MORE More Cheap Books

Good news, everyone! I semi-religiously follow Amazon’s Kindle Daily Deal page because I’m a cheapskate like that, and guess what! For the next six hours (I should have checked this morning, whoops) all three of the books in Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy are on sale for $0.99 each! Plus, there’s a free short story prequel to the series, “The New World,” available for I-don’t-know-how-long.


I’ve been meaning to read this series for ages and ages, and what an opportune time! I can’t convince you that you should read them too, because I haven’t read them myself, but they’ve been talked about all over the place and won awards and blah blah blah, and really–can’t you take a risk, when you’re getting a whole trilogy for $3? Go on, buy ’em! (Okay, so I’m a terrible influence when it comes to spending money. But c’mon, really, $3 ain’t bad.)

P.S. Anyone who doesn’t have a Kindle, I hope you stuck your fingers in your ears and went “LALALALALA” for the entirety of this post. I’m sure good book deals are coming your way in a variety of other capacities, though, never fret!


Traveling on Tuesday — Laos

Laos (officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic)
Population: appr. 6,500,000
Biggest City: Vientiane (appr. 754,000)

Ever since Jessica’s last Traveling on Tuesday post, I’ve been thinking about doing my own ToT and have been trying to decide which country to choose. Well, as it so happens, Jessica and I have a good friend who recently was awarded a fellowship grant to go do research in Laos over the summer, and I thought I would use her hard work as inspiration! I previously had very little knowledge of Lao literature or even non-Lao literature pertaining to Laos*, so this was a good experience for me as well, even if the results are somewhat bare-bones.

Outhine Bounyavong (1942-2000, name sometimes romanized as ‘Uthin Bunny¯avong) continues to be one of the most well-known authors of Lao contemporary fiction; a collection of his stories about life in Laos has been translated into English as Mother’s Beloved. You can read some of his short stories here for free, thanks to the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University.

Douangdeuane Viravongs (b. 1947, name sometimes romanized as Duangdeuan Viravong), alias Dok Ket (sometimes romanized as Dok Ked), is a prominent female author of Lao contemporary fiction, and is Outhine Bounyavong’s widow. Unfortunately, none of her work appears to be available in English.

Further-unfortunately, while the literary scene in Laos appears to be thriving, especially as a political vehicle, very little native work has been translated into English. There are a small number of Laotian-American and Hmong-American writers such as Bryan Thao Worra and Kao Kalia Yang whose works are gaining recognition, and while their memoirs, poetry, and other published pieces are not quite what I’m looking for here, I’m hopeful that increased exposure of American-published works relating to Laos and other Southeast Asian countries will lead to greater translation and distribution of native literature from those countries. Perhaps in the future–hopefully sooner rather than later–we will be able to read novels by Theap Vongpakay, Chanthy Deuansavanh, or Khamlieng Phonsena in English.

Currently, the lion’s share of writing on and relating to Laos continues to be nonfiction works written by non-native authors, folk tale collections translated and edited by non-native authors (sometimes with the help of Laotian or Laotian-American writers and translators), and the occasional cookbook.

For more information, please see this helpful Introduction to Lao Literature, or this overview of Lao Literature since 1975. Any errors present in the small amount of information here are my own doing.

If you have any suggestions or requests for future entries in Traveling on Tuesday, please speak up in the comments!

*Other than the excellent book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, which details the experiences of a Hmong family living in America with an epileptic child, and which includes a partial history of the Hmong people in Laos and American clandestine involvement in the Laotian Civil War. It departs from the intended area here, as it was written by a white American author and is nonfiction, but it is, I think, a very well-written work that looks at Hmong cultural and spiritual practices from a balanced point of view and which neither patronizes nor romanticizes the non-American side of the story.

Poem of the Week (ahem) : Guinea Woman, by Lorna Goodison

Guinea Woman

Great grandmother
was a guinea woman
wide eyes turning
the corners of her face
could see behind her
her cheeks dusted with
a fine rash of jet-bead wars
that itched when the rain set up.

