#GetLit: James on James, Comey, Patterson

Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past few weeks, you’ll know that Trumpacolypse has been on full blast — with accusations and testimonies and threats dominating the daily news cycle.

One thing that’s caught my eye has been the firing of the former FBI director James Comey. The story is juicier than any other celeb scoop out there, more than anything that TMZ or Perez Hilton can dream up.

Disclaimer: If you’re a Trump supporter, stop and read no further. 

As if we don’t have enough reasons to despise Trump even more, he fired Comey in perhaps one of the most embarrassing ways possible. The former FBI director found out in the middle of a briefing in Los Angeles, on national television. There’s something really unwieldy about Trump and the way he conducts his presidency, far from the cool and composed style of his predecessor. After the smoke cleared, all what was left was an upset Congress wanting to hear from Comey himself.

It’s no wonder then that the Internet went wild and called Comey’s prepared testimony for Congress a spy novel:

“A few moments later, the President said, ‘I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.’ I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.”

See for yourself and read Comey’s full testimony here.

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A bright light within the government: Tracy K. Smith was just named as the new Poet Laureate by the Library of Congress! We love some Smith over here at the blog, and the book review for Ordinary Light (Amazon | Indiebound) was one of the first few posts.

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Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Tracy K. Smith’s Ordinary Light is nothing short of tender, with its vivid details on moments that could easily be buried in one’s memories. I think I tend to gravitate towards similar themes: books on poetry, literature, love, relationships, self. Smith’s was no different, except it opened up a foreign world wherein she had (and I didn’t) a language — all of it beautiful, majestic, painful — for her relationship with her mother.

— An excerpt from my book review of Tracy K. Smith’s Ordinary Light

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Currently swooning / ecstatic over Kinfolk Magazine’s current issue on relationships, in addition to June’s reading list. Reading Kinfolk has taught me a lot about pacing, about discipline — it comes out quarterly so I’ve learned how to only read a few pages here and there to last me the whole three months. It’s that serious. 

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Coming up on Libromance: a list of queer reads just in time for Pride month, Rosario Castellano’s book and more literary goodness.

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#GetLit: Una Vida con Libros (A Life with Books)

To you — my dear readers — an apology is in order: the blog has been quiet as of late, but I haven’t forgotten. It’s been a week since I last wrote (another #GetLit post nonetheless) and here I am, about to publish another one. I have a good excuse, I promise.

Over the weekend, I flew to Mexico City / Ciudad de México and explored the Latin American metropolis, in awe of its people, its culture, its art, its architecture. I brought three important literary pieces with me: Rosario Castellanos, Octavio Paz and Audre Lorde. I’ll save the stories for another post, but here is something that I know you’ll appreciate:

 

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The photo I took above is none other than Biblioteca Vasconcelos, Mexico City’s megalibrary. The floating bookshelves are no joke, and I marveled at the architectural prowess of Mexican architects Alberto Kalach and Juan Palomar. The five-on-one library is dedicated to José Vasconcelos, a Mexican philosopher and figure.

I have more stories and photos to share from my too-short of a trip to CDMX, so hang tight. In the meantime, here are a few things that to #GetLit about:

On the 100th birth anniversary of Gwendolyn Brooks, a “Chicago as hell” video of the making of We Real Cool:

Gwendolyn Brooks is immortal because she impacts and influences other poets and writers and others who influence poets and writers and others. Her genius and personality increase exponentially. Teachers taught students who in turn taught students about her work. Often anthologized, “We Real Cool” became one of the most well-known American poems. It is a part of the American heart, or should be, because it is so often taught. (Lithub)

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I love me some Roxane Gay, but I also love me some Steph Curry and Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors. 

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Trumpacolypse is still upon us. A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about saving the National Endowment for Arts (#SavetheNEA) to try to gather support for the arts. Specially for the work of women artists. Question: What does abolishing the NEA mean for women artists? Read on.

