Thursday, August 30, 2007

I found a neat Chinese Culture website by the University of Washington that's very friendly to the beginner to Chinese culture. They call it "A Visual Sourcebook for Chinese Civilization."

The website has an array of topic headings, and each branches off into related aspects, yet the presentation of information is not overwhelming. It gives examples and leads you to compare and contrast and notice pertinent details. Really cool. I am always tucking away cultural ideas to share with my daughter so that she is more familiar with Chinese concepts and values, as well as it being part of my own cultural education.

I spent some time under Buddhism, mostly looking at the symbols used in historical art. Now I can discern the differences between images of the Buddha, Bodhisattvas who are enlightened, compassionate beings devoted to saving suffering beings in the world, Gods of Strength who fight evil forces in the world, and Apsaras or heavenly beings, looking much like angles to western eyes. Also, I learned a little about Guan Yin, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, and about how these depictions changed historically over time. Yes, I am an art geek. :)

Under urban temples, the website gives us a tour of the Fayuan Temple in Beijing. To paraphrase from the website, it was first completed in the late 7th century during the Tang. Over the centuries it has endured destruction by fire, earthquake and war, and has been rebuilt as often. It is still in use today.

I've also perused maps & geography. I'm starting to learn more.

The clothing section is also quite interesting. In includes a picture of Mao as a handsome young man. Who knew! :) No doubt the charisma was evident early.

The section on gardens is also pretty cool. I have not read all of it yet, but I enjoyed this photo tour of the Garden of the Master of Nets in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, a "Chinese scholar's garden."

The website notes that this garden is "one of the smallest (at little more than one acre) yet considered one of the best designed and most elegant of the private gardens still extant."

This is really whetting my appetite to see China!

The other week I saw one of those travel sections in the Sunday paper talking about China. I was struck by the desire to go to China just to see it! That would be so cool! Not like we have the money to go galavanting about overseas right now, but wouldn't it be lovely? I really like the idea of seeing China both before and after we receive our daughter.

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On another note, I ran into a man with two young Chinese daughters in the library the other day. Awwww. No, I didn't stare, but I was sooo jealous. :) I don't think we'll be able to have a second daughter, the wait being as arduous as it is. Um, is it too soon to apply for a second child before we get the first? hehe I am only half joking. I think we can start the process, but can't resubmit until our first has been home a year.

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On another note, there was a Chinese woman in one of my classes recently. I was really very curious to get to know her, but a little shy about it. I want to know more (More what? I dunno, how people relate, what her life has been like as an immigrant the last couple decades... ), but I know it's too much to ask someone to be the representative cultural expert. She seemed like an interesting person (not merely because of her Chinese-ness). I'm worried about making mistakes and inadvertently offending someone, but then, I am shy enough about meeting other people of my own home culture!

On the other hand, this class was talking about multi-cultural values and issues and indeed only half of the people in class were American-born! Hey, if I can talk to the Brazilians, I can certainly talk to the Chinese. :) We did chat a little during the get-to-know-you part of the session. Also, I'm always interested to meet people from other cultures, so maybe if I see her again, I will talk to her more.

I see these kind of cultural opportunities all over the place. Some cost money, others just time and personal perseverance, not to mention the humility to consider another culture with all its core differences. And when getting to know a person, the need to consider each person as an individual and not merely as the classic representative of their culture and any attendant stereotypes (the big no-no in the multi-cultural world). I don't want to be a Chinese culture collector (or as Lindsey would say, a hoarder); I just want to gain a better perspective. But yeah, I am also intrigued.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Baby-Equipment-Clutter: Only The Beginning

Thriftshop Finds, Aug 2007

I've been finally taking more stuff to the local thrifts shops. And there's lots more to go. One little/big box of junk at a time... It feels good, and there is a noticeable difference in the house. Yeah for Flylady! ( See: ) I <3 Flylady.

So anyway, I was over at one of my favorite thriftshopes recently and saw/scored several kid items:

1. A little drawing table.

Brightly colored plastic with cup holders and storage under the drawing surface/lid. Next to one of those big plastic easels. Actually, I was undecided enough that I did not pursue this, but I might got back and see if it's still there (not likely that it is, though).

