Diamond Head: A Novel by Cecily Wong 

This is a generational story with viewpoints from women in a Chinese and eventually Chinese-Hawaiian family and their experiences with love, war, childhood and children, and poverty and wealth. Historically, the time period of the novel is the 1900s into the 1960s.  Key events and twists of fate operate to both define the women and be events to transcend.  This could be read for an immigration class or a family studies course.  

Wong, C. (2015). Diamond head. NY: HarperCollins Publishers.


The book What the Body Remembers by Shauna Singh Baldwin

A story of the middle-upper class Sikh experience with the events leading up to partition and the actual  partition in the late 1940s, this book especially focuses on women's experiences with growing up and living in a time when multiple groups lived next door to each other and then divided. The book is highly recommended as it covers so many aspects that bring the period and experiences into a vivid depiction. A commentary on the partition can be applied to many instances of boundary-making... I am going to use a quote from the book as part of a class on deep maps and thin maps.

A key character in the book, Sardarji--an economically-successful Sikh engineer in India--thinks about maps. He also thinks in terms of gender exclusivity and how he sees boundaries between expectations of how men and women act. (As a side-note, he is the husband of two women, one of them does not meet those expectations--another important component of the book.)

“Maps lie.

Surprising. He has never realized this before, but maps lie.

Maps lie, for their colours can show nothing of what a man feels when he says, “I come home.” They say nothing of the distance a man will ride to avoid passing through areas inhabited by another’s caste or quom, or the direction a man turns when he bows his head to pray. Maps lie, their scrupulous lines diminishing height to hair’s breadth, contracting realms of the material to fit in the mind. Maps lie, the artful cartography separating earth from sea with a simple line that refuses to tell that one does not end where the other begins, but continues, undergirding the sea.

They are an aesthetic achievement, that’s all. Essential preparation for the next map that will be drawn, essential for discussions and negotiations, but in themselves mere approximations of the terrain, aids to dreams of conquest, marking familiar places in the roaming mind.” (p. 380)


Baldwin, S. S. (1999). What the body remembers. NY: Doubleday.


Part One: Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor by Rob Nixon

This book gives me ideas on how to add fiction and novels to an environmental justice and public policy class, choosing from the selections that Nixon deconstructs. However, this semester I have assigned this particular book (an analysis of other books) as a reading for a 300 level class. This is a challenge for students, but they are gaining much vocabulary and the sense of how an ultra-interdisciplinary text works.  We think it would be interesting to sit down with Rob Nixon to listen to him speak because we would not be sure where he would take us in the conversation.  I think the book also helps with how to organize and write our own analysis pieces. My goal for using this book is to find tools that we can use to think about environmental injustice. One of those tools is the element of timing, writer activism, another is neoliberalism, and also the resource curse.

Nixon, R. (2011). Slow violence and the environmentalism of the poor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.


Adding this to my lesson plan ideas on overpopulation

Article: Overpopulation is not the problem. by Erle C. Ellis


A Tale for the Time Being

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki brings together some interesting themes: extreme school bullying (in Japan), Japanese youth cultures, the struggle of being a writer, quantum physics, the effect of war on the generations of a family, and Buddhist philosophies. The book has an interesting narrative twist, in that not only are you the reader following the text, but another character is reading the same writing by another person in the story. The title, in the Buddhist interpretation has a double meaning-not just of time but of a being, as in a sentient being. The book explains that the characters in the story and the reader are “time beings.”  As one of the character points out, human time beings need meditation to help them keep away the “big fish” or the fears that settle heavily in the pit of ones stomach. A character in the book is able to teach another to meditate just through leaving instructions in a diary.  This diary seems to connect people so that the fates of the characters are changed through this diary that had floated from Japan to the Canadian coast through the initial power of a tsunami.