Limecello A Little Bit Tart, A Little Bit Sweet Fri, 22 May 2015 02:29:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 SAPAHM Guest: Cecilia Tan Thu, 21 May 2015 07:33:41 +0000 Hi friends! We’ve got first time guest Cecilia Tan with us today to celebrate APAHM! Ms. Tan just won the RT Career Achievement Award for Erotic Romance – so anyone who attended RT15 and went to the awards ceremony would have heard her speak. How cool! I’m really glad she agreed to be a guest here, so everyone please give her a warm welcome!

When They Said Multicultural, It Wasn’t Me They Meant
by Cecilia Tan

The Incubus and the Angel: Magic University Book Three I have been a professional writer for several decades now–all the way back into my teens if you want to count the columns and articles I wrote for magazines like Superteen and Teen Machine. But fiction has always been my passion and I sold my first short story in 1992. In the ensuing 23 years, I’ve often gotten this question: “why don’t you write about Asians?”

Sometimes the question comes couched in compliment–“You’re so good, you could be the next Amy Tan.”–or in misguided advice–“Asian women’s lit is hot right now. You could have a bestseller if you market your identity.” Other times it stems from flat-out racist assumptions: “You should write what you know.”

The problem with all these versions of the question, actually, is that they all depend on my “Asianness” being the thing that defines me as “other,” and in all cases that “otherness” trumps my individuality in the mind of the person asking the question. (Even Asians other me with this question, because they do it within the assumed context of book publishing being white-dominated. Which it is.)

The Tower and the Tears: Magic University Book TwoThe reality of my otherness is actually a lot more complicated than me being “Asian.” What I actually am is a Chinese-filipino Irish Welsh bisexual. I don’t have a cute acronym or a club to belong to or a telegenic marketable identity. If I’m supposed to write “what I know” then what I know is about being ambiguous, about being mistaken constantly for the wrong ethnicity, wrong sexuality, even the wrong gender. (I’m short and I’ve got hair down to my waist yet I get called “sir” in public all the time. I assume it’s because people are so confused about identifying me that the whole part of their brain that categorizes people into strict boxes just goes haywire when they see me.)

So really, the only thing it makes sense for me to write is fiction about “others,” literally. Vampires, beings from other planets, angels, mermaids, gods. Paranormal romance, science fiction, fantasy: these are the genres where I “fit.”

Slow SurrenderBelieve me, I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to pursue being “the next Amy Tan.” I was graduating from college right when The Joy Luck Club was first published. I received several copies of it as graduation gifts, in fact. Here’s where I confess never finished reading the book. I read part of it and didn’t feel I needed to read the rest. Why? I felt I knew the book already. I was surprised by nothing in it. I didn’t have the vocabulary or the mode of thought at the time to express what bothered me so much about the book.

Ultimately I came to realize that the reason I could not be the “next Amy Tan” was two-fold. One, Amy Tan was already occupying that “slot.” Just as Tiger Woods did not open the door for hordes of black athletes to enter the sport of golf, the success of Amy Tan did not create a new genre and create a new shelf to be filled with Asian-American women writers. Two, that “slot” in particular irked me: it felt to me like what was so imminently marketable about Amy Tan was that what she did was so palatable to the mainstream (i.e. mostly white) reader. Don’t get me wrong: Amy Tan is a talented and wonderful writer. But her Chinese generational story hit a note to me that rang like an expectation: she met white readers’ expectations very exactly about what a Chinese-American woman’s book “should” be.

Slow SeductionI knew I could not pursue that path: I could not turn my Asianness into something expected, because my identity is never what people expect. And if identity is muse, then the only direction it made sense for me to go was into the realm of “other.” Paranormal romance in particular has been a rich vein to mine because it both acknowledges the mainstream’s fears about the other (vampires and werewolves ARE monsters) while at the same time embracing the others–whether we have a vampire love interest or even a paranormal protagonist. (Or both, as in Nalini Singh’s Psy Changeling books.)

The genres of sf, fantasy, and paranormal are also rife with tropes that turn questionable origins into virtues. High fantasy is rife with half-elves; Mr. Spock is half-Vulcan, half-human. Superheroes have alter egos, while demigods and shifters are just another metaphor for changeability, for the fact that we–or at least I–contain multitudes.

Slow SatisfactionBut of course I do: I’m a writer. Ultimately any writer has to write about characters who are not themselves–when characters are too obviously a self-insert we label that a “Mary Sue” and an amateur gaffe. But maybe that’s the secret: when a writer does it well, all her characters may be her, but there are many many facets of her. Okay, I won’t be coy: all my characters are me in some way, the heroes and the villains, the love interests and the spear carriers. I don’t know if that’s because my “identity” couldn’t be easily labeled with one simple word so I always had to have many masks and many hats to wear, or if–really–all writers have a small army crowding their heads. I can only write what I know.

Author bio: Cecilia Tan is the winner of the Career Achievement Award in Erotic Writing given by RT Book Reviews Magazine and was inducted into the Saints and Sinners Hall of Fame for GLBT Writers in 2010. She is the author of many books including Slow Surrender, The Prince’s Boy, The Velderet, Black Feathers, and the Magic University series. She is currently at work on a paranormal series for Tor Books entitled The Vanished Chronicles.

Thanks for sharing, Cecilia! So, my question to you is … what makes you “just like everyone else” … and then what makes you “other”? Did you ever feel like you fell into a niche … or that one just didn’t seem to exist for you?

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TBR Challenge Review: It Must Be Your Love by Bella Andre Wed, 20 May 2015 04:33:04 +0000 It Must Be Your Love by Bella Andre
Contemporary romance released by Oak Press, LLC on November 20, 2013

It Must Be Your LoveSuccessful Seattle Realtor Mia Sullivan is nobody’s fool…apart from that one week five years ago when she gave her heart to a sexy musician who gave her nothing in return but a few sinfully perfect days—and nights—in his bed. Though she swears she never wants to see him again, he’s the one man she’s never been able to forget.