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A timely poem about martial law from poet Jose Lacaba titled Prometheus Unbound:

Mars shall glow tonight,
Artemis is out of sight.
Rust in the twilight sky
Colors a bloodshot eye,
Or shall I say that dust
Sunders the sleep of the just?

Hold fast to the gift of fire!
I am rage! I am wrath! I am ire!
The vulture sits on my rock,
Licks at the chains that mock
Emancipation’s breath,
Reeks of death, death, death.

Death shall not unclench me.
I am earth, wind, and sea!
Kisses bestow on the brave
That defy the damp of the grave
And strike the chill hand of
Death with the flaming sword of love.

Orion stirs. The vulture
Retreats from the hard, pure
Thrust of the spark that burns,
Unbounds, departs, returns
To pluck out of death’s fist
A god who dared to resist.

 

#GetLit: Reading in the Midst of Crisis

It’s a struggle to be a Filipino-American these days, y’all.

And although I still balk at calling myself “Fil-Am,” I feel the struggle both ways, in all its multiplicity.

The Philippines seems to be at the mercy of a perplexing president whose politics are at best confounding. Following his declaration of martial law in Mindanao (southern part of the Philippines), he also withdraw from ongoing peace talks with the revolutionary (and underground) government of the country (strongest in the countryside).

And then there’s Trump. Following his announcement to pull the U.S. out the Paris Climate Agreements, the easier option is to throw your hands up and lose yourself in moments like “covfefe.”

Maybe my trip to Mexico City in the next few days is good timing, as all of these things can wear a Pisces down. I’m bringing Rosario Castellanos and Octavio Paz with me, two noted Mexican writers whose work has inspired me. Last night, I was leafing through Paz’s A Tree Within (Amazon | Indiebound) and came across this:

Mis sentidos en guerra con el mundo: fue frágil armisticio la lectura.

(My feelings at war with the world: reading was a fragile truce.)

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Reading as a truce, reading as a tool — that’s what this blog has always stood for. I’ve compiled books to help us through these times, like this list of reading for resistanceI also just reviewed a book on tyranny and offered up my response, based on my experience as an activist. As a Filipino in the face of martial law, here’s my blog’s literary antidote.

Even more timely is an exploration of Alexander Von Humboldt’s life, possibly the very first man to confirm man-made climate change.

In spite of this, I come back to a Alain de Botton on his book about Proust. In one of the chapters, they talk about books and reading. And as much as I love both, for as long as I am tethered to words, I recognize both their beauty and fallibility:

We feel very strongly that our own wisdom begins where that of the author leaves off and we would like him to provide us with answers when all that he is able to do is provide desires… That is the value of reading and is also its inadequacy. To make it into a discipline is to give too large a role to what is only an incitement.

–Marcel Proust

Reading as an incitement, a tool to spur us to action. I think I like that better.

#GetLit and #ResistTyranny

My experience as a Filipino immigrant in America is quite complicated at the moment, because I feel like I’m beset my fascism no matter where I turn.

This week’s book review on Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century falls short of what I was hoping for, although it elicited a different kind of response for me. Read all about my political musings here, as a response to the book.

On the same day that I published my book review was also the day that Pres. Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao, one of the main islands in the southern Philippines after clashes between an IS-affiliated group and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. A year ago, I wrote against martial law revisionists and the kinds of literature needed to counter it.

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The Consortium for People’s Development-Disaster Response (CPDDR) protests the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao that will likely escalate the armed conflict, and intensify military operations in the region at the expense of civilians and communities.

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If you have any book suggestions on resisting tyranny — do share in the comments below!

#GetLit: Lola, Kinship, Feudalism

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This week’s biggest story is The Atlantic‘s My Family’s Slave by Alex Tizon, a piece that that told the story of the writer’s helper or “katulong” which went viral. I first noticed it on Twitter, where so many folks were talking about it. On Facebook, it was being shared over a hundred times. I’m still thinking about Eudocia, what the term “Lola” actually means, and of course, feudalism in the Philippines. As soon as I am able to, I’ll be writing about it in here. In the meantime, check out some responses that I’m really thankful for and appreciate: GABRIELA USA, Bayan USA, Anakbayan USA.

