What I’ve Been Reading Lately & Reading Challenges Update: April 2018

When we escaped to the mountains during our spring break which fell over Easter, I indulged in the Norwegian Easter tradition of reading a crime book, “påskekrim” as it’s called in Norway (Easter crime). It was a nice, unexpected palate cleanser to my reading this month which turned out to be all about women sorting out their lives.

And once again, I’m joining Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit link-up where readers share short and sweet reviews of what they’ve been reading lately.


Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

The Los Angeles Times recommended this as an audiobook not to be missed and it certainly was a great listen. The three different narrators – the daughter, the father, and the gangster – definitely brought the characters and story to life. The story of the first female naval diver trying to solve the mystery of what happened to her father was intriguing, as was the setting of the NYC Brooklyn waterfront in the 1930’s and 1940’s. I admired the resolve and independence of the main character Anna. However, when I found out that the story was not historically accurate (the first female naval diver didn’t come around until 1975!), the book sadly lost some of its luster for me. (Did I miss a note from the author stating that it was not historically accurate?)

Reading Challenges:


The Copenhagen Affair by Amulya Malladi

This is the story of Sanya, an American woman of Indian ethnicity, who moves to Copenhagen with her husband. She’s had a nervous breakdown back home and suffers from depression, and her husband decides that a move to Copenhagen will help her recover. Sanya gets to know the wealthy, elite of Copenhagen and becomes attracted to a man who turns out to own the company her husband is acquiring. It was a quick and easy read. I didn’t particularly care for the supporting characters, but I did enjoy the setting. Malladi certainly shows she knows Copenhagen well. This is the second of two books that Malladi has written that take place in Denmark, both of which you can read more about here.

Reading Challenges:


Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

This was the perfect mix of sweet, funny, and sad. The story is about Eleanor Oliphant and her very unlikely relationship with office mate Raymond Gibbons, the IT guy at work. Eleanor is a quirky, socially clueless, very literal woman. She has a set weekly routine which includes a weekly phone call with Mummy. She and Raymond bond over their good samaritan act of helping an elderly man who falls on the sidewalk. I loved Raymond for being so accepting of Eleanor. He really cared for her and stuck with her despite her faults. Most importantly, he helped her begin to come to terms with her past, which was heartbreaking to learn the details of. And a fun bonus, the author’s language usage was wonderful – so many unique words!

Reading Challenges:


Vinterstengt by Jørn Lier Horst (English Translation: Closed for Winter Translated from Norwegian by Anne Bruce)

This book with its setting of coastal summer cabins closed for winter (actually somewhat near where we visit when we go to Norway during the summer) seemed like a good choice for my Norwegian Easter crime pick. I’m a fan of Jørn Lier Horst having already read two of the books in the William Wisting mystery series. His books are certainly more police procedurals than crime thrillers. Detective Wisting is a methodical and likeable investigator. His daughter Line, a journalist, once again gets involved which adds a nice touch to the plot. In this book, the investigation takes Wisting on a short trip to Lithuania which added an unexpected diversion. This book won the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize (Bokhandlerprisen) in 2011 and it didn’t disappoint.

Reading Challenges:


Currently reading and next on my list…

I’m currently reading The Wreath, the first book in the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy by Norwegian Nobel Prize winner Sigrid Undset (Tiina Nunnally translation). This is a classic I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. I tried to read it years ago, but it was the original translation by Charles Archer and J. S. Scott and I didn’t finish. The Nunnally version is going much better.

What have you been reading 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.

Denmark through Eyes of Indian Author Amulya Malladi

I was thrilled to come across a new-to-me author with contributions to the world of Scandinavian-themed literature. Amulya Malladi from India is the author of seven novels, most of which revolve around Indians in America or back in India. However, two of her novels take place in Denmark and explore Danish culture with a keen eye.

I first came across Malladi when I saw her latest novel, The Copenhagen Affair, offered at NetGalley this past fall. I was immediately drawn to the cover with a lady and a bicycle in Copenhagen. After some quick research, I learned Malladi has a Danish husband and lived in Denmark for fourteen years before moving to southern California. I was relieved to know that she was writing about a time and place that she had experienced personally and knew well. Her other book set in Denmark is The Sound of Language.

For readers pursuing my 2018 Scandinavian Reading Challenge, Malladi’s books set in Denmark fulfill various categories—a book set somewhere in Scandinavia you would like to visit (or revisit), a Scandinavian book published in the last year (The Copenhagen Affair), an immigrant story (The Sound of Language), and potentially, a Scandinavian or Scandinavia-themed book whose cover piqued your interest.


Malladi’s novel The Sound of Language (published in 2007) went to the top of my TBR list when I learned it was an immigrant story set in Denmark. It was the first book of hers that I read. The story takes place in 2002 in the small town of Skive on the Jutland peninsula. It’s about Raihana, a woman from Afghanistan who immigrates to Denmark after her husband was captured by the Taliban. Raihana is an openminded and forward-thinking immigrant eager to integrate into Danish society. However, neither the Danish people nor her immigrant community is always welcoming or supportive. The book delves into how she becomes accustomed to this very different place and new culture. It was an interesting and touching look at the immigrant debate in Denmark.

An unexpected delight of the book was how beekeeping was integrated into the story. Raihana had some experience with bees from her earlier life in Afghanistan so her Danish language teacher coordinated an apprenticeship with a Danish man who used to keep bees with his recently deceased wife. Interspersed with the current progress of Raihana and Gunnar’s beekeeping are excerpts from Gunnar’s late wife’s beekeeping diary. Gunnar’s wife comes alive through these diary entries and is a welcomed character in the story.

One of my favorite aspects of the book was how Gunnar and Raihana helped each other and how they helped the people in their own communities open their minds to people unlike themselves. I admired both of them for persevering with this unlikely friendship despite pushback from their respective communities. I really enjoyed the book and highly recommend it. (The only unfortunate thing is that it seems to be out of print. It is not readily available from Amazon nor Barnes and Noble. I was lucky that my public library had it, both a paper copy and an ebook. Fellow book club members were able to find used copies online.)


The Copenhagen Affair (published in 2017) is Malladi’s second book to feature Denmark, and it’s totally different than the first one. Malladi herself describes this book as a “comedy about depression” and a “love letter to Copenhagen.”

The book delves into the misconception that “emotional baggage will disappear if one changes geographies.” It’s about an American couple who decides that a move to Copenhagen, Denmark, is the right next step for them after the wife Sanya has had a nervous breakdown at her workplace and now suffers from depression. Her husband Harry has a work opportunity there, and according to him, the temporary move would improve his wife’s health.

While Harry spends his days at work, Sanya spends hers at home under her duvet. Slowly, she comes out of her shell and begins to interact with people in the city and get used to her new self. She meets and becomes attracted to a man whom it turns out owns the company that Harry’s company is acquiring. Sanya struggles with the conflict of previously being “Old Sanya” (happy and positive, devoted to work and family, eager to please) and now becoming “New Sanya” (depressed, at times difficult and stubborn, attracted to defects and the unknown). As the story progresses, Harry and Sanya are also forced to contemplate their marriage and the future of it.

