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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November 2019: Los Angeles Culture Challenge Including Scandinavian Films and Christmas Fairs

Cultures from all over the world are represented at special events happening in and around Los Angeles in November. And if Scandinavian films and Christmas fairs are of interest, this is the time for that as well.

For Scandinavian film enthusiasts, both the Arpa International Film Festival and AFI Fest offer opportunities:

  • The Dead Soldier, a Danish documentary directed by Jesper Ærø, will have its Los Angeles premier at the Arpa International Film Festival in Hollywood on November 9 (more details).
  • The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, a Norwegian/Canadian film featuring Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, Blackfoot from the Kainai First Nation and Sámi from northern Norway, as lead, co-director and writer in a story based on an actual incident from her life will be shown at AFI Fest in Hollywood on November 19 and 20 (more details).
  • And Then We Danced, a Swedish/French/Georgian film written and directed by Swedish Levan Akin, is Sweden’s official international feature film Oscar submission and will be shown at AFI Fest on November 20 and 21 (more details).
  • Something to Remember (Något att minnas), a Swedish short written and directed by Niki Lindroth von Bahr will be shown as part of Shorts Program 5 at AFI Fest on November 18 & 19 (more details).

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

* SCANDINAVIAN CHRISTMAS FAIRS *

Friday, 11/22 – Sunday, 11/24: Julebasar – Norwegian Christmas Bazar, Norwegian Seamen’s Church, San Pedro. Christmas decorations, music, candles, and the smell of freshly baked goods set the mood as guests wander the booths filled with Scandinavian goods of all kinds. There are raffle drawings with wonderful prizes, traditional foods served in the church’s cafe, baked goods for sale in the church’s bakery, and Norwegian Christmas food available in the church’s store. There will also be a children’s Christmas workshop from 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. Entry is free and all are welcome! (See hours.)

Sunday, 11/24: SWEA Orange County Swedish Christmas Fair, Old World Village, Huntington Beach. Come for Swedish handicrafts, traditional Swedish foods and home-baked goods, a gløgg bar, dancing around the Christmas tree, and Lucia pageants (at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.). There will also be a fish pond, jultomte, and much more! Entry fees are $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 5 to 15. (Hours: 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)

Saturday, 11/30: Julemarked – Scandinavian Christmas Fair, Danish Church & Cultural Center, Yorba Linda. Artisans and crafters offer high quality, unique and one-of-a-kind glass, ceramics, paper art, paintings, jewelry, and fabric art. Guests can also enjoy traditional Danish foods such as smørrebrød (elegant, elaborate open-face sandwiches) and æbleskiver (Danish pancake balls) with powdered sugar and raspberry jam as well as strong Danish coffee and gløgg, the hot Scandinavian yuletide drink (mulled red wine with cinnamon, cloves, orange peel, raisins and slivered almonds). Danish pastries and select meat products are also available for purchase. (Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.)

Sunday, 12/8: SWEA Los Angeles Swedish Christmas Fair, Torrance Cultural Center, Torrance. The SWEA Los Angeles Swedish Christmas Fair has something to offer everyone. A great selection of genuine Swedish handicrafts – jewelry, fine art, toys, and Christmas collectibles – will take care of all your holiday shopping. You can enjoy vibrant folk dancing (and try it out for yourself), and the radiant Lucia pageant and her choir performs twice during the day (12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m). When you get hungry, there are plenty of traditional holiday foods and baked goods to choose from, including our very own mulled, spiced glögg. Children have their own fun corner where they can say hello to Santa and create crafts to take home. As usual, there will be a raffle with a special grand prize.

* WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 9 & 10 *

W|ALLS: Defend, Divide, and the Divine, Annenberg Space for Photography, Century City, on view until December 29, 2019. This exhibit 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.

Asian World Film Festival, Culver City, Wednesday, 11/6 – Thursday, 11/14. The Asian World Film Festival brings the best of a broad selection of Asian World cinema to Los Angeles in order to draw greater recognition to the region’s wealth of filmmakers. The festival screens films from 50 countries across Asia spanning from Turkey to Japan and Russia to India.

22nd Annual Arpa International Film Festival, American Legion Theater Hollywood Post 43, Hollywood, Friday, 11/8 – Sunday, 11/10. Arpa International Film Festival (Arpa IFF) is dedicated to cultivating cultural understanding and global empathy by creating a dynamic forum for international cinema. Over the past 22 years, the festival has bridged cultural divides by fostering dialogue among people of diverse backgrounds. By showcasing local and international films that explore critical issues such as war, genocide, diaspora, dual identities, exile and multiculturalism, Arpa IFF has solidified its role in safeguarding films that continue to make a social impact.

Africa: Congo Masks – Shells and Raffia (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 11/10, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided.

Musical Traditions (Free Second Sunday @PAM), USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 11/10, 11:00 a.m. Experience traditional Indian music with special guests from the Raga Essence Ensemble and learn to create your own musical instrument! In addition, enjoy family friendly Student Educator led tours and storytime for kids. Visit website for schedule of activities.

Animals of the Supernatural (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Miracle Mile, Los Angeles, Sunday, 11/10, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays, a weekly family event that features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, learn about mythical animals such as dragons, enchanted house cats, and tengu (hint—they are part crow and excellent at martial arts!). Check out the exhibition Every Living Thing: Animals in Japanese Art and see the myriad ways animals are depicted in Japanese art. In artist-led workshops, make your own mythical and supernatural animal-inspired creations!

* WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 16 & 17 *

33rd Annual Israel Film Festival, Various Venues (Beverly Hills and Encino), Tuesday, 11/12 – Tuesday, 11/26. The mission of the Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles is to spotlight Israel’s thriving film and television industry, enrich the American vision of Israeli life and culture, and provide an intercultural exchange through the powerful medium of film.

AFI Fest, Various Venues, Hollywood, Thursday, 11/14 – Thursday, 11/21. This is American Film Institute’s annual celebration of international cinema from modern masters and emerging filmmakers. It features nightly red-carpet galas, special screenings, conversations, and tributes.

Philippines: Sarimanok Puppets (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 11/17, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided.

Animals of the Supernatural (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Miracle Mile, Los Angeles, Sunday, 11/17, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays, a weekly family event that features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, learn about mythical animals such as dragons, enchanted house cats, and tengu (hint—they are part crow and excellent at martial arts!). Check out the exhibition Every Living Thing: Animals in Japanese Art and see the myriad ways animals are depicted in Japanese art. In artist-led workshops, make your own mythical and supernatural animal-inspired creations!

* WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 23 & 24 *

The Great Los Angeles Walk, Meet at War Memorial Fountain at Arcadia County Park, Saturday, 11/23, 9:00 a.m. Get to know the city by walking across it. Every year, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, hundreds of walkers start the free urban hike on one side of the city and hours later, end up at the other. It is a low-key event, and you can hop on or off the walk whenever you’d like. This year the event starts in Arcadia and then passes through Pasadena on Colorado Blvd. and heads down Figueroa St. through Highland Park on the way to downtown Los Angeles and City Hall.

USA: Native American Sand Painting – Navajo Rug Motifs (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 11/24, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided.

Animals of the Supernatural (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Miracle Mile, Los Angeles, Sunday, 11/24, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays, a weekly family event that features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, learn about mythical animals such as dragons, enchanted house cats, and tengu (hint—they are part crow and excellent at martial arts!). Check out the exhibition Every Living Thing: Animals in Japanese Art and see the myriad ways animals are depicted in Japanese art. In artist-led workshops, make your own mythical and supernatural animal-inspired creations!

* WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 30 & DECEMBER 1 *

Amazon Basin : Kayupo Feathered Headdresses (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 12/1, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided.

Do you know of other events happening this month that might be of interest to this community? Feel free to add them in the comments below. I also welcome feedback on any events you have attended. If you have tips on future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email me with details. Thank you!

Reading Lately (September 2019)

This past month I’ve been focusing on checking off prompts for the Reading Women Challenge. My latest two picks were not quick and easy reads, but they were both very good and worthwhile. Coincidentally, both books took place in contemporary times (late 1980s and early 1990s) and were #ownvoices novels that dealt with difficult subject matter and opened my eyes to experiences and histories that I was unfamiliar with. After this and last month’s focus on women in translation, it’s back to my Scandinavian Reading Challenge!

What have you been reading lately?


Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn

What an eye-opening book about the world hidden behind the paradise image we have of Jamaica! It takes place in a poor village on the outskirts of Montego Bay in the early 1990s and explores race, class, women’s sexuality, and LGBTQ+ issues. It focuses on two sisters and their mother and their desire to create a more desirable life. They live in a community already struggling with poverty but which is threatened even more by severe drought and the construction of a new resort nearby. The characters are strong and memorable for a variety of reasons (some better than others!). The author, born and raised in Jamaica, paints a vivid picture of the area, even using Jamaican dialect in the dialogue. Though I thought the book excellent, sadly, I’m not so keen on visiting Jamaica after reading it. But I am certainly interested in reading the author’s latest book Patsy which returns to Jamaica.

Reading Challenges:


The Round House by Louise Erdrich

I’ve been wanting to read a Louise Erdrich book for a long time and I’m grateful to The Reading Women’s challenge (and the Little Free Library where I picked one up!) for giving me that final push. This book provides an intimate look at life on a Native American reservation in North Dakota in the late 1980s. It’s a story of tragedy and justice narrated by Joe, a man looking back at his life when he was 13 years old and his mother had been violently attacked. The book looks at the challenges in prosecuting the crime and the effects of this crime on the community, especially on Joe himself. It’s a coming of age story as we follow Joe and his friends navigating this delicate time between childhood and adulthood. I really enjoyed getting to know the large cast of characters – Joe’s father, a tribal judge; Joe’s extended family (the elders provided some surprising comic relief!); Joe’s closest friends; and many other reservation members. And learning about the culture, history, and traditions of this community was a bonus.

Reading Challenges:


What have you been reading lately?

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October 2019: Los Angeles Culture Challenge & a Few Scandinavian Events

Many special events are happening in the Los Angeles area this month – unique exhibits (two are closing, one is opening), cultural festivals, art workshops, and more! One of my favorite LA events, CicLAvia, also returns this month. Take a look below and mark your calendars, but please check suitability for family members and confirm dates and times before heading out.

For Scandinavian enthusiasts, October offers many events that may be of interest. On Friday, October 11, the 26th annual Nordic Cup Charity Gold Tournament takes place in Lakewood, California. This tournament is a fundraising event for The Norwegian Seamen’s Church in San Pedro and Nansen Field in Palos Verdes. If you’re a golfer, consider signing up. Bring your own foursome, bring a fellow golfer, or come by yourself (they will place you in a group). Enjoy a fun-filled day with golf, lunch, dinner and other activities. If you’re unable to attend, consider supporting the event by purchasing raffle tickets online.

On Saturday, October 19, the Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation will host its annual Leif Erikson Day Celebration. The same weekend, on Sunday, October 20, Vasa Park Association will host their annual Scandinavian AutumnFest & Höstmarknad Celebration in Agoura Hills which includes a Swedish meatball contest. More details can be found in the listing below.

On Thursday, October 24, the Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation‘s Scandinavian Book Club resumes its monthly meetings in Thousand Oaks after a long summer break. Please reach out if you’re interested in details.

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

* WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 5 & 6 *

Guatemalan Masks: Selections from the Jim and Jeanne Pieper Collection, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, on view until October 6. Traditional Guatemalan dance-dramas come to life in a vivid installation of 80 wood masks depicting animals, folk personae, and historical figures that are deeply rooted in Guatemalan religiosity and popular culture. With some examples dating back a century or more, the masks offer insights into how the dances articulate community identities.

L.A. Greek Fest, Saint Sophia Cathedral, Los Angeles, Friday, 10/4 – Sunday, 10/6. The L.A. Greek Fest is the largest and most iconic Greek food and wine festival in Los Angeles bringing over 15,000 attendees together for a three-day weekend of all things Greek. Each day of festivities is a celebration of food, wine, dance, games, performances, and one-of-a-kind cultural experiences. Located at Pico and Normandie on the same grounds of one of LA’s most beautiful and well-known Greek Orthodox cathedrals, Saint Sophia Cathedral, the festival brings together the community of the Byzantine-Latino Quarter and people from all over downtown Los Angeles and Southern California. Visit website for schedule of events and $2 coupon.

W|ALLS: Defend, Divide, and the Divine, Annenberg Space for Photography, Century City, October 5 – December 29, 2019. This exhibit 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. The show also includes an exclusive new documentary featuring commissioned photographers on location, an experimental retail space, and Light the Barricades, an interactive public art installation.

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 10/5, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more when guided to the unique treasures–not to mention great bargains–to be found in Chinatown. 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).

Oxnard Multicultural Festival, Oxnard, Saturday, 10/5, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Visit Oxnard for a day of music, dance, and cultural booths from around the world. The festival features live music and performers, food and vendor booths, exhibitors, demonstrations, arts & crafts, and plenty of family friendly activities. Every year, hundreds of guests look forward to coming together to celebrate the many diverse nations, languages, and cultures of the world.

CicLAvia—Heart of LA | Celebrating UCLA100, Downtown LA, Sunday, 10/6, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. This is a special edition of CicLAvia’s beloved Heart of LA route, presented by Metro and celebrating UCLA’s centennial. Join the ride and explore Westlake, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Boyle Heights, and DTLA (where UCLA originally began as a teachers college), by bike, board, or foot.

Vietnam: Lotus Flower – Lacquerware (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 10/6, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. See website for more details.

11th Annual Kokoro Craft Boutique, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Sunday, 10/6, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Vendors will be on hand with unique jewelry, kimono fabric fashions, cultural t-shirts, handbags, ceramics, origami, bronze and glass art, pet accessories, and more! Performances by Yuujou Daiko and harpist Audrey Kato. Admission to the boutique is free. A $25 purchase gets you free museum admission (10/6/19 only) and a 10% discount at local participating Little Tokyo eateries during the month of October (some restrictions apply). Please note that “CicLAvia—Heart of LA” will be taking place on this day. The route passes directly in front of JANM. Street closures will be in place near the museum; traffic and parking in the area will be impacted. Please check ciclavia.org for details.

Indian Diwali Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 10/6, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Celebrate the festival of lights with live musical performances all day long. Don’t miss internationally acclaimed choreographer Ramya Harishankar’s Arpana Dance Company and Punam Kumar’s Kathak Company, accompanied by Sid Phillar. Watch as classical Indian rhythms converge with ’70s Bollywood to create psychedelic soundscapes, presented by The Sadhus of Bass. DJ/producer Ameet Mehta and tabla artist Robin Sukhadia will round out the day with visuals and sound inspired by Bollywood funk and Indian classical music.

Andell Family Sundays—Animals of the Land, Water, and Sky, Zev Yaroslavsky Plaza at LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 10/6, 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, check out the exhibition Every Living Thing: Animals in Japanese Art and see the myriad ways animals are depicted in Japanese art. In artist-led workshops, make your own creations, including an origami how-to.

Yoga for Little Travelers, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 10/6, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Little yogis and their families are invited to pack their bags and join Alex Reed on a whimsical journey to Guatemala during this year’s final yoga session. After a 45-minute imaginative yoga session featuring mindful play, breathing exercises, and relaxing stretches, join Fowler Educators at 2 o’clock for a family-friendly guided tour highlighting artwork from the session’s destination in the special exhibition Guatemalan Masks. Yoga mats will be provided, but feel free to bring your own! Space is limited. Visit website for RSVP information.

* WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 12 & 13 *

Irvine Global Village Festival, Orange County Great Park, Irvine, Saturday, 10/12, & Sunday, 10/13, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Recognized as one of the premier multicultural festivals in Orange County, the festival is a mosaic of food, dance, and musical performances representative of more than 50 cultures. The two-day festival includes three stages featuring live music performances representing cultures from around the world as well as your favorite Top 40 cover bands; an expanded Kids Village with crafts, activities, a petting zoo, and a treat scavenger hunt; cultural and historical exhibits; live demonstrations of dance, music, and more; global cuisine and favorite festival foods; and an Artisans Marketplace, art exhibit, and art demonstrations. For more information on festival activities, visit their Things to Do webpage.

Poland: Wycinanki Floral Cut Outs (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 10/13, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. See website for more details.

Skirball Harvest Festival: A Sukkot Celebration, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, Sunday, 10/13, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Bring in the fall harvest season and celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot at this daylong festival, featuring live music, dancing, and maker stations. Enjoy performances by Mostly Kosher and DJ sets by Daddy Differently on stage, Israeli folk dancing led by Bruce Bierman and Gilberto Melendez, and spoken word in the Skirball sukkah. Learn more about the holiday and the theme of harvest on a tour of Visions and Values. Then stop by a variety of maker stations curated by Creative Ways. Create your own tea blends, salves, and dream pillows using recently harvested herbs; make an amulet to welcome the season; savor tea from the magical samovar; and engage in conversation. Visit website for performance schedule and ticket information.

