Redwood City Public Library Author Series, Fall 2018


Fireplace Room, Downtown Library, Redwood City

The first reading of the series was Holocaust Survivor, Public Speaker and Memoirist Sylvia Ruth Gutmann, reading from her book A Life Rebuilt: The Remarkable Transformation of a War Orphan. It was held two nights ago, in the Fireplace Room of the Main Library, and self is most happy to report the reading was a resounding success: a sizeable audience packed the room. High Fives to Sylvia Ruth Gutman for kicking off the series on such an auspicious note!

The second reading is a Women Authors Panel featuring self, Lillian Howan and Veronica Montes. Saturday, Sept. 8, 2:30 p.m., at the Fireplace Room of the Downtown Library. Self is a long-time Redwood City resident, and she’s so pleased to be reading with two of her favorite writers!

Veronica Montes’s first book, Benedicta Takes Wing and Other Stories (Philippine American Literary House, 2018), is a sparkling collection of stories about Filipino Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Lillian Howan’s first novel, The Charm Buyers (University of Hawai’i Press, 2017) is an extraordinary and powerful love story, set in Tahiti during the last years of French nuclear testing in the Pacific, in the 1990s.

About self: She’s published three collections of short stories (Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila, Mayor of the Roses, and The Lost Language) and a novella, Jenalyn (Vagabondage Press), that was a finalist for the 2014 Saboteur Award. She has stories published or forthcoming in Quarterly West, Bellingham Review, Crab Orchard Review, Juked, and Prairie Schooner.


Books will be available for purchase and signing.

The last event in the series is a reading by Vanessa Garcia, reading from See You at the 7: Stories from the Bay Area’s Last Original Mile House. The 7 Mile House in Brisbane is the only Bay Area mile house operating at its original location. Garcia will read on Sept. 26, 7 p.m., in the Downtown Library Community Room.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.



amreading: Filipino short story writer Gilda Cordero-Fernando

from “Hothouse” :

Tia Dolor has been around the world several times, but towns and cities — Nikko and Capri and Copenhagen — all look alike to her: the same buildings, the same churches, the same automobiles. In fact, she is hard put to tell one country from another except from what they sell in the shops. And she has something to bring home for everybody — no one is ever forgotten — her suitcases are cleaned out of everything she has brought home including some that she went away with. And if you expect her somehow to look more chic (a new hairdo, a new suit) you are sorely disappointed: she minces down the ramp wearing the squirrel coat from Hong Kong and her black lizard skin wedgies.

Filipino (Prose) Literature in English, A Few Recommended Titles from the Golden Age:

  • The Distance to Andromeda and Other Stories, by Gregorio C. Brillantes
  • A Season of Grace, by N. V. M. Gonzalez
  • Children of the Ash-Covered Loam and Other Stories, by N. V. M. Gonzalez
  • The Bamboo Dancers, a novel by N. V. M. Gonzalez
  • Now and At the Hour and Other Stories, by Aida L. Rivera
  • Brother, My Brother: Stories, by Bienvenido Santos
  • You Lovely People, by Bienvenido Santos

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

New Books for the Reading List

Stanford professors, the editors of Stanford University Press and Bing Overseas Study Program staff were asked to recommend books for summer reading and they came up with some interesting titles:

Books To Shift Your Perspective

  • An Act of Terror, by André Brink
  • Sometimes a Great Notion, by Ken Kesey
  • The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell
  • Hadji Murad, by Leo Tolstoy
  • Stoner, by John Williams
  • The Removes, by Tatjana Soli
  • Teacher: Two Years in the Mississippi Delta, by Michael Copperman
  • Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult, by Bruce Handy

Books on Globality and Migration

  • Brother, I’m Dying, by Edwidge Danticat
  • Signs Preceding the End of the World, by Yuri Herrera

Books for Travelers to:


  • In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson and Ellen Titlebaum


  • Age of Ambitions: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, by Evan Osnos


  • Memories of a Nation, by Neil MacGregor
  • The Reluctant Meister: How Germany’s Past is Shaping Its European Future, by Stephen Green


  • The Italians, by John Hooper


  • A Geek in Japan: Discovering the Land of Manga, Animé, Zen and the Tea Ceremony, by Hector Garcia

Cape Town, South Africa

  • Keeper of the Kumm, by Sylvia Vollenhoven


  • The New Spaniards, by John Hooper

Status Report: Books Read (So Far) 2018

By now it should be clear how much self loves constructing lists. And book lists best of all.

Self set herself a goodreads Reading Challenge of 32 books, which is pretty ambitious considering last year she didn’t make her challenge goal of 26 books.