Though I felt some sympathy for Sanya and her struggles with depression and anxiety, I did not care for most of the supporting characters in the story. They were all generally part of Copenhagen’s wealthy, elite class. The women were only interested in designer brand names and gossip. They were actually a bit representative of “mean girls.” Even Sanya at one point described one of the women as being a “vindictive little bitch.” And in this society, hitting on others’ spouses and having affairs was commonplace. Not my ideal kind of people to hang out with.

I did enjoy the book more when Sanya, a financial consultant by trade, began to take an interest in her husband’s business acquisition deal and put her skills to use to try to find out what was actually going on. It became a little bit of a financial mystery story then which made the book more interesting to me. The ending, though a little over the top, made me hopeful that Sanya and Harry would work things out one way or another.

Overall, it was an enjoyable book. It was a quick and easy read. One aspect I especially enjoyed was the setting. Malladi certainly showed she knows Copenhagen well. She often mentioned specific stores, cafes, restaurants, and parts of town. For anyone wanting to visit or revisit Copenhagen, this book certainly provides that opportunity.


Both books have bold, captivating covers, but be aware they are misleading. The cover of The Sound of Language shows a woman wearing a hijab. The main character Riahana, however, does not wear one and the decision to do so is a point of discussion several times in the novel. Also, much to my chagrin, the cover incorporates the Scandinavian letters “å” and “ø” into the title so the title is actually shown as “The Søund of Långuåge.” I shudder just looking at it; the sounds the letters make don’t work with the words at all. If they had, that could have been a clever marketing ploy.

The cover of The Copenhagen Affair shows a very pale woman with a bicycle. First of all, the main character Sanya is ethnically Indian. Her darker skin comes up a couple of times in the book. Also, Sanya does not ride a bike nor does she express any interest in bicycles. There is the one time when she went off one evening with a new friend and she sat in the front carriage of a bicycle. Other than that, bicycles are just used to describe life in the city. I was expecting a bicycle to play a role in the main character’s life in Copenhagen.

I would have loved to hear the discussions behind the decisions of going with these cover designs and what Malladi’s opinions on them were. But don’t let the misleading covers stop you from reading these books. They are wonderful additions to the world of contemporary Scandinavian literature.

Los Angeles Culture Challenge: April 2018 (Scandinavian Festival & Festival of Books)

April is overflowing with special events and exhibitions featuring countries, cultures, and parts of town near and far. Three of my favorite Los Angeles events return this month: Scandinavian Festival at California Lutheran University, LA Times Festival of Books at USC, and CicLAvia in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. I highly recommend them all, but unfortunately, they all fall on the same weekend. Some difficult choices will have to be made.

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

* Weekend of April 7 & 8 *

Bunka-Sai Japanese Cultural Festival, Ken Miller Recreation Center, Torrance, Saturday, 4/7, & Sunday, 4/8. Come enjoy Japanese culture at the Bunka-Sai Festival sponsored by the Torrance Sister City Association. Enjoy children’s games and activities, tasty plate lunches, baked goods, craft items, and cultural performances. To see performance schedule, click here.

Renaissance Pleasure Faire, Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, Irwindale, Saturdays & Sundays only, April 7 to May 20. This is the opening weekend of the annual Renaissance Pleasure Faire. Travel back to the 16th century and experience the glory of life during the Renaissance era. Take in 13 stages offering a variety of entertainment all day long, a fully armored joust, the Queen and her glittering Court, arts and crafts, food and fine spirits, music, dance, parades, rides and games. There are also interactive adventure quests for all ages and opportunities to learn historic arts and crafts. Visit website for information on special events and themed weekends and a schedule of performances as well as a coupon to save on admission.

Opening Day: hapa.me – 15 years of the hapa project, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, April 7 – October 28. In this new exhibition, artist Kip Fulbeck continues his project, begun in 2001, of photographing persons who identify as “Hapa”—of mixed Asian/Pacific Islander descent—as a means of promoting awareness and positive acceptance of multiracial identity. hapa.me pairs the photographs and statements from the groundbreaking 2006 exhibition, kip fulbeck: part asian, 100% hapa, with contemporary portraits of the same individuals and newly written statements, showing not only their physical changes in the ensuing years, but also changes in their perspectives and outlooks on the world. Click here to see a schedule of special activities to mark Opening Day.

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 4/7, 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 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.

Greece: Gods and Goddess Tile Mosaic (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 4/8, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

Tokyo City Cup & Japan Family Day 2018, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, Sunday, 4/8, 10:30 a.m. Each year the Tokyo City Cup Race is run to acknowledge and celebrate the partnership between two of the premier horse racing tracks in their respective countries. Japan Family Day at Santa Anita Park was started as a way to introduce Japanese traditional culture and to interact with the people of Southern California. Through the years, it has become one of the most popular spring festivals in the area. Featuring cultural events and demonstrations, Japanese/Asian/Fusion food booths, live entertainment, and special fun areas for kids and families, Japan Family Day has something for everyone. Visit website for schedule of events and coupon for free general admission.

Explore the Art of Printmaking (Free Second Sunday), USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 4/8, 11:00 a.m. Explore the art of printmaking with special guests from Self Help Graphics & Art (SHG). Artist from their Bario Mobile Art Studio will guide you through the process of making your own silkscreen printed poster. While you’re there, don’t miss your chance to go on a guided tour of Winds from Fusang: Mexico and China in the Twentieth Century and listen to story time in the Silk Road Gallery. Free admission all day.

Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 4/8, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. April’s festival features Taiko Center of Los Angeles and visiting artist Fuden Daiko from Fudenji Zen Monastery in Salsomaggiore Terme, Italy. Enjoy beautiful folk and classical dances, as well as koto and lute music of Japan. Feast your eyes on the work of world renown candy sculptor Shan Ichiyanagi. Round out the day with art projects and face painting for the entire family.

Panamanian Cosmos (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 4/8, 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 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, check out the animals (real and mythical) of ancient Panama in Creatures of the Earth, Sea, and Sky: Painting the Panamanian Cosmos. Painted on ceramics, these playful depictions of serpents, armadillos, fish, and other creatures will inspire your own clay pinch-pots and animal drawings in artist-led workshops.

Family Jam: Making Art and Music with Masanga Marimba, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 4/8, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Join us for an afternoon of art making and live music celebrating our Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA exhibition, Axé Bahia: The Power of Art in an Afro-Brazilian Metropolis. Find inspiration in the galleries, use watercolors to recreate the colorful textiles worn by women in Bahia, and listen as the LA-based Masanga Marimba Ensemble plays traditional and popular music from Africa and Latin America. Drop-in art making from 1-4pm. Concert starts at 2pm.

