. Ongoing activities include free mochi treats, face painting, art projects (tissue paper and pastel chalk cherry blossom and Zen tangle art), origami demonstration, and Bonsai exhibit and demonstration.

Andell Family Sundays—Aire, Agua, Mundo, Fuego, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 3/1, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. (Offered every Sunday in March except 3/29). 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, be inspired by the remarkable breadth of Venezuelan born Luchita Hurtado’s eight-decade career on display in the exhibit Luchita Hurtado: I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn. Then make your own paintings and drawings inspired by Hurtado’s unique perspective.

* WEEKEND OF MARCH 7 & 8 *

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 3/7, 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.

Art and Religion in the City of Angeles: A Walking Tour with Patrick Polk and Amy Landau, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Saturday, 3/7, 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Tour important Los Angeles sacred sites along the Vermont Avenue corridor with Patrick A. Polk, Curator of Latin American and Caribbean Popular Arts, and Amy Landau, Director of Education and Interpretation. Vermont Avenue traverses the El Salvador Community Corridor, Historic Filipino Town, Korea Town, Little Armenia, Little Bangladesh, and Thai Town, offering rich opportunities to discover the city’s layered religious and cultural histories. Visit website for more details and registration details. Advance reservations are required and capacity is limited.

Japanese Girls’ Day (Free Second Sunday), USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 3/8, 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Celebrate Japanese Girls’ Day, or Hinamatsuri! Come see a traditional tiered doll display (hinadan) and learn to create your own dolls and hanging decorations inspired by the festival. The day will include Japanese tea ceremony demonstrations, Student Educator led tours and storytime for kids. Enjoy free admission all day.

Celebrating Nowruz: Iranian New Year, UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 3/8, 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Join Farhang Foundation for the 12th 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. Please see website for program information.

Andell Family Sundays—Aire, Agua, Mundo, Fuego, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 3/8, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. (Offered every Sunday in March except 3/29). 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, be inspired by the remarkable breadth of Venezuelan born Luchita Hurtado’s eight-decade career on display in the exhibit Luchita Hurtado: I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn. Then make your own paintings and drawings inspired by Hurtado’s unique perspective.

Fowler Families: Collaged Connections, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 3/8, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Create colorful collages using various patterns and materials inspired by the special exhibition Rina Banerjee: Make Me a Summary of the World. This retrospective includes large-scale sculptures and installations made from materials sourced from around the world as well as a selection of works on paper that create a multi-sensory space for reflecting on the splintered experience of identity, tradition, and culture within diasporic communities. Free and open to all.

All remaining events for the month of March have been canceled.

* WEEKEND OF MARCH 14 & 15 *

Ireland: Celtic Dragons (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 3/15, 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.

Andell Family Sundays—Aire, Agua, Mundo, Fuego, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 3/15, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. (Offered every Sunday in March except 3/29). 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, be inspired by the remarkable breadth of Venezuelan born Luchita Hurtado’s eight-decade career on display in the exhibit Luchita Hurtado: I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn. Then make your own paintings and drawings inspired by Hurtado’s unique perspective.

* WEEKEND OF MARCH 21 & 22 *

Shrimp Party in the Garden, Sjømannskirken Los Angeles, San Pedro, Saturday, 3/21, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. All are welcome to attend Sjømannskirken’s annual Shrimp Party in the Garden. Long community tables will be set up outside and shrimp will be served Norwegian style. Lasagna will be available for those who don’t eat shrimp. Price is $25/adult, $5/child, or $50/family. Register to attend by emailing iwa@sjomannskirken.no.

Persia: Persian Tiles for New Year (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 3/22, 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.

Andell Family Sundays—Aire, Agua, Mundo, Fuego, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 3/22, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. (Offered every Sunday in March except 3/29). 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, be inspired by the remarkable breadth of Venezuelan born Luchita Hurtado’s eight-decade career on display in the exhibit Luchita Hurtado: I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn. Then make your own paintings and drawings inspired by Hurtado’s unique perspective.

* WEEKEND OF MARCH 28 & 29 *

Red Envelope Show, Chinese American Museum, Downtown LA, closes March 29. Exchanging red envelopes is a beloved tradition in many Asian and Asian American communities. The color red symbolizes good luck and prosperity. During Lunar New Year, these envelopes are often handed out to provide good luck. From whimsical to elegant, red envelopes often bear designs that represent auspice and special occasions. Red Envelope Show takes a fresh look at this ephemeral art, which features hundreds of red envelopes decorated with original artwork by over 250 contemporary artists from across the country.

International Children’s Festival, Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, Saturday, 3/28, & Sunday, 3/29. 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.

India: Henna Hand Patterns (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 3/29, 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.

Ukrainian Pysanka Festival, Ukrainian Culture Center, Los Angeles, Sunday, 3/29, 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Enjoy the talent and tradition of learning how to make beautiful Ukrainian Easter Eggs and enjoy other Ukrainian cultural activities and delicious food. Attendees can sample authentic Ukrainian food, participate in several workshops, watch lively Ukrainian dancing, enjoy other crafts and learn how to make a real Pysanka (traditional Ukrainian Easter egg). Great fun for the entire family!

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!

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (January 2020) & Reading Challenges Wrap-Up

2019 didn’t quite end as I would have liked in regards to completing the reading challenges I had undertaken. I did complete the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge (see what I read here) as well as the Reading Women Challenge (except for one prompt, a play, which won’t be completed, see what I read here). Sadly, it was my Scandinavian Reading Challenge that lingered unfinished! I bit off too much last year, but I am in the process of completing it now as I also embark on my 2020 reading intentions. (I intend to finish my Scandinavian Reading Challenge this month and look forward to sharing my complete list of Scandinavian reads soon!)

In the meantime, here are my latest reads. What have you been reading lately?


One Day in December by Josie Silver

The main character Laurie experiences love at first sight through the bus window and spends the next year trying to track down the guy only to find him again as the new boyfriend of her best friend. I enjoyed the beginning and loved how it all eventually ended about ten years later, but I felt it was too long and winding in between. Maybe it was because it took me too long to read the book. When I found myself with longer chunks of time to read, I definitely enjoyed it more.