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I’m also thankful for this self-care guide compiled by the Sylvia River Law Project called Self-Care on the Inside which has tips on meditation and mindfulness, grounding techniques and for nurturing creativity.

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When I’m lost in the work, I’m curious. I don’t know if curiosity is a balm, because it often gets me in trouble, but it gives me control. It becomes fuel, and it brings me out of myself and into the world, even if I’ve just been sitting at my desk and thinking about spirals, which is what I’ve been thinking about this morning.

— Ocean Vuong (aka a Libromance favorite) on being generous in your work

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Because not everything in this world can be dampened by Trump,
nor by the fuckedup-ness of situations, things and/or people.

I always have hope.

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Tuesday morning’s trip to the Rose Garden

#GetLit: Hygge & Boba

Three things to describe me at the moment: restless, bookish boba fiend.

The first word translates to dreams of getting away, of being somewhere else other than here. I’ve been trying to figure out where I should go within the next few weeks and although I’ve got a specific place in mind, I’m still trying my best to keep still. But my mind is flighty, and my feet fidgety.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been immersed in Alexander Von Humboldt’s world as of late, as told by the delightful Andrea Wulf. There’s a strange, magnetic pull possibly inspired by his own pursuits of travel, exploration and being in sync with the natural world that got me feeling this way. Watch out for my book review of The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World next Tuesday.

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The extent of my being in nature (taken at Lily Pond, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, CA)

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Boba Guys goodness

A list of milk tea / boba spots in preference, found in San Francisco:

  1. Boba Guys (get the black sesame latte with a shot of matcha)
  2. Purple Kow (possibly inspired by Seth Godin’s book Purple Cow; D6 is my fave)
  3. Sharetea (the Okinawa drink is everything — try it hot too!)
  4. Teaspoon (I usually get the mango mojito with mango popping boba)
  5. Mr. & Mrs. Tea House (I really just go for the popcorn chicken)

 

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I wrote a book review of Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living and I think hygge essentials should include boba. Here are a few more hygge tips I wasn’t able to include in the review, but are of utmost importance:

How to Hygge on the Cheap

Bring out the board games.
Have a “pantry” party by looking at ingredients from your pantry and cooking with friends. Make sure everyone brings jars to bring food home.
Organize a TV night.
Create a shared library.
Watch an outdoor movie.

For more, check out this nifty infographic:

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Have a great weekend!

#GetLit: On Workers & Indie Bookstores

Still reeling from the energy of the May Day mobilization in Oakland, and incredibly inspired and hopeful by the continued global resistance.

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Oakland May Day, holding the flag with Rachel from Third World Resistance and my kasama Irma from GABRIELA USA.

How did folks around the world celebrated May Day? Here’s an article + photos. Last year, I compiled a list of I thought of Carlos Bulosan and the first migrant farmers in the U.S. while I was holding that banner. I guess it was no coincidence that I read Claudia Salazar Jimenez’s Blood of the Dawn right after. Next book on this series: On Tyranny.

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I don’t remember when I signed up for the TUT – Notes from the Universe emails, but they have been really refreshing in the sea of emails in my inbox. Here’s one from May 3rd:

Every burden bears a gift, every challenge brings a treasure, and every setback hides a blessing.

Is it just me, or does time and space sometimes seem far too good to be true?

Hallelujah,
The Universe

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Yesterday, I dropped by Arkipelago Books and one of the owners, Lily Prijoles just came back from the Philippiness which means tons of new books from Filipino publishers, specially titles which have been selling out! Check out my interview with Lily here, and holla if you know of other similar bookstores.

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Latest book recommendation from Lily: “The Kissing” by Merlinda Bobis, a Fil-Aussie writer. 