* Weekend of April 14 & 15 *

20th Annual Chumash Day Powwow and Inter-Tribal Celebration, Malibu Bluffs Park, Malibu, Saturday, 4/14, & Sunday, 4/15. This year’s 20th annual Chumash Day Powwow will celebrate Native Americans from all over the country. Hundreds of tribes will gather at Malibu Bluffs Park. Native American food, craft vendors, tribal ceremonies, and dances will be a part of the event on both days.

Thailand: Thai New Year Puppets (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 4/15, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

Panamanian Cosmos (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 4/15, 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 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, check out the animals (real and mythical) of ancient Panama in Creatures of the Earth, Sea, and Sky: Painting the Panamanian Cosmos. Painted on ceramics, these playful depictions of serpents, armadillos, fish, and other creatures will inspire your own clay pinch-pots and animal drawings in artist-led workshops.

* Weekend of April 21 & 22 *

Scandinavian Festival, California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, Saturday, 4/21, & Sunday, 4/22. The Scandinavian Festival returns for the 43rd year. Both days of the festival are filled with music, dancing, food, lectures, demonstrations, vendors, and activities for young and old alike. The Viking Encampment and Sami Village will once again be present. Family activities include head wreath making with real flowers, raising the Maypole and dancing around it, learning the ancient Viking game Kubb, playing croquet, and a variety of arts and crafts representative of the Nordic countries.

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, USC Campus, Exposition Park, Saturday, 4/21, and Sunday, 4/22. Enjoy two days of not only books and authors, but also music, food, art, culture, and fun. The Festival of Books is Los Angeles Times’ annual celebration of ideas, creativity, and the written word. The Festival brings book lovers and fun seekers of all ages together with their favorite authors, artists, chefs, musicians, and entertainers.

CicLAvia: Heart of the Foothills, Foothills of San Gabriel Mountains, Sunday, 4/22, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. CicLAvia kicks off 2018 with a brand new route, Heart of the Foothills. The country’s largest open streets event will connect the cities of San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, and Claremont. Streets will be closed to cars and open for cyclists, pedestrians, runners, and skaters to use as a recreational space.

Panamanian Cosmos (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 4/22, 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 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, check out the animals (real and mythical) of ancient Panama in Creatures of the Earth, Sea, and Sky: Painting the Panamanian Cosmos. Painted on ceramics, these playful depictions of serpents, armadillos, fish, and other creatures will inspire your own clay pinch-pots and animal drawings in artist-led workshops.

Kids in the Courtyard: Sail Away in Moche-Style, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 4/22, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Explore the magnificent tule reed boats illustrated on a Peruvian Moche-style vessel in the exhibition Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives. Surrounded by sea creatures, the boats are shown transporting people, most of whom are elaborately dressed. Design your own boat and watch it float in the Fowler’s fountain, your bathtub, the pool, or even the sea!

* Weekend of April 28 & 29 *

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 4/28, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Relive history and learn about present-day Little Tokyo with JANM docents. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Weather permitting. Buy tickets in advance. Cost is $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission is included. Limited to 20 participants.

Ancient Sumer: Deer in a Thicket Sculpture (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 4/29, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

Panamanian Cosmos (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 4/29, 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 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, check out the animals (real and mythical) of ancient Panama in Creatures of the Earth, Sea, and Sky: Painting the Panamanian Cosmos. Painted on ceramics, these playful depictions of serpents, armadillos, fish, and other creatures will inspire your own clay pinch-pots and animal drawings in artist-led workshops.

* Ongoing Exhibits and Events *

KING TUT: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh, California Science Center, Exposition Park, opened March 24 and is open for a limited time. Celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the discovery of King Tut’s tomb at the California Science Center with the largest King Tut exhibit ever to tour. Discover over 150 authentic artifacts from King Tut’s celebrated tomb – 60 of which have never traveled outside of Egypt, until now. In a dramatic new presentation, dazzling multimedia complements rare artifacts to take guests on an immersive journey of the pharaoh’s quest for immortality. Enhance your experience with the IMAX movie Mysteries of Egypt. It is strongly suggested to purchase tickets online in advance to avoid lines and possible sell-outs.

For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights, Getty Gallery at Central Library, Downtown LA, February 1 – May 25. In celebration of African American Heritage Month, Central Library is hosting the traveling exhibit For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights, which examines the major role imagery played in the fight for racial and social equality from the 1940s through the 1970s. The exhibit shows how popular images—sometimes disturbing, sometimes entertaining, and sometimes overtly militant—played a crucial part in promoting important ideas about fairness and social equality and advancing civil rights during a key period in America’s history. The exhibit also focuses on the role of entertainment media, especially television, as an influential force in highlighting key civil rights events.

Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in L.A., Central Library, Downtown LA, extended until August 31. The exhibition celebrates the rich social fabric of Los Angeles through the lens of the city’s vibrant Oaxacan community — specifically, the Zapotec communities which make up one of the largest Indigenous groups in Mexico and Los Angeles. The Oaxacan artist collective Tlacolulokos has created a series of new murals for the Central Library’s historic rotunda that explore language and culture as a key lifeline sustaining the shared experience between Mexico, Los Angeles, and beyond, with a look at how migration and the socio-political environment shape identity and cultural traditions.

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 suggestions about future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email me here with details. Thank you!

Nothing Compares to a Norwegian Shrimp Fest!

Experiencing shrimp the Norwegian way is a special treat. Nothing compares to it in the United States, but attending a Norwegian Shrimp Fest at a Norwegian Church gets you pretty close. And that’s what I had the pleasure of doing earlier this month.

Thank you to Sjømannskirken for letting me use their photo.

This year’s Shrimp Fest at the Norwegian Church in San Pedro took place on St. Patrick’s Day so the ubiquitous green made its appearance. There were green napkins; otherwise, I would have expected red or blue napkins. Also, there was the occasional very green shrimp sitting on the edge of a shrimp bowl. Apparently, it was edible but no one near us was tempted to try it.

The evening was really a very simple and casual affair. Tables were set with large bowls of shrimp (in this case, Arctic Greenland shrimp), freshly baked bread, mayonnaise (real Norwegian mayonnaise!), fresh dill, lettuce leaves, and lemon wedges. Then it was up to the guests to handle the rest themselves. (And the hosts to refill the shrimp bowls, which they did gladly and diligently.)

It was very quiet to begin with as guests set to work peeling shrimp and making their open-faced sandwiches. There’s nothing really too gourmet about this meal. Some people might even be shocked at the amount of mayo that goes into a sandwich. It’s hard to eat fast at a shrimp fest because the shrimp are small and each one takes a few seconds to peel. But the result is certainly worth the effort.

For those of you who are curious about what makes this meal so special, it’s the shrimp. The shrimp enjoyed at Norwegian gatherings are a coldwater species caught at the bottom in the deep waters of the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans. They are most often cooked and quick-frozen within a few hours of leaving the water.