 

Reading Challenges:


A Modern Family by Helga Flatland

(Translated from the Norwegian by Rosie Hedger)

This was a complex character study of how adult children deal with the late-in-life divorce of their parents. The story begins with the whole family – grandparents, parents, and kids – on a trip from Oslo to Rome to celebrate the grandfather’s 70th birthday. What happens instead on the night of the celebratory dinner is that news of the grandparents’ impending divorce comes out. The three adult siblings – one married with kids, another struggling with fertility issues with her boyfriend, and the third a free-thinker when it comes to love and marriage – struggle very differently in coming to terms with this new reality when they’re back in Oslo. The story alternates between the perspectives of the three siblings with some overlap of events. It’s a deep and thought-provoking look at family relationships, perceived responsibilities, family history, and parenting.

Reading Challenges:


The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

(Audiobook narrated by January LaVoy)

This came highly recommend by a colleague at work and it was on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s list of favorite audiobooks of 2019 as well as her book club pick for February. It didn’t disappoint; it was a wonderful journey. It’s an historical fantasy book combining many interesting elements: a coming-of-age story, a book within a book, adventure, love, and friendship. It’s creatively done and the language is beautiful. It was a nice change of pace from books I generally read.

Reading Challenges:


What have you been reading lately?

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February 2020: 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 7, and Saturday, February 8, in Thousand Oaks. This year’s topic is Magic, Creatures and Legends: A Journey into Nordic Folklore. For more details on the program and to check registration availability, visit their website.

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

* WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 1 & 2 *

Undiscovered Chinatown Highlighted Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 2/1, 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. This walking tour is offered in conjunction with the Chinese New Year Festival (12:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.) and Golden Dragon Parade (1:00 p.m.). 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. Be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of LA’s Chinatown.

Chinese New Year Festival, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 2/1, 12:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. There will be artisan booths featuring calligraphy, clay sculpture, dough sculpture, face painting, and magic; arts and craft workshops; main stage entertainment (see schedule); a craft and vintage market; gourmet food trucks; a culinary corner; photo booth with vintage cutouts circa 1940; and a free screening of the movie Ratatouille (6:00 p.m.).

121st Annual Golden Dragon Parade, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 2/1, 1:00 p.m. The Golden Dragon Parade is the oldest celebration of its kind in America. 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.

African Mask Workshop (Kids, Teens & Families Programs), California African American Museum (CAAM), Exposition Park, Saturday, 2/1, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. Sculptor Beulah Woodard had a lifelong interest in African culture and in 1935 was inspired to produce the sculpture Mask, on view in LA Blacksmith. Make your own small mask in soft copper. Ages 6 and up. Visit website to RSVP.

China: Year of the Rat – Print-Making (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 2/2, 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.

Asian Lunar New Year Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 2/2, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Celebrate the Year of the Rat with dance, music and art from China, Vietnam and Korea. Dragon and lion dances by JC Culture will welcome in the new year. Enjoy a sample egg roll while creating paper lanterns and art scroll projects as you contemplate the diligence and positivity of those born in the Year of the Rat.

The Art of Julie Mehretu (Andell Family Sundays), Zev Yaroslavsky Plaza at LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 2/2, 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 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. This month, be inspired by Ethiopian-born Julie Mehretu’s large works of art and her artistic process of layering maps, architecture, historical imagery, and drawing. Make art inspired by the exhibition in artist-led workshops.

* WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 8 & 9 *

21st Annual Nordic Spirit Symposium: Magic, Creatures and Legends: A Journey into Nordic Folklore, California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, Friday, 2/7, & Saturday, 2/8. The Nordic Spirit Symposium will host prominent scholars in the topic’s field who will bring the latest insights into Magic, Creatures and Legends through story, analysis, painting, and song. For details on the program and to register, visit website.

Red Envelope Show, Chinese American Museum, Downtown LA, February 5 – March 29. Exchanging red envelopes is a beloved tradition in many Asian and Asian American communities. The color red symbolizes good luck and prosperity. During Lunar New Year, these envelopes are often handed out to provide good luck. From whimsical to elegant, red envelopes often bear designs that represent auspice and special occasions. Red Envelope Show takes a fresh look at this ephemeral art, which features hundreds of red envelopes decorated with original artwork by over 250 contemporary artists from across the country.

USA: Valentine’s Day – Nikki de Saint Phalle Inspired Sculpture (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 2/9, 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.

The Art of Julie Mehretu (Andell Family Sundays), Zev Yaroslavsky Plaza at LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 2/9, 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 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. This month, be inspired by Ethiopian-born Julie Mehretu’s large works of art and her artistic process of layering maps, architecture, historical imagery, and drawing. Make art inspired by the exhibition in artist-led workshops.

Fowler Families: Stories and Self-Portraits, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 2/9, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. What would you like to tell the world? During this imaginative, hands-on art workshop, children of all ages are invited to answer this question while making self-portraits infused with their own creative writing. This program is inspired by the special exhibition Through Positive Eyes that features photography, video, sculpture, and live storytelling aimed at conveying the personal experiences of participants living with HIV and AIDS around the world.

* WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 15 & 16 *

Pan African Film + Arts Festival, Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw, Thursday, 2/11, through Monday, 2/23. 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.

Undiscovered Chinatown Highlighted Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 2/15, 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. This walking tour is offered in conjunction with the Firecracker Festival. 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. Be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of LA’s Chinatown.

Firecracker Festival, Main Stage in Central Plaza, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 2/15 & Sunday, 2/16. The Firecracker Festiva is a free festival that celebrates the cultural diversity and talent of Los Angeles over the course of two days. The festival also includes a 5/10K Run/Walk as well as a Bike Ride, Kiddie Run, and PAW’er Dog Walk. All net proceeds are reinvested locally.

India: Gonda Art – Painting (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 2/16, 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.

The Art of Julie Mehretu (Andell Family Sundays), Zev Yaroslavsky Plaza at LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 2/16, 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 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. This month, be inspired by Ethiopian-born Julie Mehretu’s large works of art and her artistic process of layering maps, architecture, historical imagery, and drawing. Make art inspired by the exhibition in artist-led workshops.

* WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 22 & 23 *

31st Annual Mardi Gras Celebration, The Original Farmers Market, 3rd & Fairfax, Los Angeles, Saturday, 2/22, & Sunday, 2/23. L.A.’s favorite Mardi Gras celebration features Cajun and Zydeco bands galore, down home Southern cookin’, the Mutti Gras Pet Parade, bead throwing and much more.