Andell Family Sundays—Animals of the Land, Water, and Sky, Zev Yaroslavsky Plaza at LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 10/13, 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, check out the exhibition Every Living Thing: Animals in Japanese Art and see the myriad ways animals are depicted in Japanese art. In artist-led workshops, make your own creations, including an origami how-to.

* WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 19 & 20 *

India’s Subterranean Stepwells: Photographs by Victoria Lautman, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, on view until October 20. Since the 600 CE, stepwells have served as water-harvesting systems that descend into the earth and enable communities to access the water table or rainwater gathered below. A selection of 48 photographs by journalist Victoria Lautman captures the diversity and sublime beauty of these architectural marvels.

Día de los Muertos Community Celebration, Ford Theatres, Los Angeles, Saturday, 10/19, & Sunday, 10/20, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. followed by evening event at 8:00 p.m. This free two-day extravaganza honors the traditions of Mexican and native Mesoamerican cultures with daytime activities for the whole family. The free Dia de los Muertos festivities will take place from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. all over the Ford’s entryway gardens and plaza spaces. Activities will include face painting, live music, food, craft activities, live mural painting by father and son graffiti artists Such and Champs, and more. Come back in the evening for Lila Downs’ Día de Muertos: Al Chile featuring Grandeza Mexicana Folk Ballet Company and Mariachi Femenil Flores Mexicanas. The entire Ford Theatres will be transformed by larger-than-life Mesoamerican-inspired sugar skulls, an altar installation, and an original Oaxacan Día de los Muertos mural by Lucretia Torva. Go here to learn more and buy tickets for the evening event.

Leif Erikson Day Celebration, Overton Hall & Scandinavian Center, Cal Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, Saturday, 10/19, 2:00 p.m. Join the annual celebration of Leif Erikson’s voyages to North America more than a thousand years ago. The program begins in Overton Hall with the documentary Vikings in North America, narrated by Leonard Nimoy, and concludes with a reception at the Scandinavian Center.

Scandinavian AutumnFest & Höstmarknad Celebration, Vasa Park, Agoura Hills, Sunday, 10/20, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. AutumnFest offers a wide range of activities for the whole family. In addition to enjoying traditional foods of Sweden, you can be a judge in the 11th Annual Swedish Meatball Contest. You can buy beautifully crafted gifts and souvenirs and enjoy Scandinavian musicians and folk dancers, demonstrations, and a Viking reenactment group that shares stories about Viking times. There will be many activities for kids including a waterslide, an alpine tube slide, swimming, a rock climbing wall, and field games.

Thailand: Banyan Tree – Watercolor Resist (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 10/20, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. See website for more details.

Andell Family Sundays—Animals of the Land, Water, and Sky, Zev Yaroslavsky Plaza at LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 10/20, 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, check out the exhibition Every Living Thing: Animals in Japanese Art and see the myriad ways animals are depicted in Japanese art. In artist-led workshops, make your own creations, including an origami how-to.

Fowler Families: Dive into Design, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 10/20, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Explore how stepwells from as early as the fifth century have been used to store monsoonal rains for communities across India before imagining a new water-storage system for your neighborhood. One giant pool? Dozens of underground wells? Personal rain catchers? It’s up to you! Children ages 6+ are invited to bring their designs to life using a variety of art materials.

Performance and Workshop with Desert Fire, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 10/20, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Through their unique choreographies and workshops, Aakansha Maheshwari and Malini Taneja strive to preserve an Indian folk dance style from Rajasthan called Kalbelia. Since 2010 Kalbelia has been on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list, which draws attention to the importance of safeguarding such traditions. In this afternoon program, Taneja and Maheshwari will perform a 20-minute, high-energy dance performance followed by a participatory workshop where audience members can learn popular moves of the Kalbelia tribe. Families can enjoy Fowler Families: Dive into Design from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

* WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 26 & 27 *

Dia de los Muertos Festival, El Pueblo Historical Monument, Downtown LA, Friday, 10/25 – Saturday, 11/2. Olvera Street is home to a colorful celebration that takes place over nine days. Merging ancient traditions with modern-day interpretations, you are invited to join in honoring deceased loved ones. Each evening, colorful and vibrant novenario processions take place at 7:00 p.m. The traditional pre-Columbian procession evokes special memories of deceased loved ones with colorful pageantry and indigenous blessings. Pan de muerto (sweet bread) and champurrado (a Mexican hot beverage) are provided after processions. During the festival days on the weekend, there is entertainment and face painting throughout the day. Community altars, or “Las Ofrendas,” are on display in the plaza.

Mexico: Ofrenda – Day of the Dead (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 10/27, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. See website for more details.

Andell Family Sundays—Animals of the Land, Water, and Sky, Zev Yaroslavsky Plaza at LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 10/27, 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, check out the exhibition Every Living Thing: Animals in Japanese Art and see the myriad ways animals are depicted in Japanese art. In artist-led workshops, make your own creations, including an origami how-to.

Do you know of other events happening this month that might be of interest to this community? Feel free to add them in the comments below. I also welcome feedback on any events you have attended. If you have tips on future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email me with details. Thank you!

Reading Lately (August 2019): All About #WITMonth  

In August, my primary reading focus was reading women in translation for Women in Translation Month (WITMonth). Founded Meytal Radzinski on her blog Biblibio in 2014, WITMonth is a monthlong initiative to promote women writers from around the world who write in languages other than English. Since I tend to read many Scandinavian female authors throughout the year, I generally focused on writers from other countries and continents this month. As I shared last month, I had a big stack of potential books to read. I read many, but my efforts will continue in September and beyond.

A fun project I contributed to was Meytal’s compilation of the 100 best women in translation (#100BestWIT). She asked for nominations from readers around the world. Nominations were due August 26 and the next day she published the results. I was pleased to see that 5 of the 10 books I nominated made it onto the final list. Among those were these three Norwegian ones: Love by Hanne Ørstavik (translated by Martin Aitken), Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset (translated by Tiina Nunnally), and The History of Bees: A Novel by Maja Lunde (translated by Diane Oatley).

How’s your reading life been lately? Did you read any women in translation in August?


Kristin Lavransdatter II: The Wife by Sigrid Undset

(Translated from the Norwegian by Tiina Nunnally)

Last summer I read the first book in the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy and was so surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I was curious to see how Kristin’s marriage to her lover Erlend would go. Just like the first book, this one provides a thorough depiction of daily life in medieval Norway. I was a little confused by the political history of the time and had some trouble remembering and distinguishing characters, but I chose not to let those issues affect my enjoyment of the book. Kristin’s life as a protective mother to seven sons, a faithful wife to a husband with questionable political intentions, and a very pious person eager to save her soul were very engaging. I definitely enjoyed the first book more, but I’m very eager to see how her life plays out in the last book.

Reading Challenges:


Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi

(Translated from the Arabic by Marilyn Booth)

This book came on my radar about a year ago and I bought it right away, but then it lingered on my bookshelf. However, when the author (first female Omani novelist to be translated into English) won the International Booker Prize this spring, it jumped to the top of my TBR pile for WITMonth. It’s a uniquely structured novel that follows three sisters who live in a village outside the capital city of Muscat. One sister marries after realizing she’ll never have the one she truly desires. Another sister marries out of obligation. And the third sister refuses to marry and instead waits for her beloved to return from Canada. The chapters jump between the first person perspective of the first sister’s husband and the third person perspective of various family and community members. It was hard to keep track of characters (grateful for the family tree at the beginning!) and time, but I was fascinated by the lives of these women in contemporary Oman, so different from what I’m used to or been exposed to in reading before. And I learned a bit about the history of the region which was interesting as well.

Reading Challenges:


Human Acts: A Novel by Han Kang

(Translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith)

Last year for WITMonth I read Han Kang’s The Vegetarian and liked it so I thought I’d try another of her novels this year, especially since on May 25, 2019, Han Kang was the latest author to submit a manuscript to the Future Library in Norway for publication in 2114 (view handover ceremony in the woods of Oslo here). This novel was about a horrific historical event I had never heard of before, the violent 1980 student uprising in Gwangju, South Korea. The story is told through chapters that are interconnected short stories. In the first chapter, which takes place in 1980, readers are introduced to several characters who then reappear in the next chapters over a period of 30 years. Interestingly, the chapters are either in first or second person with one chapter in third person. Be aware, Han Kang does not shy away from the gruesome details of this violent time, but at the same time, she shares examples of kindness and compassion too. I liked this one even more than The Vegetarian.

