July News

There’s a profile of me in the summer issue of the Swarthmore alumni magazine, which you can check out here. Lunar French and hammered dulcimers!

I’m in Minnesota at the moment. I came home just in time to protest our congressman at the 4th of July parade in my town. We were planning to stand on the parade route in matching purple t-shirts waving Healthcare is a right for all signs, but then word came that our famously absent congressman had not actually shown up to march in the parade despite being listed in the program! So instead we swarmed the street and marched in his place, in front of Keith Ellison and his supporters. I didn’t wake up on the morning of Independence Day expecting to wind up on the evening news, but sometimes it happens. I seem to be making something of a habit of this; several years ago a photo of me protesting our state senator at the 4th of July parade wound up on the front page of the Star Tribune.

Last Saturday I went to the 3rd Minnesota Shenandoah Harmony All-Day singing in Minneapolis. The Shenandoah Harmony is the newest shape note tunebook, sometimes called the wicker book for the color of its cover. I have my own copy, but I don’t know the songs well at all, so I didn’t lead. It was good to see lots of familiar faces, though (someone told me to finish my dissertation quickly so I could get back to writing children’s books), and I got recruited to be the resolutions committee, which meant at the business meeting at the end of the singing I thanked everyone who had helped organize it and “resolved” that we do it again next year. The Shenandoah Harmony has some good stuff in it, including this arrangement of “Hicks’ Farewell” that ends on glorious open fifths!

No Justice, No Peace

For the past week or so I’ve been reading Angie Thomas’s debut YA novel, The Hate U Give. In the opening pages of the book, 16-year-old Starr and her best childhood friend Khalil, both black, are driving home from a party when they’re stopped by a white police officer. After being ordered and half-dragged out of the car, Khalil goes to open the door to ask Starr if she’s okay, and the police officer shoots him to death. The rest of the book details the aftermath of Khalil’s death, Starr’s decisions to speak out as the witness to the shooting, and the complex relationships among Starr’s family, neighbors, and friends both in her neighborhood and at her mostly white suburban prep school.

Yesterday morning, I was riding the bus to campus and had reached the last pages of the book. I got to the second-to-last page:

It felt like the narration had broken a wall. Up till now, it had been about the fictional Khalil, but now it was about real people. As my gaze traced this litany of familiar names, my memory filled in surnames where I knew them: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice (twelve. years. old), Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, and then… Philando Castile.

I flipped to the front of the book; when had it been published? Just this year. Philando Castile was killed a little less than a year ago, which means Angie Thomas must have added him to this list in a later draft of The Hate U Give (maybe he wasn’t the only one she had to add).

Philando Castile was from St. Paul, MN. He worked at a school, where he was a beloved figure. I remembered the protests that happened last summer outside the Governor’s Mansion on Summit Avenue, right near where I used to live. I remembered the four-year-old girl who’d been in the back seat of the car when the police officer shot Philando to death and who’d tried to comfort her mother, who was streaming her partner’s death on Facebook Live. And I thought about how over the past few days I’d been reading Star Tribune articles about the jurors’ deliberations in the trial of police officer Jeronimo Yanez. The jury was struggling; the judge was advising them while turning down certain requests they made. This was happening right now, and here was Philando’s name in the book in my hands. Tears sprang into my eyes, and I thought I was going to cry on the bus.

After lunch, I read in the Star Tribune that Yanez had been acquitted on all counts. And I was not the least bit surprised. But my heart ached. In The Hate U Give, the police officer who kills Khalil is never even charged. Angie Thomas could not have written the book any other way.

There was no justice for Philando. This is wrong. Our country is sick. I don’t have eloquent words to offer, and my voice isn’t among the most important on this subject. I want to have Starr’s hope, and I think, somewhere, I still do. But right now it’s these words from The Hate U Give that are echoing in me: How? I don’t know. When? I definitely don’t know. 

Meditation Workshop & Mixed Remixed 2017

A week ago today I happened to see a post about a meditation workshop Yumi Sakugawa was leading that very evening on campus. I looked closer and realized the workshop was happening in my building, literally just upstairs from the phonetics lab where I was sitting. As it happens, Asian American Studies and Linguistics are in the same building, so it’s not so surprising, but it felt providential. Isabelle and I decided we had to go, since Yumi Sakugawa was practically coming to us, and the stars aligned even further: our afternoon seminar ended early, allowing us to make it to the workshop on time.