African-American Festival, Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, Saturday, 2/22, & Sunday, 2/23. Join the Aquarium of the Pacific as it hosts its 18th 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.

CicLAvia – South LA, Sunday, 2/23, 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Join CicLAvia as they open up the streets in South LA for a 6-mile route connecting South Central, Florence-Firestone and Watts. Bike, skate, run, walk, skateboard, and enjoy the route however you want. People of all ages and abilities are welcome!

Nigeria: Clay Masks (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 2/23, 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.

The Art of Julie Mehretu (Andell Family Sundays), Zev Yaroslavsky Plaza at LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 2/23, 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 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. This month, be inspired by Ethiopian-born Julie Mehretu’s large works of art and her artistic process of layering maps, architecture, historical imagery, and drawing. Make art inspired by the exhibition in artist-led workshops.

* WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 29 & MARCH 1 *

Hinamatsuri Workshop: Kokeshi Doll Art with Mari Inukai, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Saturday, 2/29, 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. In celebration of Hinamatsuri (Girls’ Day), paint your own prince and princess kokeshi doll set with artist Mari Inukai. Bring pictures of your favorite flowers and textile samples as reference material to paint your doll’s kimono. All generations welcome! Visit website for details and to RSVP.

Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 3/1, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Enjoy a full day of fun for the entire family while celebrating Japanese culture and the arrival of spring! Scheduled events include Kishin Daiko Taiko; Shan, candy sculptor extraordinaire; Fujima Seiyumi Kai Japanese Classical Dance; Ikebana flower arranging demonstration by Ikebana Teachers Association, and L.A. Taiko Drums. Ongoing activities include free mochi treats, face painting, art projects (tissue paper and pastel chalk cherry blossom and Zen tangle art), origami demonstration, and Bonsai exhibit and demonstration.

Andell Family Sundays—Aire, Agua, Mundo, Fuego, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 3/1, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. (Offered every Sunday in March except 3/29). 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, be inspired by the remarkable breadth of Venezuelan born Luchita Hurtado’s eight-decade career on display in the exhibit Luchita Hurtado: I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn. Then make your own paintings and drawings inspired by Hurtado’s unique perspective.

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!

My 2020 Reading Intentions & Introducing the 2020 #ScandiReadingChallenge

Last year I was a bit overwhelmed trying to complete three reading challenges while also reading books for book clubs and books just because I felt like it. It didn’t help that I started a full-time job in the fall and found myself with less reading time/energy. I also have so many unread books on my physical and digital bookshelves that I really want to read, in particular Norwegian books that I’ve received as gifts. Therefore, this year my reading intentions are as follows:

  1. Keep up with my Scandinavian reading with another self-made Scandinavian reading challenge
  2. Participate in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2020 Reading Challenge
  3. Read off my shelf which includes making progress on my Book of the Month selections that I haven’t read yet
  4. Read books recommended by friends and work colleagues so we can discuss in real life
  5. Read books just because I feel like it

Last year I was a serious and dedicated participant in the Reading Women Challenge. Working to complete that challenge’s 26 very specific prompts was an interesting and rewarding task (see my completed reads here). However, it was also very time-consuming. If books I read this year happen to fulfill categories for the 2020 Reading Women Challenge, great! Or if I need inspiration, I’ll certainly refer to it. But I won’t sacrifice the above intentions to complete that challenge this year.

With that, I’d like to introduce the 2020 Scandinavian Reading Challenge. It is based on feedback I’ve received from last year’s participants and my own desires for the year.

I hope you’ll consider participating! You do not need to commit to completing all the prompts. My hope is just that you’ll consider Scandinavian/Nordic books for your reading and that we can share reading ideas and thoughts on what we’ve read throughout the year.

For more details and a printable PDF to record your reading, visit 2020 Scandinavian Reading Challenge.

What prompt looks most interesting to you?

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (November & December 2019)

The last two months of the year continued to be a good and varied period of reading. Contemporary fiction, historical fiction, a short story collection, and thrillers that took place all over the world. What have you been reading lately?


The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

I am drawn to stories about complicated families, and this is such a story. It’s about four siblings and their relationships during and after the Pause, a period of a few years in their childhood after their father died unexpectedly and when their mother basically removed herself from their lives due to severe depression and left them to fend for themselves. It was interesting to see how each sibling was affected by the Pause and how each coped with the past and related to the others as the years passed. The story is told by the youngest sibling Fiona at the age of 102 years in the year 2079. After being a recluse for 25 years, she’s finally agreed to tell the story of the inspiration behind one of her most famous poems. It’s a thoughtful and touching look at one family’s trials and tribulations.

Reading Challenges:


The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

A fan of YA historical fiction author Ruta Sepetys, I was thrilled to discover she had a new book coming out this year that was set in a time period I hadn’t read too much in, the 1950s in Spain during Franco’s fascist dictatorship. Specifically, the story takes place in Madrid in 1957 when the country is opening up to American tourists. There is great contrast between what tourists experience, in particular 18-year-old Daniel, the son of a wealthy Texas oil tycoon visiting with his parents, and how locals live, such as Ana, the hotel maid assigned to their rooms. The book opened my eyes to the brutal and heartbreaking history of this period. I really liked Daniel and admired his desire to veer from his dad’s vision for him and to pursue his photography instead. I cheered for Daniel and Ana’s growing friendship. A bonus was the primary source materials cited between chapters and the historic photos included at the end. This was a 5-star read for me.

Reading Challenges:


Forty Days Without Shadow: An Arctic Thriller by Olivier Truc

(Translated from the French by Louise Rogers Lalaurie)

I loved the setting of this book – wintertime in northern Norway above the Arctic Circle in the land of the Sámi indigenous people of Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Even though it’s a fiction book, I learned so much about Sámi history, culture, and issues. I had no idea there was such a thing as a reindeer police! I liked the two main characters, Klemet Nango and Nina Nansen, reindeer police who are involved with solving the crime of a stolen Sámi drum and the murder of a Sámi reindeer herder. Klemet is an older officer of Sámi heritage and Nina is a young Norwegian woman fresh out of police school. They are a good pair. I was not a fan of the male perspective and the language usage at times. Also, the male chauvinist behavior by a couple of the side characters was off-putting. However, overall it was a very enjoyable and interesting read. It’s the first in a series written in French and I hope the rest of them are translated into English.