2. A baby gate.

It's one of those that you expand and then then push a little metal bracket into a slot along the wooden brace to yes, brace it in place. It seemed in good condition. After I brought it home, I tried it out on the extra wide doorway to our kitchen for a while. Seems okay, not fabulous. It might get knocked down under some pressure. Could be a good stop-gap piece, though. M and I both got tired of walking over it after a while. I guess we will have to practice our hurdling technique for later? hehe

3. Am extra-wide stroller by Evenflo. (The best stroller among several there.)

It looks like a jogging stroller with double front wheels that turn on a quarter. At the store, I wheeled it around a bit and it seemed pretty sturdy and facile. It was in good condition although the wheels showed some wear. I had a hard time figuring out the folding mechanism. Finally, by fussing around with it, it suddenly folded down in an unexpected way.

Okay, so it folds! I'll take it! I figured that even if we ultimately ended up getting different items that the cash outlay was not excessive here. Only about 11 bucks. It seemed like a good gamble.

It was not until I got it home that it occurred to me to try to *un*fold the thing. Oops. Much muttering, sighing and cursing ensued. Online was no help in figuring out the mechanism. All I got there were people complaining about this or that Evenflo stroller. Double oops! More cursing and sighing. Eventually, my patient husband came out to see if he could figure out the thing. Yeah for my troubleshooter!

Yah, it seems there is a trick to it... Some additional latch thingie on the side to release. Now it's back up and running, sort to speak. I spent some time poking around and seeing how things adjusted. I think it's supposed to recline also but haven't figured out that piece of it. I still like the stroller other than the aggravation of the folding/unfolding, so I guess we'll keep it around unless/until another option becomes necessary. Plus, the cat boys love it! One after the other had to sit in the prime spot. They looked very happy. I will worry about stroller competition with its rightful owner (our child) later.

The only real downside now is that it is a hulking piece of equipment! I had not thought about what kind of space it would take up in our little house. This is the beginning of the end, isn't it? Welcome to baby-equipment-clutter-hell! *smiles brightly*

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Books and Other Thoughts, August 2007

I have loads of random mis-matched snippets, m'dears. Bite-sized, fun-sized. (Have I been reading too much mimi smartypants? Why, yes I have! hehe :))

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I recently made an effort to list the adoption- , attachment-, learning- and China-related books I have been wanting to read. That's partly because there are SO MANY that I cannot keep them all straight in my head long enough to find them. So when I read good reviews (eg several useful reviews from Rumor Queen recently), I write 'em down. And given that I would like to stretch our dollars to maximum effect (and not just buy everything in sight), I have started looking for titles at our local library first. I was somehow surprized that they actually have many of the titles I am looking for! I requested one book and found a couple others.

Two adoption/identity-related books I've started reading:

In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories by Rita J. Simon and Rhonda M. Roorda. and

Inside Transracial Adoption: Strength-based, culture-sensitizing parent strategies for inter-country or domestic adoptive families that don't "match" by Gail Steinberg and Beth Hall

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ITOV consists mostly of a series of in-depth telephone interviews with transracial adoptees (I guess that's the term) about their experiences growing up and addressing their cultural and racial identity. As I work my way through the book, I periodically find a statement that hits me as good-advice-to-remember, and want to write it down. I started a file to collect some of these, but it quickly became tedious. I wanted to absorb the stories, not just take text-book notes. :) Maybe later.

The interviews are quite interesting. So far, most of the stories have been of racially-black or mixed children. There should be some of Asian children, but I haven't seen them yet.

One core idea that screams out is how important it is for the adoptive parents to make a *conscious effort* to expose their child to their birth culture in order that they have a smoother path to a coherant self-identity. Simply raising the child as if they were "white like them" typically leads to pain and confusion. :(

At least one story is very sad for the lack of cultural support which contributes heavily to the child's alienation from both her home and birth cultures. But it's also true that this same child lived in a small town in the midwest (Indiana or Illinois) where I know from my own experience (!!) is often NOT conducive to open discussion of uncomfortable topics! Witness my own in-laws who try to ignore uncomfortable or merely unusual situations out of existance!
So this poor child is both still quite young and Mid-Western, still trying to find her way and be accepted by *somebody*, in prime condition to be sucked into a cult or other abusive organization... Her attempts thus far to connect with her own racial/cultural identity have been met with both subtle and frank disapproval and discomfort from her parents... and some derision from others of her racial group for her awkwardness. So at the time of the interview, she was going to college (persisting although neither parent had gone to college themselves), and trying to make opportunities for herself. She seems to be fighting an uphill battle for her core self, not the least of which is needing to learn to push ahead despite her parents' need to push her down so that she doesn't make them uncomfortable. (! My God, I am not even kidding.) I'm inclined to think that, although her parents had fostered dozens of foster kids of various ethnicities over the years, that they were the wrong people to actually adopt a minority-race baby... :(

