Why I Am a SAHM

Sometimes, I think I am damaging my children’s understanding of what women can do by being a SAHM. Are my boys going to look for wives who will only be homemakers? Will my daughter think her career options are limited? Am I reinforcing gender stereotypes?

Of course, I know intellectually that the whole thrust of feminism isn’t to force all women into the workplace and devalue motherhood and being a homemaker. The point of feminism is to give women and men equal rights and opportunities so that if I want to work, I can work. If I want to stay at home, I can stay at home. (Same goes for my husband.)

Hapa Papa often jokes that I pulled a Bait and Switch on him. I looked good on paper: graduating from UCLA, working in marketing then becoming a financial advisor. And then, BAM! I popped out Cookie Monster and decided I never wanted to work again. (No, this is not a discussion on whether or not caring for children is work. Yes, it is. But I am merely referring to “work” as in an occupation for which I am paid taxable dollars.)

I always assumed I would work after I had kids. My mother worked and my brother and I turned out fine (dare I say, AWESOME?). But I do know that as much as I appreciated the freedom of being a latch-key kid and the hours and hours of TV we’d watch after school, I envied my friends whose mothers were home. Part of me longed for someone to welcome me home when I got back from school, perhaps with snacks.

Please don’t misunderstand me. My mother never missed a concert or school event. She always knew the gist of what was going on at school. (This is especially impressive since she was an immigrant and this was all PRE-internet!) She knew who my friends were and was incredibly strict regarding who I was and wasn’t allowed to hang out with. I am incredibly grateful – especially now that I realize just how easily influenced I am! (I am no stalwart independent. I am quite the follower and easily misled!)

At any rate, as soon as I took one look at Cookie Monster, I knew I would never work again. I didn’t want to miss a single moment of his little life and the lives of his siblings. I wanted to shape my children, for better or for worse. When the kids eventually go to school, I want to be there at pick up and drop off. I want to know their teachers. I want to be involved in the PTA and their classrooms. (Ok, I take that back. I definitely do NOT want to be Room Mom. NOPE. Not for me.)

But mostly, I want our home to be a sanctuary. A hub. I want the kids to bring their friends over after school, play, hang out, do their homework, eat, and bask in the inanities of life. I want to be in the background or foreground (depending on what is needed). I want to be the constant heartbeat of their lives until they launch themselves into college and young adulthood. I want to be their security. Their home.

I want to provide my children with the stability I never felt when I was growing up. I want to be their rock.

Of course, many parents provide these things even while working. But to me, I want to be home full time. Even when all the kids are in school, what place of work would have me work from 10-2? No one in their right mind would hire me unless it were shift work. Plus, I am more than certain those precious child-free hours would be quickly eaten up by the millions of little things it takes to manage a family of several children.

I am just so grateful that Hapa Papa’s job makes enough money so that we can live comfortably on one income without hardship. I am grateful that Hapa Papa supports me being at home. I am grateful that I get to be present for almost every glorious, boring, mundane, infuriating moment with my children. It is an incredible honor.

My Surprising Lack of Options

I don’t know why I bother clicking on baby dolls or kids’ books. It just upsets me when all the dolls or characters are white and nary a one is anything else. It just makes me feel so sad and disappointed.

At this point, it doesn’t even matter if the doll isn’t Asian or of mixed race (that will be the day). I would accept any ethnicity that is not white. I would also like to see more than one token doll of color – and I don’t consider “really tan” as another ethnicity. But I know that is even crazier than asking for just one mixed race doll.

It’s as if these dolls inhabit a world where there is only one kind of black person or one kind of Latino – but white folks? Legion. Is this how white folks really see the world? That there are a rich mix of features and variety for Caucasians but everyone else looks exactly the same? Or is this what being “color blind” reduces everyone to, causing people to be blind to everyone who is of color?

It really makes me very, very sad. Sad isn’t even the appropriate word. More like angry. Indignant. Defeated.