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If you support places like Arkipelago, consider donating to Duende District, an up and coming bookstore in Washington D.C. owned, operated and managed by a majority of people of color.

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Lastly, the best things come in three’s:

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Ramen Parlor (San Mateo, CA)

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Mangonada from La Torta Sabrosa (South San Francisco, CA) 

#GetLit: Carlos Bulosan, Chance the Rapper & Peace

One summer day, when the rice lay golden in the sun, startling rumors came to Mangusmana: the peasants in a province to the south of us had revolted against their landlords. There the peasants had been the victims of ruthless exploitation for years, dating back to the 18th century when Spanish colonizers instituted severe restrictive measures in order to impoverish the natives. So from then on the peasants became poorer each year and the landlords became richer at every harvest time.

–Carlos Bulosan, America is in the Heart

I just published my book review for Bulosan’s America is in the Heart at the same time that #OccupyLuisita in the Philippines is happening. The struggle of farmers and peasants has always been an issue, even a century later.

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Militant farmers break down a portion of the wall of the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita Monday in their own version of “Occupy”, citing a Supreme Court ruling that mandated the distribution of the land. (PHOTO BY DAX SIMBOL, INTERAKSYON)

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If there was anything that I was reminded the most of this week, it’s that repression and oppression only breeds resistance and struggle. That the peace that we truly want is a just one, a peace that is genuine and lasting.

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And if peace could ever come in the form of hip hop music, I’d have to give it to Chance the Rapper for giving me an out-of-body-ethereal-spiritual experience Wednesday night.

I left the Oracle Arena in Oakland feeling at peace with who I am and what I have. Maybe it’s the gratitude, messages of healing and hope he imparted that had me feeling all the feels, but I know that if we were to ever create lasting movements of struggle, music can be another language of resistance.

“Are you ready for your blessings? Are you ready for your miracles?”

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Gratuitous self-portrait. 

 

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April 29 is Independent Bookstore Day!

Independent Bookstore Day is a one-day national party that takes place at indie bookstores across the country on the last Saturday in April. Every store is unique and independent, and every party is different. But in addition to authors, live music, cupcakes, scavenger hunts, kids events, art tables, readings, barbecues, contests, and other fun stuff, there are exclusive books and literary items that you can only get on that day. Not before. Not after. Not online.

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Celebrate this day by supporting your local bookstores — find your local bookstore here.

#GetLit: 4/20 and Homies

Happy 420! Here are 15 writers who’ve gotten baked, via Electric Literature. Please smoke responsibly and be safe out there. But more importantly, this:

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Mass incarceration and racial disparities spurred by the “war on drugs”

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A proper homie roll call is in order: two of my friends, My-hanh Lac and Sunshine Velasco are doing amazing things and these two brilliant queer women of color deserve a shout-out.

My’s film BUDAI debuted at the Brava Theater last Friday, a short docu-film on her experience as a young refugee from Vietnam. Twelve minutes on a captivating story, along with a gorgeous cinematography had me screaming for more! Also, her film is in Cannes!

Sunshine’s work on the other hand will be exhibited at the SOMArts Cultural Center on April 22nd, at a benefit for the art gallery. Pièce de RESISTance: A contemporary renaissance ball to support SOMArts will feature her photography on femmes, wherein a friend is also one of her subjects. If you’re in the Bay, don’t miss it.

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I’m loving this Raised Fist by Børge Bredenbekk (Norway).

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Teju Cole has been on mind recently, as I sift through more photos from my last trip to the Philippines. I also finally opened another folder of photos from 2014, from another trip to the homeland.

I noticed that most of what I had taken with my camera weren’t “action shots” — not a lot of people or activities but instead, of minute details of the country’s everyday life. An empty soda bottle. A storefront. A row of dog bobbleheads. And for each photo, I can remember the exact moment from almost three years ago.

“…stillness, in photography, can be more affecting than action.”