That one is sad. But there are other stories that are rather inspiring, in terms of how the parents being open, frank, and giving their child ample exposure to their birth race/culture. Those parents who make a strong consistent effort to clearly and openly address identity seem to raise self-confident and happy children... Quite interesting.

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ITRA is also quite interesting! In fact, as soon as I picked it up to skim it and peruse the table of contents, I became convinced that I would have to buy this in the future. It looks like it has very practical strategies for helping ones child and family keep up with the issues of families with "unmatched" ethnic identities.

One thing I have learned already (from skimming), is that if someone is rude towards or prejudiced against one's child or family, the first important thing is to take care of your child's needs *first*, rather than trying to respond to the rude person. It may be that the person does not get a response, but the family provides a united front of solidarity.

At the same time, it is also vitally important to not tolerate ANY instance of racism or subtle racist attitude to create the supportive environment for your child(ren). If somebody is making a hurtful or thoughtlessly racist remark, jokingly or merely offhandedly, call them on it! Respectfully and straightforwardly, but firmly. I'm sure I'll have some quotes later...

The book acknowledges the balance the parents must strike encouraging both bonding/attachment and differentiation. Lots of interesting, very practical, things to think about. I'll write more about my impressions as I read deeper, but even at this superficial level, I am very impressed with this book. Looks like one for our own library.

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We've been slowly de-cluttering in preparation for serious baby-proofing the house. And just in time, Clutter Girl has some useful and inspiring Babyproofing Reviews here: (Updated to show URL. Sorry about that.)

Many cool items I will no doubt acquire eventually. Things I had never even thought of needing, like fridge and toilet locks! I probably need to start a list of *that* too, items needed/wanted, so that I can space them out and avoid killing our budget.

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On the decluttering side, I've been greatly enjoying FLYlady's website and email services. I can't rave enough about her! Some of her sayings:

Progress, not perfection.

Housework done imperfectly will still bless your family.

You can do anything for 15 minutes.

You are not behind! Jump in where you are!

hee hee! It's like being in training to be an efficient parent. At least, that's how I'm thinking of it. A chance to develop better habits and routines so that we don't descend into complete and utter chaos (or CHAOS) once our daughter arrives. Yeah, not complete and utter chaos, just minor sleepless chaos. :)

So far, I have inspired one friend and one sister, and inspired even my *husband* (!!!) to build better care-taking routines. Abso-luely-freakin-amazing, that. :) I am still taking baby steps with it, so even if I backslide a little, I still have a core set of routines that help keep me going until I can jump back in.

I can't convince you if you are not in the place to appreciate her warm wisdom. But it you *are* interested in a fun and supportive system for housework and life, check it out. :) Cool stuff for SHEs (Side-tracked Home Executives) like myself. And more fun than you would expect...

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Oh yes.

I think I said that I have started joining all kinds of LID and agency groups.

I am staying relatively quiet until I figure out if/when I have something to ask/say. Or until/if there is any topic of interest to read about... But I almost always see a few waiting PAPs (potential adoptive parents) speculating about the wait times, but *frequently* being clueless about the wait situation, sometimes spectacularly so. There are too too many PAPs for which the mere thought of a 3+ year wait is shocking news. :(

I am somehow shocked that some PAPs are just now getting wind of the wait times. And I am disgusted to hear that some agencies are still telling people in my LID month that they can expect to be home by something like the end of 2008!!! Which is just insanely unlikely. It would take a miracle for things to speed up to that degree. 'Taint likely. And hugely unfair to the families who are still expecting 18-22 months. :(

So I haven't decided how, if at all, to break current "news" to such uninformed (rather, mis-informed) PAPs. While I think about it (and laugh somewhat bitterly about their naivety), someone else steps in and does the brave deed of informing them of the true situation. :( How hard and unbelievable it must be to get smacked with this information all at once. We at least were disappointed gradually. We have had time to adjust our expectations.

