It’s that time of year again, and this year I’m on time! Like everyone, my 2020 was, to put it mildly, unprecedented. My family and I left China two days after Chinese New Year, 2020, and as of Chinese New Year, 2021, we have been stuck in the U.S. for a year. We have undeniably been more fortunate than many people. We’ve had the support of family and the good fortune of being able to work online, but it has been a challenging year. Reading, as always, has brought me inspiration and enjoyment, and although the extra demands on my time have kept me from reading as much as in previous years, I can honestly say that a my reading this year has transformed me like no year before.Continue reading
I wrote this essay in the immediate aftermath of the January 6th assault on the U.S. Capitol but was uncertain whether I should share it. Today, however, three weeks since that assault, it is all too clear that the public’s attention is already moving on. We are drifting into national forgetfulness, as we have done so often before and as we must not do again. It is crucial that we remember what happened on January 6th and that it has happened many times before. Otherwise, it will happen again.
The storming of the Capitol by a violent mob on Wednesday, January 6th, left many Americans stunned. It should not have. Violent white supremacists committing insurrection with impunity is business as usual in the United States of America. January 6th was simply a repetition of one of the oldest themes in our history.Continue reading
Hi everyone! On Saturday, September 5th, I gave a Zoom talk titled “Imagining our Way to the Promised Land: Imagination as a Path to a Better Tomorrow” as part of the forum “Love, Unity, Peace, Hope: For the Betterment fo the Global Village.” In it, I draw on literature as an example of how the imagination can be employed in more sophisticated ways and then discuss how a well-trained imagination is essential to envisioning and ultimately realizing a world different from, and better than, the one we live in today. Luckily, it was all recorded and posted on YouTube, so I can share it with you here:Continue reading
“Let not man glory in this that he loveth his country, let him rather glory in this that he loveth his kind.”[i]
A little over ninety years ago, in the fall of 1929, the U.S stock market crashed. The world at the time was far less interconnected than it is now, but ties of mutual dependence were already so tight that, like a string of pearls sliding down a drain, once one country went over the edge, the rest were doomed to follow. Over the next ten years, the nations of the world tried every remedy they could think of—raising tariffs on imported goods, creating welfare states, nationalizing industries, putting fascist dictators into power. None of it helped. The Great Depression lingered on. Why? Because the Great Depression was a global crisis—perhaps the first in human history—and the solutions put forward were, one and all, national solutions.Continue reading
What do the humanities do in a crisis? Are they—and the humanists that practice them—useless in the face of great human suffering, or do they still have something to offer humanity?Continue reading
Some of you may have noticed a new link on the main menu at the top of the page. “The Store” will take you to my new store on Bookshop.org. For me, it’s mostly a place to share lists of books that I like, but you can also buy those books there if you want. If you, I’ll receive a small commission on the sale, and another part of your purchase will go to a fund that supports local, independent bookstores. Bookshop.org is a new online bookseller that is working to help independent bookstores profit from the online book trade. You can search for your favorite indie bookshop and buy from them online, but even if you’re not buying from a specific bookstore, a portion of your purchase will be placed in a fund hat is divided among all participating independent bookstores. You can read about how it works here. I hope you enjoy browsing my store. I’ll be adding more books as I go along and adding links to my reading journal blog entries as well.
Shortly before I learned of Anthony Bourdain’s death, I watched the “Trinidad” episode of Parts Unknown. It’s a great episode all-around, but it was his interview with Calypso Rose, first Queen of Calypso, that really moved me. Later, when I heard about his suicide, that interview haunted me.
I’m a bit late getting this list posted this year. Chinese New Year found my family and I struggling to decide whether to remain in Chengdu as the coronavirus epidemic worsened. Ultimately, we chose to leave. The Lantern Festival (Yuanxiao jie 元宵节)–last night of the New Year celebrations and the usual time I write this post–found us in Japan, watching from over the waters as China took dramatic action to control the epidemic. When it became clear that situation was not going to improve quickly, we continued our journey, back to the U.S. and my family, with whom we are now living.Continue reading
Today is the lantern festival (yuanxiao jie 元宵节), the traditional end for the Chinese New Year season. It’s also time to post my second annual reading journal. This year’s list is even longer than the last. In part, that’s because I included academic titles this time around. My academic and creative lives have grown closer to one another over the last year, so it no longer made sense to separate them.Continue reading
I’m taking a writing class with Gotham Writers’ Workshop right now, and one of the assignments was to create an imaginary bio for yourself. It was no holds barred, so I could have imagined myself as a legendary world traveller, universally admired academic, or much loved novelist and poet–all of which makes what I did end up writing somewhat puzzling:Continue reading