How many choices of dolls do you think there are out there? Let’s just narrow the field down to that well-known Barbie. Since 1999, there have been at least 2,300 versions sold of the Barbie doll. That’s a lot of dolls. Do you know how many dolls I found when I was looking for an Asian baby doll for Gamera? (Please do not get me started on the creepy, utterly gross results I got. *shiver*) Four. I found FOUR Asian dolls that were reasonable for a toddler to play with (not the collector’s kind and not the squicky sexy kind). There is something wrong with that, don’t you think?

Here’s a great post by someone who loved American Dolls (another super popular doll brand) and their lack of inclusion for Asian Americans. (It’s not like we built a fucking railroad or anything. Oh, wait. WE DID. To be fair, American Dolls does make a custom Asian American doll – but I’m not paying that much money for a doll my kids are going to decapitate someday.)

And for folks who think I am making a big deal out of nothing, do you own a doll of another ethnicity? If not, why? Is it because she doesn’t look like you or your kid? Then why do you suppose I would want a doll that doesn’t look like me or my kid? At best, people have never thought about it much. At worst, they think every one wants to look like them. (My money’s on the former.)

I’m not trying to make people feel bad. To be brutally honest, I don’t give two fucks about other people and the dolls that represent them. (Ok, I do, in a peripheral sort of way.) It’s not the vast variety of white baby dolls that bothers me. As far as I’m concerned, the more the merrier. What bothers me is the LACK of dolls that represent ME and MY children.

What I find even MORE astounding is that I would think that Asian countries would be ALL OVER THIS SHIT. Corner the market for Asian Americans and their offspring! But, no. Not a single one that I could find. I think that depresses me even more. I finally bought a French made one for Gamera. The doll looks kinda creepy, but Gamera likes her just fine.

Anyhow, this post got started because I got one an email from one of those deal sites and they were talking about how they have so many beautiful dolls for our little girls to play with. Six dolls were featured and not a single one of them was of a non-white ethnicity. Apparently, only white girls can be princesses and mermaids.

Yes, Another Post Wherein I Talk About Books

Since I love books, it only makes sense that many of my posts are going to be about books and their authors. If you don’t like reading, so very sorry. However, I’m sure you know people who enjoy reading – and maybe they would enjoy some of these books and their authors. Since I’ve had a reader request for YA books/authors, and YA is one of my favorite genres, we’ll focus on that today.

YA (for those of you not in the know, stands for Young Adult) is one of my favorite genres because more than any other genre, it focuses on story and plot and has a fast pace. The language is usually very clear and simple (which is not the same as simplistic) and there (usually) isn’t an excess of sex and/or violence. The protagonists are usually in their teens and while that may make for some annoying quirks in the characters, it also allows for a lot of growth. Also, there is the unfortunate tendency to have long, belabored love triangles that don’t resolve until the end of a trilogy. The trend lately has been dystopian (thanks, The Hunger Games), but there was YA long before that came into fashion.

Here then, are some authors and books I recommend. As always, the links are Amazon affiliate links.

1) Neal Shusterman – Fantastic writer of some incredibly moving and poignant series. The most famous of his series starts with Unwind, a world in which abortion is outlawed but between the ages of 13-18, a parent can choose to “unwind” their child by transplanting every single part of their body into willing recipients. There are three scenes in this book in which I defy you to not break down and weep hysterically. I also highly recommend his series that starts with Everlost.

2) Marie Lu – A newer author, so far she has only written the Legend trilogy (the final book dropping on November 3). I appreciate that she is an Asian author as well as the fact that her characters are of mostly mixed heritage. But that’s not why I like her writing. Her characters are tightly written and I particularly love June. It is also a rare thing when the second book is better than the first. I can’t wait for the conclusion!

3) Agatha H. and the Airship City by Kaja and Phil Foglio – Originally a web comic, the two books are the novelized form of a few of their stories. Steampunk in all its glory – and most importantly, the main character is a girl genius whose primary goal is NOT A BOY. That is supremely refreshing. I HIGHLY recommend both books. It took me a few tries to get into the first book initially but once I got past the first few pages, I was hooked and read it in all one sitting.

4) Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – I have no idea whether or not Wein has written anything else. But OMG, this books is amazing (and NOT a dystopia). WWII, spies, women, and friendship. Oh, and the judicious use of ALLCAPS makes it my kind of story! FANTASTIC. Although I initially was reluctant to start, once I did, I never looked back. I really cannot tell you more without spoiling the whole thing – and it’s so worth NOT being spoiled. It’s one of those books that you have to re-read immediately (or at least, flip back through the book) to catch all the hints/red herrings. This book makes full use of the unreliable narrator trope. AWESOME.

I will not lie. I sobbed gross, messy, snotty sobs near the end. Gross. Messy. Shameful. Sobs. I cried so hard, I woke up Hapa Papa who sleepily pet my hand to tell me it was ok. (What a darling.)

I stayed up until 2am TWO NIGHTS IN A ROW. I had two small children at the time. It was worth it.

5) Megan Whalen Turner – Her The Queen’s Thief series is excellent (and also not a dystopia). It starts off with The Thief, which is good, but the rest of the series just gets so much better. The main character, Eugenides, is hilarious and has some of the best lines. My absolute favorite in the series is The King of Attolia.

6) Paolo Bacigalupi – Again, I appreciate an author who writes as if people of color are also in this world. He doesn’t make a big deal out of it, but it is so refreshing. I can’t wait for the day when that is no longer a distinction to note. But until then, it’s another plus in Bacigalupi’s favor. However, the reason I enjoy him has nothing to do with that. His stories are exciting and wild. My favorite is The Drowned Cities. Technically a sequel to Ship Breaker, it is not necessary to have read the previous book. SO GOOD.

7) Shannon Hale – She may be more famous for Austenland, but I found her through The Goose Girl several years ago. Again, I’m a sucker for a female protagonist – especially if it’s an alternate version of a familiar fairy tale.

8) Tamora Pierce – It’s been awhile since I’ve read her books but there is a scene from her book, The Woman Who Rides Like A Manthat consistently stays with me. Ok, it’s not a particular scene, but the whole section is imprinted on my brain. I constantly forget who wrote it and what it was about, but every time I think of a fantasy novel with a strong female lead, it pops into mind. Make of that what you will.

Side note: Many of these books I heard of from Orson Scott Card, one of my favorite writers. I have found that in general, I trust his recommendations and I would urge you to check the reviews out for yourself. I have found that if an author I like is genuinely recommending a book (versus just pimping out a book or an author to get reciprocal props), it is definitely worth looking into.

You’ll note that I left off some of the more famous series such as The Hunger Games and Divergent. These books are doing so well and are made into movies so I think they’ll be just fine. The books are excellent, of course, but they hardly need my signal boost. I focused on some lesser known authors and I hope you give them a shot.

As always, once I get going on books, it’s almost impossible for me to stop because there is always just one more book that I need to tell you about. I love books and love to tell other people about them. If you want more recommendations, just check out my Goodreads young adult bookshelf.

What about you? What books or authors did I leave off that you think I’m clearly an illiterate son of a whore for doing so? What would you recommend I read? Let me know it the comments.

White Man’s Burden

You know what I’m sick of seeing on TV and in movies? Some white dude swooping in to protect and save either women, minorities, or people from a different culture from some thing – be it sexual slavery, rape, themselves, etc. What spurred this rant? This week’s NCIS episode.

Now normally, I love me some NCIS and Leroy Jethro Gibbs. (Mark Harmon just does it for me. I realize this makes me some kind of old, but whatever. Don’t judge me.) But this episode just pissed me off. Why? Because ostensibly, the episode was about smuggling Afghani women who were fleeing arranged marriages or abusive husbands into America. The women came to attention because some Afghani families hired a hitman to find the escaped women in America and “honor kill” them by dumping acid in their face. (Apparently too much hydroflouric acid can cause cardiac arrest. Who says TV doesn’t teach you anything?)