The other attendees were mainly Asian American women, like at the panel with Yumi, MILCK, and Krista Suh back in May. There were a bunch of undergrads, including a film student who told us about a documentary she’s making about Yumi! I hope we’ll get to see it in the fall. There were also a couple of librarians, at least one professor, I think, and several Asian American Studies staff.

Yumi had us go around and introduce ourselves and say three words that described our current state of mind. Since it was the last week of classes, there was a lot of “stressed” and “overwhelmed.” She led us in a couple of guided meditations and read to us from some of her meditation-related comics, which I hadn’t seen before. She also talked about this taking tea and cake with your demons exercise. The idea is to face the things about yourself you’re ashamed of, or don’t like so much, or have a hard time accepting, to face them head-on and without judgment and to listen to them in personified form. While drinking tea and eating cake. So we all drew the kind of tea and cake we wanted to have with one of our demons on tissue paper. As a closing ritual, we went around the room again and said what three words we wanted to define the rest of our week and ripped up our tissue paper drawings and dropped the shreds into Yumi’s singing bowl. It was a perfect way to spend a Wednesday evening at the end of a long quarter.

On Saturday, I headed downtown for my third Mixed Remixed festival. I went in 2015 and in 2016, when I appeared on my first author panel. In the past, the festival has been at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo, but this year it moved to the Los Angeles Theatre Center, a stone’s throw from The Last Bookstore. I arrived in time for the Featured Writers reading, which featured (haha) Tanaya Winder, May-lee Chai, Tara Betts, Julian Randall, and Julie Lythcott-Haims. They all read powerful work, but I particularly liked Tanaya Winder’s spoken word poems, some of which incorporated song. I was also interested in May-lee Chai’s personal story: she wrote a memoir, Hapa Girl, about growing up with a Chinese-American father and a white mother in rural South Dakota in the 1980s. It was…not a hospitable place for her family.

Next I went to the panel The Mixed-Race Conversation: Is It a Wrap?. It was moderated by Karen Grigsby Bates of NPR’s Code Switch and featured Kayla Briët, a musician and filmmaker who’s performed at every Mixed Remixed I’ve been at; Greg Kimura, former president of the Japanese American National Museum and an Episcopal priest; Tehran, a comedian whose performance at last year’s festival I did not particularly appreciate; and Caroline Streeter, a professor at UCLA. I once again did not appreciate Tehran, but setting him aside, the panel was great. The panel was intergenerational, which brought out a diversity of perspectives and was also just nice to see. The conversation ranged from the academic to the pop cultural to the personal and even to the religious, thanks to Greg Kimura. That was a voice I hadn’t heard before at the festival. I liked what Caroline Streeter had to say about our cultural amnesia, how there have been mixed race people and communities in the United States for hundreds of years and so many of those stories are forgotten. I also liked what Greg Kimura had to say about the essential role he thinks literature and the arts will play in shaping our society’s attitudes about mixed race people (among other things). And basically everything Kayla Briët said was eloquent and inspiring.

A young hapa woman in the audience asked Greg Kimura about his strong identification with the word hapa. I think she asked if he’d faced any backlash for using it, but–and maybe I was projecting onto her–I also sensed that she was asking whether he thought it was (still) appropriate for multiracial Asian Americans to call ourselves hapa. A question in this vein is what I would’ve liked to ask the panel at the LA Times Festival of Books this spring if I hadn’t had a raging headache at that session. I was thinking about the term hapa at last year’s festival too and have written about it at other times as well. Greg Kimura basically said it’s been shown that hapa isn’t a Native Hawaiian term so it’s not appropriation to use it, and he claims his identity with this word. This argument doesn’t suffice for me though. First of all, I know hapa is Hawaiian Pidgin; just because it’s not an indigenous Hawaiian word doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a meaning and history specific to Hawaii that’s been overwritten and changed by multiracial Asian Americans on the mainland. Being hapa means something to me, but I also can’t use this term without qualms.

At the end of the panel, talk turned to Trump and how optimistic (or not) the panelists were about the future. Both Caroline Streeter, the oldest panelist, and Kayla Briët, the youngest, found they could not truthfully say they thought things were getting better. They both expressed worry about the future. I was grateful for their honesty and also…saddened, I guess. We were all at a festival celebrating our mixed race identities, but we can’t forget that this is a dark time for our country.