Reading Challenges:


My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

This was a fine book but not totally my cup of tea. I couldn’t relate to a sister helping to cover up a murder. It didn’t seem plausible, yet in this book they were able to do it more than once. I liked that the story was set in Lagos, Nigeria, giving me a glimpse of contemporary life there, and I did appreciate what the author made us think about – sisterhood, family, and social media. However, the dark humor and satire did not land with me.

Reading Challenges:


Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

(Audiobook narrated by Matilda Novak)

I read this collection of short stories as an audiobook (upon Modern Mrs. Darcy’s recommendation in 15 terrific audiobooks you can listen to in 6(ish) hours or (much) less), and it was mesmerizing. I enjoy immigrant stories and books that take me to foreign cultures, and this collection had both. I loved the range of characters (from children to elderly) and the wide variety of experiences explored. Most stories were about Indian immigrants in America, but one was about American Indians visiting India and another about Indians in India. The characters and their stories are still with me. This was another 5-star read this year.

Reading Challenges:


The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

This was a total impulse read. I needed something totally different than my previous reads. I started listening to it, but I had to speed up the narration to 1.5x to keep it somewhat engaging. The audiobook still wasn’t working for me, but I liked the story so ended up switching to the print edition. I got a little annoyed with the main character at times. I was frustrated that she couldn’t control her actions, but I understand that is easier said than done for someone in her condition. I didn’t see the twists before they came, but I wasn’t surprised by them either. Overall, it was an entertaining and engaging read.

Reading Challenges:


What have you been reading lately?

News to readers interested in Scandinavian reading, I will be introducing the 2020 Scandinavian Reading Challenge soon. Stay tuned!

Disclaimer: AVikingInLA 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.

January 2020: Los Angeles Culture Challenge & Scandinavian Film Festival #SFFLA

Happy New Year! Start the year off strong by taking advantage of the many opportunities to explore the diverse cultural richness of Los Angeles.

January brings one of my favorite Scandinavian events back to town, the annual Scandinavian Film Festival LA (SFFLA). The festival opens this weekend, January 4 & 5, in Beverly Hills and continues the weekend of January 11 & 12. For a look at what’s being offered this year, check out Scandinavian Film Festival LA #SFFLA 2020 Coming Soon to a Theater Near You!. I’ll be at the festival a lot as a volunteer and hope to see you there!

Another event that might be of interest if you wish to support Norwegians abroad is WinterFest, an annual festival that includes performances, workshops and special events that celebrate the art of narrative improvisation in Los Angeles and around the world. This year one of the special guests is Det Andre Teatret from Oslo, Norway. They will perform on January 8 and 10 in Los Feliz. For more information, visit WinterFest.

Finally, Scandinavian and Nordic enthusiasts, mark your calendars with the dates for the 21st annual Nordic Spirit Symposium in Thousand Oaks: Friday, February 7, and Saturday, February 8. The symposium is a unique lecture/performance program presented by the Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation and California Lutheran University. This year’s topic is Magic, Creatures and Legends: A Journey into Nordic Folklore. For more information on the program and registration details, visit Nordic Spirit Symposium. Reservation deadline for Saturday’s lunch and dinner is January 29.

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

* WEEKEND OF JANUARY 4 & 5 *

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 1/4, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. 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. Offered every first Saturday of the month.

Scandinavian Film Festival LA (SFFLA), Writers Guild Theater, Beverly Hills, Saturday, 1/4, & Sunday, 1/5 (also next weekend, 1/11 & 1/12). Don’t miss this 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 International Feature Film” category, but also other national feature films, short movies, and documentaries.

China, Vietnam, Laos Hmong Tribal Art – Textile (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 1/5, 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.

Festival of Chocolate, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 1/5, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Chocolate started out as the drink of Aztec nobles and is now enjoyed and cultivated around the world. Sample chocolate of all kinds while enjoying a drum circle accompanied by the Mexican indigenous music of Martin Espino. Dafra African Drums and Dance will honor one of the most important crops of the African Continent. Hear directly from world renowned “Chocolate Guru,” Lee Theisen in a special lecture on the history and politics of Chocolate. *Please note that there will be a fee for the lecture and chocolate tasting. Space is limited and advanced reservations are required.

2020 Oshogatsu Family Festival – Year of the Rat, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Sunday, 1/5, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Welcome the Year of the Rat with crafts, food, cultural activities, and performances! Festival activities include origami, face painting, photo booth, museum scavenger hunt and raffle, fukububuro (lucky grab bags) sale, noodle tasting, candy sculptures, storytelling, TAIKOPROJECT performance, mochitsuki demonstration and tasting, and more. Visit the festival website for schedule.

* WEEKEND OF JANUARY 11 & 12 *

Scandinavian Film Festival LA (SFFLA), Writers Guild Theater, Beverly Hills, Saturday, 1/11, & Sunday, 1/12. This is 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 International Feature Film” category, but also other national feature films, short movies, and documentaries.

MLK: I Have a Dream – Multi-Media (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 1/12, 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: Picture This! Create Your Own Postcard, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 1/12, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Postcards are a quick way to share adventures in one’s hometown or around the world, often featuring a photograph or illustration on one side and a handwritten note on the other. Explore the postcards on view in our special exhibition On Display in the Walled City: Nigeria at the British Empire Exhibition, 1924–1925 before designing your own postcard using a variety of art materials.

* MLK, JR. WEEKEND OF JANUARY 18 & 19 & 20 *

France – Castles 3D (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 1/19, 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.

2020 MLK Day Celebration, California African American Museum, Exposition Park, Los Angeles, Monday, 1/20, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day immersed in art, culture, and community, and commemorate the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Enjoy an array of vibrant programs and activities for all ages. Bring children for art workshops and food, visit the exhibitions, and hear recitations of King’s speeches about keeping the spirit of democracy alive. Free for everyone! Visit website for schedule of events and activities.