If I had not found info on the web but relied only on my agency to tell me accurate expectations, I'd be at some point angrily disappointed. I know the agencies want to put a good face on it, but geez. I don't see how they can avoid hoards of angry clients as the sh*t starts hitting the fan more publicly.

I know this is long and disgruntled, but all I wanted to say is--there are still people who have not gotten the secret memo. :( And I have mixed feelings about seeing that. It's like a train wreck. I wince, but I can't quite look away.

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On a completely different note, I have been recently reading about some people undertaking the massive project of "ripping" their music CDs to digital storage. I am not ready to join to MP3 / iP0d crowd (I like listening to speakers that are *not* stuck in my ears, thank you), but I can see it coming. CDs are on their way to being *gasp* obsolete! Reading some of this recently (people converting vast collections into various mediums and storages, trying to figure what to do with the cases and liner notes with attendant imagery), I experienced a shiver of foreshadowing.

Yes, I still have stacks and stacks of cassette tapes that I rarely ever listen to any more (unless I am traveling). Yes, I still have record albums that I can't listen to any more for excess of dust and lack of turntable.

So I have already experienced the frustration of having things go obsolete and/or madly transferring audio and visual data onto ever-improving/changing storage systems. I have already run through the sequence of big 5" floppy to small 3.5" floppy, to zip discs to CDs to external storage to thumbdrives to... ? So I suddenly realized that someday my CD collection will be obsolete and thus neglected! Nooooo...

I remember buying my first two CDs ever: the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's album as a gift for my then-boyfriend and Paul Simon's Graceland album for myself. Heck, I remember the first LP I ever bought (that's a long-playing record for you young whipper-snappers), which was The Best of The Eagles. Which I now have on CD. (heh) Where will it end????

Although I tend to run ahead of the curve on numerous societal trends, I adopt new popular technology mostly kicking and screaming, or at least groaning and complaining. I am not looking forward to the eventual conversion. *sigh*

Meanwhile, I'll enjoy my current fab music CD collection. Life is good. :) And no, it's not the cliche.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Concurrent Thoughts

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As the wait becomes more and more firmly pegged into 3-years-and-counting territory, I find myself fantasizing about a concurrent adoption. It seems agonizing to wait for another nearly 4 years (maybe), which is only a fraction of the past 9 years that we have been thinking of having children, but still!

My mind cannot quite reconcile with another adoption as reality though. (Reading back on this, I think--whaat? Why did I write that? It's just that there are many conflicting factors that don't make that an easy choice.) At least not yet, anyway. Several reasons. If we do adopt, say, domestically, I would want to continue with the original China adoption. But then who travels to China and who stays home with our other little one? Would it be easier for me to go? (I'll probably know more Chinese than my husband) But wouldn't that be hard on our other child to be separated from their mother? Or do we drag that child to China as well? Yikes! Then we'd need another helper to come with us, and not sure who I'd want that to be (not my mother).

Other considerations:

I am not wanting to adopt from another country. I just cannot get excited about it. (Although that could change... I just don't feel it right now.) Strange that I feel so strongly about China! Maybe I am so invested in that culture and language that I cannot envision the energy and enthusiasm for another country.

Meanwhile, even if we did want to look at domestic adoption more seriously, we'd have to take on the whole mess of being chosen as parents. Part of me digs in my heels and refuses to take part in that kind of competition. I am very uncomfortable with having to "present" ourselves to be acceptable with a birth-mother individual, and angry at the anticipated judgments. I don't want to have to hear how we've been turned down by this or that person, and my reaction is to take us out of the pageant to begin with.
My fantasy is that a child will need a home and we will be in line to be considered... Like one doctor's son who fell into their lap. Like another friend who is currently waiting to see if a baby's extended family wants them... I know this is pure fantasy, but there it is. We'd still have to put out the word somewhere. Maybe we could talk to our home study agency and let that be known, although we have NOT signed on with them for any kind of placement, you understand, so we might have to pay more money for further evaluation and representation... Although that IS a possibility, IF, and big if, they would allow concurrent adoptions... I haven't even looked into this seriously, but it's one avenue.

From what I have heard, it's the home agencies more than the CCAA who does not want/allow concurrent adoptions. So much would depend on how this other agency views that. Do I need to convince them that there's no way that we would be placed with a Chinese child within the next two-three years? Because another child would have to be at least a year old (and home with us at least a year) at the time of our China match...