During the longish break between the last session and the evening program, a young woman named Laura came up to me and handed me a postcard about her oral history project Mixed Feelings. Check it out on Facebook and Tumblr; there are interviews with mixed race people of many backgrounds about their identity and experiences. If you identify as mixed race, you can participate by filling out the survey! Laura and I ended up sitting together at the evening show, and she told me her project was born in the wake of last November’s election, out of her need to do something.

Kayla Briët opened the show again; I will never get tired of watching her play the guzheng and use her loop machine. There were a couple of other acts, and then actor and producer David Oyelowo accepted the Storyteller’s Prize with a moving speech about his own interracial marriage. After the show, I caught up with Maria Leonard Olsen, one of my co-panelists in the kidlit session last year. I also said hello to two other people I recognized from the mixed and queer writing workshop in years past. The workshop did not take place this year, sadly.

After leaving the festival, I walked to The Last Bookstore, since it was literally less than half a block away. While I was contemplating all the books I wanted in the SFF section, a woman with a stroller asked me if I worked there. I wish! I picked up Becky Chambers’s The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and headed home.

Monday was the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which made interracial marriage legal throughout the United States. It also marked one year since the shooting at Pulse in Orlando, which I wrote about a little last year before I could write up last year’s Mixed Remixed festival. It seems a fitting time to reflect on how far our country has come and how far we have yet to go.

Georgian Food and the Turkish Sparkers

Last weekend I was in Chicago because I was giving a talk at the Chicago Linguistic Society’s conference (I had an awfully good time the last time I went to CLS two years ago). Shortly before I left, my advisor sent me a magazine article about a Georgian restaurant (the only Georgian restaurant?) in Chicago. The conference ended on Saturday, but I didn’t fly out until the following evening, so on Sunday I decided to seek out this restaurant.

Chicago Diplomat Café is a deep, high-ceilinged restaurant with leather-backed armchairs and black tablecloths and an aquarium with goldfish. When I arrived shortly before noon, there was only one other party, a couple, dining. I was seated at a little table not far from them. I can’t remember if I’ve ever eaten alone in a sit-down restaurant before, but it wasn’t too awkward. With my suitcase in tow, I fancied I looked like a worldly traveler.

The magazine article had mentioned all sorts of scrumptious dishes, and my one regret in coming alone was that I doubted I’d be able to try more than one dish (no supra for me). There were three kinds of khachapuri, but if I ordered one I didn’t think I’d be able to eat anything else. I decided I wanted the khinkali, Georgian soup dumplings. But when I asked the waiter if I could have them, he said no. I was a bit flummoxed and said something about them not having khinkali today. The waiter didn’t exactly confirm this, but I switched my order to the mtsvadi. I also ordered a Georgian lemonade, pear flavor (the other option was tarragon). If the waiter approved of my Georgian pronunciation, he gave no sign of it.

Georgian lemonade

The Georgian lemonade turned out to be a bottled soda that didn’t taste at all like lemonade. It was a little too sweet for my taste; it gave me the impression of carbonated apple juice (the kind of apple juice preschoolers drink). The mtsvadi was tasty, though it wasn’t quite what I’d expected from the menu. The seasoned chunks of chicken had been cooked on a skewer, and the Georgian fried potatoes were…basically French fries (though quite good ones). The red sauce on the side was sour (in a good way). The menu had called mtsvadi the dish of kings. According to the magazine article, the chicken was marinated in pomegranate juice, and the sauce was tkemali, a sour plum sauce.

Mtsvadi

While I was eating, a larger party with a reservation came in. One young woman was explaining the dishes to her friends, and I later heard her tell the waiter she’d been a Peace Corps volunteer in Georgia. She and the waiter discussed the fact that Georgian lemonade is in fact flavored soda, not lemonade (wish I’d heard that sooner). The group discussed ordering khinkali, and I thought to myself that they would be disappointed as I’d been. But then when the Peace Corps volunteer asked for two orders of the dumplings, the waiter accepted the order! There was some brief exchange I didn’t catch (perhaps khinkali take a while to prepare?), but the Peace Corps volunteer said one of her friends had his heart set on khinkali, and it seemed clear they were being allowed to order them. I was miffed. Someday I will eat khinkali!