One of the hottest rock stars in the world, Ford Vincent can have any woman he wants…except Mia Sullivan. But he knows millions of strangers singing along with his songs can’t fill the hole inside him. Only Mia’s love has the power to do that—so he vows to do anything and everything it takes to win her heart again.

From the first moment they see each other again, intense sparks of attraction fly. But can Mia and Ford finally rediscover a love strong enough to last forever?

I’ve wanted to read the Sullivan books for quite some time. I’ve started a few, but life always happened, so I’m really happy I made the effort to read It Must Be Your Love.​ I want to say this is the first time I’ve intentionally broke TBR review challenge “protocol.” I did initially plan on reading a book that was published 10 years ago. I got a lot of great suggestions and decided to read one that is basically universally loved. … I couldn’t get into it. I’m not going to say which book because I don’t want to be pilloried and run out of the community. I decided to read It Must Be Your Love because it’s basically hit all my reader buttons. Successful heroine, rockstar hero, hero that is desperately in love, and lots of hero grovel. Yes please. It also is perfect (in my mind) because it’s also APAHM, and Bella Andre was the first guest of the month.

I usually talk about the character individually, but today I want to address another aspect first. Mia Sullivan ​is the youngest sibling with four older brothers. I think that really helped build her character. It gave her a great backstory, support network, and explained how she’s so strong and independent. As someone who wanted to tag along with her older brothers and as a girl she always had to work that much harder to keep up, and be kept in the fun. It’s a contributing factor to what drove her in childhood and stayed with her, making her an incredibly successful realtor with her own business at age 28. (I’m sure her family and their connections helped too, but the book doesn’t focus on that.) Mia knows who she is and what she wants. I liked that she made Ford work for it, but she didn’t act to her (or their) detriment out of pride. Mia’s a great girl and she’s someone you want as your best friend. In fact it wouldn’t hurt being her either.

Ford Vincent was an interesting twist in my opinion, with his “poor little rich boy” back story. I liked that he didn’t let it damage or define him though. Sure it affected him, but didn’t let that hold him back. Mia and Ford have their history from five years back, and while he was an asshole, I don’t think his childhood was the deciding factor. In fact I think any guy around 25 (the book actually never says Ford’s current age) with the world at his feet would have made the same demands and assumptions that he as the rockstar should have his way. Full stop. I like that from the beginning of the book once he makes up his mind to see Mia he is all in. All the way. He’s willing to make the same “sacrifices” he asked Mia to make five years ago. It’s quite the gesture.

Breaking more protocol, no real character analysis this time because while I think Mia and Ford are great, it’s the usual suspect of adjectives thrown out there. Definitely they’re people that you’ll enjoy reading about – and would want to know in real life too. They’re friendly, fun, loving, and grounded. Throw in the massive success and wealth? What’s not to love.

The romance picks up pretty much as soon as Mia and Ford meet again. It’s as if they never spent five years apart, which I found interesting. Mia makes noises and some lip service about resisting at first but in actuality does nothing of the sort. That, and the fact that (in her mind) the relationship was so “all or nothing” bothered me. Those were the only two things. On Ford’s part, it made sense, because he has to show that he’s willing to make the grand gesture by “giving up everything” – the lifestyle he’s had since ~highschool, and has changed. On Mia’s part … I wondered where her basic problem solving skills went.

The writing and characterization in It Must Be Your Love are of course excellent. Bella Andre is a wonderful writer and story teller, and everything fits in so seamlessly you don’t even think about how many little details there are that all work together. I liked fact that Ms. Andre paints a vivid picture of each character’s life, but doesn’t get bogged down in the descriptions. You get the feel of how much Mia loves houses and her jobs. How Ford commands a stadium when playing a show. Their families and the love – or lack thereof. It was a good balance I think of Mia and Ford, and with Mia as the one dragging her feet it was nice to see her family encouraging her. (Or her brothers acting like … hilarious awesome stereotypical big brothers.)

I definitely recommend It Must Be Your Love to anyone who enjoys contemporary romances, and I’m glad there’s such a backlist for me to go through. The Sullivans are a really large family, and there’s something for everyone, with a variety of characters and professions, I’m sure there’s “reader catnip” for all in this series.

Grade: B

You can buy a copy here.
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SAPAHM Guest: Grace Wen Tue, 19 May 2015 07:59:24 +0000 Hi friends! Today we have Grace Wen visiting with us today! I don’t think we’ve ever had a post like this before, and I think it’s really cool. Grace is also part of the Smithsonian Heritage Month series, specifically, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! I think it’s really cool how food and culture is so intertwined – and how Asians especially seem to be touching on the subject this month. 😉 Hey – with so much good food, why not, right? Anyway I think Grace leaves the best closing here possible, so I’ll just leave her – and you all to it! Michigan cuisine ahoy! [And you’ll see I’m on my best behavior for SAPAHM because I didn’t even make any snarky comments about that state up north! … >.> I mean…] *angelface* 😉

Asian Americans in MichiganDuring the first few years of my career, I wrote articles for food magazines and book proposals for local chefs. Although I write mostly fiction now, I have an essay in the book Asian-Americans In Michigan where I share my experience as an ABC (American Born Chinese) who rarely cooks or eats Chinese food.

