May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders have enriched the culture of America through art, literature, music, language and history. Check out a few movies and books below:

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Fiction Roundup – May 2019

Here are some interesting-looking titles of fiction coming out this month.  Note: if you liked the movie “Arrival” (I loved it and watched it twice), Ted Chiang, the science fiction author whose novella “Story of Your Life” was the basis for the movie, has a new book out called Exhalation. To secure a copy of any of these books, just click on the title, and you’ll be taken to the catalog.

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The Behavior of Love by Virginia Reeves – Working to revitalize a crumbling hospital and start a family with his artistic wife, an ambitious behavioral psychiatrist becomes fatefully involved in the case of a wrongly institutionalized patient who has fallen in love with him.

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper – Telling a white lie that makes his coworkers believe he has a loving family at home, a lonely man stuck in a thankless public-health job falls in love with a new coworker who challenges his secrets.

Lanny by Max Porter – A follow-up to the prizewinning Grief Is the Thing with Feathers follows the awakening of a mythical being in a London village, where he observes the domestic dramas and creative energies surrounding a mischievous, ethereal young newcomer.

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Exhalation by Ted Chiang – A long-awaited latest collection by the Arrival-inspiring author of “The Story of Your Life” explores revelatory ideas and second chances in such tales as, “In the Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” “Exhalation” and “The Lifecycle of Software Objects.”

Light From Other Stars by Erika Swyler – Decades after her grieving father, a laid-off NASA scientist, triggers chaotic changes in his pursuit of life-extending technology, an astronaut confronts dangerous family secrets to stop a world-threatening crisis. By the author of The Book of Speculation.

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire – In an alternate-reality world under the shadow of a magical government bent on transmuting the fabric of reality, two alchemical twins, one skilled with language and the other with math, become catalysts in their creator’s grab for power.

 

 

 

Non-Fiction Roundup – May 2019

Happy May!  Here are some non-fiction titles to whet your readerly appetite, coming out this month.  One click on the title will take you to the catalog.  Happy reading!

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At Home with Muhammad Ali by Hana Ali – Muhammad Ali’s daughter presents a candid and intimate family memoir based on personal recordings he kept throughout his adult life, detailing the everyday adventures their family shared and their collective experiences with pain, laughter and love.

Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination by Brian Jay Jones – A full-scale portrait of Theodor Geisel, best known as American icon Dr. Seuss, shares insights into his successful early career as a radical political cartoonist and the complicated genius that informed his beliefs on such subjects as empathy and environmentalism.

The Making of a Justice by Justice John Paul Stevens – One of the most prominent jurists of our time provides a personal account of life on the Supreme Court that offers a unique understanding of American history. By the author of Fire Chiefs.

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The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art and Scandal at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont by Shawn Levy – The best-selling author of Rat Pack Confidential presents a deeply researched history of the iconic Hollywood hotel that explores its storied role in wild celebrity revelries, scandalous liaisons and creative breakthroughs.

Comedy Sex God by Pete Holmes – The host of the You Made It Weird podcast and star of HBO’s Crashing describes how an ex’s infidelity transformed his evangelical Christian views, compelling him to embrace a model of faith that incorporates laughter and honest fulfillment.

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep – Documents the remarkable story of 1970s Alabama serial killer Willie Maxwell and the true-crime book on the Deep South’s racial politics and justice system that consumed Harper Lee in the years after To Kill a Mockingbird.

 

For the last day of National Poetry Month, here are three great poems

It’s the last day of National Poetry Month!  Does this mean anything?

In the grand scheme of things, I don’t really think so.  Poetry lives and breathes outside the schematics we impose on it, and National Poetry Month is just an excuse to celebrate something that cannot be contained in really any way.  But there is something – sad? significant? – about the ending of April and this month designated as poetry’s, if only because we need to say farewell to our intentional calendrical homage, and move out into May’s own vista, as poetry moves out of the national spotlight and back into the less-attention-getting situation of readers and writers (mundanely, extraordinarily) connecting.

To commemorate the ending of this poetry month, we should connect with some poems.  Here is a deservedly famous villanelle by American poet Elizabeth Bishop, titled “One Art.”

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
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Elizabeth Bishop

And here is African-American poet Robert Hayden‘s unforgettable “Those Winter Sundays”:

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

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Robert Hayden

And here, last but not least, is the profoundly wonderful “Adam’s Curse” by Irish poet William Butler Yeats.

 

We sat together at one summer’s end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.’
                                          And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There’s many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied, ‘To be born woman is to know—
Although they do not talk of it at school—
That we must labour to be beautiful.’
I said, ‘It’s certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
Precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.’
We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.
I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.
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William Butler Yeats

Captain Marvel


While I know much about certain comic book characters, I don’t know as much about Captain Marvel. I’ve only read Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel comic book run, which is similar to the movie version. Otherwise I’ve learned about her through Avenger’s stories, X-Men, Ms. Marvel, or character synopsis. So, I was curious to learn what story they’d try to tell with her. Overall, I think the advertising campaign helped keep that a mystery. Something many may not know is that this takes place mostly in 1995.

The movie starts out with Vers (one of three names for Captain Marvel in this movie), played by Brie Larson, waking up from a dream. She goes to spar with Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), where he tells her she needs to focus on controlling her emotions. She talks about how she doesn’t seem to recall her past. They talk about some of Kree society on the planet Hala, which they’re on. We learn of their enemies the alien shapeshifters, the Skrull. Soon enough they get into a conflict with them and Vers is taken captive. The Skrull begin to explore her memories. She eventually frees herself from the Skrulls and crash-lands on Earth.

Some Skrulls follow her to Earth and soon she is met by Agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). Fury and Coulson are understandably apprehensive about Vers’s story of space travel and shapeshifting aliens. They’re soon shot at with an alien weapon from the nearby roof. Vers chases after a Skrull. After the chase, it becomes clear to Fury that Ver’s story is real. So Vers and Fury end up teaming up to deal with the threat.

After seeing this movie, I compared it to other Marvel movies. I think this one feels most closely related to Thor. They’re both powerful characters from alien societies. I think they learned from Thor that having a “fish out of water” character isn’t necessarily enough to tell a compelling story, when there are now numerous origin stories. So, they added more action and supporting characters to make a relatable narrative. The story is less overwhelming than it could have been, as introducing two alien societies is a lot to explain in one movie. We could have ended up with several more societies, and that’s hard to keep track of.

There is a lot going on in the movie with three prominent species. The character of Carol Danvers really has a lot of complexity to her as well. I personally think they could have spent multiple movies introducing her prior to Avenger’s: Endgame. Doctor Strange was the last Marvel character to be fully introduced in their own movie and I think his story felt less rushed in comparison. One problem with the character is that they explain early on that she’s supposed to stifle emotion from her Kree training. So, I suspect we’ll see a different version moving forward. I do think this movie nailed the points it needed to for the bigger universe. It’s a fun addition to the great Marvel Cinematic Universe. Rated PG-13.

Ryan