In other news from roughly the same part of the world…the Turkish edition of Sparkers appears to be coming out tomorrow, June 1st! The Turkish title is Kıvılcımlar, which Google Translate tells me means “sparks,” and it was translated by Canan Vaner. The publisher is Kırmızı Kedi (Red Cat!), and their page for the book is here (it seems to be on lots of Turkish bookselling sites, but I can’t really read any of them, so I’ll just link to the publisher). If you or anyone you know reads Turkish, consider buying the first foreign edition of Sparkers!

Yumi Sakugawa, Krista Suh, and MILCK

On Monday night Isabelle sent me a link to an Instagram post by Yumi Sakugawa announcing that she would be participating in a panel at UCLA the following evening with MILCK and Krista Suh. Yumi Sakugawa is a comic book artist and the author of, among other books, I Think I Am in Friend-Love With You. MILCK (a.k.a. Connie Lim) wrote the song “Quiet” and sang it at the January Women’s March in Washington, D.C. in a performance that immediately went viral. And Krista Suh is a screenwriter and co-creator of the Pussy Hat Project, also of Women’s March fame. (It wasn’t until days after the Women’s March that I learned that Asian American women were behind both the pussy hats and the song that was being called the anthem of the march.)

The panel was variously advertised as being about women of color, intersectional feminism, Asian American women, creativity, and mental health. I was sold. And Isabelle is a big fan of Yumi Sakugawa and MILCK. So the decision to go was easy. Plus it was on campus.

The panel was hosted by LCC Theatre Co., an Asian American theater company at UCLA that Sakugawa was involved in as a student here. The evening started off with the trailer for Krista Suh’s documentary “I AM ENOUGH/Tea with Demons,” featuring Suh, Sakugawa, and MILCK and exploring the Asian American artist experience. It looks gorgeous and kind of just made me want to run away with my friends to write and make art and music in the desert.

Then the panel got underway, moderated by an LCC member. And here’s the thing: what MILCK, Sakugawa, and Suh talked about on Tuesday evening was almost eerily relevant to my life right now. As soon as I’d heard about the panel, I’d known I didn’t want to miss it for anything, but I didn’t realize how à propos it would be. For much of the panel, I felt like the three artists were speaking directly to me.

They talked about figuring out what they wanted to do (sing, write and draw, write) and in some cases having to break it to their parents that they didn’t actually want to be pre-med/pre-law/whatever. They talked about how long it took them to accept that they knew what they really wanted to do and what obstacles (often internal) they’d had to overcome to start pursuing what they wanted. They talked about friendship, about finding your people and both supporting and seeking support from your friends when they or you are going through a hard time. As an audience member later pointed out, it was wonderful to see their friendship shining through as they interacted on the panel.

Quite early on, Suh asked how many of us knew we wanted to do something creative (she knew her audience well). Most people’s hands went up, including mine. Then she asked how many of us were afraid or ashamed of that wanting. I didn’t raise my hand that time because I remember thinking very clearly that I wasn’t ashamed of wanting to write, but later I wondered, Am I still afraid? Even though I’m already an author? Maybe.

MILCK said something later that also resonated with me. She said to ask yourself what kind of suffering you were willing to endure. What are you willing to suffer for? What is worth the suffering for you? (And the unspoken converse, at least to my ears: What isn’t worth the suffering for you?)

Before the audience Q & A, they played us MILCK’s music video for “Quiet,” which I had seen before but was perfectly happy to watch again. And after the Q & A, Isabelle and I and a bunch of other people flocked to the front of the room where the panelists were to talk to them. Sakugawa had a few books and zines and prints on hand. We talked to MILCK first; Isabelle was delighted to hear there’d be more songs from her soon. Then we talked to Sakugawa, who said she remembered Isabelle from the Little Tokyo Book Festival. Isabelle introduced me as the writer friend she’d gotten Sakugawa to sign Friend-Love for. We all talked a little more (we told MILCK and Sakugawa that we were grad students in linguistics), and then Isabelle and I headed out. Night had fallen and the full moon slid in and out of the black clouds and walking past the botanical garden the air was heavy with the scent of honeysuckle.