Reading Challenges:


Strange Weather in Tokyo: A Novel by Hiromi Kawakami

(Translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell)

I read Hiromi Kawakami’s The Nakano Thrift Shop last year for WITMonth and really liked it, so this summer I wanted to read this one, and I was able to convince my book club to join me as well. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy it as much. It’s about Tsukiko, a woman in her thirties, and a former high school teacher (whom she calls Sensei because she can’t remember his name) who happen to meet again by chance. Over time they fall in love, but it’s an odd relationship based on unplanned meetings at a bar to drink beer and hot saké. Both characters are quirky and their conversations are limited and formal. I did really enjoy the insight into Japanese culture and foods. Even though I didn’t enjoy this book as much as The Nakano Thrift Shop, I am still glad I read it, and our book club had a good reason to meet at a Japanese restaurant and enjoy our own hot saké.

Reading Challenges:


What have you been reading lately?

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September 2019: Los Angeles Culture Challenge & Scandinavian Events

Happy last long weekend of summer! If you haven’t already filled up your Labor Day Weekend with plans, it’s not too late to take advantage of some festive events still happening around the area this weekend. And the rest of the month offers many opportunities to explore the diverse richness of Los Angeles as well.

This is also the month for two special Scandinavian festivals, Solvang Danish Days in Santa Barbara County and Vista Viking Festival in San Diego County. Unfortunately, both take place the same weekend (September 21 & 22), but either one would make for an interesting excursion out of town.

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

* LABOR DAY WEEKEND OF AUGUST 31 & SEPTEMBER 1 & 2 *

Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, on view until September 1. See the iconic images that amplified one of the most influential cultural movements of the 1960s: “Black Is Beautiful.” Featuring over forty photographs of black women and men with natural hair and clothes that reclaimed their African roots, Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite, organized by Aperture Foundation, New York, is the first-ever major exhibition dedicated to this key figure of the second Harlem Renaissance.

Orange International Street Fair, Old Town Orange Plaza, Orange, Friday, 8/30, to Sunday, 9/1. Every Labor Day Weekend, the Orange International Street Fair (OISF) in downtown Orange has been the place where friends, families and neighbors get together to experience a wide variety of food, music and dance from cultures and ethnicities throughout the world. Visit website for event hours and parking information.

E Hula Mau: Hula and Chant Competition, Long Beach Performing Arts Center, Long Beach, Friday, 8/30, to Monday, 9/2. E Hula Mau welcomes you to attend this year’s competition and festivities. There will be an Island food court (Kalua pig plate, Hulihuli chicken, Spam musubi, Manapua, shave ice, Macadamia nut cookies, poi mochi, kulolo, dried aku and poi, etc.), Polynesian Arts & Craft Fair, cultural workshops, and entertainment (see event schedule).

Long Beach Greek Festival by the Sea, Assumption of Blessed Virgin, Long Beach, Saturday, 8/31, to Monday, 9/2. Eat, drink, and dance all things Greek during this three-day event. Enjoy delicious Greek food (rotisserie chicken, gyros, Greek salads, roasted lamb, homemade Greek sweets, and more!), Greek beer and wine, live Greek music and dancing (lessons, too!), cooking demonstrations, specialty vendors, and carnival rides.

Autumn Moon Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 9/1, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Join a 2,000 year-old celebration held to usher in the fall season! Bowers’ Autumn Moon Festival will feature performances by JC Culture Foundation’s lion dancers, Sino US Arts Performing Organization, and straight from Taiwan, a very special performance by Freedom Beat, presenting a creative fusion of percussion and electronic music. Enjoy free mooncakes and art projects including lantern making and moon watercolor paintings.

Andell Family Sundays — Chinese Art Now, Zev Yaroslavsky Plaza at LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 9/1, 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, check out the current exhibition of contemporary Chinese art, The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China. Be inspired by the innovative and playful use of unconventional art materials (like Coca-Cola or silk cocoons!) by artists such as Ai Weiwei and Xu Bing. Make your own art exploring different materials in artist-led workshops.

Broad Fest 2019, The Broad Stage, Santa Monica, Sunday, 9/1, 2:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Enjoy a relaxing and engaging afternoon in the sun at this annual community festival. This free outdoor event features music performances, a live DJ, dance lessons and other activities for the whole family. Performers include Boogaloo Assassins, a Los Angeles-based 12-piece Latin band; Viver Brasil which honors Brazil’s African legacy through bold contemporary dance theater; She Sings She Swings, a young sing band; and DJ Anthony Valadez. See Broad Fest 2019 Lineup for more information.

* WEEKEND OF SEPTEMBER 7 & 8 *

The Liberator: Chronicling Black Los Angeles, 1900–1914, California African American Museum, Exposition Park, on view until September 8. The Liberator was an early 20th-century newspaper that documented the emerging African American population in Los Angeles. Founded in 1900 by Jefferson Lewis Edmonds, a former slave who advocated for improved social and economic conditions for black men and women, the publication reported on local, national, and international news and provided a source of racial upliftment for over a decade. The exhibition sheds light on the expansion of the city’s African American community, its challenges in a post-Reconstruction era, and its hopes and accomplishments, as captured in the newspaper’s pages. More than a century since The Liberator’s final issue, this exhibition includes rare ephemera, photographs, and artifacts that offer a unique study of the narrative of black Los Angeles.

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Throughout Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 9/7, 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. 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. RSVP here.

Mexico: Tree of Life – Sculpture (Barnsdall Arts Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 9/8, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. See website for more details.

Philippines Cultural Day (Free Second Sunday), USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 9/8, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Celebrate the cultures of the Philippines with performances, artmaking activities, a chef conversation, and storytime for kids. This event will present a collaboration of performing artists from Malaya Filipino American Dance Arts, Pakaraguian Kulintang Ensemble, and Rocksteady Rondalla. Visit website for a schedule of events. Free admission all day.

Andell Family Sundays — Chinese Art Now, Zev Yaroslavsky Plaza at LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 9/8, 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, check out the current exhibition of contemporary Chinese art, The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China. Be inspired by the innovative and playful use of unconventional art materials (like Coca-Cola or silk cocoons!) by artists such as Ai Weiwei and Xu Bing. Make your own art exploring different materials in artist-led workshops.

* WEEKEND OF SEPTEMBER 14 & 15 *

Mexican Independence Day, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, Downtown LA, Saturday, 9/14 & Sunday, 9/15. Celebrate Mexico’s independence from Spain with popular and traditional entertainment, cultural activities, historic displays, food, artisan exhibits and more. ¡Viva México!

 Two-Day Jewelry Workshop: The Wonderful World of Washi, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Saturday & Sunday, 9/14 & 9/15, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Washi is a traditional Japanese handmade decorative paper that dates back to the seventh century. In this workshop led by Reiko Nakano, create a washi collage necklace in which the designs of two different washi patterns will be integrated onto one set of differently shaped wooden beads. These beads will then be enhanced with commercial components to form a truly unique neck ornament. The second project will be a coordinated washi wood bracelet. Please visit website for more details and to RSVP.

Undiscovered Chinatown Highlighted Walking Tour, Downtown LA, Saturday, 9/14, 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. This highlighted walking tour is held in conjunction with the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival starting at 5 o’clock. Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more when guided to the unique treasures–not to mention great bargains–to be found in Chinatown. 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. Visit website to RSVP.

81st Annual Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, Central and Blossom Plazas, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 9/14, 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. The annual Mid-Autumn Moon Festival celebrates the full harvest moon and is a time to give thanks for a bountiful harvest and to celebrate and share the generous bounty with family. Celebrate with your Los Angeles family in Chinatown style! Traditional Chinese cultural demonstrations alongside hot local bands mark a celebration uniquely Angeleno and uniquely Chinatown. Come by for the annual Dessert Eating Competition, or to taste Mooncake samples from Chinatown’s popular bakeries, or to take a peek at the full moon in her glory through scientific telescopes!

Egypt: Clay Tablets with Cartouche (Barnsdall Arts Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 9/15, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. See website for more details.

Andell Family Sundays — Chinese Art Now, Zev Yaroslavsky Plaza at LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 9/15, 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, check out the current exhibition of contemporary Chinese art, The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China. Be inspired by the innovative and playful use of unconventional art materials (like Coca-Cola or silk cocoons!) by artists such as Ai Weiwei and Xu Bing. Make your own art exploring different materials in artist-led workshops.

* WEEKEND OF SEPTEMBER 21 & 22 *

Solvang Danish Days, Solvang (Santa Barbara County), Friday, 9/20, to Sunday, 9/22. Solvang has been celebrating its Danish heritage at this annual festival since 1936. Events and activities take place all over town and include live music, comedy shows, Hans Christian Andersen storytellings, a parade each day, a Viking encampment with historical reenactments bringing Viking times to life, and a Living History Festival with artisans, craftspeople, storytellers, and interactive activities for all ages. There’s even a special kids area with snacks, beverages, games, and fun (including LEGOS!). Don’t miss the æbleskiver breakfasts and eating contests as well as the Old World Artisans Marketplace with demonstrations and artisanal hand-crafted items including Scandinavian arts & crafts, woodworking, papercutting, rosemaling, fabric art, jewelry, and pottery.