I credit my parents for my eclectic tastes. My childhood family meals could contain Campbell’s soup or Kentucky Fried Chicken one day, stir-fried vegetables or rice porridge with dried fish and pickles the next. My earliest cooking memories with my mom include making everything from potstickers to Little House On The Prairie cookbook dishes to classic Quaker Oats oatmeal raisin cookies. We even have a family baklava recipe, which was given to us by a Lebanese friend thirty-five years ago. I may be Chinese, but my food habits reflect America’s delicious diversity. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I found two other Asian-American authors who write about their connections with food and Michigan:

Coney Detroit by Katherine Yung and Joe Grimm

Katherine Yung and co-author Joe Grimm deep-dive into one of the signature foods of Michigan, and Detroit in particular–coney dogs. Coneys are natural casing hot dogs cradled in a steamed bun and topped with beanless chili, mustard, and chopped onions. It takes practice to eat it one-handed without dripping sauce on your clothes, but it’s yummy, worthwhile practice. In southeastern Michigan, you can often find a coney island restaurant nearly every mile. Some, like the legendary Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island in downtown Detroit, are next door to each other. I live within walking distance to three coney islands myself.

Yung writes that her husband inspired her love for coneys. That love shines through as she explores the history of coney islands and coney culture, visits the local manufacturers that supply the Detroit area’s many coney islands, discovers food spinoffs (coney pizza, anyone?), and even interviews a Michigan artist who creates coney-themed art.

Stealing Buddha's Dinner

Stealing Buddha’s Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen

Bich Minh Nguyen writes poignantly about her tumultuous childhood as a Vietnamese immigrant in 80s-era Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her grandmother cooked traditional specialties such as spring rolls, beef satay, shrimp chips, and red bean cakes, and her Latina stepmother introduced her to tamales, arroz con pollo, and empanadas, but Nguyen longed to have what other kids had: Cheetos, Bundt cakes, candy bars, Spaghetti-Os, Little Debbie snack cakes. To her, those foods represented what it meant to be a “real” American.

Nguyen uses food to illustrate the vast differences between her and her neighbors. Her best friend rejected the Vietnamese food Nguyen’s grandmother made, and lunchtime was fraught with anxiety as students compared the contents of each other’s lunch bags. In one chapter, Nguyen devotes ten pages to food descriptions in books, recognizing that the white protagonists in the stories she loved, such as Laura Ingalls, Jo March, and Harriet the Spy, represented girls she wished she could be. In the end, as she made spring rolls with her grandmother, she embraced the multiple cultures in her life instead of rejecting them, accepting that she can never become like her blonde friends no matter how much “real” American food and culture she ingested.

Gastronome Jean-Antheme Brillat-Savarin said, “Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are.” Readers, how does food reflect who you are, where you’re from, and where you live now? Has it changed over time?

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SAPAHM: Vicki Essex Thu, 14 May 2015 07:09:10 +0000 Hi friends!! So we have Vicki Essex visiting with us today! She’s also participating in SAPAHM, and this year Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is welcome to all! (Also Canada is part of North America, so that counts right?) 😉 I love these posts about identity and experience, and I hope you’re enjoying them too – and maybe learning something?

The Futility of Cultural Self-Identity When No One Believes You By Vicki Essex

A Recipe for ReunionWhat are you?”

While I will usually answer this racially loaded question with a raised eyebrow, I generally don’t appreciate the follow up I sometimes get:

Are you sure?”

Or “Really? I thought you were _______.”

Or “Funny, I don’t even think of you as ______. I think of you as _______. ”

At one point in my life, when I got this response, I’d felt as though I’d disappointed someone with my answers. Only recently did I realize the complex mix of frustration, bafflement and sometimes anger was cluing me into the fact that I’ve long suffered from a cultural self-identity crisis.

Had I been unconsciously trying to meet others’ perceived cultural expectations? Conversely, what if my identity had been swinging from one end of a spectrum to the other in some attempt to counter those expectations?

[Ok, so I just have to add this here… all me, so hopefully Vicki finds it entertaining too…]

Preface: I was born, raised and have lived all my life in downtown Toronto, Canada’s largest and most diverse city. I attended inner-city schools whose populations at the time consisted of over 60 per cent Asian students, mostly of Cantonese-speaking Chinese descent. Almost all of my close friends were Chinese. My school provided concurrent Cantonese language classes, and my parents spoke Cantonese to me at home. I lived in Chinatown, and I was never lacking for world-class Chinese cuisine. I have always been proud of my heritage. I celebrate traditional holidays with family, adhere to some of the stranger customs and superstitions and generally respect the cultural teachings and beliefs my family instilled in me.

And yet, despite this immersion, I was never quite “Chinese enough.” Not to my friends, not to people I’d known for years, not to my family, and apparently, not to complete strangers, who tend to remark on my “perfect English,” or more accurately, my complete lack of Chinese language skills.

It’s true, I don’t speak Cantonese very well. I can barely understand one out of four words, and can only piece together what people are saying based on context. Forget about reading and writing Chinese—despite all those years in concurrent, after-school and Saturday classes, I could never retain the learn-by-rote grammarless, alphabetless language.

In Her CornerThis unfortunate deficiency has long been a sore point for me. Electing to leave Cantonese classes in grade six represented a complete and utter failure and final surrender on my part. I’d always been studious, earning top marks in all my classes; discouraged by failing marks in Chinese class, my confidence waned. What most people assumed should’ve been second nature by dint of genetics and exposure completely eluded my comprehension.

Giving up made me feel worthless, like I was running away from something important. I was incapable and unworthy of “preserving my heritage,” and no one could ever trust me to be a representative of it. By stopping my Cantonese classes, I was diving straight into the insidious Western melting pot. I was supposed to be part of the big, colorful Canadian cultural mosaic; instead, I was sinking into the grout between the jagged seams.

I knew my parents were disappointed. I knew my friends were baffled—after all, how could someone who got such high marks in everything else fail to learn “my own language”?