YALLWEST 2017

This past Saturday was YALLWEST, a massive YA book festival held at Santa Monica High School. I went last year and had a great time seeing tons of authors I admire on panels. This year, Isabelle and I went together. I had two authors I wanted to get books signed by and a whole itinerary of panels planned out.

The first thing I did upon arriving at the festival was to buy Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz and The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. I had already read (and loved) both books, and both authors have more recent books, but those were the ones I wanted signed. From the Mysterious Galaxy bookselling tent, we went straight to the signing line for Benjamin Alire Sáenz. And after I got my book signed, we started the panel marathon.

Kingdoms & Quests: Epic Fantasy Roadtrips

S. Jae-Jones (moderator) [I’ve read her posts and podcast notes on PubCrawl–I think she’s into baby seals too!], Roshani Chokshi, Jessica Cluess, Heidi Heilig [a hapa author whom I saw at AWP and whose The Girl from Everywhere I’ve read], Linda Sue Park, and Erin Summerill

  • Jessica Cluess introduced herself as a Gryffindor while acknowledging that “it’s more posh to be Slytherin these days” (judging by the audience’s relative enthusiasm for the four houses, we Ravenclaws were the most numerous).
  • Erin Summerill said that after she creates a map of her world, she chooses the bleakest place on the map for the story’s setting.
  • It sounds like Linda Sue Park has a new book in the works about a hapa dragon (my term)!
  • Jessica Cluess told an anecdote that left me quite dismayed: Her fantasy novels have a Victorian setting, and so she once wrote in a manuscript that the characters danced a mazurka. She said her editor, who normally asks questions in the margins or makes gentle suggestions, simply crossed out “mazurka.” Later in a phone call, Jessica Cluess asked her editor offhand why she’d done that, and her editor said, “No one cares about the mazurka!” My jaw may have dropped, and Isabelle patted me consolingly on the shoulder. See, I learned the mazurka at bals folks in Grenoble and am rather fond of the dance. Plus the characters in my current project actually do dance the mazurka (under a different name). Now it’s my mission to make sure the mazurka makes it to the final draft!

Yallcraft: So You’re Thinking of Writing a Series?

Traci Chee (moderator) [I read her novel The Reader, which is also on the hapa book list!], Kasie West, Evelyn Skye, and Lindsay Cummings

  • I didn’t take a lot of notes at this one, but I remember the authors discussing whether they knew in advance which characters would die in the series or whether they impulsively decided to kill characters along the way.

Writ Large: Myths, Folk Tales, and Modern Retellings

Zoraida Cordova (moderator), Megan Whalen Turner, Wendy Spinale, Cecil Castelluci, Natalie C. Parker, Tracey Baptiste, and F.C. Yee

  • I may have been following Megan Whalen Turner throughout YALLFEST… This panel and the previous one were both in Santa Monica High School’s Gallery, and behind the panelists’ chairs were these two big boards covered with fan art for various books. Isabelle and I had already taken a look during the break between panels. One of the pieces was a portrait of the Queen of Eddis from Megan Whalen Turner’s books. As the authors began to arrive, I thought I recognized MWT, but I knew for sure when she went to examine the fan art and exclaimed, “This is from my book!”
  • Megan Whalen Turner talked about how wonderful it is that we still read about friendships in stories written hundreds and even thousands of years ago. She mentioned the Epic of Gilgamesh, and at the time I thought she said “romance” (and I wondered what romance she was referring to), but Isabelle later told me she’d said “bromance.” Anyway, the enduring power of literary friendships is beautiful.

After this panel, it was Megan Whalen Turner’s hour in the signing area, so Isabelle and I went to get in line. The woman behind us engaged us in conversation for a bit; she was an MWT fan on another level. She seemed to know that there would be a sixth book in the series, another one after Thick As Thieves, which hasn’t quite come out yet! When it was my turn to have my book signed, I managed to tell Megan Whalen Turner how I’d come to read her books and that The Queen of Attolia had blown me away.