* WEEKEND OF JANUARY 25 & 26 *

Museums Annual Free-for-All Day, Saturday, 1/25. Over 40 museums—presenting art, cultural heritage, natural history, and science—will open their doors and invite visitors to attend 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. For a list of participating museum, visit website.

Lunar New Year Festival, USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Saturday, 1/25, 11:00 a.m.  Join USC PAM for their annual Lunar New Year festival celebrating the Year of the Rat! Enjoy free admission to the galleries, live performances, artmaking workshops, food trucks, and more.

Ancient Minoan Civilization Amphorae – Marine Motifs (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 1/26, 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: Ready, Set, Sculpt!, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 1/26, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Discover the dynamic colors, surprising materials, and personal memories shared by artist Rina Banerjee in the special exhibition Make Me a Summary of the World before creating a sculpture that expresses your own unique story.

* CURRENTLY ONGOING *

Fiji: Art & Life in the Pacific, LACMA, Los Angeles, ongoing until July 29. The first substantial project on the art of Fiji to be mounted in the United States, Fiji: Art & Life in the Pacific features over 280 artworks drawn from major international collections, including the Fiji Museum, British Museum, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Cambridge), the Smithsonian, and distinguished private collections. While viewing the exhibit, listen to a unique mix of traditional music and contemporary tracks that creates a sonic experience reflecting the Fijian Islands.

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 #SFFLA 2020 Coming Soon to a Theater Near You!

The 21st annual Scandinavian Film Festival LA returns to the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills the first two weekends of January. Start the new year with “top films from the top of Europe.” Despite its name, the scope of the festival actually extends beyond Scandinavia. Besides films from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, you can view films from the Nordic countries of Iceland and Finland as well as Baltic neighbors Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania.

A highlight of the festival is the opportunity to see all the Nordic and Baltic countries’ submissions for the upcoming Oscars 2020’s International Feature Film category (formerly known as Foreign Language Film). (However, only Estonia’s selection made it to the shortlist of ten.)

  • NorwayOut Stealing Horses by Hans Petter Moland
  • SwedenAnd Then We Danced by Levan Akin
  • DenmarkQueen of Hearts by May el-Toukhy
  • IcelandA White, White Day by Hlynur Pálmason
  • FinlandStupid Young Heart by Selma Vilhunen
  • LatviaThe Mover by Dāvis Sīmanis Jr.
  • EstoniaTruth and Justice by Tanel Toom
  • LithuaniaBridges of Time by Kristine Briede, Audrius Stonys

On Saturday, January 4, at 6:00 p.m., join other film enthusiasts at the Opening Gala for drinks and a Scandinavian buffet meal. Gala tickets (a great deal at only $40 each) also include Opening Ceremonies at 7:15 p.m. and the screening of Norway’s only feature film selection at the festival, Out Stealing Horses, at 7:30 p.m. Buy your gala tickets now!

Below you’ll find a list of films by country. Descriptions are taken from the festival’s website, where you can also find a chronological schedule. Consider purchasing a SFFLA Festival Passport which allows admission to all screenings and the Opening Gala (available for $140), or you can buy tickets for individual films for $12 each online or at the door. Please confirm the schedule with SFFLA as it may change after this post is published. Hope to see you there!


* NORWAY *

Out Stealing Horses (Ut og stjæle hester)

  • Feature Film by Hans Petter Moland (2019)
  • Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Per Petterson
  • Saturday, January 4, 7:30 p.m. (123 min)
  • https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7319496/

67-year-old widower Trond Sander (Skarsgård) transitions to a lonely retirement in the breathtaking but desolate landscape of eastern Norway. As winter arrives, he finds a neighbor who he once knew during the summer of 1948. Trond reflects back on that bucolic and childhood summer, the last one he spent with his father as they rode wild horses and chopped wood.

The Tent (Teltet)

A dysfunctional family of four is going camping, and poor communications skills make it a struggle to cooperate when trying to put up a complicated tent. The kids are reacting badly to the increasingly uncomfortable tension, as an underlying conflict between the two parents is slowly forced to the surface – and a shocking secret is finally revealed.


* SWEDEN *

And Then We Danced

A passionate tale of love and liberation set amidst the ultraconservative confines of modern Georgian society, And Then We Danced follows Merab, a devoted dancer who has been training for years with his partner Mary for a spot in the National Georgian Ensemble. The arrival of another male dancer, Irakli, gifted with perfect form and equipped with a rebellious streak, throws Merab off balance, sparking both an intense rivalry and romantic desire that may cause him to risk his future in dance as well as his relationships with Mary and his family.

The Unpromised Land (Till drömmarnas land)

Sabina has traveled from Romania to the small Swedish town Holmsund with her Roma brothers. They work in a garage and Sabina is looking for a job. Elin, born and raised in Holmsund, is in the church singing at the graduation ceremony. A summer is about to start and Sabina will get to know Elin. Together they will revolt against the old ways and find something new in each other. At the same time the society around them collapses in fear and Elin’s dad becomes insane by sorrow. Because there is a madness in the Swedish idyll.

Se7en Dayz till Payoff

An arrogant working actor of low budget horrors hears about a recurring role as a homeless person on an Emmy nominated cop show that he badly wants to land. His agent is against it, but challenges the actor that if he could show him that he could be homeless for seven days, he’ll get him an audition.

Cold Case Hammarskjöld

Danish director Mads Brügger and Swedish private investigator Göran Bjorkdahl are trying to solve the mysterious death of Dag Hammarskjöld. As their investigation closes in, they discover a crime with even farther reaching consequences.

Greta’s Bed and Breakfast

A successful business woman living in New York decides to go back to her home country Sweden after many years to support her best friend who is newly divorced. They make a trip together to a magical place where they meet odd people that change their lives forever.

King of Atlantis (Kungen av Atlantis)

When a young man who takes care of his schizophrenic father meets a young woman he tries to break free from his father to live his own life.


* DENMARK *

Ida

Set in Poland in 1962, it is about a young woman on the verge of taking vows as a Catholic nun. Orphaned as an infant during the German occupation of World War II, she must now meet her aunt. The former Communist state prosecutor and only surviving relative tells her that her parents were Jewish. The two women embark on a road trip into the Polish countryside to learn the fate of their family.