The thing was, my own language was English. I watched Canadian and American TV and films exclusively. My sisters and I had never taken any interest in the chapter movies coming out of Hong Kong that were so popular among my friends. I listened to oldies and classic rock radio stations, preferring the Beach Boys and the Beatles and David Bowie over the Cantopop my friends loved to sing at karaoke. I read only English books.

And so, I grew up slightly apart from my more fluent friends. I mastered the smile and nod with my Chinese-speaking elders, or else floundered through a simple request.

It wasn’t until I was in university that I realized I was actually part of a racial minority. It was a bit of culture shock—I could count the visible minorities in my journalism program on two hands, and the Asian students on one. Out of habit, I tried to befriend those few familiar faces, but I soon found I had as little in common with them as anyone else. “What they were” didn’t factor into any part in our relationships, or lack thereof.

Back to the Good Fortune DinerI saw little of my high school friends during university. We’d all drifted apart, gathering only occasionally for big events and holidays. I did see other high school acquaintances, ones I hadn’t spent a lot of time in school with. It was at an open mic night event that I had this out-of-the-blue epiphany:

Oh, my God,” I exclaimed to my friend in a whisper, “I’m the only Asian person in this whole room.”

My friend turned to me. “Oh. Weird, I don’t even think of you that way.”

Suddenly self-conscious, I assumed “that way” meant “as an outsider.” Was it because I was a part of the scenery? A fixture as a regular attendee at the weekly event? Or maybe my friend meant he didn’t think of me as Asian. Was I really so “Canadian” that my identity as a hyphenated citizen had been nullified?

Regardless of whether I blended in or not, something inside me rebelled at the idea that I was not who I thought I was. I’ve dwelled on it often over the years. I’d self-identified with the tongue-in-cheek pejorative terms “banana” (yellow on the outside, white on the inside), “whitewashed,” and “jook sing” (Cantonese for “hollow bamboo”) to indicate to others I was CBC (Canadian Born Chinese) and lacked the language skills they expected from me. But now those terms held a little more weight. Ostensibly, I was neither here nor there, an alien among my own people, adoptable by the “others” but not completely. After all, I couldn’t change my skin tone or eye shape. No matter what situation I found myself in, I would forever be asked the question “What are you?”

My identity swung back toward a greater “Chinese-ness” when I started dating my husband, John, who is white. I knew pursuing a long-term relationship with him would mean some compromise on both our parts, but it also brought me closer to my heritage. Never was I more aware of the differences between Western and Chinese culture than I was navigating our separate cultural social protocols.

Her Son's HeroI had to teach him all the niceties I took for granted—the little things like tapping the table to thank someone when they poured tea for him, or never jamming your chopsticks straight up in your food (it makes it look like burning incense for the dead). I never took for granted, though, the challenges John faced. He spent a whole week eating Asian cuisine at the food court just so he could learn how to use chopsticks and not embarrass himself at my parents’ dinner table. Now my relatives can’t pass a meal without commenting on how good his form is.

John and I have been married for nearly five years now. We still encounter the odd person who can’t help but point out how somehow I’m the “different one” in our relationship. Questioning my cultural identity—or even simply pointing it out to me—irks me now more than ever. Part of me wants to believe people are just curious. But I know when people aren’t asking out of curiosity and are simply pointing it out, as if they’re unmasking me with a triumphant “Aha!”

For the record, I do not like it when people do that. It’s not that I don’t want them to ask—I just don’t need them to tell me I’m somehow wrong, as if I’ve disappointed them. I’m not here validate or negate anyone’s preconceived notions of who I am or what they believe me to represent. I have enough neuroses without having to deal with them telling me I don’t know myself. And I certainly don’t need someone holding a mirror up to me and pointing it out, as if I don’t know what I am.

But what are you really?”

The real question is, does it really matter?

So … confess. Have you ever committed this faux pas? I think it also matters if you know a person or don’t. I mean, if you’ve already established a relationship of sorts with a person before you delve into their background/ethnicity. Also it’s just different if the person is a [minority]. If you’re not Asian Pacific American, do you have friends who are? Have you ever heard them lament this type of treatment? One commenter will win a copy of A Recipe for Reunion.


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SAPAHM: Chinese Massacre of 1871 in L.A. Wed, 13 May 2015 01:26:46 +0000 “The largest incident of mass lynching in American history.

So … I’m not really sure how to go about writing this post. I know most (all) of the Heritage Month posts that I’ve put up are celebratory. And basically all the posts here generally. I’m not posting an image because the only ~relevant one I can find is a group of the corpses which … no. I’m not really going to say much more because I just want to put the information out there. I might add my thoughts later … I might not.

Despite going against the grain, I think this is a really important topic, and it speaks to an area of Heritage. And little known history. I learned about the incident some time last year while researching a different Heritage topic/group. I was … shocked. I mean, I knew of course that Asian [Pacific] Americans experience racism just like any other minority group in America. I also knew a little bit about the horrible conditions of railroad workers and the like – The Chinese Exclusion Acts … (America really hated Asians…) but … I had no idea that the victims of [one of] the largest mass lynching in American history was a group of Chinese Americans. If you’re like me, I think you’d have assumed that dubious title would be attributed to some atrocity in the south against African Americans. But no.

At least 17 Chinese men and boys were lynched as a result of the incident. Most of them were innocent of any wrong doing. It appears that only one had been a bad actor (and fired bullets into a crowd indiscriminately). Some articles say eighteen, others nineteen men  and boys were lynched. And … isn’t it that much more of a tragedy that what are legitimate sources report different numbers.