Pasadena Greek Fest, Saint Anthony Greek Orthodox Church, Pasadena, Friday, 9/20, to Sunday, 9/22. Enjoy performances of Greek dancing and music; talks on cuisine, history, and travel; and tastes of Greek foods such as gyros, souvlaki, moussaka, and baklava. A special Kid’s Zone entertains kids with bouncy inflatables, games and a climbing wall.

Vista Viking Festival, Vista (North San Diego County), Saturday, 9/21, & Sunday, 9/22. Make your way to Vista to see, share, and sample all things Viking and Scandinavian. Learn about Viking life in the living history encampments of the Viking Village and watch exciting Viking battles on the field. At the Viking Marketplace, peruse and purchase beautiful Nordic merchandise and arts and crafts, both handmade and imported. At the Weapons Range, expert instructors will train you in the skills of axe throwing, spear throwing, and archery. In addition to these events and activities, enjoy a variety of live entertainment all day long on two stages. There are also arts and crafts and games for children, delicious Nordic food throughout the grounds, beer gardens, and unique Viking competitions.

Global Dining: Guatemala in Sherman Oaks, Saturday, 9/21, 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. The final global dining experience will conclude with a prix fixe lunch by Puchica Guatemalan Bar and Grill in Sherman Oaks. Enjoy kak`ik, a traditional Maya turkey soup spiced with coriander, achiote, and chili peppers, and served with corn tortillas and tamales. $30 Fowler members, $35 general. This event has a limited capacity and requires advance tickets (no walk-ins). To register, visit website.

China: Autumn Festival Lantern – Zodiac Signs (Barnsdall Arts Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 9/22, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. See website for more details.

Andell Family Sundays — Chinese Art Now, Zev Yaroslavsky Plaza at LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 9/22, 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, check out the current exhibition of contemporary Chinese art, The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China. Be inspired by the innovative and playful use of unconventional art materials (like Coca-Cola or silk cocoons!) by artists such as Ai Weiwei and Xu Bing. Make your own art exploring different materials in artist-led workshops.

* WEEKEND OF SEPTEMBER 28 & 29 *

Los Angeles Korean Festival, Seoul International Park, Los Angeles, Thursday, 9/26 – Sunday, 9/29. This is a free four-day festival whose mission is to provide the community with the best possible outlet to learn about the roots and traditions of Korea. Entertaining performances will lighten up the festival’s main stage. Thoughtful cultural exhibitions will educate visitors about South Korea’s history and culture. Local restaurants as well as vendors from South Korea will present a wide variety of food in one space. The shopping space will consist of booths selling Korean products such as cosmetics, appliances, apparel, and accessories.

Beyond Line: The Art of Korean Writing, LACMA, Los Angeles, on view until September 29. Beyond Line: The Art of Korean Writing is the first exhibition held outside of Asia to focus on the history of writing and calligraphy in Korea. Believed to mirror one’s qualities as a human being in ways unmatched by any other art, calligraphy has long been considered one of the highest art forms in Korea. Due to the rarity of several of the international loans, Beyond Line will only be on view at LACMA—making this a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

38th Annual Watts Tower Day of the Drum Festival & 43rd Annual Simon Rodia Watts Tower Jazz Festival, The Watts Towers Arts Center Campus, Saturday, 9/28, & Sunday, 9/29. Save the dates. Details coming soon!

Baja Splash Cultural Festival, Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, Saturday, 9/28, & Sunday, 9/29. In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month and Mexican Independence Day, the Aquarium of the Pacific will host its eighteenth annual Baja Splash Cultural Festival featuring live entertainment, crafts, educational programs, ethnic cuisine, and much more. Mariachi music, Mexican folkloric and Aztec dance troupes, interactive mural painting, Salvadoran dance, Guatemalan performances, and other special programs are featured.

Israel: Hamsa – Embossed Metal (Barnsdall Arts Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 9/29, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. See website for more details.

Andell Family Sundays — Chinese Art Now, Zev Yaroslavsky Plaza at LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 9/29, 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, check out the current exhibition of contemporary Chinese art, The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China. Be inspired by the innovative and playful use of unconventional art materials (like Coca-Cola or silk cocoons!) by artists such as Ai Weiwei and Xu Bing. Make your own art exploring different materials in artist-led workshops.

* SPECIAL EXHIBITS TO SEE THIS FALL *

Guatemalan Masks: Selections from the Jim and Jeanne Pieper Collection, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, on view until October 6. Traditional Guatemalan dance-dramas come to life in a vivid installation of 80 wood masks depicting animals, folk personae, and historical figures that are deeply rooted in Guatemalan religiosity and popular culture. With some examples dating back a century or more, the masks offer insights into how the dances articulate community identities.

India’s Subterranean Stepwells: Photographs by Victoria Lautman, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, on view until October 20. Since the 600 CE, stepwells have served as water-harvesting systems that descend into the earth and enable communities to access the water table or rainwater gathered below. A selection of 48 photographs by journalist Victoria Lautman captures the diversity and sublime beauty of these architectural marvels.

Do you know of other events happening this month that might be of interest to this community? Feel free to add them in the comments below. I also welcome feedback on any events you have attended. If you have tips on future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email me with details. Thank you!

Reading Lately (July 2019): Reading Challenges Progress & #WITMonth Plans  

July was a good reading month! I checked off new prompts for both my Scandinavian reading and Reading Women challenges. Also, I had my first 5-star read of the year (I’m stingy with my stars!) and got a head start on Women in Translation Month (#WITMonth) which happens in August.

I always look forward to participating in Women in Translation Month, a monthlong initiative to promote women writers from around the world who write in languages other than English. Since I read many Scandinavian female authors throughout the year, I focus on writers from other countries and continents this month. On my TBR pile for the month are authors from Oman, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Iran, Kurdistan, Italy, and France. We’ll see how many I manage to read. My effort will most likely continue into September and beyond with this particular stack.

My TBR Pile for #WITMonth 2019

What have you been reading lately? Are you participating in #WITMonth?


The Madonna of Notre Dame by Alexis Ragougneau

(Translated from the French by Katherine Gregor)

I always like to read a book set where I’m visiting, and this book popped up on my Instagram feed just as we were planning our summer trip which included Paris. It seemed like the perfect pick with its setting of Notre Dame Cathedral considering we wouldn’t be able to enter due to the fire that ravaged it in the spring. The book didn’t disappoint. It was a murder mystery that not only took me into dark corners of the cathedral, but also to greater Paris. I got to know a whole slew of French characters – some more flattering than others – and be a part of a French community as it tried to make sense of this murder. It’s not your typical police procedural as it’s a priest who takes particular interest in the case and is crucial in solving the crime. It also doesn’t show a glamorous or touristy Paris but instead a city that struggles with good and evil just like other cities.

Reading Challenges: 


The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

This book had long been on my radar and we finally read it for book club this summer. I knew it was a myth retelling, but I thought it was going to be a contemporary retelling and not actually take me back to the real people, places, and events of Greek mythology. It was a welcomed surprise once I understood that I didn’t need to remember anything from my school days of learning about it and I could just read and enjoy. It’s a love story – another surprise to me – between the great warrior Achilles and his companion Patroclus and then a war story as the Trojan War occurs. The book was so different from what I expected or from anything I had read recently; it was a fun escape. I enjoyed getting this other perspective on these well-known mythological people and events, and I look forward to reading Circe as well sometime soon.

Reading Challenges:


Hotel Silence by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir

(Translated from the Icelandic by Brian FitzGibbon)

I got a head start on Women in Translation Month (#WITMonth) happening in August. Since this book was winner of both the Icelandic Literary Prize (2016) and Nordic Council Literature Prize (2018), I figured Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir was a good Icelandic female author to add to my repertoire of Nordic literature. It was a quiet and enjoyable story about an almost 50-year old man who feels his life has lost meaning after a recent divorce during which he also learned that his daughter is actually not his own. He travels to an unnamed war-torn country by the sea with the intent to end his life, but instead he begins to find new purpose. What was supposed to be only a few days visit with no return turns into a weeks-long stay. It’s a moving and heartwarming story of unlikely friendships as he gets to know people who have suffered much more than him and second chances both for him and the people he helps. (Thanks to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for providing me with a free copy of this book!)