While we all were enjoying our shrimp, with discussions of what body part to rip off first, the Slow TV program Saltstraumen minutt for minutt was playing in the background. Saltstraumen is the world’s strongest tidal current located near the city of Bodø (about 50 miles north of the Arctic Circle). I was too busy with my shrimp so I didn’t see much of it, but the glimpses I did catch were a perfect accompaniment to the meal.

Thank you to Sjømannskirken for letting me use their photo.

There were other highlights of the evening as well. When guests had started to slow down their peeling and eating, we did a sing-along of the Norwegian song “Rekevisa” (“The Shrimp Song”) as Sverre, the priest, played the guitar. It had the melody of a traditional children’s Christmas song (“Musevisa”, “The Mouse Song”), but the lyrics about a mouse family getting ready for Christmas had been replaced with lyrics about the joys of a shrimp fest. Another highlight of the evening was a quiz. It included multiple-choice questions on a wide variety of topics, some relating to the evening (like “How many species of shrimp are there?”), others totally unrelated (“How many times a day does a person touch their phone?”). It was really the luck of the draw as to who would win, which made it fun for all ages.

We finished off the meal with some vanilla ice cream with chocolate and caramel toppings. As we enjoyed our desserts, we went over the answers to the quiz. I believe I heard the winners came down from Santa Barbara for the Shrimp Fest. They deserved that bag of seigmenn!

When I return to Norway every summer, a shrimp meal is always on my wishlist of foods. The opportunity to enjoy one here in the States with like-minded people was wonderful, and I look forward to next year’s fest!

What I’ve Been Reading Lately & Reading Challenges Update: March 2018

I’m continuing my quest to complete three reading challenges this year: my own Scandinavian Reading Challenge, Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2018 Reading Challenge, and The Reading Women’s Reading Women Challenge. Having these reading challenges provides me with more focus when deciding what to read next. They also force me to choose books outside my normal reading habits. I also enjoy the challenge of finding books that fulfill tasks in more than one challenge at a time. And just for the fun of it, I’m seeing how many of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge tasks I can complete, too.

If you haven’t already checked out my 2018 Scandinavian Reading Challenge, I invite you to do so here. It’s not too late to join!

And once again, I’m joining Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit link-up where readers share short and sweet reviews of what they’ve been reading lately. This month I’m covering the last two months. Winter Break in February helped me catch up on my reading.


The Leavers by Lisa Ko

Once I got through the first part — felt there was a little too much description and detail — and the storyline went to China and I learned more about the mother’s situation, I was hooked. Keeping track of the two narratives, one in first person and the other in third person, both switching between past and present, was a little tough, so it wasn’t an easy read. But in the end, it was a read I really enjoyed. There were a lot of issues to ponder – illegal immigration from Asia, undocumented workers, interracial adoption, for-profit prisons, just to name a few. The book club discussion was very good. We had strong differing opinions about the mother.

Reading Challenges:

  • Reading Women Challenge—a book with an immigrant or refugee viewpoint character
  • Modern Mrs. Darcy—a book by an author of a different race, ethnicity or religion than your own
  • ReadHarder—a book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa)

God’s Mercy by Kerstin Ekman (Translated from Swedish by Linda Schenck)

What intrigued my Scandinavian Book Club the most was the reference to the indigenous Sami people in the book’s description. The book is about a young Swedish midwife who in 1916 moves from a university town to a remote rural area of Sweden close to the Norwegian border in anticipation of being with her secret fiancé. Things do not turn out the way she anticipated. I thought it was a very interesting look at life in this community of Swedes, Samis, and Norwegians (descriptive and complete). However, it was a tough read. There were three narratives that jumped around in time and place. It was hard to keep track of all the people and their families without taking notes. The book left me with some unanswered questions, but that’s understandable considering it’s the first in a trilogy. (My understanding is that the other books in the trilogy have not been translated yet.)

Reading Challenges:


The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (Narrated by Orlagh Cassidy and Bahni Turpin)

Once again, Modern Mrs. Darcy’s recommendations of audiobooks that enhance your reading experience didn’t disappoint! The book opens in 1791 in Virginia and is about a young orphaned Irish girl who is raised as an indentured servant and lives with the slaves in the plantation’s kitchen house. I was drawn in the moment I started listening and became very invested in the characters, especially the female ones. There are two narratives, each read by a different voice. One voice is Lavinia, the orphaned girl, and the other is Belle, her mother figure, the half-white illegitimate daughter of the plantation owner. It’s not a light read. There’s a lot of brutality towards the slaves. But at the same time, there’s great love, caring, and warmth among the slaves and Lavinia. The book is heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time.

Reading Challenges:


Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

I picked this book because I needed a change from all the historical fiction and heavy reads I had read recently, and what better way to do that than with a superhero fantasy book, a genre I never read (#ReadingWomenChallenge!). Also, Leigh Bardugo was a YA author I was curious about. I appreciated and enjoyed the strong and independent female character of Diana, the diverse cast of characters, the female empowerment and friendship, and Bardugo’s writing, but this specific genre just isn’t for me.

Reading Challenges:


Beartown by Fredrik Backman (Translated from Swedish by Neil Smith)

I’m a Fredrik Backman fan, but this book was not like his others I had read (My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She’s Sorry and A Man Called Ove). It’s much more serious and philosophical. It’s about how a small, rural town deals with a sexual assault by its star hockey player. To begin with, I was very uncomfortable reading it. I was disgusted by the actions and attitude of so many people (the bullying, the locker room talk and behavior, racism, classism, and sexism) and I felt like a bystander as I just continued reading along. Finally, more characters started standing up for what was right and I began to enjoy the book more. The ending was very satisfying. It was a great book for our book club meeting. The sequel Us Against You comes out this June 5.

Reading Challenges:


Currently reading and next on my list…

     

I’m currently listening to Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan read by Heather Lind, Norbert Leo Butz, and Vincent Piazza. The audiobook was recommended by Los Angeles Times as an audiobook not to be missed. I’ve never liked the cover so it fulfills the category “a book with a cover you hate” for Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge.

While my Scandinavian Book Club is reading The Sound of Language by Amulya Malladi which I’ve already read, I’m reading The Copenhagen Affair by the same author. For my Scandinavian Reading Challenge it fulfills the category “a Scandinavian or Scandinavia-themed book whose cover piqued your interest,” but it could also fulfill the category “a book set somewhere in Scandinavia you would like to visit (or revisit).”

Next up to read will be Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman for my local book club. It coincidentally fulfills the category of “a book nominated for an award in 2018” for Modern Mrs. Darcy’s reading challenge.

What have you been reading 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.

Los Angeles Culture Challenge for March 2018: Norwegian Shrimp Fest!

A new month means new opportunities to explore the rich diversity of Los Angeles. If you haven’t already seen Cuba Is at Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City, see it this weekend before it closes. Other special events this month include Los Angeles Lantern Festival, Celebrating Nowruz: Iranian New Year, and a Norwegian Shrimp Fest! Read on for more details.

