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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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?

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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: Wrapping Up #WITmonth (September 2018)

August was Women in Translation Month (#WITmonth) so I focused primarily on reading books in translation by women. Since I often read books by Scandinavian authors, I wanted to venture outside my comfort zone for #WITmonth. I started off with South Korea’s The Vegetarian by Han Kang (see last month’s write-up) and continued with books from France and Japan. Since I’ve already fulfilled the reading challenge prompt “a book in translation” many times over, I made little progress on my reading challenges but loved the opportunity to continue my summer travels through books.

Once again, I’m joining other readers at Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit to share short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately.


Waiting for Tomorrow by Nathacha Appanah

(Translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan)

Anita and Adam meet as students in Paris. She’s an immigrant from Mauritius and he’s from the French provinces. They both feel out of place but find comfort and love with each other. They move to the provinces, get married, and have a daughter. Life happens. She freelances for a local paper instead of writing the next great novel. He works at an architecture firm instead of devoting his life to painting. And then Adèle enters their life resetting it in an unexpected way.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s a short novel but packs a lot into its pages. It explores immigration, including undocumented immigrants; cultural differences in society and within a marriage; family and motherhood (stay-at-home vs working mothers), and ambitions. It’s a tragic story but beautifully written. The characters and setting are described carefully and vividly.


The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami

(Translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell)

I thought this was going to contain some magical realism (since the cover I had originally seen has a woman flying into a subway train), but no, it was a down-to-earth look at the happenings and people in a neighborhood thrift shop in the suburbs of Tokyo. The main character, Hitomi, works the cash register. Her boss and the owner of the thrift shop is Mr. Nakano, a somewhat odd and mysterious person. His sister Masayo, an unmarried artist, is a regular presence in the store. And then there’s Takeo, the shy part-time co-worker who helps with pick-ups and on whom Hitomi has a crush. It’s an eclectic group of people, and I love a story with unlikely friendships. I also enjoyed getting a glimpse of everyday life in Japan.


Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate

This is a middle grade novel-in-verse about a refugee boy from Sudan who resettles in Minnesota during wintertime. I was struck by how timely this book still is. It was first published in 2007, but the issue of refugees in America is still such a pertinent one. The book is entertaining and heartfelt. I chuckled at some parts and teared up at others. I admired Kek, the main character. He has a very positive way of looking at and dealing with life, especially considering what he has experienced. The author does not gloss over what Kek experienced in Sudan but presents it in a suitable way for middle graders. As an adult, I thought things may have fallen into place a little too easily for Kek in Minnesota, but then again, it is a middle grade book.


What have you been reading lately?

 

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Reading Lately: Reading Challenges & #WITmonth Progress (August 2018)

In the last month I’ve been enjoying vacation reads, a book club pick, and the first of my books in translation for Women in Translation Month. Since I often read Norwegian and other Scandinavian female authors, I’m going to venture outside my comfort zone for #WITmonth starting with a book from South Korea.

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.


Girl at War by Sara Nović

This was a favorite of the summer. It’s a very moving novel about a young girl and the effects of the Yugoslavian Civil War (1991-1999) on her life. Ana is ten years old and living in Zagreb, Croatia, at the start of the war. She makes her way to America after some horrible war experiences. Ten years later she returns to Croatia for closure. Reading it while traveling through Croatia, particularly along the coast near where Ana spent summers and where the book ended, really brought it to life also. (A fun example, Sara Nović writes about a drink called Cedevita and its importance for Ana’s generation, and we saw it all around and were able to taste it.) It’s hard to believe war took place in this beautiful country not so long ago.


I’ll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos

I absolutely loved everything about this book! There were so many wonderful characters. Friendships were deep and true. Family was a huge extended network. There was an intriguing mystery. The writing was beautiful. It all made for a fun and easy read, but at the same time there was serious substance beneath it all. I had hesitated reading it because I hadn’t read the previous two books involving the same characters, but then I just decided to jump in anyway. I’m so glad that I did. I’m recommending this to anyone who needs a book recommendation these days.

Reading Challenges:


Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

This book was not for me. I finished it but only to see if I could understand why both Reese Witherspoon and Anne Bogel (MMD 2017 Summer Reading Guide) recommended it. The writing was simple and dull, the characters unsympathetic, and the plot not that engaging. The only interesting thing was that I really enjoyed her middle grade level The Apothecary when I read it a while ago and have a hard time believing this is the same author. Luckily, it did fulfill an empty prompt for a reading challenge (a book where the characters are traveling somewhere) so it wasn’t a total waste of time.

Reading Challenges:


An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

This was my book club’s latest read. It’s about a recently married African American couple living in Atlanta. On a visit to his parents in a small town in Louisiana, the husband is arrested and sentenced to 12 years for a crime he didn’t commit. My heart went out to the couple in this book, put in this awful and unjust situation. Seeing the story from the three main characters’ perspectives — the husband, the wife, and the friend — added greater depth to the story. I enjoyed the book very much. It was a sad and complicated story with much to think about and discuss.

Reading Challenges:


The Vegetarian by Han Kang

(Translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith)

This prize-winning book in translation (Man Booker International Prize, 2016) has been on my radar for a while but not necessarily on my TBR list (due to controversy about the translation not being accurate). However, with August being Women in Translation Month, I decided to go ahead and read it. I knew it was about a woman-turned-vegetarian and her family’s opposition, but it turns out it was so much more. It was a short read, but not a light read. The story was disturbing, at times shocking and brutal, but I’m glad I read it. What was particularly interesting was the structure of the novel. In three parts, each from a different family member’s perspective (first the husband, then the brother-in-law, and finally the sister), the reader followed “the vegetarian” from the time she decided to become vegetarian until the time she was institutionalized. It was a somewhat different take on using different perspectives to tell a story. It was very much a character-driven novel with much attention given to characters’ motivations and mental turmoil. I’m intrigued by Han Kang and have added her book Human Acts to my TBR list.

Reading Challenges:


What have you been reading lately?

 

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What I’ve Been Reading Lately: August 2017

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. It’s been two months since I last shared what I’ve been reading, and it’s been vacation time with plane rides and down time, so I’ve had a chance to read quite a few titles. Luckily, all of them were worth finishing this time.

Did you know that August is Women in Translation Month? I just learned that this month. I seized the opportunity to add some female authors in translation to my reading list. Continue reading

Norwegian Women in Translation for #WITmonth

I’m always so surprised when I hear about something which I feel I should have known about before but didn’t. That happened recently with Women in Translation Month (WITmonth), an annual month-long reading event dedicated to promoting women writers from around the world who write in languages other than English. It takes place every August. This is right in my wheelhouse – reading, books in translation, women – how could I miss it?

WITmonth has given me incentive to dig a little deeper to find Norwegian female authors whom I may not have been aware of it. A great source of information was lists of winners of various Norwegian and Scandinavian literary awards (see end of post for list of awards). My list of Norwegian female authors is by no means an exhaustive list. In my digging, I found that many Norwegian female authors’ works in translation are not available in English (but readily available in many other languages!) or no longer in print in English.

Usually, I read my Norwegian books in Norwegian, but occasionally I make an exception. For example, sometimes the cost of getting a book in Norwegian instead of English is not warranted. Other times, if the book is written in nynorsk (New Norwegian) instead of Bokmål (Book Language), I will read it in English instead since I’m not as comfortable with nynorsk. Now, I have another reason, to support Norwegian female authors in translation and their translators.

Many of these authors I’ve already heard about, some I’ve already read, others were already on my TBR list, many were new to me. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these authors. Continue reading