Okay, and lastly, what about the expense of it all? What would it cost us to start up a concurrent adoption? More agency fees since our first agency is China only. We'd probably need another home study. At least our house is a little cleaner than during the first one! haha! We have been de-cluttering the place after years. But I don't think we'd be able to afford paying medical expenses for a pregnant birth mother. We're not *that* well off, and we're already a little unhappily stretched because of the first adoption expenses. Then on top of that, part of our current plan is for me to work more the next couple years to bolster our savings. So by adding another child, does that just blow that plan out of the water?

Anyway, I'm just thinkin'. M and I have already talked a little, not in any kind of Big Talk way, but more like checking in with each other and sharing ideas. We've agreed that if it looks like the wait will go much beyond 3 years, then we'd definitely be up for looking at other, concurrent, adoptions. We are not ready to go all gung ho for another adoption right this very instant. But the wait news never gets any better. I know it's been only 4 months or so since we have been LID, but the news, my dears, is very bad. We keep hanging on, but yes, I am looking at other options.

On another note, I have been telling all friends and family who know about our China adoption plans that the wait will take at least 3 years... Most recently I told this to a good friend who was instrumental in making us look at China adoption more seriously. I was quite surprised when she jumped in and made reassuring noises. She sounded almost defensive. It hadn't even occurred to me until then that she might be worried to be blamed for getting into this interminable wait. It's true that if she had not given us so much good information about our agency that we might have gone down a different route; that's the truth. But now that we are here, we are still committed to China adoption. I'm just looking at the wait and looking for additional options.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Recent Kim Wong Keltner Books Read

Buddha Baby And The Dim Sum of All Things by Kim Wong Keltner

I recently finished Kim Wong Keltner's second novel, Buddha Baby. I earlier read her first, The Dim Sum of All Things. Here are some of my thoughts in no particular order, edited only lightly.

In the first book, her protagonist, Lindsey Owyang, is a classic disassociated ABC or American Born Chinese. Her grandparents immigrated, but she and her parents are fully enveloped in American culture. While Lindsey is occupied with her dull clerical jobs and various boys that she carries on with but does not let get too close, she nurtures her long-time Hello Kitty! obsession and a fractured understanding of where she fits in the cultural scheme of things. On one hand, she is as American as Spaghetti-os, but as Chinese as ... ? okay, Dim Sum.

Her understanding of Chinese culture is missing huge gaps and she recognizes that, but her parents don't seem to have any interest in helping her get a handle on it, they themselves enscounced in the "average" American lifestyle and advise her "better leave it alone." Her grandparents seem both a link back to Chinese culture, and an obstacle in the huge gap between their outlooks. Lindsey is familiar with their Chinese quirks, but not understanding or wholly sympathetic. She seems fully comfortable in neither culture. She goes on errands into China Town for her grandparents, but she cringes away from anyone addressing her in Chinese (Cantonese in this case) since she has only rudimentary understanding of that language. And she hides her full Hello Kitty! obsession for fear of being pegged as a stereotypical Chinese girl. Her brother exhibits no interest in being anything other than Americanized.

At one point in the book, when she is visiting family in China, she gazes with wonderment on a scroll that a distant relative has written her family members' names--recognizing her own name written in Chinese even if the rest is a mystery to her.

The book explores the experience of awakening to ones expanding cultural identity. She seems to track down clues to her Chinese-ness while developing her own theories. It seems to say that no matter how American she may feel, her outer appearance as an Asian and her inner restlessness--not knowing her family's culture--point her towards a more complex reality.

One concept that came up in her first book is the idea of an Asian Horder. According to Lindsey, this is a person, often male but not always, who fetishizes Asian culture, valuing things for what they represent rather than for themselves. This is the person who is relentlessly drawn to collecting Asian items, including people! Hence: The Hoarder of All Things Asian. Gak!

Lindsey has learned to recognize the air of someone drawn to her exotic demeanor and what they imagine she represents (sometimes as a cultural expert), and she performs evasive maneuvers to elude their slimy attention. Must Possess Asian Thing! This really struck home with me (having experienced some of that from a different direction! Can you say sweet, modest, naiive girl?), and made me examine my own tendencies. Do I want to collect the trappings of Asian culture for the kitsch or collectableness of it? Gak! I sure hope not!!