Before moving on, though, I’d like to give readers a heads-up about a special Scandinavian event happening next month. During the weekend of April 21 and 22, the Scandinavian Festival at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks will take place. Mark your calendars now so you don’t miss it!

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

* Weekend of March 3 & 4 *

Cuba Is, Annenberg Space for Photography, Century City, on display until Sunday, 3/4. Revealing complexities both on and off the island, Cuba Is explores aspects of Cuba not easily accessed by foreigners, and sometimes not even by Cubans themselves. Born from indigenous, African, and European roots, divergent politics and limitations in communication and commerce, the Cuba seen in this exhibition goes beyond the folklore and offers new insight into its current reality. Over 120 photos feature subjects ranging from defiant youth known as “Frikis” to the hard-partying children of the 1%, the underground system of sharing digital content—“El paquete”—to Miami’s Chonga girls.

Chinese Calligraphy & Brushpainting Classes, USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Saturday mornings starting 3/3. Longtime instructor Guang-Li (David) Zhang, a graduate of the Shanghai Art Academy, teaches beginner and advanced students Chinese Calligraphy and Brushpainting in mixed lecture and workshop classes. Six-week class sessions begin March 3. Visit website for details.

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 3/3, 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)

Los Angeles Lantern Festival, El Pueblo Historical Monument, Downtown LA, Saturday, 3/3, 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Join the Chinese American Museum for the 17th Annual Los Angeles Lantern Festival. The free signature event culminates the Lunar New Year festivities with engaging community booths, museum tours, live entertainment, music, arts & crafts, and food trucks.

Australia: Dream Painting Rain Stick (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 3/4, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

Caribbean Mardi Gras Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 3/4, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Enjoy an upbeat musical performance by Upstream, SoCal’s premier live Reggae, Soca, Caribbean band, and an exciting dance performance by Caribbean Gems. There will be art projects and face painting for the whole family.

Andell Family Sundays—Waterlilies, Cherries, and French Landscapes, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 3/4, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Who doesn’t love Impressionism? Impressionist artists were pioneers in capturing lovely moments that often involved flowers, food, and beautiful places. Make discoveries in the galleries. Paint, draw, and see the light in artist-led workshops. (Offered every Sunday in March except 3/18)

* Weekend of March 10 & 11 *

Family Festival Celebrating the Getty Center’s 20th Anniversary, Getty Center, Los Angeles, Saturday, 3/10, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. As the Getty Center turns 20, they’re celebrating with an unforgettable birthday bash. Enjoy an engaging, immersive and fun day with some of the city’s best performers. Have your picture taken at the photo booth, make a wearable accessory inspired by the museum’s iconic tram, do some hip up with Versa-Style or hula with Keali’i O’Nalani, and then try your hand at their birthday games.

India: Rangoli Art (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 3/11, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. Check website for updated schedule.

Free Second Sunday, USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 3/11, 11:00 a.m. Explore the garden and architecture of the museum. Design and create a model of a garden with artist Gustavo Garcia, sketch al fresco from the Chinese style courtyard and building, go on a tour of nature in the collection, and listen to storytime in the galleries. At 1:00 p.m., join the launch of the new children’s book Natsumi! with a special reading by author Susan Lendroth and illustrator Priscilla Burris. A book signing will follow. Museum admission is free all day.

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

Andell Family Sundays—Waterlilies, Cherries, and French Landscapes, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 3/11, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Who doesn’t love Impressionism? Impressionist artists were pioneers in capturing lovely moments that often involved flowers, food, and beautiful places. Make discoveries in the galleries. Paint, draw, and see the light in artist-led workshops. (Offered every Sunday in March except 3/18)

Family Jam: Storytelling with Dena Atlantic, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 3/11, 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Families and children of all ages are invited to discover Brazil’s cultural heritage as acclaimed storyteller Dena Atlantic performs interactive narratives inspired by the exhibition Axé Bahia: The Power of Art in an Afro-Brazilian Metropolis. Be sure to explore related artworks after the show.

* Weekend of March 17 & 18 *

International Children’s Festival, Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, Saturday, 3/17, & Sunday, 3/18. The annual International Children’s Festival celebrates the talents of children of many cultures. West African, Mexican, Pacific Islander, Cambodian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Persian, Irish, Slovak, and Czech dance are among the children’s performances, along with martial arts demonstrations and an international children’s choir. Kids of all ages can partake in a percussion circle, Japanese origami, Native American crafts, and Pacific Islander traditional children’s games.

Annual Norwegian Shrimp Fest, Norwegian Church, San Pedro, Saturday, 3/17, 5:00 p.m. The Norwegian Church is hosting its annual shrimp fest. Enjoy genuine Arctic shrimp, Norwegian “loff” (freshly baked white bread), mayonnaise, and everything else that belongs! For those who do not eat shrimp, lasagna will be served. Cost: adults $25, children $5, and families $50. Please RSVP by March 12 to losangeles@sjomannskirken.no.

* Weekend of March 24 & 25 *

USA: Cesar Chavez Inspired Still Life (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 3/25, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. Check website for updated schedule.

Ukrainian Pysanka Festival, Ukrainian Culture Center, Los Angeles, Sunday, 3/25, 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Learn to make traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs. Experience Ukrainian culture by viewing the work of many esteemed artists. Enjoy dance performances, music, and food.

Andell Family Sundays—Waterlilies, Cherries, and French Landscapes, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 3/25, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Who doesn’t love Impressionism? Impressionist artists were pioneers in capturing lovely moments that often involved flowers, food, and beautiful places. Make discoveries in the galleries. Paint, draw, and see the light in artist-led workshops. (Offered every Sunday in March except 3/18)

* Weekend of March 31 & April 1 *

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 3/31, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Relive history and learn about present-day Little Tokyo with JANM docents. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Weather permitting. Buy tickets in advance. $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission is included. Limited to 20 participants.

Blessing of the Animals, Father Serra Park, Downtown LA, Saturday, 3/31. The Blessing of the Animals has been a part of Olvera Street since its founding in 1930, but its practice dates back to the 4th century, when San Antonio De Abad was named the patron saint of the animal kingdom and began to bless animals to promote good health. Bring your pets to be blessed. Blessing begins at 2pm and lasts for an hour. Line-up for the blessing begins at 1pm. There will be entertainment from 12pm to 5pm.

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

Reflections on Scandinavian Film Festival LA 2018

My experience at Scandinavian Film Festival LA 2018 didn’t disappoint! Not only did I see many great movies, but this year I added another component to my festival experience. I was a volunteer. On Opening Day, festival newsletter subscribers received an email reminding them of the event and it also happened to mention “Beloved volunteers– we DO NEED YOU!!!” I am not one to let that plea go by without action if I’m available.