Writing the Resistance: World Building IRL

Daniel José Older (moderator) [I seem to go to a lot of his panels–witness AWP!] , Marie Marquardt, Victoria Aveyard, Angie Thomas [she burst onto the scene with The Hate U Give, which I hope to read very soon], Benjamin Alire Sáenz, and Sona Charaipotra

  • Daniel José Older had apparently managed to get through his morning keynote with Cassandra Clare without swearing once, so he opened this panel with, “If you don’t like swearing, just leave now.”
  • A lot of this panel was what you’d expect from the title. A lot of it was also Benjamin Alire Sáenz being jaw-droppingly eloquent about his ideals and what it is we do when we write. Also, when an audience member asked the panelists if they’d ever been criticized by their own communities for the way they’d written about them, he said, after acknowledging that he had received such criticism, “I’m not afraid to be criticized. I’m not afraid of anything.”
  • The guy sitting next to me asked the panelists if they’d ever considered writing utopian fiction, as opposed to dystopian fiction, and their general reaction was: What would be the point? Where’s the conflict? But I kept thinking of Neal Shusterman’s Scythe (which, for the record, I have not read). Perhaps that’s an example of a utopia that has its dark side (after all, doesn’t The Giver start out utopian?). I also wondered about something else, though. Isn’t one of the great things about speculative fiction supposed to be that it can show us possible futures that are better than our present? There’s still conflict, of course, but set against an optimistic backdrop.

Fantasyish: The Role of Fantasy in the New Surreality of 2017

Alex London (moderator), Cassandra Clare, Danielle Paige, Daniel José Older, Megan Whalen Turner, and Zoraida Cordova

  • By now you may be able to tell which authors I was stalking.
  • Alex London opened the panel with a longish quote from Ursula K. LeGuin and then said, “Now be smarter than Ursula LeGuin.” Megan Whalen Turner joked that they could be done now.
  • MWT remarked that “we don’t often talk about the roots of conflict [i.e. war] in our fantasy for children.” And she also said that none of the people in her world are happy to take on responsibilities, but, for instance, Sophos, in A Conspiracy of Kings, reaches a point where he realizes he can’t make the decision he wants to, and he steps up. I pondered this because I’ve been interested in writing characters who choose duty over other things. Such as love.
  • Daniel José Older wondered aloud how fantasy writers can tell the truth while still giving people a happy place to go to.
  • MWT talked about reading the Chronicles of Narnia when she was six and never having grown out of the desire to check the back of the wardrobe (I like to think I haven’t either).

Ask Me Anything: The LGBTQIA+ Edition

Sam Maggs (moderator), Jeramey Kraatz, John Corey Whaley [I loved his Where Things Come Back–I think I said so last year too], Adam Silvera [I read his More Happy Than Not, and during this panel I think I learned that we’re the same age], Natalie C. Parker, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, and CB Lee

  • I’ll just sum this one up in one quote. Sam Maggs: “I’m from Canada, where everyone is 30% gay.” To which someone responded, “That’s why they’re so nice.”

After the last panel, Isabelle and I decided to visit Small World Books in Venice because in addition to being YALLWEST Saturday was Independent Bookstore Day. We walked along the beach to get there, skirting sand castles and watching adorable sandpipers chase the retreating waves. We even stumbled upon a bizarre, pulsing, pink, translucent creature that was sort of shaped like a shell but decidedly gelatinous. Later research suggested it might have been a burrowing sea cucumber. At Small World Books, the bookseller behind the counter indulged us by showing us the timid new bookstore cat. The shop is really lovely and has a nice selection; there was a display of Hugo and Nebula nominees, and I picked up Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit. We lingered until closing.

Science and Books and Madrigals, oh my!

I packed a lot into Earth Day weekend. Saturday morning was the March for Science. I bussed downtown with three other friends from the department. It was much less nuts getting to this protest than it was getting to the Women’s March. We actually made it into Pershing Square this time, where a button hawker greeted us with, “I’ve got you covered, nerds!” I did not buy a button. We hung out in the park reading signs as the morning speeches wrapped up. I spotted one that read: “I should be doing research right now #gradschool.” Too true.

I was glad to see this member of the clergy

We marched from Pershing Square to City Hall, just like in January. People chanted, “Science, not silence!” and when a little boy started chanting the slogan on his sign, “Science is better than Donald Trump!”, people joined in. When we reached City Hall, we stood around for a while watching the rest of the march arrive. One of our syntax professors found us, which seemed miraculous given the crowds. I later learned a bunch of other linguists from our department had been there, though we never saw them.