Reading Challenges:


The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

My first 5-star read of the year! This book captivated me from the beginning. It’s a mystery that takes place in the British colony of Malaya (Malaysia) in the 1930s. The book alternates between the story of a Chinese houseboy on the hunt for his former master’s severed finger (which he needs to find within 49 days of the master’s death so his soul can rest) and a Malaysian girl who comes across a severed finger and sets out to find out where it came from. Slowly but surely the storylines merge. I was equally engrossed in both characters and their quests. I was fascinated by the setting and cultures depicted and especially enjoyed how Malaysian and Chinese folklore and superstition were intertwined throughout. I listened to the audiobook narrated by the author herself which was fantastic.

Reading Challenges:


How’s your reading life been lately?

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.

August 2019: Los Angeles Culture Challenge & #WITMonth

Welcome to August! So many countries and cultures are represented this month in a variety of activities and events. Wish you could have traveled more this summer? Take the opportunity to visit somewhere new while staying close to home with this month’s events.

Also, August is Women in Translation Month (#WITMonth). This is a monthlong initiative to promote women writers from around the world who write in languages other than English. I always look forward to participating. Since I already read many Scandinavian female authors during the year through my Scandinavian Reading Challenge and book club, I try to focus on writers from other countries and continents during the month of August. I encourage you to pick a country of interest and find a book in translation written by a female author to enjoy this month!

How will you explore the diverse richness of Los Angeles this month? And do you think you might pick up a book in translation by a female author this month?

* SPECIAL EXHIBITS TO SEE THIS MONTH BEFORE THEY’RE GONE *

Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop, Annenberg Space for Photography, Century City, on view until August 18. Celebrating the photographers who have played a critical role in bringing hip-hop’s visual culture to the global stage, CONTACT HIGH: A Visual History of Hip-Hop is an inside look at the work of hip-hop photographers, as told through their most intimate diaries: their unedited contact sheets. Bringing the family? Download their Family Activity Guide or ask for one at the front desk.

Book of Beasts: The Bestiary in the Medieval World, The Getty Center, Los Angeles, on view until August 18. A kind of encyclopedia of animals, the bestiary was among the most popular illuminated texts in northern Europe during the Middle Ages (about 500–1500). Because medieval Christians understood every element of the world as a manifestation of God, the book largely focused on each animal’s religious meaning. The bestiary brought creatures both real and fantastic to life before the reader’s eyes, offering devotional inspiration as well as entertainment.

Dressed with Distinction: Garments from Ottoman Syria, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, on view until August 25. This exhibit explores the region’s textile production during the late-19th and early 20th centuries, when Syria was an international hub for the trade and production of handwoven cloth. With a focus on the social and seasonal contexts in which garments were worn by men, women, and children, the exhibition’s presentation of these distinguished textiles enables audiences to engage with Syrian culture and weaving techniques from a bygone era.

Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, on view until September 1. See the iconic images that amplified one of the most influential cultural movements of the 1960s: “Black Is Beautiful.” Featuring over forty photographs of black women and men with natural hair and clothes that reclaimed their African roots, Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite, organized by Aperture Foundation, New York, is the first-ever major exhibition dedicated to this key figure of the second Harlem Renaissance.

The Liberator: Chronicling Black Los Angeles, 1900–1914, California African American Museum, Exposition Park, on view until September 8. The Liberator was an early 20th-century newspaper that documented the emerging African American population in Los Angeles. Founded in 1900 by Jefferson Lewis Edmonds, a former slave who advocated for improved social and economic conditions for black men and women, the publication reported on local, national, and international news and provided a source of racial upliftment for over a decade. The exhibition sheds light on the expansion of the city’s African American community, its challenges in a post-Reconstruction era, and its hopes and accomplishments, as captured in the newspaper’s pages. More than a century since The Liberator’s final issue, this exhibition includes rare ephemera, photographs, and artifacts that offer a unique study of the narrative of black Los Angeles.

* WEEKEND OF AUGUST 3 & 4 *

Big World Fun: The Get Down Boys, Ford Amphitheatre, Hollywood, Saturday, 8/3, 10:00 a.m. Get ready for some pickin’ and a grinnin’ with the energetic sounds of The Get Down Boys, whose five-string banjo, lonesome harmonies and history of Bluegrass music will leave you and your family with a smile on your face. Perfect for children ages 4 to 12 and their families. Kids are admitted free; adults pay $5. Open seating, advanced reservations recommended. Pre-show craft activities start at 9:00 a.m. Families can also explore Los Angeles’ native wild animals along the Ford’s entryway gardens.

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Throughout Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 8/3, 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 LA’s Chinatown.

Heritage Day at CAAM, California African American Museum, Exposition Park, Saturday, 8/3, 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Celebrate your family’s rich history by learning how to capture and preserve great memories during this all-ages Heritage Day, presented in conjunction with The Liberator: Chronicling Black Los Angeles, 1900–1914. Bring the entire family to scan keepsakes, hear powerful stories of legacy, and learn about genealogy and how to preserve family treasures through archiving. Visit website for details on programming.

Barriletes Workshop: Giant Kites of Guatemala (Ages 18+), Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Saturday, 8/3, 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Discover the colorful world of barriletes and their significance on Día de los Muertos in Guatemala during this exciting, two-hour, hands-on workshop. After learning about the Day of the Dead celebration in Guatemala, participants will create their own kite to fly on their own. Presented in collaboration with the UCLA Latin American Institute. Advance registration required (no walk-ins). $10 per person.

Family Amphitheater Performances: Zingarella (Free to Be Series), Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, Saturday, 8/3, 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. Janice & Melinda—founding members of LA-based bands Mostly Kosher and Sugar Rum Tantrum—return to the Skirball as Zingarella following their raucous performance at the Skirball’s Hanukkah Festival last winter. Their summer amphitheater show will be a troubadour-inspired journey of street fiddle and stompy accordion folk that is fueled by a mix of protest song, klezmer, and high-energy gypsy-blues. Filled with costume and instrument changes and plenty of turns in the road, their show tells the tale of two traveling vagabonds in a cross-country expedition from high art to low art.

Russia: Cat of Kazan Printmaking (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 8/4, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. See website for more details.

Ecuador Independence Day Parade and Festival, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, Downtown LA, Sunday, 8/4, 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Celebrate Ecuador’s Independence Day with a parade and festival. The parade starts at Broadway & 7th St. and ends at the festival area (route information). At the festival, enjoy a full menu of Ecuadorian cuisine and other well-known food dishes as well as Ecuadorian crafts, musical groups, folklore customs, free gifts, and carnival games. Admission is free.

Family Amphitheater Performances: Victoria Burnett (Free to Be Series), Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, Sunday, 8/4, 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. The Washington DC–born, SoCal-based storyteller and vocalist Victoria Burnett fuses stories and music to capture the imaginations of each audience member by way of folktales, tall tales, African American tales, multicultural stories from different countries, personal stories, and what she calls “WHOOPERS.” Burnett’s storytelling has taken her from her professional beginnings as a children’s librarian to becoming an internationally renowned artist. She has toured extensively in the US, Europe, Africa, South America, Central America, South Korea, New Zealand, and Australia.

Andell Family Sundays — The Art of Korean Writing, LACMA, Sunday, 8/4, 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, learn about calligraphy and how it has long been considered one of the highest art forms in Korea. Visit the exhibition Beyond Line: The Art of Korean Writing to learn about calligraphy’s fascinating history that includes work by kings, queens, painters, and monks, among others. In artist-led workshops, make handmade books for your writings and more!

Fowler Families: Giant Kites of Guatemala (Ages 8+), Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 8/4, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Explore the practice of making colorful giant kites (barriletes) and their significance during Día de los Muertos in Guatemala during this two-hour hands-on workshop. After learning about the Day of the Dead celebration in Guatemala and other Central American countries, participants will create large kites to fly on their own. This free family program is produced in collaboration with the UCLA Latin American Institute. Advance registration required.

* WEEKEND OF AUGUST 10 & 11 *

Natsumatsuri Family Festival, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Saturday, 8/10, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Join JANM for their annual summer celebration featuring Japanese and Japanese American performances, crafts, and activities. See website for details about scheduled events and activities.

Family Amphitheater Performances: California Feetwarmers (Free to Be Series), Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, Saturday, 8/10, 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. Big Band meets Dixieland in the California Feetwarmers, a boisterous eight-piece ensemble who pay homage to New Orleans music of the ’20s. Known for their lively stage shows, the California Feetwarmers released their first, self-titled album in 2013. With guest appearances by Phil Alvin of the Blasters and Andy Bean of the Two Man Gentlemen Band, the album features a joyous blend of trad jazz, blues, and rags.