The greatest unsolved murders in Los Angeles’ history — bloodier than the Black Dahlia, more coldly vicious than the hit on Bugsy Siegel — occurred on a cool fall night in 1871. Seventeen Chinese men and boys, including a popular doctor, were hanged by an angry mob near what is now Union Station, an act so savage that it bumped the Great Chicago Fire off the front page of The New York Times.

That’s a quote from an article in LA Weekly. I had a really difficult time reading that article. Here’s another quote that describes the incident – with one man protesting the mob action. It also gives you a snapshot of the sentiment toward (against) Chinese Americans at the time.

Goller was a model citizen, a former city councilman, respectful husband and dutiful father. He objected bitterly as the Chinese were hoisted outside his windows. There are small children inside, he protested.

“You dry up, you son of a bitch,” growled a teamster as he leveled a rifle at Goller.

As the Chinese were hauled up, a man on the porch roof danced a jig and gave voice to the resentment many Americans felt over the Chinese willingness to work for low wages. “Come on, boys, patronize home trade,” the man sang out.

The bloodlust was not only in the men. A woman who ran a boardinghouse across the street from Goller’s shop volunteered clothesline to be cut up for nooses.

“Hang them,” she screamed.

A boy came running from a dry goods shop. “Here’s a rope,” he called helpfully.

Of all the Chinese in Los Angeles, Dr. Gene Tong was probably the most eminent and beloved among both his countrymen and Americans. He could have made much more money hanging his shingle in the American part of town. But Tong stayed in the Alley, dispensing both traditional and modern cures from a small shop in the decrepit Coronel Building.

As Tong was dragged along the street, he tried to strike a bargain with his captors. He could pay a ransom, he said. He had $3,000 in gold in his shop. He had a diamond wedding ring. They could have it all.

Instead of negotiating, one of his captors shot him in the mouth to silence him. Then they hanged him, first cutting off his finger to steal the ring.

Eight men were convicted, but their convictions were almost immediately “thrown out for a bizarre technical oversight by the prosecution.” No one was prosecuted again.

This incident appears to have stemmed from conflict between two existing Chinese factions – but I think this tragedy can be considered as both a separate and a whole. There were rival gangs warring, an officer went into Chinatown and was shot, which led to a mob of [whites] descending on the area and just … destroying Chinatown.

You can read the JSTOR article here, which gives you the background as well.

These were the instructions the judge gave to the jury for the lynching trial. (I screencapped the JSTOR article.)

One of the judges I used to work with would swear in witnesses, ordering them to tell the truth “as you shall answer on to God.” Pretty heavy stuff.

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5 Things About Me Tue, 12 May 2015 07:15:47 +0000 Hi Y’all! So, a long time ago Ki tagged me (on Facebook :X) in one of those “five things about me!” posts. And … I really wanted to do it but then I never ~got a chance to – and figured then I’d do it on the blog but you know how 2014 went … and then 2015 I was trying to do stuff and trucking along, but then I saw this empty space on the calendar and I hope to god I don’t get some “hey I thought I had that date email.” … >.>


That Scandalous EveningErm … five things you don’t know about me. I actually can’t even quite remember what the task was? So I’m going with the general gist. [I bet I have it right though!]

1. I love skating on carpet. I don’t know if I’ll ever outgrow it. What do I mean? Getting a pretty good buildup, and then just sliding on your bare – or socked (stockinged…) feet. This is why I hate berber. No sliding there. Well, one of the reasons I hate it. I don’t know if I’ll ever outgrow carpet skating. Not for a long, long time I think. So … maybe in my 40s? Later? Possibly about the time I’m too embarrassed or old to go by Limecello?

2. I’m pretty sure I have [undiagnosed] ADD. Come on now – as if we got tested for things like that when I was a kid. Or at least, it definitely wasn’t the norm. That’s like … a 00s phenomenon! Sidenote: I basically ADORE ALL ANIMALS. Unfortunately, I’m also allergic to them. It’s a cruel cosmic joke.
… Wait what was I supposed to be doing? >.>

3. I think I love the idea, concept, practice of baking things … more than baked goods themselves. Sure, some things I’ll probably gorge and eat myself sick. But generally? I’d rather give it away than eat it. Or like … cupcakes. I LOVE cupcakes. Or so I think. I love looking at them, talking about them, even getting them. But eating said cupcakes? … I don’t know. Maybe I’ve built up cupcakes so much I’m destined to be disappointed. … Or maybe I haven’t yet found the ultimate cupcake and cannot give up my noble quest!!! So you know, send me cupcakes. Please? *angelface* 😉 I’ve got a birthday coming up … 😀

4. “Small towns” freak me out. As in, the actually isolated ones. (Not the ones in romances that pretend to be an island but really are like … walking distance (long walk, admittedly) between city borders, and whatever, Martha, but I just can’t comprehend living in town of less than 2,000. [Less than 10,000 if I’m being honest … and even that is too small for me…] But all these stories (of real people!) with their towns of less than a hundred and or high schools of less than 100 and I like … get itchy and panicky. No. How does that even work?!?!? Why??!?! How do you get things?! Or alone time?! Or away from people??? Or have any sort of anonymity?!?!? Although I guess I don’t know how isolated some towns of 1,000 or so are. BUT WHY ARE THERE SO FEW PEOPLE? WHAT’S WRONG WITH THAT PLACE?
… >.> Clearly I did not grow up in, nor have I ever lived in the country. … Nor do I ever plan on doing so.

The Bride and the Beast5. If I could live on the east coast/in east coast time but operate on pacific time I think I’d be the happiest little girl in the world. I’m naturally a night owl, so this whole adulting and working and shit is … for the goddamn birds. And I’m not a bird.

… We’ll do a serious APAHM post later. … Probably much later so I don’t feel this little blip of mine is too inane. Heh. My fingers typed “insane” first despite my brain sending the instructions to type “inane” so it’s both, most likely. So yeah! That’s my five random things about me I don’t think I’ve ever blurted out to the world wide web before!