My offer to help was quickly accepted. Over the two weekends of the festival, I welcomed festival guests and sold tickets. I spent time with wonderful festival organizers and other enthusiastic and friendly volunteers. Being a volunteer made it all so much more meaningful. Getting to know festival organizers James Koenig and Flo Niermann and hearing about their experience with the festival over the years added to a much greater understanding and appreciation of the event.

Me along with James and Flo and fellow volunteers Lumme, Jacob, and Carmelo. Image courtesy of Lara McCarthy at SwedesintheStates.com

Compared to other film festivals, this is a small one. But it’s very welcoming and friendly. Many festival goers come for multiple screenings. They hang out in the lobby between films. They chat and enjoy food from the Nordic Café. James Koenig, the festival founder/director, is a constant presence. He greets guests very warmly and often with a hug if it’s a familiar face, and he introduces every film.

For me the festival provides an opportunity to go back to Norway through language and setting or to be an armchair traveler to another region in the area. An unexpected perk of being a volunteer was receiving a festival pass and being able to see whichever movies I was interested in while I was there. Since I was there for many hours over the two weekends, I saw more movies this year than any other year.

I saw four films the first weekend, the very first one being Sweden’s Oscar submission The Square by Ruben Östlund. I was very grateful to see it with my volunteer partner. The movie started out fine and enjoyable, but then it took a turn that left us with many unanswered questions. We both appreciated having someone to discuss the movie with afterwards.

One of my favorite films of the festival was shown in the first weekend, Denmark’s short film The Dolphin by Laurits Munch-Petersen. It was about a mother who wanted her son to be able to finish a swimming course. In 29 minutes, it managed to evoke a whole range of emotions, and the ending, an unexpected one, tied all the pieces together perfectly.

I also saw Iceland’s Under the Tree by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigur∂sson. This movie seemed to cause very varied opinions among festival goers. It’s about two neighbors’ disagreement over a tree’s shadow. This is a relatable issue; access to sunlight is highly prized in the Nordic countries. What starts as a common neighborly issue quickly spirals out of control, at times comically, other times darkly. I was one of those who enjoyed the film.

I wrapped up the first weekend with Norway’s supernatural thriller Thelma by Joachim Trier. It took place mostly in Oslo but also along Norway’s western coast. I wasn’t sure it would be my type of movie with its supernatural elements, but it worked for me and I enjoyed it.

The second weekend was a little slower for me due to family obligations. Saturday evening I saw another favorite movie of the festival, Sweden’s feature film Strawberry Days by Wiktor Ericsson. It’s about the son of a Polish guest worker and the daughter of a Swedish farmer. They slowly but surely fall in love, but their relationship is not acceptable to either side. It wasn’t clear to me exactly what happened in the end, but the dramatic ending was definitely understandable considering all the issues that were at stake in this situation.

Strawberry Days (trailer) from ArtOfficial Agency CPH on Vimeo.

The last film of the festival for me was Lithuania’s Frost by Šarūnas Bartas. This was an odd experience because it was nothing like descriptions I had read beforehand. I was expecting a movie about a young Lithuanian man’s alliance with two reporters as they deal with the turmoil of war in Ukraine and he is “forced to overcome psychological limits and build strong relationships.” He does meet reporters along the way, but they don’t continue together. Instead, the movie is about this young man’s fascination with war and his desire to understand it. His sullen girlfriend comes along on the road trip from Vilnius to Ukraine. I did not understand the characters’ motivations. And the ending did little to make up for the slow and dull journey. The only interesting part of the movie is towards the end when viewers get a little insight into the Ukrainian war and what life is like for Ukrainian forces holding off separatists. I wonder if the film underwent some major editing after film descriptions were published.

Films that I was unable to see but heard were worthwhile or ones that were highly anticipated included Denmark’s You Disappear and Across the Waters, Iceland’s Summer Children, and Norway’s Late Summer. I’ll have to keep an eye out on Netflix for those movies. If you attended the festival or have seen any of the movies elsewhere, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Next year marks SFFLA’s 20th anniversary. I can’t wait to celebrate and see the next crop of “top films from the top of Europe.” (Sign up here to receive e-mail updates on the festival so you don’t miss news about next year’s festival dates!)

Los Angeles Culture Challenge for February 2018: Nordic Spirit Symposium, Lunar New Year, African American History Month

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

For Scandinavian enthusiasts, this month features the annual Nordic Spirit Symposium, a unique lecture and performance program presented by the Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation and California Lutheran University. This year’s topic is the Vikings’ arrival in America. The symposium takes place Friday, February 9, and Saturday, February 10, in Thousand Oaks. See more details below.

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

* New and Ongoing Exhibits *

For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights, Getty Gallery at Central Library, Downtown LA, Thursday, February 1 – Friday, May 25, 2018. In celebration of African American Heritage Month, Central Library is hosting the traveling exhibit For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights, which examines the major role imagery played in the fight for racial and social equality from the 1940s through the 1970s. The exhibit shows how popular images—sometimes disturbing, sometimes entertaining, and sometimes overtly militant—played a crucial part in promoting important ideas about fairness and social equality and advancing civil rights during a key period in America’s history. The exhibit also focuses on the role of entertainment media, especially television, as an influential force in highlighting key civil rights events.

Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day: Murals, Signs, and Mark‐Making in LA, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, on display until February 25, 2018. See a new body of photographic work by interdisciplinary artist Ken Gonzales-Day examining the mural landscape of LA—from East LA to Venice Beach, from Pacoima to South LA. Featuring over 140 photographs, Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day: Murals, Signs, and Mark‐Making in LA considers what the city’s walls reveal about its diverse communities.

Cuba Is, Annenberg Space for Photography, Century City, on display until March 4, 2018. Revealing complexities both on and off the island, Cuba Is explores aspects of Cuba not easily accessed by foreigners, and sometimes not even by Cubans themselves. Born from indigenous, African and European roots, divergent politics and limitations in communication and commerce, the Cuba seen in this exhibition goes beyond the folklore and offers new insight into its current reality. Over 120 photos feature subjects ranging from defiant youth known as “Frikis” to the hard-partying children of the 1%, the underground system of sharing digital content—“El paquete”—to Miami’s Chonga girls.

Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in L.A., Central Library, Downtown LA, extended until August 31, 2018. The exhibition celebrates the rich social fabric of Los Angeles through the lens of the city’s vibrant Oaxacan community — specifically, the Zapotec communities which make up one of the largest Indigenous groups in Mexico and Los Angeles. The Oaxacan artist collective Tlacolulokos has created a series of new murals for the Central Library’s historic rotunda that explore language and culture as a key lifeline sustaining the shared experience between Mexico, Los Angeles, and beyond, with a look at how migration and the socio-political environment shape identity and cultural traditions.

* WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 3 & 4 *

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Saturday, 2/3, 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 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.