Global Dining: Northern India in Artesia with Fowler Museum, Saturday, 8/10, 12:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Rajdhani restaurant in Artesia is famous for vegetarian thali—an Indian-style meal made of a selection of various dishes served on a large round platter. Typical dishes include rice, dal, vegetables, roti, papad, dahi (yogurt), small amounts of chutney or pickle, and a sweet dish to top it off. After the meal, explore the Indian grocery, jewelry, and sari shops along Little India’s Pioneer Blvd. Transportation departs from the Fowler at 12PM and returns at 4:30PM. $55 Fowler members, $60 general (includes roundtrip charter bus from the Fowler Museum). Advance tickets required. Deadline to register is August 5. Visit website for more information on the Global Dining series.

Undiscovered Chinatown Highlighted Walking Tour, Downtown LA, Saturday, 8/10, 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. This highlighted walking tour is held in conjunction with the Chinatown Summer Nights event starting at 5 o’clock. Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more when guided to the unique treasures–not to mention great bargains–to be found in Chinatown. 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. Visit website to RSVP.

Chinatown Summer Nights, Downtown LA, Saturday, 8/10, 5:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. Part food event, part summer party, Chinatown Summer Nights presents an exciting hot spot for Angelenos this summer. Taste the many culinary offerings of Chinatown and LA’s gourmet food trucks; sample the neighborhood’s wares; watch Chinese chefs perform cooking demonstrations; experience large-scale, outdoor video projections; take part in hands-on, Chinese cultural activities; sip on craft brews and dance in Central Plaza with 89.9 KCRW’s DJs!

Morocco: Henna Lantern (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 8/11, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. See website for more details.

Art and Food at USC PAM (Free Second Sunday), USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 8/11, 11:00 a.m. Discover how food inspires art and cultural identity. Create your own food-inspired artwork, listen to stories about food in Asian cultures, go on a docent-led tour, and participate in a special virtual reality experience that combines Asian cuisine and poetry. Enjoy free admission all day.

Family Amphitheater Performances: Aaron Nigel Smith (Free to Be Series), Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, Sunday, 8/11, 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. Don’t miss this collection of lively, original reggae tunes, along with Jamaican and African folk songs performed by Aaron Nigel Smith. Smith is delighted to return to his former hometown of LA for a performance of some of his best-known children’s songs. His reggae rhythms encourage families to sing, dance, and play together. At the Skirball Smith’s show will also feature student performers from the Center St. School Choir under the direction of Rebecca Wright.

Andell Family Sundays — The Art of Korean Writing, LACMA, Sunday, 8/11, 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, learn about calligraphy and how it has long been considered one of the highest art forms in Korea. Visit the exhibition Beyond Line: The Art of Korean Writing to learn about calligraphy’s fascinating history that includes work by kings, queens, painters, and monks, among others. In artist-led workshops, make handmade books for your writings and more!

Fowler Families: Sculpting Monkeys and Tigers and Deer, Oh, My!, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 8/11, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Animal characters take center stage in many Guatemalan masquerades, with masks representing bulls, deer, dogs, jaguars, monkeys, tigers, and more. Explore these creatures in the exhibition Guatemalan Masks before using clay to sculpt your own animal inspired by the artworks on view. Too young to sculpt? A selection of children’s books related to Guatemala will be available in a special story time corner for families.

* WEEKEND OF AUGUST 17 & 18 *

Family Amphitheater Performances: Nathalia and Friends (Free to Be Series), Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, Saturday, 8/17, 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. Nathalia and Friends invite families to move and groove to an eclectic mix of bilingual sing-alongs, ranging in style from rock and cumbia to jazz and reggaeton. A native of Barranquilla, Colombia, Palis studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston and then relocated to Los Angeles to begin her career as a music therapist, educator, and performer.

CicLAvia—Meet the Hollywoods, Sunday, 8/18, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Join CicLAvia for Meet the Hollywoods as they transform streets in West Hollywood, Hollywood, and East Hollywood into public recreational space for the day (see map). Walk, bike, roll, and stroll through some of LA’s most iconic streets from the Hollywood Walk of Fame to West Hollywood’s rainbow crosswalk.

Persia: Tiles (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 8/18, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. See website for more details.

Family Amphitheater Performances: Syncopated Ladies (Free to Be Series), Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, Sunday, 8/18, 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. Close out the Free to Be season with the all-female tap dance band Syncopated Ladies. Founded by Emmy Award–nominated tap dancer and choreographer Chloe Arnold, the group has been praised by megastar Beyoncé for their tap dance tribute to her hit song “Formation.” The Syncopated Ladies won the first dance crew battle on FOX’s So You Think You Can Dance. Last year, they collaborated with hip-hop band N*E*R*D* (which includes the internationally renowned artist Pharrell Williams) for a performance on The Ellen Show. Their viral videos have amassed over fifty million views.

Andell Family Sundays — The Art of Korean Writing, LACMA, Sunday, 8/18, 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, learn about calligraphy and how it has long been considered one of the highest art forms in Korea. Visit the exhibition Beyond Line: The Art of Korean Writing to learn about calligraphy’s fascinating history that includes work by kings, queens, painters, and monks, among others. In artist-led workshops, make handmade books for your writings and more!

Fowler Families: Yoga for Little Travelers, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 8/18, 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 journey to India’s stepwells during this new monthly yoga series. At 2:00 p.m., join Fowler Educators for a family-friendly guided tour highlighting artwork from the special exhibition India’s Subterranean Stepwells. Yoga mats will be provided, but feel free to bring your own! Space is limited. The first ten participants to RSVP will receive a guaranteed spot.

* WEEKEND OF AUGUST 24 & 25 *

Los Angeles City Birthday, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, Downtown LA, Saturday, 8/24, 6:00 a.m – 1:00 p.m. Celebrate the 238th anniversary of the founding of Los Angeles with Los Pobladores historic reenactments, a civic ceremony, artisan demonstrations, entertainment and free birthday cake! Begin the day by walking to El Pueblo from Mission San Gabriel following the historic route of the first settlers (more information on Walk to Los Angeles).

India: Madhubani Painting (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 8/25, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. See website for more details.

Andell Family Sundays — The Art of Korean Writing, LACMA, Sunday, 8/25, 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, learn about calligraphy and how it has long been considered one of the highest art forms in Korea. Visit the exhibition Beyond Line: The Art of Korean Writing to learn about calligraphy’s fascinating history that includes work by kings, queens, painters, and monks, among others. In artist-led workshops, make handmade books for your writings and more!

* WEEKEND OF AUGUST 31 & SEPTEMBER 1 *

Orange International Street Festival, Old Town Orange Plaza, Orange, Friday, 8/30, to Sunday, 9/1. Every Labor Day Weekend, the Orange International Street Fair (OISF) in downtown Orange has been the place where friends, families and neighbors get together to experience a wide variety of food, music and dance from cultures and ethnicities throughout the world. Visit website for event hours and parking information.

E Hula Mau: Hula and Chant Competition, Long Beach Performing Arts Center, Long Beach, Friday, 8/30, to Monday, 9/2. E Hula Mau welcomes you to attend this year’s competition and festivities. There will be an Island food court (Kalua pig plate, Hulihuli chicken, Spam musubi, Manapua, shave ice, Macadamia nut cookies, poi mochi, kulolo, dried aku and poi, etc.), Polynesian Arts & Craft Fair, cultural workshops, and entertainment (see event schedule).

Long Beach Greek Festival by the Sea, Assumption of Blessed Virgin, Long Beach, Saturday, 8/31, to Monday, 9/2. Eat, drink, and dance all things Greek during this three-day event. Enjoy delicious Greek food (rotisserie chicken, gyros, Greek salads, roasted lamb, homemade Greek sweets, and more!), Greek beer and wine, live Greek music and dancing (lessons, too!), cooking demonstrations, specialty vendors, and carnival rides.

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 8/31, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. (Offered every last Saturday of the month). 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 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.

Autumn Moon Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 9/1, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Join a 2,000 year-old celebration held to usher in the fall season! Bowers’ Autumn Moon Festival will feature performances by JC Culture Foundation’s lion dancers, Sino US Arts Performing Organization, and straight from Taiwan, a very special performance by Freedom Beat, presenting a creative fusion of percussion and electronic music. Enjoy free mooncakes and art projects including lantern making and moon watercolor paintings.

Broad Fest 2019, The Broad Stage, Santa Monica, Sunday, 9/1, 2:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Enjoy a relaxing and engaging afternoon in the sun at this annual community festival. This free outdoor event features music performances, a live DJ, dance lessons and other activities for the whole family. Performers include Boogaloo Assassins, a Los Angeles-based 12-piece Latin band; Viver Brasil which honors Brazil’s African legacy through bold contemporary dance theater; She Sings She Swings, a young sing band; and DJ Anthony Valadez. See Broad Fest 2019 Lineup for more information.