How about you? What’s a little known secret about you? And uh … to bring APAHM into this at least a little … what’s your favorite Asian food? 😀 [Oh and the covers are just … books I like that I think are under appreciated :P]

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Your Reads, Our Reads, ALBTALBS March Reads! Sun, 10 May 2015 03:36:22 +0000 So … we’re pretending it’s April for this post, okay? I’ve had a time of it, and then just stuff, and simply standing up feels like quite an accomplishment. Accordingly, I’m off schedule. Although, we should all know I should know better than to try to have a schedule, right? 😛 But on to the important stuff! Books! I know reviews have been sparse … none have been sent in, requests are piecemeal and I can’t handle email, so that’s what happens. (Or review myself, clearly.)

And now the Review Crew in the order of which I received their emails. [Even if I wanted to play favorites I don’t think I could manage it. ;)] But, cuz I’m a bitch like that … me first. As you might notice, I’m a “harsh” grader. I.e. A “B” read for me would most likely be an A for someone (anyone) else. Even the “C” reads for some. That’s just how the cookie crumbles. And so when there is an “A” read … you know it was fan-fucking-tastic. 😀 Oh – and you’re more than welcome to ask me why I “graded” a book a certain way. I’d love to discuss it!

Beauty Touched the Beast by Skye Warren Grade D+ (Currently free for kindle)
Mistress to the Beast by Eve Vaughn ​Grade D+​
Owning the Beast by Alexa Riley DNF/F
Seducing Mr. Right by Katee Robert Grade D (Currently $0.99 for kindle)
Courting Jealousy by Kimberly Dean Grade C+ (Currently free for kindle)
Heat of Passion by Elle Kennedy Grade ​C+
Unraveled by Lorelei James Grade C++
Trade Me by Courtney Milan Grade B-
Just One Night by Lauren Layne Grade B-
Made for You by Lauren Layne Grade B+
Rock Hard by Nalini Singh Grade B+
Rock Courtship by Nalini Singh Grade C+
The Trouble with Love by Lauren Layne Grade B
Play by Kylie Scott Grade C
Lead by Kylie Scott Grade C+
Bound by Flames by Jeaniene Frost Grade C
The List by Anne Calhoun Grade C-
One Night of Trouble by Elle Kennedy Grade C+
Breath on Embers by Anne Calhoun Grade C+
Lovers Unmasked by Katee Roberts, Cari Quinn, Samanthe Beck, Tessa Bailey Grade D+
One Starry Night by Olivia Cunning Grade C- (Currently $0.99 for kindle)
Filthy Beautiful Forever by Kendall Ryan Grade D+
What Happened in Vegas by Sylvia Day Grade C (Currently $0.99 for kindle)
The Viper by Kele Moon Grade B+
Heart’s a Mess by Kylie Scott Grade C
Working Out by Marie Harte Grade D+
The Slayer by Kele Moon Grade A-
Extreme Love by Abby Niles Grade DNF/F
Anticipation by Sarah Mayberry Grade D+

Fedora: Continuing down the Susan Andersen backlist path, both Hot & Bothered and Coming Undone were B reads
The first four books in Moira Rogers’s Southern Arcana series (Crux (currently free for kindle), Crossroads, Deadlock, and Cipher) were definitely B+
I also, enjoyed Stephanie Doyle’s For the First Time–don’t think I’d her before, and this was definitely at least a B … and I will look for more from her in the future.

Karen: Nothing like Paris by AmyJo Cousins Grade A

What have you been reading? Any recommendations?

Oh and question – do you prefer a link to the paperback copy, or kindle copy? (Did you even know all the books have buy links?) Then, would you be interested in me noting any/all books that have a price of say, $2.99 and lower at Amazon? Would you consider that a book deal/steal? Or do you not care about that? I’m asking because I’d be happy to add it if y’all are interested but if you a) don’t shop at amazon or b) don’t care, then of course I won’t. So let me know please, thanks!

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SAPAHM Guest: Suleikha Snyder Sat, 09 May 2015 07:33:57 +0000 Hi friends! As you see, today we have Suleikha Snyder visiting with us! I want to just take a minute and personally thank Suleikha for “coming back” – she was supposed to also have been a guest last year … but if you’ve been around for a bit you know last year just … didn’t work. And I didn’t really manage with the communication, so I really appreciate her not holding that against me (and the blog). Thanks, Suleikha! So let’s see what she has to say, shall we? :)

Throw This Bengali Tigress a Bone…
By Suleikha Snyder

Spice and Secrets“Wow. She speaks Bengali so well,” the woman, not much older than me, confides to my mother as if I’m not sitting just a few seats away. “I’ve been speaking it all my life,” I interject, dryly, as I have done so often over the years — even to my own father, who always marveled when I dropped a Sylheti word into a phone conversation or groused about an unwelcome meddler being “kebab mein haddi,” a bone in the kebab. (That’s not even Bengali…but I digress.)

“You speak English so well!” is what many first- and second-generation immigrants hear on a daily basis, and when you speak two mother tongues, when you have a foot in two different canoes, you get it from both sides.

I grew up in the American Midwest, where—in the 1960s, ‘70s and early ‘80s— assimilation was the name of the game. There weren’t huge pockets of South Asians to band together and build temples or mosques and open restaurants and groceries. You had to drive to the opposite end of your state—or even other states—to hang out with friends from “back home.” (As a result, I spent a lot of time in Cleveland, Detroit and Philadelphia as a child.) And if you spoke a different language at home, you strived to leave it there once you set foot outside. Very few of the Bengali-American kids of my generation have Indian or Bangladeshi accents. Many of them understand their parents’ tongue but don’t speak beyond a few words. Most of them now regret that.