Kids & Families Program: Placemaking Portraits, California African American Museum (CAAM), Exposition Park, Saturday, 2/3, 1:00 p.m – 3:00 p.m. Inspired by ideas and techniques from works in his exhibition Conditions and Forms for blck Longevity, artist Adler Guerrier will guide participants in an art-making workshop to draw, shape, and collage images of place.

Peking Acrobats, Luckman Fine Arts Complex at Cal State LA, Saturday, 2/3, 8:00 p.m. The talented ensemble is world-renowned for their daring maneuvers, trick-cycling, precision tumbling, somersaulting, and gymnastics. They defy gravity with amazing displays of flexibility, contortion, and control. They push the envelope of human possibility with astonishing juggling dexterity and incredible balancing feats. Records of these acrobatic acts can be found as early as the Ch’in Dynasty (221 B.C. – 207 B.C.) and Chinese acrobats through the ages have continued to perfect what has become an evolving folk art form. Visit website for ticket information.

Asian Lunar New Year Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 2/4, 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Celebrate the Year of the Dog with exciting music, dance, and art of Asia. Fun activities for the entire family. Lion and dragon dances and Changing Faces master are featured.

Andell Family Sundays—Painted in México, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 2/4 (offered every Sunday in February), 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Check out the spectacular paintings in the exhibition Painted in Mexico, 1700–1790: Pinxit Mexici. Look for La Virgen de Guadalupe, angels, other religious figures, and spiritual iconography painted in a uniquely Mexican style. Make your own art inspired by the exhibition. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.

* WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 10 & 11 *

Pan African Film + Arts Festival, Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw, Thursday, 2/8, through Monday, 2/19. This is the first weekend of the Pan African Film + Arts Festival (PAFF) where people from around the globe gather to attend the largest Black film festival in the United States. From a $100 million blockbuster premiere to newly emerging Hollywood talent, the festival showcases a broad spectrum of Black creative works from all over the globe, particularly those that reinforce positive images and help to destroy negative stereotypes.

2018 Nordic Spirit Symposium: Vikings Reach America: First Contact, California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, Friday, 2/9, & Saturday, 2/10. The Icelandic Sagas tell of Norse voyages to Vinland around 1000 A.D. In the 1960s, a site at the northern tip of Newfoundland was confirmed as a Norse site occupied around 1000 A.D. by archaeological work conducted by Anne Stine and Helge Ingstad. After working with the Ingstads, Birgitta Wallace continued their research. This symposium will discuss this site in Newfoundland as well as discuss the location of Vinland and other sites named in the sagas. Included in the discussions will be the Norse who occupied Greenland for 500 years — the launching point for the voyages to Vinland, and of the natives the Norse likely encountered. The program will also include a discussion of the occupation of sub-Arctic eastern Canada from about 8000 years before and up to the Vikings arrival. The Vikings’ arrival is recognized as the first contact between peoples of European descent and natives of the American continent.

Film Matinee: Kon-Tiki, Norwegian Seamen’s Church, San Pedro, Saturday, 2/10, 12:00 p.m. Come enjoy waffles and drinks while watching Kon-Tiki, a Norwegian biographical drama film from 2012 about Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl and his 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition. The Kon-Tiki expedition was an epic 4,300-mile crossing of the Pacific Ocean on a balsawood raft in an effort to prove that it was possible for South Americans to settle in Polynesia in pre-Columbian times. It was directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg and was nominated for the Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film in 2013.

29th Annual Mardi Gras Celebration, The Original Farmers Market, 3rd & Fairfax, Saturday, 2/10, & Sunday, 2/11, 12:00 p.m. L.A.’s favorite Mardi Gras celebration returns for its 29th year straight. It features the finest New Orleans and Zydeco music, strolling parade bands, activities for kids, bead throwing, and much more.

China: Lunar New Year Dragon or Dog Puppet (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 2/11, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

Andell Family Sundays—Painted in México, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 2/11 (offered every Sunday in February), 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Check out the spectacular paintings in the exhibition Painted in Mexico, 1700–1790: Pinxit Mexici. Look for La Virgen de Guadalupe, angels, other religious figures, and spiritual iconography painted in a uniquely Mexican style. Make your own art inspired by the exhibition. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.

Family Jam: Celebrating Carnaval, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 2/11, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Join Fowler Museum for a celebration of Bahia’s Carnaval: a Brazilian springtime celebration famous for gorgeous parades, music, and costumes! Celebration features face painting, jewelry making, and mask decorating, as well as an Afro-Brazilian samba-reggae performance by Batalá Los Angeles and a guided story time in the Axé Bahia exhibition, where you will take a magical journey to Brazil.

* WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 17 & 18 *

Chinese New Year Festival @ Central Plaza, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 2/17, 12:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. There will be artisan booths featuring brush painting, calligraphy, candy sculpture, clay sculpture, and face painting; arts and craft workshops; a craft and vintage market; a culinary stage; entertainment on Central Plaza Main Stage; live music; roaming performances; food trucks and food booths; a craft beer garden; and more.

119th Annual Golden Dragon Parade, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 2/17, 1:00 p.m. In celebrating over one hundred years of tradition, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles presents the 119th Annual Golden Dragon Parade. With over thousands of individuals lining the parade route and thousands viewing the telecast each year, this colorful celebration along North Broadway in Chinatown has become the premiere cultural event in the Southern California Asian-American Community. The parade includes almost two dozen floats, multiple marching bands, government officials, various dignitaries, entertainers, local business leaders, and cultural groups.

Chinese New Year Festival, The Huntington, Pasadena, Saturday, 2/17, & Sunday, 2/18. Celebrate the Lunar New Year at The Huntington as the Year of the Dog begins. Families can enjoy crowd-pleasing lion dancers, amazing performances from a mask-changing artist, plus choreographed martial arts demonstrations, Chinese music, food, and much more. The festivities will take place in and around the Chinese Garden and other performance spaces. See website for full schedule of events.

Pan African Film + Arts Festival, Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw, Thursday, 2/8, through Monday, 2/19. This is the last weekend of PAFF where people from around the globe gather to attend the largest Black film festival in the United States. From a $100 million blockbuster premiere to newly emerging Hollywood talent, the festival showcases a broad spectrum of Black creative works from all over the globe, particularly those that reinforce positive images and help to destroy negative stereotypes.

Tibet: Losar New Year Festival Puppet (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 2/18, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

Andell Family Sundays—Painted in México, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 2/18 (offered every Sunday in February), 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Check out the spectacular paintings in the exhibition Painted in Mexico, 1700–1790: Pinxit Mexici. Look for La Virgen de Guadalupe, angels, other religious figures, and spiritual iconography painted in a uniquely Mexican style. Make your own art inspired by the exhibition. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.

Kids in the Courtyard: Setting the Table, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 2/18, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. What kind of meal would you eat if you were to dine with kings in Cameroon? Find inspiration in our exhibition Dining with Kings: Hospitality and Ceremony in the Cameroon Grassfields and learn how certain patterns signify a person’s power before designing a placemat to use during your next meal.

* WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 24 & 25 *

African-American Festival, Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, Saturday, 2/24, & Sunday, 2/25. Join the Aquarium of the Pacific as it hosts its sixteenth annual African-American Festival, celebrating the rich diversity of African-American and African cultures. The weekend will feature live entertainment and arts and crafts. Festival performers include Mardi Gras second line dancers, hip hop and break dancers, jazz musicians, interactive drum circles, West African dancers, and storytellers.

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 2/24, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Relive history and learn about present-day Little Tokyo with JANM docents. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Weather permitting. Buy tickets in advance. $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission is included. Limited to 20 participants.

African-American Art Festival, STAR Eco Station, Culver City, Saturday, 2/24, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Enjoy African drumming and dancing, art exhibits, interactive art projects, BBQ, games, and local vendors at this outdoor festival at STAR Eco Station, an environmental science museum and exotic wildlife rescue center.

Origami with Ruthie Kitagawa: Hinamatsuri Cards, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 2/24, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Make a Hinamatsuri (Girls’ Day) greeting card for your friends and family. $12 members, $15 non-members. Supplies and museum admission is included. Limited to 10 participants.

USA: African American Story Quilt (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 2/25, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

Turbante-se/Turban Yourself: A Head Wrap Workshop, KOAS Network, Leimert Park, Sunday, 2/25, 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.  Join Brazilian-born artist Thaís Muniz for a workshop exploring the history of head wraps and turbans in Brazil and the broader Afro-Atlantic diaspora. At 12:00 p.m. enjoy a 30-minute talk on the history of head wraps at KAOS Network. From 12:30-3:00 p.m. drop by Fowler Museum’s table outside KAOS and watch Muniz demonstrate a range of styles with participants. The artist will wrap volunteers on a first come, first served basis, ages 13 and up. This event is part of the Leimert Park Art Walk, 1:00-8:00 p.m.

Andell Family Sundays—Painted in México, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 2/25 (offered every Sunday in February), 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Check out the spectacular paintings in the exhibition Painted in Mexico, 1700–1790: Pinxit Mexici. Look for La Virgen de Guadalupe, angels, other religious figures, and spiritual iconography painted in a uniquely Mexican style. Make your own art inspired by the exhibition. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.

Kids & Families Program: Symbols in Copper, California African American Museum (CAAM), Exposition Park, Sunday, 2/25, 1:00 p.m – 3:00 p.m. On the final day of Circles and Circuits I: History and Art of the Chinese Caribbean Diaspora, participate in a family workshop inspired by the images in the copper matting of Albert Chong’s Throne for the Gorilla Spirits, 1993. Chong’s work uses symbolism to celebrate the diversity of mankind. Meet the artist and make impressions of meaningful symbols in soft copper to create a frame for a small photograph. Suitable for third grade and up.

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

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: January 2018

This year I’ll be working on completing three reading challenges: my own Scandinavian Reading Challenge (#ScandiReadingChallenge), Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge (#IdRatherBeReading), and The Reading Women’s Reading Women Challenge (#ReadingWomenChallenge). In order to have a greater chance of success, I’ve decided books can overlap challenges. I’m off to a good start with two categories for each challenge completed.

If you haven’t already checked out my 2018 Scandinavian Reading Challenge, I invite you to do so now.

And once again, I’m joining Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit link-up where readers share short and sweet reviews of what they’ve been reading lately.


The Indian Bride by Karin Fossum (translated from Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund)

For our first meeting of the new year, my Scandinavian Book Club chose Karin Fossum’s Eva’s Eye (the first in the Inspector Sejer mystery series). I had already read that so I decided to read The Indian Bride, another of Karin Fossum’s Inspector Sejer mysteries, instead. I enjoyed The Indian Bride much more than Eva’s Eye. I felt for Gunder, the main character, whose life was turned upside down when, on the same day, his sister was suddenly in a coma after a car accident and his wife was killed upon arrival in town. I was wrapped up in the characters and the situation – how could this horrendous murder have happened and who could have done it? The book explores the characters and the community more than the crime itself. There were some unanswered questions and ambiguity at the end which bothered me a little, but overall it was still a good read. (The Indian Bride won the Los Angeles Times’ Mystery Prize in 2007.) Karin Fossum would be a good candidate for the Scandinavian Reading Challenge’s “a crime novel by a female author” category.


The Sound of Language by Amulya Malladi

This author has been on my radar for a while. She’s from India and married to a Danish man. They lived in Denmark for several years before moving to southern California. The Sound of Language intrigued me because it was about an Afghan refugee who immigrated to Denmark after her husband was captured by the Taliban. It was also about beekeeping and an unlikely relationship between an older, stubborn, recently widowed man and this young Afghan woman learning Danish. I admired both the man and the woman for persevering with the apprenticeship despite pressure from family and community to do otherwise. It was an interesting look at the immigrant debate in Denmark. I highly recommend this for the “immigrant story” category of the Scandinavian Reading Challenge. We read it for my local book club, and it made for a good discussion.


Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I was looking for a light and easy read, and this book certainly fit the bill. It was a fun ride. It was a fascinating and unbelievable look at life of the super rich in Singapore. How close to reality it really is, I’ll never know. But I believe there’s some truth to it since it’s written by an author who was born and raised in Singapore. There were a lot of characters to keep track of. The family tree at the beginning of the book was helpful at first, but then I decided it really didn’t matter if I couldn’t keep track of which family line everyone belonged to. I’m eager to read the next books in the series and to see the movie when it comes out in August 2018.


Currently reading and next on my list…

My local book club picked The Leavers by Lisa Ko for our next read. My Scandinavian Book Club meets later in the month. I’m curious to see what we’ll pick. I’m hoping I can steer the choice in the direction of one of the categories for the Scandinavian Reading Challenge. A friend suggested I read The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonseo Lee with David John with her so I’ll be giving that a go, too (and it checks off a category for both Modern Mrs. Darcy’s and The Reading Women’s challenges!).

What have you been reading 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.

Join the 2018 Scandinavian Reading Challenge!

I invite you to join the 2018 Scandinavian Reading Challenge. This reading challenge focuses on the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. There are 14 categories with the intention of providing lots of choice for the new reading year. I realize not everyone is as much of a Scandinavian enthusiast as me, so choose to participate at whatever level suits you: a book a month, one book every other month, or even just a couple of books in the upcoming months. I welcome all levels of participation.

Visit the page 2018 Scandinavian Reading Challenge to see the 14 categories and to download a printable PDF to keep track of your reading.

I will make suggestions for books in each category as the year progresses. I would love to hear what books you choose to read, and I always welcome suggestions from fellow readers. Share your progress and suggestions here or on social media with the hashtag #ScandiReadingChallenge.

I hope you’ll join me for some Scandinavian reading this year. Share your intention to participate in the comments below or in an email.

Click here to see the 14 categories in the reading challenge.