Monthly Archives: February 2008

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles

Right now I am reading The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food by Jennifer 8. Lee – (Yes, “8” the number. It symbolizes prosperity in Chinese culture.)

The book starts out with the true story of how in 2005 over 100 people won the Powerball lottery using the same numbers, which they got from, where else? A fortune cookie.

It’s hard to believe but there are more Chinese restaurants across the United States than there are McDonald’s, Burger Kings and KFCs combined, but it’s true. And Ms. Lee explores how this, in part, makes Chinese food an American phenomenon.

Ms. Lee refers to herself as an “ABC” (American Born Chinese). Her parents arrived in the United States in 1965. She has 2 siblings; a sister named Frances and a brother named Kenneth. In The Fortune Cookie Chronicles she says, “If you string together our first initials, you get JFK, which, my parents tease, is the airport they landed at when they first came to America.”

Like most Americans, Jennifer Lee grew up eating take-out Chinese food on occasion. She never wondered why the food was different than her own mother’s home cooking until she was older.

This book is an incredibly fun and interesting read. You will be surprised at the things you learn, things contrary to what you thought you knew about Chinese and American food and culture. Ms. Lee beautifully and entertainingly brings together her own personal story as well as the stories of others who identify with more than one culture, along with the history of Chinese food as we know it in the United States. There are parts of this book where her beautiful prose will leave you wanting more, and with an intense craving to pick up the phone and order take-out.



Filed under books, culture, food, opinion

Four Wives

Right now I’m in the middle of a book called Four Wives by Wendy Walker. It’s such a page turner that I’m ready to get off the computer and go finish reading it in just a few minutes.

The story revolves around four women in a wealthy suburban town called Hunting Ridge. Each of them has healthy children, good looks, a handsome, successful husband, and a big house. On the outside, perfect lives. All four of the women’s stories intertwine with one another as they try to hide secrets about their dissatisfaction with their lives, infidelity, and more.

There are parts of this story which remind me of something that would be on Desperate Housewives, and other parts which would resonate deeply with any married mother of young children. It’s all in there; the stress, the joy, the guilt, marriage difficulties, career choices – this book seems to touch on everything in a really personal and entertaining way.

It’s no wonder, the author, Wendy Walker, wrote this novel as a stay-at-home-mom. She claims to have written the majority of it from the backseat of her minivan.

Here is one of my very favorite passages:

It was not a terrible life. Janie Kirk was a suburban housewife, the steadfast bottom of an inverse pyramid upon which the demands of her family balanced. It was a life founded at its core in her love for the children who lay sleeping inside. From there it grew heavy with the weight of their needs, and those of her husband, which she had carried on her shoulders for so many years. School, soccer, ballet, swimming. Doctors, dentists, speech therapists. Food on the table every day. Laundry, yard work, pets. Birthday parties. Dieting. Sex. It was an odd existence when she stopped to consider it, but so completely common that she rarely did, and it occurred to her that it would be close to perfect if she hadn’t contracted the unfortunate disease of discontentment.

You can read a much longer excerpt at Wendy Walker’s site, or get the book.


Filed under books, kids, marriage, opinion, writing

KPC … Keeping Parents Clueless

I just finished reading this book, Generation MySpace: Helping Your Teen Survive Online Adolescence by Candice M. Kelsey, and I’m nearly speechless. My kids are still quite young so the whole myspace phenomenon may be old news by the time they’re teenagers, so why did I read it?

I read it because, first of all, I figured I’m partially part of this “Generation Myspace”. These kids like to say they’re the first to grow up with the internet their whole lives. I hate to break it to them but *wrong* … While maybe it’s not common for those in my age group (I’m 28 years old), computers have been part of my life since I was a pre-schooler. And we were the first family amongst my friends that had internet. (Prodigy!)

Perhaps the internet was somewhat lame compared to what it is now. We didn’t have myspace, but we had BB’s (Bulletin Boards).

Anyway, I picked up this book because I thought it would be a good chuckle. I thought, “This’ll be funny. Some old fuddy duddy has written about myspace and teenagers and the evilness of it all.” … Because truth be told, before reading this, I identified with “Generation Myspace” just as much as my own “MTV Generation ” … How I feel after reading it is a whole different story.

While reading this book I felt as if I was reliving some of my own teenage angst from some of the situations described. The chapter on what girls face sexually was downright frightening. While I also went through years of seeking male attention in inappropriate ways, I also did not have the platform that these girls have. Teenagers today have the ability to post personal and graphic photos and videos of themselves and too often, they do. The worst part of it is that they are so incredibly desensitized that they see nothing wrong with it. I’m not saying I was a saint, because I’d be struck by lightening, but I had a very clear moral compass of right and wrong. When I did something that was wrong, I knew it. These kids have no idea.

Like I said, I haven’t raised teenagers, so I don’t know how much a parent can protect them. It becomes difficult as teens naturally start to pull away from the family unit and come to respect the opinions of their peers more than any one else. But it seems to me that a lot of what is going on is simply a result of neglectful parenting. Many of the parents quoted in the book say idiotic things like, “I trust my daughter on the Internet. She’s a good kid.” … No! Bad parent! We do not trust our teens on the internet with their own computer in their bedroom with the door locked! It is our responsibility and our duty to protect them. Ignorance is not bliss in this case.

There is one chapter devoted to chat and text messaging style “lingo”. At first I scoffed. I mean, who doesn’t know what BFF (Best Fried Forever), ASL (Age, Sex, Location), LOL (Laughing out loud), and the like mean? How out of touch are these parents?

But then I read down the list and was shocked at the lingo I didn’t know. Here are a few (warning strong language):

CD9 – Code 9 (or Parents Are Around)
BOHICA – Bend Over, Here It Comes
GNOC – Get Naked On Cam (webcam)
GYPO – Get Your Pants Off
IDK – I don’t know
MOS – Mom Over Shoulder
TDTM – Talk Dirty To Me
PIR – Parents In Room
PAW – Parents Are Watching
KPC – Keeping Parents Clueless

If you’re surprised, this is mild compared to the rest of the book. I also found out that while kids have easy access to all kinds of illegal drugs via myspace, they also get high off of things around the house such as nutmeg, banana peels and peanut shells.

If you’ve got a teen, or even a young child, read this book. Prepare yourself and educate yourself so that you can protect your kids. We can’t put them in a big plastic bubble and keep them safe from everything out there, but just because something is a “normal” or “common” part of a culture or generation does not mean your child must participate. You’re the parent, so act like it. (And good luck.)


Filed under About me, books, culture, internet, kids, opinion, self esteem