–Teju Cole

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Maybe it’s because I started this week with Teju, but it’s incredibly heartwarming to see my post from Sunday get so much love. Thank you to everyone who has read, shared, commented and written to me about Postcards from the Philippines. It’s still a work in progress. It gives me tremendous strength that in moments of grief, I am not alone.

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It was an act of faith, and faith would not be faith if it was not hard, if it was not a test, if it was not an act of willful ignorance, of believing in something that can neither be predicted nor proved by any scientific metric.

— Viet Thanh Nguyen

I came across Viet’s piece on The Los Angeles Times wherein he talks about writing. This week, I wrote and published a book review on his newest book The Refugees.

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This week’s new find is a homemade marshmallow swimming, or sinking in a cup full of latte goodness. Still eating my feelings.

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The Titanic II, a vegetarian breakfast empanada from Hollow in San Francisco, and Elle Luna’s book “The Crossroads of Should and Must.”

And sometimes, dancing it all off with friends.

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San Francisco Dyke March Benefit at El Rio, SF. 

#GetLit: Peace, Pasta & the Pulitzer

This week’s biggest news: the Pulitzer Prizes! Even bigger? Black Pulitzer Prize winners:

Screenshot of a tweet from my favorite person/poet/writer ever, Saeed Jones AKA @theferocity.

I was elated to find out that Colson Whitehead won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with The Underground Railroad (Amazon | Indiebound), which I read and reviewed on this blog last year (Read: A Lifetime of Remembering with Colson Whitehead).

I have yet to read Tyehimba Jess’s book of poetry Olio (Amazon | Indiebound), but I am planning to while getting into this month’s poetry books. We’re about midway through April, National Poetry Month, so are you getting your daily dose of poems? Check out a girl’s lifelong affair with poetry.

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If you’ve been weary from the news these days, from Trump’s brand of all-the-things-your-worst-dreams-are-made-of, here’s a little reprise: hope. I’ve been using Deepak and Oprah Winfrey’s latest meditation series (cost: free) called Hope in Uncertain Times and it’s been giving me the kind of peace and calm I need. I’ve been a fan of these series since 2013, and trust me — this stuff is gold.

Me on a Saturday, at Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA

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After doing the necessary inner work, there’s a ton of things happening around us we can always be plugged into. Unless you’re a monk, of course, but for folks like me (brown, queer immigrant activists in the belly of the beast) there’s this: Peace Tour 2017.

In this week’s book review (War and Turpentine by Steffan Hertmans), I wrote about reading the story of the author’s grandfather, who was a soldier and a painter. I intentionally omitted the war years, because 1) honestly not a fan of war novels and 2) here we are in another war again, dropping missiles on other nations (Syria).

What I don’t see in the realm of international geopolitics are attempts to address the root causes of conflicts, which is why the Peace Tour 2017 gives me infinite hope. As a Filipino, I’ve long wondered about the longstanding civil war between the government and the “other government,” led by the Communist Party of the Philippines. If you’re interested in finding out more, look up to see if the tour will be making a stop in your city!

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If you follow me on Instagram (and I think you should 😉), you’ll know that I like to eat my feelings. Here are a few things that have brought me joy in the past few days:

Damn good homemade pasta at Affina.

Also: live music in someone’s living room in San Francisco (yes, like the good ‘ol days). Lattes in the rain, specially turmeric lattes like the one pictured below from As Quoted in San Francisco.

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Have you ever fallen in love with a magazine? Because I have, four times a year for three years now. Kinfolk magazine, to be exact, which is one of a kind. It’s a lifestyle magazine filled with thoughtful pieces on philosophy, music, culture, art, design, fashion and cooking. Reading it is almost meditative; you can’t help but be completely present to the page. 

Imagine my joy at As Quoted cafe with Kinfolk as pictured above, as I read and learned about Shoshin, a Buddhist concept of “a beginner’s mind which refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions.” Total hyggeligt.

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Please say hi.

Until the next post,
your friendly Libromance creator + curator, Pia