Collision (Kollision)

A married couple, Leo and Olivia, are facing a crisis in their marriage. Their nine-year old daughter, Liv, becomes a messenger between her mother and father. The film explores the break-up of a family and the decisions parents make in trying to find meaning and hope when everything is falling apart.

Confirmation (Konfirmanden)

It’s the big day of Mathias’ confirmation. The Danish tradition where young people say yes to being a Christian and enters adulthood. Mathias is transgender and just wants to be a normal teenage boy. His mother does everything to protect him, but who is this day really about?

Queen of Hearts (Dronningen)

Anne, a successful lawyer and doting mother, places both her family and career at risk when she becomes involved with her teenage stepson.

The Dead Soldier

In Afghanistan, the Danish soldier Jacob Panton is shot five times by a sniper, is hit by a grenade and dies in the operation room. Miraculously he is brought back to life and survives the attack from the Taliban that occurred during his very last patrol. Back in Denmark a long and hard struggle awaits Jacob, his wife Charlotte and their daughter Dina. The former tank commander’s injuries are so severe that it is impossible for him to return to the army. Jacob struggles with a feeling of identity loss and is frustrated with the public treatment of injured soldiers. He slowly starts to find a new purpose in life by helping other war veterans get a tolerable existence.

Before the Frost (Før frosten)

For years, Jens has been fighting to survive on a harsh, unyielding piece of land. The family’s decline in fortune is deeply felt and underscored by the local burghers. The parish priest humiliates them by moving them further back in the church, and Jens is now being targeted by Gustav, a wealthy Swede looking to expand his holdings. With winter coming, Jens must choose between marrying off his beloved daughter or losing his family’s only means of survival.

Daniel (Ser du månen Daniel)

The story of Danish photographer Daniel Rye, who was captured by ISIS in Syria in 2013 and held hostage for 398 days.


* ICELAND *

Little Moscow (Litla Moskva)

During the Cold War, Iceland was part of the West. They became a member of NATO and the United States operated a military base there. Center right coalitions ran the national government and municipalities all across the country, with one exception: In Neskaupstadur, a town of 1,500 people in the east of the country, socialists ran the show. They came to power in 1946 and maintained control for 52 years.

A White, White Day (Hvítur, hvítur dagur)

In a remote Icelandic town, an off duty police chief begins to suspect a local man for having had an affair with his wife, who recently died in a car accident. Gradually his obsession for finding out the truth accumulates and inevitably begins to endanger himself and his loved ones. A story of grief, revenge and unconditional love.


* FINLAND *

Stupid Young Heart (Hölmö nuori sydän)

An edgy, warm, and raw drama about the first love between the skinny and carefree Lenni and the gorgeous and popular Kiira. Not yet in a relationship, nor out of high school, they discover that they are expecting a baby. Lenni has nine months to become a man. Having grown up without a father figure, Lenni finds longed-for adult attention and guidance from an unlikely friend Janne, a member of a right wing group that has recently moved into Lenni’s diverse neighbourhood. After taking part in a scrambled attack on a local Mosque, while Kiira is rushed to the hospital to give birth, Lenni realises that he must learn to be a man in his own way, even though he never had a chance to be a child himself.

Project Rockin’ High

The Finnish heavy metal band Ancara wishes to enter the Guinness Book of Records by organizing a rock concert in the mountains, and in order to obtain global coverage, they decide to try and reach Everest Base Camp. However, from the moment they make this decision, everything will start to go wrong and all the contradictions of a crazy and visionary project will begin to emerge.

Maria’s Paradise (Marian Paratiisi)

The orphan Salome is the servant and devout follower of Maria Åkerblom, a charismatic sect leader. But as Salome befriends a rebellious outsider and starts to have doubts, Maria turns dangerous.

Someone, Somewhere

A tragicomedy set in the true Hollywood where the only spotlight is a malfunctioning streetlight, and the people least likely to make it are the most likely to give everything they got — for a chance to get a shot.


* BALTIC COUNTRIES *

Immortal (Surematu)

Russian documentary filmmaker Ksenia Okhapkina’s essay portrait looks at the strict order that governs life in a small industrial city in Russia. With her talent for visual composition and perceptiveness regarding local events, she puts together an audiovisual collage of seemingly minor details that enable us to observe a society bound by the regime and political power. Scenes of young girls learning about discipline at ballet school or adolescent boys training for the army are eloquent examples of citizen indoctrination, but the filmmaker avoids psychologizing the participants. Instead she portrays the dangerous ideology without excessive words or narration, thus perfectly capturing its furtive omnipresence and inconspicuousness.

The Mover (Tēvs Nakts)

Based on the true story of Zanis Lipke, a working-class man who worked in German military warehouses during the wartime Nazi occupation of Latvia and as a smuggler of human beings at night, The Mover has been dubbed Latvia’s Schindler’s List.

Journey Home (Kelionés namo)

An upbeat memoir, never before presented in cinema, recounting the unexpected first encounters of American-Lithuanians who traveled back to their Soviet-occupied homeland after WWII. During the war, the heroes of the film were forced to leave Lithuania and became displaced persons (DPs). Their nostalgia created somewhat naïve images of their homeland. Yet when allowed to travel to Soviet Lithuania in the late ‘60s and 70’s, they were confronted with a different reality! This account of returning to their homeland reveals the hope and spirit of the pre-occupation era, the intersection of two different civilizations, colorful heroes and their unique experiences.

Bridges of Time

A documentary about the “Baltic New Wave”, avant-garde filmmakers in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania during the 1960s.

Truth and Justice (Tõde ja õigus)

  • Feature Film from Estonia by Tanel Toom (2019)
  • On Shortlist for Oscars 2020 Best International Feature Film
  • Sunday, January 12, 1:30 p.m. (149 min)
  • https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5593384/

Estonia, 1870. Young and staunch Andres along with his wife Krõõt arrive at a farm bought on a loan to establish their new life. Desolate and neglected between the marshes, Robber’s Rise must be transformed into a place that will take care of the family. All they have to do is to break the resistance of the barren land, make his neighbour cooperate, and raise an heir – a son to inherit his father’s life’s work. But when nature refuses to bend, the neighbour turns out to be a roughneck rival, and Krõõt keeps giving birth to daughters, Andres struggles to find the right way. In his desperate search for truth and justice – from the court, the tavern and the Bible, he sacrifices his family, his friends and eventually himself. The beautiful dream of prosperous and nurturing Robber’s Rise gives way to an obsession, resulting in none of the things Andres wanted and everything he was afraid of.