From the march, I headed to USC for my third LA Times Festival of Books. I wandered through the booths for a bit. I glimpsed Yumi Sakugawa at the Skylight Books booth and witnessed the eerie sight of red-clad, white-bonneted handmaids walking in pairs about campus. There had been a WriteGirl workshop at the festival earlier in the day (I finally started volunteering with them!), but I couldn’t make it because of the March for Science. I stopped by the stage where the girls were reading in the afternoon, though, and listened to some of their pieces. Then I made my way to the Big 5’s children’s book booths, and at the Penguin Young Readers booth I noticed that Julie Berry was signing. I had read The Passion of Dolssa recently and also enjoyed All the Truth That’s in Me, so when she had a free moment, I went up to talk to her. I told her I was a fellow Viking Children’s Books author, and then we chatted about grad school and Provençal.

After meeting Julie Berry, I met up with Isabelle at the Small World Books booth by the Poetry Stage, where she was about to get some poetry collections signed by Hélène Cardona. After that, we explored the festival a little more before heading to the first of the two panels I’d picked out for the afternoon. This one was a YA panel entitled Faith, Hope, and Charity: Strong Girls in Crisis, which struck me as a little dramatic, but okay. The panelists were Julie Berry, Sonya Sones (who…turns out to be someone I think I’ve contra danced with in Los Angeles–no wonder she looked so familiar!), and the person I’d been most eager to see, because I loved Cuckoo Song and The Lie Tree: Frances Hardinge. The moderator was Jonathan Hunt of SLJ’s Heavy Medal blog fame. The authors talked about the inspiration for their latest novels, mixing genres, and whether/why their protagonists are girls. Julie Berry said that since she has four sons she gets asked why she doesn’t write about boys, and she said, “I’m a girl! It’s like what you are doesn’t matter once you’ve reproduced!” Which elicited much laughter, but there’s something dismal underlying that if you think about it.

Next we went to the other panel I’d picked out: the hapa panel! I’d been excited for it because Kip Fulbeck–author of Part Asian, 100% Hapa and creator of the Hapa Project–was on it (the other two panelists were USC professors). He was indeed the highlight of the panel for me. I enjoyed his self-deprecating manner and his sort of “you do you” attitude. He’s not interested in policing hapa identity, and he told one young hapa woman in the audience that one doesn’t have to spend every minute of one’s life fighting. Taking care of oneself is important too.

On Sunday, I participated in Jouyssance’s fourth annual early music singalong. Jouyssance is a local early music ensemble whose concerts I’ve occasionally attended. I know one of the singers because she used to sing in our Georgian chorus. Anyway, I printed the scores to the nine songs on the singalong program a week in advance and made myself a Youtube playlist to sing along to. I can sightread vocal music to an extent, but I had a feeling I would be in over my head if I didn’t prepare a bit. My favorites were Orlando Gibbons’ “The Silver Swan,” Claudin de Sermisy’s “Tant que vivray,” Thomas Morley’s “April is in my mistress’s face,” and Heinrich Isaac’s “Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen.” There was also Josquin des Prez’s “El Grillo,” which I find annoying.

I arrived in the sanctuary of St. Bede’s Episcopal Church on Sunday afternoon, clutching my scores. A few singers from Jouyssance were there, but most of the participants weren’t in the ensemble. Everybody seemed to be a relatively experienced choral singer, though. The Jouyssance director complimented us on our reading of the first song and said she hoped we were all singing in choirs. The pace was relatively swift, and there wasn’t any hand holding, but everybody could handle it, and it was fun. Plus we weren’t exactly striving for perfection or speedy tempi.

My row of the alto section included our former Georgian chorister, a woman I know from shape note singing, and a French woman whom we told about shape note singing and who later told me she’d just started alto recorder. She showed me some of her music: “Pastime with good company”! “Belle, qui tiens ma vie”!

We didn’t do the Gibbons or the de Sermisy, to my chagrin. No French and too much Italian! I learned that Orlando di Lasso’s “Matona, mia cara” is not only quite vulgar but is also largely ungrammatical. After working on six of the nine songs for an hour and a half, we took a break for some treats and then sang everything in an informal “concert,” which Isabelle came to. (This concert was so informal that we occasionally started songs over again after a rocky start.) It was a lot of fun, and I hope I get to do it again next year!