Books Read This Year (in the order of their Goodreads Average Rating)

  1. The Odyssey (the translation by Emily Wilson)
  2. La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman
  3. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
  4. The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman
  5. The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson
  6. The Amber Spyglass, by Philip Pullman
  7. Travels with Charley: In Search of America, by John Steinbeck
  8. The Romanovs: 1613 – 1918, by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore
  9. Conclave, by Robert Harris
  10. Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
  11. The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
  12. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  13. Empress of the East: How a European Slave Girl Became Queen of the Ottoman Empire, by Leslie Peirce
  14. In the Lake of the Woods, by Tim O’Brien
  15. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
  16. Mikhail and Margarita, by Julie Lekstrom Himes
  17. The Mandibles, A Family: 2029 – 2047, by Lionel Shriver
  18. Moshi Moshi, by Banana Yoshimoto
  19. Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys
  20. As Lie Is to Grin, by Simeon Marsalis

Today, self went poring over her recommended reading list and discarded a list called “Recommended Summer Reading” (downloaded from a literary website). Summer is practically half over and by the time she gets to the books on that list, it will be winter.

On her To-Read list 2018 are a biography of Daphne du Maurier and three du Maurier novels. She hopes she can get to them soon. She wishes Steinbeck weren’t so engaging because he is really slowing down her reading rate. Before she began Travels with Charley she read an average of a book a week.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.

Status Report: the 2018 Reading List

There was a stretch of months where all the authors self was reading or had read were male: That’s because a lot of the books she read the first half of the year were by Philip Pullman, who she read for the first time EVER this year. Shame! Shame! Shame!

Then she read Treasure Island, then Lord of the Flies.

She finally tackled Jean Rhys (another first, despite the fact that she’s been hearing about this author since the year she entered grad school) and ended up wanting to strangle her male character in Wide Sargasso Sea.

She discovered the luminous Norwegian writer Tove Jansson in The Summer Book.

She read an excellent first novel (by Julie Lekstrom Himes), Mikhail and Margarita.

After she’s done with Travels with Charley, she re-reads Michael Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White. She read this book over a decade ago but Faber’s name came up again when she found an old list (from the time she was a Hawthornden fellow, in June 2012) of book recommendations from her fellow Hawthornden writers.

Her next authors are all women:

  • Elizabeth Strout
  • Tatiana de Rosnay
  • Daphne du Maurier
  • Jenny Allen
  • Magda Szabø
  • Rosemary Sutcliff

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


The Pacific Rim Review of Books: Self Wants to Eat/Read Everything

Issue Twenty-Three, Vol. 12 No. 1



Dawdling Over Travels with Charley

Self has been reading blazing fast, ever since she began Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage, vol. 1 of The Book of Dust, in late March. The last week of March, and through April and May, she was on such a tear. After La Belle Sauvage, she read all of His Dark Materials, then moved on to childhood classics like Treasure Island and Lord of the Flies, Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey, Tove Jansson’s exquisite The Summer Book, two first novels (As Lie Is to Grin by Simeon Marsalis and Mikhail and Margarita by Julie Lekstrom Himes, both excellent), and two books by Tim O’Brien (In the Lake of the Woods gutted her. In fact, she can’t stop thinking about it)

Since beginning Travels with Charley, however, she’s been moving at a glacial pace. It took her forever just to get through the Jay Parini introduction, and she’s just on p. 17.

She almost put the book aside last night, because it suddenly struck her that the kind of problems a man might encounter while traveling alone through America are very different from the kind of problems self experiences when she travels alone — self has traveled through not just America, but through Asia and Europe — and she is usually alone. It gets harder with every passing year. Security seems more suspicious (so many stamps on her passport!), people are less kind (or maybe self has just become more paranoid), and she’s definitely become more impatient. For one thing, she hates delays of any sort, and she hates flying because it’s so dehumanizing.

On p. 17, Steinbeck shares one of his underlying reasons for undertaking this trip, and she understands:

  • A kind of second childhood falls on so many men. They trade their violence for a small increase of life span. In effect, the head of the household becomes the youngest child. And I have searched myself for this possibility with a kind of horror. For I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept around the clock or missed two nights of sleeping, worked too hard and too long in glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness. I’ve lifted, pulled, chopped, climbed, made love with joy and taken my hangovers as a consequence, not as a punishment. I did not want to surrender fierceness for a small gain in yardage.

Travel is one way to resist the gravitational pull of age. It’s like being young again because everything is new, and you can still be surprised, on a daily basis.

(Note: Self was taken aback that Steinbeck viewed himself as a kind of Ernest Hemingway manly man. She’s always thought of him as ‘gentle.’ He might even be insulted by that description.)


Self can’t believe summer is officially here. Time moves so fast. Soon, she’ll have a harvest of figs and plums from her backyard:

Stay tuned.

Jane Austen, Process

  • On March 18, 1817, Jane Austen stopped writing a book. We know the date because she wrote it at the end of the manuscript, on January 27th of that year. In the seven weeks in between, she had completed eleven chapters and slightly more than nine pages of a twelfth — some twenty-three thousand five-hundred words. The final sentence in the manuscript runs as follows: “Poor Mr. Hollis! — It was impossible not to feel him hardly used; to be obliged to stand back in his own House and see the best place by the fire constantly occupied by Sir H.D.”