What festival films look interesting to you?

Norway’s Out Stealing Horses is on the top of my list to see. Many others look interesting, but I’m especially intrigued by Iceland’s A White, White Day; Sweden’s The Unpromised Land; and Estonia’s Truth and Justice. What festival films look interesting to you?

A note to Scandi film enthusiasts, this year the festival needs your help more than ever. One of its major funding sources wasn’t available. Please consider helping make up the difference by making a tax-deductible donation. All contributions small and large are welcome. You may donate online or send a check to ASFLA/SFFLA, 3445 Winslow Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90026 (see SFFLA donor brochure). Your contribution is much appreciated!

December 2019: Los Angeles Culture Challenge (Bonus: Norwegian Christmas Series on Netflix!)

December offers many special seasonal events which highlight the diverse richness of Los Angeles! Which will you put on your calendar?

The season of Scandinavian Christmas fairs wraps up this weekend with SWEA Los Angeles’ 41st Annual Swedish Christmas Fair on Sunday, December 8, in Torrance. It’s a big one that welcomes about 3,000 visitors during the one-day event. Highlights of the fair include a multitude of vendors selling Scandinavian gifts, books, music, handmade crafts, traditional holiday foods, and baked goods as well as traditional entertainment with folk dancing and Lucia pageants.

While on the topic of Scandinavian Christmas, I’d like to give you a heads-up about a Norwegian Christmas series just added to Netflix. Home for Christmas (Hjem til jul) is a 6-episode romantic comedy series about Johanne, a 30-year-old woman who is tired of the constant reminders of her single status and suddenly finds herself on a quest to find a boyfriend in time to bring home for Christmas. It takes place in a quaint little Norwegian town (filmed in Røros, Norway) and can be watched in Norwegian with English sub-titles or dubbed in English. Two episodes in I’m really enjoying it, especially the Norwegian winter setting and the diverse characters.

And finally, so you can plan ahead, one of my favorite Scandinavian events returns next month. The Scandinavian Film Festival LA opens the weekend of January 4 & 5 in Beverly Hills and continues the weekend of January 11 & 12. The schedule will be posted soon.

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

* SPECIAL REPEATING EVENTS IN DECEMBER *

Las Posadas at Olvera Street, El Pueblo Historical Monument, Downtown LA, Monday, 12/16 – Tuesday, 12/24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Las Posadas has been a part of Olvera Street since its founding in 1930. Every evening beginning December 16 and continuing through Christmas Eve, the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem is reenacted with traditional songs, colorful costumes, and vibrant music. Festivities begin with a children’s piñata breaking. Free sweet bread and champurrado are given to all in attendance afterwards. While the event is rooted in Christian and Catholic traditions, it is attended by people from all religious backgrounds, and all are welcome to participate.

DTLA Holiday Lights Walking Tour, Meeting Point: Union Station, Downtown LA, Sundays, Wednesdays, Fridays, & Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. until December 26. Explore the richness of Downtown LA with the annual DTLA Holiday Lights Tour offered by DTLA Walking Tours. It is a two-hour evening tour of the festive holiday decorations and traditions in Downtown LA. The tour begins at Union Station and highlights include Las Posadas at Olvera Street, Grand Park with its illuminated fountain and Winter Glow (a month-long immersive nighttime art experience), Walt Disney Concert Hall, Broad Museum, and Pershing Square festivities. Adults $20, children ages 5-12 $5, and children 4 and under free. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit website.

Ice Breakers, Ice at Santa Monica, Downtown Santa Monica, Sundays, until January 19. This holiday season take advantage of Ice Breakers, a family-friendly live music series every Sunday from 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 7 & 8 *

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 12/7, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. 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. (Offered every first Saturday of the month).

CicLAvia: The Valley, Sunday, 12/8, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Discover Sherman Way from Canoga Park through Winnetka and into Reseda as CicLAvia offers an entirely new, 5-mile stretch of open streets. You will find a Volta Cirque du Soleil photo booth, LA Kings hockey clinics, music performances, family-friendly games, food trucks and dozens of other activities along the route. Bike, skate, run, walk, skateboard, and enjoy the route however you want.

Ancient Cycladic Civilization: Clay Figurines (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 12/8, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Experience inspiring, innovative workshops that enrich lives and teach basic visual art skills with highly qualified artist-educators. Each workshop focuses on a global culture, and different media are explored weekly including painting, textile art, printmaking, clay, sculpture, collage, and 3D constructions. Many of the projects celebrate holidays of the diverse community in LA. The program is open to all ages, including children, families, and adults.

41st Annual Swedish Christmas Fair, Torrance Cultural Arts Center, Torrance, Sunday, 12/8, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. The fair features artisans and stands presenting the best of Swedish fine art, handicraft, books, jewelry, toys, decorations, and much more. Enjoy a traditional Swedish lunch or “fika” (coffee break) with delicious home baked sweets. You can even enjoy an invigorating glass of hot glögg (mulled wine). The radiant Lucia Pageant is performed twice during the day, at noon and at 3pm. There’s also a children’s corner with crafts, games, and a possible visit with Santa.

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 14 & 15 *

England: Toy Theater (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 12/15, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Experience inspiring, innovative workshops that enrich lives and teach basic visual art skills with highly qualified artist-educators. Each workshop focuses on a global culture, and different media are explored weekly including painting, textile art, printmaking, clay, sculpture, collage, and 3D constructions. Many of the projects celebrate holidays of the diverse community in LA.

Hanukkah Festival, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, Sunday, 12/15, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Celebrate the Jewish festival of lights, while enjoying music, dance, storytelling, art making, and tasty treats. Get in the holiday spirit with musical performances by Klezmer Juice, hear classic Hanukkah tunes and folk music by fiddler and accordionist duo Zingarella, and be dazzled by capoeira performed by Dana Maman and Friends. Take a little bit of the festival home with you by creating a one-of-a-kind art project or making a delicious treat with Maite Gomez-Rejón (ArtBites). Be inspired as Noah’s Ark storytellers recount the age-old tale of Hanukkah in both English and Spanish, and join a special Hanukkah sing-along. Then listen to author Alan Silberberg read his book Meet the Latkes.