Still, as our communities grew, so did the cultural pride. I remember the folk festivals and mela celebrations held at city convention centers, going up to a puja in Cleveland, and the birth of a tiny $7000-budget Tri-State Durga Puja that’s now a five-figure nonprofit. I remember being dressed up in saris and handmade ghagras and performing classic Bengali dance dramas and folk dances. I learned to play the harmonium (badly), learned to sing (badly) and even took South Indian classical dance lessons and really sucked at that. That is all stuff I was doing before I hit my teens. And, along the way, the Bengali language took root. I went through mutinous periods of not speaking it—mostly in a desperate attempt to be more like my white schoolmates—but by the time I hit my teens, I had a fever for languages. I was taking Spanish in high school, why wouldn’t Bengali hold its own appeal? Especially when I learned to wield it sharply and wryly against my older cousins back in Kolkata!

And then I honed it. Listening. Practicing. Picking up colloquialisms like a verbal Swiffer. Moving to New York has helped me keep fluent because even if I don’t speak it all the time, I certainly hear it everywhere. As much as everyone jokes about Bangladeshi cabbies, the profusion means I can choose to have a conversation in Bengali whenever I hail a taxi. How cool is that? How comforting is that?

Bollywood and the Beast“Wow. She speaks Bengali so well.” I do. Because it’s a beautiful language. Because the swear words are handy, too. And because I am as Indian as I am American. Sometimes it surprises me as much as it surprises everybody else.

Bio: Editor, writer, American desi and lifelong geek, Suleikha Snyder published her first romantic short in 2011, going on to multiple releases in recent years — including three Bollywood romances from Samhain Publishing, Spice and Smoke, Spice and Secrets and Bollywood and the Beast, and a short in Cleis Press’ Suite Encounters anthology. These days, she’s hard at work on more South Asian-themed romance and erotic romance.

Suleikha lives in New York City, finding inspiration in Bollywood films, daytime and primetime soaps and anything that involves chocolate or bacon. Follow her on Twitter @suleikhasnyder.

Did you have a similar experience growing up? Friends that did? How about languages? Do you speak a second, third, or more? Any affinity for them? Inquiring minds wish to know. 😀

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SAPAHM Guest: Jax Cassidy Thu, 07 May 2015 06:59:58 +0000 Hey y’all! We’ve got Jax Cassidy carrying the APAHM banner today! :) I hope you’ll read on!

Jax CassidyHi, I’m contemporary author Jax Cassidy and I’m SO excited that Limecello asked me to participate this month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM). It’s such an important month because it’s about celebrating Asian culture and heritage. I’m also equally stoked to be able to share with you some things I’ve been researching, on and off, for about a decade now.

Long before I was a romance author, I worked in all aspects of the movie industry, including writing screenplays. You’d think I would be sick of long days and reading stacks of other writer’s movie scripts…I wasn’t. In fact, I envisioned writing my own epic historical feature film someday. I’m embarrassed to admit that I never finished the screenplay. Recently, I stumbled upon the unfinished script while I was archiving old files. I re-read what I’d written and I was inspired again.

Just. Like. That.

I started plotting and researching—which only led me to do more research and falling in love with all the rich historical details and yumminess all over again. Okay, whether I turn my notes and outlines into a novel or a screenplay, this is something that’s on my bucket list. This is something I will eventually finish.

Being a total research geek, the more I learned, the prouder I was to be Vietnamese-American. It’s only natural for me to want to write about my own country’s historical figures… particularly kickass women warriors from Vietnam like the Trung Sisters, legendary Co-Empresses.

Trung Sisters

Research is a lot of fun, yet it can also be frustrating. There’s too much information available on the internet these days, so there’s definitely a lot of conflicting details as well. We all know how Hollywood loves embellishing their screenplays—which is a good thing for me—so after plenty of sleepless nights, I ended up gathering similar facts and incorporating them into my screenplay. My focus was on two sisters, Trung Trac & Trung Nhi during their reign in 40AD. Without them, Vietnam probably wouldn’t have existed.

Trung Sisters

The legend describes the two sisters as daughters of a respectable scholar who served an ailing young King. He was well loved by everyone in the kingdom due to his reputation as a fair and kind official. Since he didn’t have sons, he allowed them an education that was normally meant for heirs. This included strategy, politics, and martial arts. Around 39AD, the Chinese Han Dynasty tightened their oppression on what would be considered Northern Vietnam.

Trung Trac, the older sibling, fell in love and married a man named Thi Sach. Their union was short lived when Thi Sach was opposed to the high taxes and rebelled. To regain control over the Vietnamese, the Chinese commander murdered Thi Sach and raped Trung Trac to incite fear among the people. This plan backfired. This only infuriated the sisters and motivated them to take action to avenge Thi Sach’s death and oppose the Han Dynasty’s oppressive rule.

Trung Sisters Stamps

The Trung sisters rallied and raised an army of 80,000 soldiers—mostly women. 36 were appointed generals, including their mother. The women rode into battle on elephants and after several months, they managed to overpower and seize control of approximately 65 citadels under Chinese control. Trung Trac and Trung Nhi were crowned the first Co-Empresses.

During their three year reign, the sister’s abolished the Chinese taxes and Vietnam’s traditional values were restored in the Kingdom while the Han Dynasty regrouped. When their forces were strong enough, they attacked in 43AD. The women were outnumbered and surrounded by Han soldiers. Rather than accept defeat, instead of being captured and executed, the Trung Sisters committed suicide by riding their horses off the cliff to retain their honor.