— Anthony Lane, Last Laugh: Jane Austen’s Final, Surprising, Unfinished Novel

(The New Yorker, 13 March 2017)

To read:

  • Sanditon (her last novel, unfinished)
  • Persuasion
  • Northanger Abbey

Beginning IN THE LAKE OF THE WOODS, by Tim O’Brien

The recommendation is six years old, from a print-out she took home with her during her 2012 residency in Hawthornden International Retreat for Writers. We six writers in June 2012 did a lot of sharing of our favorite books. Someone decided to type them up. Self took the list home, and promptly lost it. She found it again, just a month ago, stuck in the back of a drawer of her writing desk in Redwood City. There, on p. 3, were two books by Tim O’Brien: The Things They Carried and In the Lake of the Woods.

Self began with The Things They Carried. She read it decades ago, taught it to classes. It’s held up. She liked most of the stories.

She decided not to do too much advance research on In the Lake of the Woods. She assumed it was another book about Vietnam.

She loves that O’Brien begins with descriptions of the lake. The lake is in his short stories, too — there is such a lyricism to his descriptions of it. She loves that In the Lake of the Woods is about a wounded candidate, a man who’s lost an election by a landslide.

Also, she loves (so far) the mystery.

  • Anthony L. (Tony) Carbo: Show me a politician, I’ll show you an unhappy childhood.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Book List From the Hay (Wales) Festival of Literature

Self is obssessed with book lists. Obssessed!

Found this list today, on the Hay Festival of Literature website. Copying it out below.

No list is not without its shortcomings: WHY ONLY THREE BOOKS BY ASIAN WOMEN.

The highlighted titles are the ones self has read:

  1. A Book of Mediterranean Food, by Elizabeth David
  2. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, by Eimear McBride
  3. A Place of Greater Safety, by Hilary Mantel
  4. Ain’t I a Woman, by Bell Hooks
  5. Ariel, by Sylvia Plath
  6. At the Source, by Gillian Clarke
  7. Babette’s Feast, by Isaak Dinesen
  8. Bad Behavior, by Mary Gaitskill
  9. The Bastard of Istanbul, by Elif Shafak
  10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
  11. Bonjour Tristesse, by Francoise Sagan
  12. Brick Lane, by Monica Ali
  13. Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding
  14. Close Range: Wyoming Stories, by E. Annie Proulx
  15. Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons
  16. Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill
  17. The Collected Dorothy Parker
  18. Everyday Sexism, by Laura Bates
  19. Falling Awake, by Alice Oswald
  20. Frost in May, by Antonia White
  21. Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson
  22. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  23. Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
  24. Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi
  25. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azbakan, by J. K. Rowling
  26. Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Revolution, by Mona Eltahawy
  27. Heartburn, by Nora Ephron
  28. Henry and June, by Anais Nin
  29. Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi
  30. How To Be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran
  31. How To Eat, by Nigella Lawson
  32. How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed, by Slavenka Drakulic
  33. I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
  34. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
  35. Into That Darkness, by Gitta Sereny
  36. Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
  37. Lullaby, by Leila Slimani
  38. Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, by Elizabeth Taylor
  39. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
  40. Notes on a Scandal, by Zoe Heller
  41. Noughts & Crosses, by Malorie Blackman
  42. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, by Jeanette Winterson
  43. Orlando, by Virginia Woolf
  44. Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
  45. Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren
  46. Possession, by A. S. Byatt
  47. Rachel’s Holiday, by Marian Keyes
  48. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
  49. Regeneration, by Pat Barker
  50. Selected Stories by Alice Munro
  51. Small Island, by Andrea Levy
  52. Standing Female Nude, by Carol Ann Duffy
  53. Stranger on a Train, by Patricia Highsmith
  54. Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain
  55. The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson
  56. The Body in the Library, by Agatha Christie
  57. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
  58. The Country Girls, by Edna O’Brien
  59. The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives, by Carole Hillenbrand
  60. The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank
  61. The Female Eunuch, by Germaine Greer
  62. The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan
  63. The Fountain Overflows, by Rebecca West
  64. The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls
  65. The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy
  66. The Golden Notebook, by Doris Lessing
  67. The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson
  68. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
  69. The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
  70. The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
  71. The Human Condition, by Hannah Arendt
  72. The Illustrated Mum, by Jacqueline Wilson
  73. The Land of Green Plums, by Herta Muller
  74. The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin
  75. The Moomins and the Great Flood, by Tove Jansson
  76. The Passion According to G. H., by Clarice Lispector
  77. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
  78. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark
  79. The Pursuit of Love, by Nancy Mitford
  80. The Road Home, by Rose Tremain
  81. The Second Sex, by Simone de Beauvoir
  82. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4, by Sue Townsend
  83. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
  84. The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein
  85. The View From the Ground, by Martha Gellhorn
  86. The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion
  87. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
  88. Three Strong Women, by Marie Ndiaye
  89. Tipping the Velvet, by Sarah Waters
  90. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  91. Train to Nowhere, by Anita Leslie
  92. Under the Net, by Iris Murdoch
  93. Unless, by Carol Shields
  94. We Need To Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver
  95. What I Loved by Siri Huvstedt
  96. White Teeth, by Zadie Smith
  97. Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys
  98. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, by Jung Chang
  99. Wise Children, by Angela Carter
  100. Women & Power, by Mary Beard

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