Great grandmother’s waistline
the spam of a headman’s hand
slender and tall like a cane stalk
with a guinea woman’s antelope-quick walk
and when she paused
her gaze would look to sea
her profile fine like some obverse impression
on a guinea coin from royal memory.

It seems her fate was anchored
in the unfathomable sea
for her great grandmother caught the eye of a sailor
whose ship sailed without him from Lucea harbour.
Great grandmother’s royal scent of
cinnamon and escallions
drew the sailor up the straits of Africa,
the evidence my blue-eyed grandmother
the first Mulatta
taken into backra’s household
and covered with his name.
They forbade great grandmother’s
guinea woman presence
they washed away her scent of
cinnamon and escallions
controlled the child’s antelope walk
and called her uprisings rebellions.

But, great grandmother
I see your features blood dark
in the children of each new
the high yellow brown
is darkening down.
Listen, children
it’s great grandmother’s turn.

Okay guys, this poem is the bee’s knees. The cat’s meow. The shizznit. Whatever you’d like to call it. I am madly in love with this poem. I’ve scoured the internet (i.e. lightly searched google) for a sound file of Lorna Goodison reading this poem, but I cannot find one. Tonight, she opened her keynote speech at UVA’s graduate conference reading this from memory. I love it not in her voice, but her voice places it on an entirely different level. We recorded the keynote and will be putting it online, and when that happens I’ll put a link to it here. The keynote was great, and this poem was definitely a high point for me.

Lorna Goodison is a Jamaican poet who teaches at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She publishes sparingly but beautifully. Today, I had the fortune of spending some time with her, and she is not only a very nice person but also has shoes with pandas on them. This poem comes from her 1986 collection I am Becoming My Mother. 

Links links links

I always enjoy link round-ups elsewhere, but never do them here! What’s up with that? Anyway, I’m about a month behind on my Google reader, so these are all going to be a little old:

Sylvia at What If Books Etc. talked a bit about disability in speculative fiction:

Thinking of disability as located within the body is also false. Disability is socially constructed; in other words, it comes from a mismatch between a person and their society… People with disabilities are the ones with “special” needs; able-bodied people are the ones with “normal” needs. When normal shifts, so does disability.

The wonderful women at SBTB did a GS (Good Shit) vs STA (Shit to Avoid) on lesbian romances in response to a chapter of the RWA refusing to accept same-sex entries to their contests.

On the off-chance you haven’t seen it yet, Flavorwire put together a gallery of the 20 most beautiful bookstores.

Doret from Color Online put together a really useful list of some of her most anticipated 2012 releases by women of color.

And lastly, the Cybils (YA book blogger awards, if you don’t know) announced their winners! I’m most excited to read Blood Red Road which I’ve heard fantastic things about. Plus, I’m a sucker for dystopias, so it’s right up my alley!

More cheap books

Last year I read (and have no clue whether or not I talked about) Julia Spencer-Fleming’s great book, In the Bleak Midwinter. WELL, both Midwinter and the second book of the series are on sale for $2.99 in ebook format at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble (possibly other places too). I snatched up a copy of the second and I highly urge you all (especially you, Mia) to give at least the first one a go!

Jan Berenstain

Jan Berenstain, of the Berenstain Bears, died last week. I loved the Bears when I was kid and really identified with the tumultuous relationship between Sister and Brother. I was wondering if there was any criticism of the books’ simplicities and formulas, and sure enough there is. But you know what? Kids like formulas. Kids like lessons. Tone is incredibly important, of course, because kids don’t like being talked down to, but having such a rigid structure can be a huge plus. “Overly” simple books aren’t any more damaging to kids than “overly” complex ones.

Anyway, NPR had a nice piece where they talked with Stan and Jan’s son, Mike. You can listen to it here.