The sister’s deaths, by sacrificing their lives, were just the fuel that inspired the people to retaliate, fight back to regain their country. To this day, Trung Trac and Trung Nhi are revered as heroes. Temples and statues were created, and annual festivities are organized in their honor. These women are still remembered as honorable and courageous warriors, dedicated in preserving the Vietnamese culture.

WanderloveABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jax Cassidy followed her dreams to Paris, then Hollywood to pursue a film career but managed to fall in love with penning sexy romances and happy endings. She writes contemporary romances and is Co-Founder of Romance Divas, an award winning writer’s website and discussion forum. Jax is also known as one-half of the retired writing team of Cassidy Kent. She is represented by Roberta Brown of the Brown Literary Agency.
Website. Facebook. Twitter: @jaxcassidy, Instagram: jaxcassidy

*Just a few websites dedicated to the historical figures mentioned in this article. Images used are also credited below.
Badass Female Warriors
The Trung sisters: Source 1, Source 2, Source 3

Another legendary heroine:
Trieu Thi Trinh (Vietnam’s Joan of Arc): Source 1, Source 2, Source 3

Wasn’t that interesting? Did you know about this aspect of Vietnamese history before this post? Let us know, and one lucky individual will win an ebook copy of Wanderlove as well as a $5 gift card to either Amazon or B&N!

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SAPAHM Guest: Grace Callaway Tue, 05 May 2015 04:33:33 +0000 You guys, I love this post. I’m so so happy that I decided to go ahead and celebrate the Smithsonian Heritage Months again this year, but even more, that I have such wonderful guests participating! There are so many amazing, vibrant women in the romance community. I like to feature them regularly, but there’s just something about the Heritage Months that makes it that much more special to me. Today we have Grace Callaway, as you see, and I hope you’ll read on!

The Duke Who Knew Too MuchHello, Grace Callaway here, and I’m delighted to be a guest on Limecello’s blog. In celebration of APAHM, I’d like to reflect upon my own journey as a writer of steamy historical romances. The relationship of my ethnic identity (Asian Canadian) to my stories might not be readily apparent, yet the more I pondered the connection, the more I realized that my cultural background has a deep, inherent impact on the kind of stories I write and am interested in.

A friend of mine once told me that all writers have core themes that they return to over and again; it makes sense that our culturally-embedded formative experiences would shape those themes. When I examined the gestalt of my work, I began to see some of my personal motifs emerging.

For starters, I have a great love for the cultural misfit, the hero or heroine who doesn’t quite fit in. I think that this is partly why I’m fascinated by the Regency and Victorian eras, when moral codes and taboos were more absolute, and violations could lead to serious consequences. The arcs of my characters often explore how they balance the desires of self with the stringent expectations of larger society.

Her Prodigal PassionFor example, a spirited merchant’s daughter wants to have adventures rather than marry well. A gentleman longs to prizefight rather than run his father’s shipping empire. A country spinster discovers that she has a taste for sleuthing and wants to (gasp) work as a female investigator.

These are, in many ways, stories of acculturation. The characters struggle and grow as they negotiate their identity, beliefs, and desires with the larger context in which they live. As the child of immigrants who didn’t speak English and knew little about Western culture before they arrived in Canada, such journeys resonate deeply with me. Growing up as second generation Chinese Canadian, I’ve experienced some of the tensions and rewards of straddling different cultures.

Sometimes it was hard: having stricter curfews and parental expectations than most of my friends. Getting disastrous haircuts from stylists who didn’t know what to do with my thick Asian hair (and, no, the answer was not a spiral perm). Sometimes it was great: knowing a second language, watching awesome historical Cantonese dramas about kung-fu fighting female heroines, and eating dim sum on a regular basis.

Her Wanton WagerI love underdogs and quirky characters, people who discover the courage to march to the beat of their own drum (or at least to improvise every now and again). They’re everywhere in my stories. And they all get happy endings.

Another beloved trope of mine is rags-to-riches. My characters struggle and work hard to achieve their successes. A boy wrongly sentenced to a prison hulk survives to become a powerful gaming hell owner. A shop girl endures her parent’s criticism and scorn before recognizing her true capabilities. An impoverished Thames River policeman struggles to make ends meet for his family before finding the courage to open an investigative agency of his own.

Again, this is a theme from my own life. I’ve witnessed my own parents’ journey as immigrants: traveling to a new world, starting from scratch and overcoming prejudices to create their own success. Hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance—these are values that they’ve passed onto me… although I suspect they didn’t think I’d apply them to a career in romance writing.

But that’s a story for another time.

Her Protector's PleasureA final theme in my books is the value of sexual empowerment. In my stories, the romantic journey includes the intimate physical aspect of relationships: my characters fall in love mind, soul, and body. I find this particularly intriguing to write about in historical eras when female sexuality was severely controlled and restricted by social mores.

Writing about healthy, consensual, and loving sexuality is important to me because in my own life there have often been silences on this topic. Because of both my cultural background and gender, I think, sexuality was simply not discussed—or, if it was, it was done so in a negative or distorted manner. Even now, I get feedback from well-meaning people in my life that I shouldn’t include sex in my books. I grieve this because, in my opinion, the body is not cut off from the rest of human experience; like our mind and spirit, it can be a source of joy, fantasy, and discovery—if not burdened by stigma and shame.

Last year I made the decision to transition from my career as a psychologist to that of a full-time romance writer. It wasn’t an easy choice, but one that I don’t regret. I feel privileged to be a part of an empowering community of women giving voice to their diverse stories and have met some of my dearest friends—fellow readers and writers—in this profession. Their journeys inspire my own, and I look forward to many shared adventures to come.

Well, I feel like anything else I say just will be … inane :X but I’m curious. Do you have something you identify with in particular? Have you ever had an epiphany in an introspective moment? (Thanks so much for sharing with us, Grace!)

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