CAAM Makers Fest – Winter 2019, California African American Museum, Exposition Park, Sunday, 12/15, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. Let your creativity flow at this all-ages affair featuring maker stations led by local artists. Learn from the pros of our community, including Nneka Gigi, who will lead a workshop embellishing clothing with retro cartoons; J. Mack, who teaches how to create music shakers from recycled materials; and Wayne Perry, who will demonstrate how to create relief portraits. Take home several creative treasures! No prior art experience necessary; art materials provided.

Las Posadas Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 12/15, 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. Experience a traditional Mexican Christmas re-enactment of the story of Mary and Joseph as they seek shelter for the birth of the Baby Jesus at an inn (posada). There will be face painting, art projects and Mexican hot chocolate and pan dulce. Enjoy performances by Rhythmo Mariachi Kids, Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center, and Folklorico RaÍces de Mexico.

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 21 & 22 *

Las Posadas at Olvera Street, El Pueblo Historical Monument, Downtown LA, Monday, 12/16 – Tuesday, 12/24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Las Posadas has been a part of Olvera Street since its founding in 1930. Every evening beginning December 16 and continuing through Christmas Eve, the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem is reenacted with traditional songs, colorful costumes, and vibrant music. Festivities begin with a children’s piñata breaking. Free sweet bread and champurrado are given to all in attendance afterwards. While the event is rooted in Christian and Catholic traditions, it is attended by people from all religious backgrounds, and all are welcome to participate.

Holiday Cards: Print-Making (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 12/22, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Experience inspiring, innovative workshops that enrich lives and teach basic visual art skills with highly qualified artist-educators. Each workshop focuses on a global culture, and different media are explored weekly including painting, textile art, printmaking, clay, sculpture, collage, and 3D constructions. Many of the projects celebrate holidays of the diverse community in LA.

60th Annual LA County Holiday Celebration, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Music Center, Downtown LA, Tuesday, 12/24, 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Community and professional choirs, music ensembles, and dance companies representing the diverse cultures and holiday traditions of the region celebrate the season during this free three-hour holiday show. Doors open at 2:30 p.m. First come, first seated. People begin lining up early. The show is also broadcast live in Southern California on PBS SoCal (KOCE) and live streamed on pbssocal.org.

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 28 & 29 *

W|ALLS: Defend, Divide, and the Divine, Annenberg Space for Photography, Century City, on view until December 29. This is the closing weekend for this exhibit that examines the historical use and artistic treatment of walls over centuries. Across diverse civilizations, walls have been central to human history, from Hadrian’s Wall to the current debate over the U.S./Mexico border.

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 (October 2019)

Lately, I’ve been very focused on working towards completing my reading challenges for the year, and this past month I made great progress. My latest reads brought me to many different places: East Prussia during World War II, to Sri Lanka during their civil war, to a remote part of northern Norway, and to the Philippines. It was a nice and varied month of reading. What have you been reading lately?


Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Historical fiction is a favorite genre of mine, especially when lesser known events or people of history are explored. I really enjoyed Sepetys’ Between Shades of Gray earlier this year (see Reading Lately, February 2019), and when I heard Sepetys was coming out with another historical fiction book this fall, I decided to make Sepetys the author whose books I would read three of this year for the MMD Reading Challenge. Salt to the Sea takes places during World War II and explores the events leading up to and including the sinking of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff in the Baltic Sea which was used to evacuate refugees escaping the advancing Russian soldiers. The story alternates between the perspectives of three individuals making their way to the ship (a Lithuanian young woman, a Polish girl, and a young German man) and a German enlisted man stationed there. It’s a story of hardship, heartbreak, courage, and most importantly, found family. I loved the book. Interesting sidenote, the Lithuanian girl is a crossover character from Shades of Gray.

Reading Challenges:


Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera

This is a beautiful but heartbreaking story of the civil war in Sri Lanka (which officially began in 1983 and ended in 2009) from the perspectives of two women, one from the majority Sinhalese ethnic group and the other from the minority Tamil group. I chose to read this book for the Reading Women Challenge because of my college friend Ayub who is from Sri Lanka (and also I’d seen a fabulous exhibit of Sri Lankan art at the Los Angeles County Museum at Art this past summer). I’m ashamed that I didn’t know more about what was going on there since my college years were right in the middle of the civil war period. The author paints a vivid picture of life and its challenges on the island. Readers experience village life along the coast as well as city life in Colombo, the capital. The story even takes readers to Los Angeles as one of the families seeks refuge there. Even though it’s a fiction book, I feel I have a much greater understanding of the conflict in Sri Lanka.

Reading Challenges:


The Looking-Glass Sisters by Gøhril Gabrielsen

(Translated from the Norwegian by John Irons)

Despite not liking any of the characters, not even finding anything remotely redeeming about any of them, I was drawn into this novella about two middle aged sisters and their toxic relationship. At the age of 24 upon the death of their parents, the older sister is thrust into the role of caregiver for her younger physically disabled sister, aged 19. They live alone in an isolated area far up north in Norway for many years until an outsider arrives and upsets their status quo. At the start of the novella, the younger sister has been banished to the attic and is thinking back a year explaining how she ended up there. The story is entirely from her perspective and over time the reader begins to question her reliability. It’s a story of loneliness and yearning for love and attention. It’s dark and unlike anything I’ve ever read and very discussion-worthy.

Reading Challenges:


Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos

Last year I read Marisa de los Santos’ I’ll Be Your Blue Sky and loved it (Reading Lately, August 2018), so I thought I’d read Falling Together as a book in the backlist of a favorite author for the MMD Reading Challenge. It was exactly what I needed after the darker and heavier books I’d recently read. This was about friendships that last despite distance and time. Pen, Will, and Cat became inseparable during college but then parted ways four years after graduation. Their 10-year reunion provides an opportunity for them to reunite. De los Santos’ writing is beautiful. I got lost in her vivid descriptions of characters, place, and time, though I could see how some readers might think it too sentimental or sappy at times. I was not bothered by that. I really enjoyed the unexpected trip to the Philippines. This was a book I couldn’t wait to return to either via audiobook or ebook depending on the situation for me.

Reading Challenges:


What have you been reading lately?

 

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