* SPECIAL EXHIBITS ENDING THIS FALL *

Beyond Line: The Art of Korean Writing, LACMA, Los Angeles, on view until September 29. Beyond Line: The Art of Korean Writing will be the first exhibition held outside of Asia to focus on the history of writing and calligraphy in Korea. Believed to mirror one’s qualities as a human being in ways unmatched by any other art, calligraphy has long been considered one of the highest art forms in Korea. This exhibition, organized both conceptually and chronologically, explores the role of calligraphy in different strata of Korean society over nearly two millennia, and includes works both in hanja (Chinese ideographic characters) and hangeul (the unique Korean phonetic script). The lives and legacies of writers and calligraphers will be examined through works by kings and queens, officials and scholars, painters and monks, and even slaves. The exhibition also explores Korea’s innovations in woodblock printing during the Goryeo dynasty (918–1392) and in movable metal type during the Joseon dynasty (1392–1897). Due to the rarity of several of the international loans, Beyond Line will only be on view at LACMA—making this a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Guatemalan Masks: Selections from the Jim and Jeanne Pieper Collection, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, on view until October 6. Traditional Guatemalan dance-dramas come to life in a vivid installation of 80 wood masks depicting animals, folk personae, and historical figures that are deeply rooted in Guatemalan religiosity and popular culture. With some examples dating back a century or more, the masks offer insights into how the dances articulate community identities.

India’s Subterranean Stepwells: Photographs by Victoria Lautman, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, on view until October 20. Since the 600 CE, stepwells have served as water-harvesting systems that descend into the earth and enable communities to access the water table or rainwater gathered below. A selection of 48 photographs by journalist Victoria Lautman captures the diversity and sublime beauty of these architectural marvels.

Feel free to add events for this month in the comments below. I also welcome feedback on any events you have attended. If you have tips on future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email me with details. Thank you!

Reading Lately (June 2019): Reading Challenges Update

I haven’t been good about sharing what books I’ve been reading lately – first due to busy end-of-school-year business and then vacation travel – so this post covers the last three months. It was a slow reading period to begin with, but then with summer upon me, my pace picked up!

Now that we’re midway through the year, I’m also taking stock of where I am with my reading challenges. This year I’m participating in three reading challenges: my own Scandinavian Reading Challenge, the Reading Women Challenge, and Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge. Reading challenges force me to research new-to-me genres and authors and read books I wouldn’t otherwise, a process I greatly enjoy.

I have completed half the prompts for each of the challenges so I’m on track. However, I need to stay focused, otherwise I’ll be scrambling at the end. I’ll continue to try to find as much overlap as possible between the challenges and read books I already own. My top priority will be to complete my own Scandinavian Reading Challenge. For a look at what I’ve read for each of the challenges so far, visit the following links:

August is Women in Translation Month so I’m thinking about that as well. I have books by female authors from South Korea, Japan, Oman, and Thailand on my radar and look forward to reading some of those.

How’s your reading life been lately?


The English Wife by Lauren Willig

This was a book club pick that didn’t quite satisfy me. The setting during the Gilded Age in New York City was new to me (in fiction) and I always enjoy getting a glimpse into history through fiction, but I wasn’t particularly interested in this time period. Luckily, the structure of the storytelling intrigued me. There was the storyline with the discovery of the murdered husband and the missing wife and the ensuing quest to solve that mystery. And in alternating chapters, readers followed the husband and wife a few years earlier when they first met in London. Seeing the two timelines approach each other and trying to figure out the mystery of the missing wife and murdered husband kept me reading.

Reading Challenges: 


The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn

(Translated from the Norwegian by Rosie Hedger)

I was drawn to this book the minute I saw the cover picturing the desolate fjord with the lone rowboat and only a pop of red for color, and the title’s reference to birds intrigued me as well. Both aspects – setting and birds – turned out to play major roles in this psychological suspense story. Allis abruptly leaves her life in the city and takes on a job as a housekeeper and gardener at the isolated home of Bagge, a man awaiting the return of his wife. Bagge is a quiet, mysterious man. They develop an uneasy, tense relationship that eventually comes to a boiling point. I was drawn in from start to finish; it didn’t disappoint.

Reading Challenges: 


The Legacy: A Thriller by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir

(Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb)

Iceland has always intrigued me, so I’ve been eager to add an Icelandic author to my repertoire. There wasn’t much specifically Icelandic about this novel other than the names of the characters which are very unique (a pronunciation guide is included), but it certainly was a good example of Nordic Noir. The main characters, child psychologist Freyja and police detective Huldar, have to work together to solve the grisly murder of a mother whose 7-year-old daughter is the only witness to the crime. More murders follow, equally grisly, though never bloody. I really liked the child psychologist Freyja and I was impressed with the author’s creativity with the murders, the characters’ stories, and how it all came together at the end. This is the first in the Children’s House series, and #2 is on my TBR list.

Reading Challenges:


Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

I really enjoyed this book. Cuba is a country whose history and culture I knew only minimally and superficially, but this book helped fix that. The story jumps between Marisol’s 2017 trip to Cuba to scatter her grandmother’s ashes and her grandmother’s early life in Havana as a high society “sugar princess” before the family fled the country in early 1959 when Fidel Castro took power. It was a fascinating tale of political unrest, teenage love and rebellion, and family secrets. I did find some overly contrived parallels between Marisol’s and her grandmother’s lives, but the dive into Cuban history and culture through these two strong female characters was worth it.

Reading Challenges:


The Pumpkin War by Cathleen Young

This is a middle grade novel written by a good friend, and I’m thrilled to say it was truly a delight to read. On the surface, it’s about 12-year-old Billie (part Irish, part Native American Ojibwe) who used to be best friends with Sam but now spends her summer days ignoring him and focused on growing the biggest pumpkin possible. She wants nothing more than to beat him in the upcoming giant pumpkin race after he sabotaged her win last fall. Dig a little deeper and it’s about so much more – friendship and family, forgiveness and reconciliation. I love that Billie has a mixed background that is celebrated and interests that include beekeeping, fishing, and tending llamas. The setting of Madeline Island in Wisconsin on Lake Superior is charming. On top of all this, the writing is beautiful. I highly recommend this book to any middle grade readers in your life.

Reading Challenges:


Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

This was a very good young adult fantasy novel, and it was especially fun to read it along with my 15-year-old son. Fantasy novels are not my thing, but this one takes place in Orïsha, a mythical and magical world based on African geography, mythology, and culture, and I think that’s why I liked it. It gave me some insights into a culture that I’m not too familiar with. It’s about Zélie, a young, poor girl who’s a member of the Magi, a group with magical powers until The Raid when the king eradicated magic from Orïsha and in the process killed all the adult Magi, including Zélie’s mother. Zélie has now discovered a way to bring magic back. The story is from her perspective as well as that of Amari, the princess who ran away from the palace in opposition to her father, and Inan, the prince in charge of finding Amari again and stopping the return of magic. Also playing a big role is Tzain, Zélie’s protective older brother. I was amazed by the worldbuilding. It was so unique and thorough yet relatable. I was also intrigued by the struggles of the society members – discrimination, racism, violence – and the parallels with our own society.

Reading Challenges:


When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri

Romance is a genre I’ve tended to avoid, but I was persuaded by Camille Perri to give it a try after I heard her on a panel at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this spring. This was a quick and enjoyable story of a straight woman and a gay woman falling in love, a sub-genre of romance that is even more outside my genre comfort zone. Katie is a successful young lawyer who seems to have everything in order until she’s dumped by her fiancé. She meets Cassidy at a work meeting and is instantly intrigued by her appearance and personality. They coincidentally meet again later that evening, and Katie reluctantly agrees to a drink. They develop a friendship which leads to a love relationship. It’s a sweet story of two women each trying to figure out her place and role in their relationship.

Reading Challenges:


To Keep the Sun Alive by Rabeah Ghaffari

This was another book I read because of a panel I attended at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this spring. I loved how it gave me insight into another time and place I’m not very familiar with, Iran on the eve of the Iranian Revolution. Matriarch Bibi and her husband, a retired judge, own a large orchard in a small town and are the bond that keeps their extended family together during this time of uncertainty. They are a family with conflicting personalities, beliefs, and hopes. An older uncle is a cleric with radical religious views while a young nephew has dreams of a new Iran and marrying his childhood girlfriend. Meanwhile another family member is attracted to a Western lifestyle. I appreciated getting to know the many people in this community – family, friends, servants, and townspeople – and getting a glimpse of their daily lives before it all heartbreakingly came apart.

Reading Challenges:


What have you been reading lately?

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