I am relieved that I don't seem to want to adopt from China because I want an exotic baby; I just want a baby, period! But this concept of a Horder is a warning to avoid viewing culture as a fashion statement of any kind, much less as a collectable. Just because you have the trappings does not mean you are living that culture! It also encourages me to consider what aspects of Chinese culture will be the most useful and meaningful for my daughter in her life. What can I respectfully convey? it's a dilemma. .... Lots more to contemplate....

Anyway, back to the books.

Lindsey gets cultural inquiries from both directions, from random white people wanting her to explain the history of Chinese Painting at the drop of a hat, to the cadre of Museum guards who speculate which nationality she is in hopes of scoring another eligible girl for their latest matchmaking efforts. Sometimes Chinese look at her and see either a traitor (dating an apparent white guy or buying into the sweet, stylish Asian girl construct) or a good girl (with a Chinese guy as if Chinese belong together). Other ethnicities place their prejudices on her willy-nilly, "talking all kinds of smack, right to their faces," and other dis-associated Chinese throw Asian concepts around willy-nilly as well.

Kim Kong Keltner writes in a breezy, wittily humorous, culture-name-dropping style that is entertaining if occasionally a little too much "purple" detail. As if naming the brands of either culture gives it enough flavor to substitute for plot! But actually, the plots are not bad. It's the punny analogies that are sometimes funny and sometimes hugely groan-worthy. It's as if Mrs. Keltner spent a little too much time reading Piers Anthony, if you know what I mean. So read with caution! :)

Lindsey's efforts to understand the older Chinese generations (her parents disinterested in talking about family history, her grandparents, remote and odd, and set in their ways) are evocative of any young person's quest to understand their own history, and more so in Lindsey's case since her present is so mostly removed from her distant ancestral past. She is not a full cultural Chinese, but she is also familiar with being the outsider at her mostly white Catholic school.

In Buddha Baby, Linsey has taken a job at her old elementary school, like a full-blown metaphor for revisiting, confronting and reevaluating the demons of ones past. She discovers old secrets, revisits old memories of differentness and pressures to conform to the White World, and is confronted with a number of surprises.

My favorite part here was her slowly developing a new relationship with her grandparents, trying to understand them (as they no doubt are wondering what to do with this clueless American granddaughter), and reconcile what she thought she knew about her own family.

Meanwhile, her sweetheart is culturally American (white American), but as it comes out in the first book, secretly a quarter Chinese! He's even more clueless about Chinese culture than Lindsey is, but more open-hearted, and she seems to benefit from both having to educate Michael and opening herself up in a relationship where she doesn't have to hide the tangled complexities of herself.

It's a drifting yet entertaining story of self-identity exploration. Mostly very enjoyable and a light cultural tour.

Near the end of the book, Lindsey comes across a piece of her grandparents' past. Well, several pieces. This may count as a spoiler so watch out! :)

But the curious thing for me was that this link both remembered the "old" way of thinking of Chinese labors (in which Chinese took all the grunt jobs that nobody else wanted.... the men were all called Johnny and the women were all called Mary), while seemed to have a more modern link in other ways. So was this patronizing? respectful? reality of that time? it's so bizarre.

I half expected this person to apologize for all the old attitudes, all the racism inherent in the system, that contributed to their own life, but they didn't. And THEN (huge spoiler alert!), this person's daughter had adopted a daughter from China!!!! Now that was a twist. Although it did not seem to be a case of a true Hoarder because although the woman who adopted came from a family of collectors of exotic things, she had earlier been seen to seem to pick on young people, especially those of Asian descent. Lindsey herself remembers occasions of acting out against Chinese as the internalized "other" of her primary culture, so maybe there are more conflicted motivations. But still, this person who grew up around Chinese "help" now has a Chinese granddaughter! And apparently was happy with it. Or at least not unhappy. But I couldn't tell if the author approved, disapproved or was just holding it up as another cultural oddity.

So this second book in particular, although it draws heavily on the character groundwork laid by the first book, explores more aspects of self-identity and figuring out where one belongs and how to fit in, how to identify oneself. OR at least acknowledging the difficult of finding unambiguous answers.

So overall, this was a light fluffy cultural read with deeper ideas to contemplate hidden in the mix.

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