However, mostly the episode just highlighted Gibbs and his guilt over not helping earlier. When an Afghani women’s shelter is threatened with a bombing by the local men, Gibbs goes outside and fights off the mean Afghani men. *eyerolls* The women are just props and background. You never care about them except in a vague “feed the children” kind of way, and the emphasis is only Gibbs, his “bravery” for standing up to those “savages” and how he saves the day.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not pro bombings, abusing women, or marrying teenage girls to old men. But really? FFS, people. White dudes are not the only saviors in this world but time and time again, we get some stoic, no nonsense white guy swooping in (reluctantly, natch) to save these poor victims from whatever trite villainy of the day. It’s really just a prime time version of the After School Special and the Very Special Episode.

It’s contrived and really fucking annoying.

I’m all for shows that truly highlight issues that are ripped from the headlines, but I am NOT for using whole groups of people – especially victims – as gimmicks. They are only present to set up the hero. This objectifies and re-victimizes these people all over again.

Of course, I’m totally screwing up my explanation. I’m rarely very good at explaining issues of privilege in clear, useful language. I’m much more of a ranty “GAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!! THIS SUCKS BALLS!!” type of reactionary writer. For some coherent reasons why this situation is annoying, here are some recent articles I cribbed from Racialicious.

The Problem With Miss Saigon
Malala Yousafzai and the White Savior Complex
War Before Memory
Mighty Whitey (from TV Tropes)

So that’s what you get today for a post. Rantiness. But it can’t be just me who feels this way, right? RIGHT?

*Image courtesy of Racialicious.

Here, Have Some Lists

I’ve been single-parenting it this week while Hapa Papa’s been in London on vacation for work and quite frankly, I’m pretty exhausted. Usually, my mom would come over and help but she’s in Taiwan until Sunday. What the hell, family? What’s with the lack of consideration for what’s convenient to my life? Ah well, pretty much as soon as Hapa Papa walks in the door all rested and refreshed from his relaxing trip without me 10 hour flight, I will hand him Glow Worm, kiss Cookie Monster and Gamera, and run out the door to the nearest spa for a full body massage. I might remember to greet my husband on my way out.

Anyhow, as a result, you get a listy and bookish post today. Yay! However, rather than give you a list of books (and I still may but I may also let you flex your Google-Fu), I proffer you some authors you should check out in my favorite genre of science fiction and fantasy. Of course, YMMV – particularly if you don’t care for SF/F. As usual, all Amazon links are affiliate links.

1) Orson Scott Card – Most famous for his Ender’s Game Series (approximately 15 books set in that universe), he is one of my favorite authors. I avidly read his columns that review anything and everything on his site. His Ender’s Game movie is coming out in November (and hopefully, won’t ruin the book for me forevermore). Even though I love his science fiction, oddly enough, my favorite book of his is Enchantment, a modern fairytale of sorts. Card’s characters all have smart-ass mouths and the banter is quick, self-effacing, and often full of love. I wish I talked like them.

2) John Scalzi – His most well-known series starts with Old Man’s War and he is lauded for writing “accessible” sci-fi. In other words, you don’t have to be some hard-core geek to love his writing and his books. You just have to like reading. Bonus: Scalzi is hilarious and his fiction includes copious amounts of funny moments. However, what wins me over are his more surprising poignant moments.

3) Brandon Sanderson – Sanderson stepped in to finish Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series after Jordan passed away. However, Sanderson is an awesome author in his own right. Be forewarned, though. Most of his books are door-stoppers and usually top out at 100,000 words. But you can’t beat his unique magic systems, world-building, and immense scope. For an easy intro to his work, I would start with the normal length, free-standing Elantris. Then, I would move on to his Mistborn trilogy. Mind-blowing. However, my favorite is still Warbreaker. I can’t articulate why, I just do.

4) NK Jemisin – Jemisin is one of the few black female fantasy authors and I fully appreciate how that influences her writing. Fantasy, more so than other fiction in general, is often lily-white. Jemisin challenges that default and her writing and worlds are the better for it. I would start with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

5) Kate Elliott – I LOVE Elliott’s writing. Her worlds are also not in the default European setting and I really appreciate that! Plus, like Jemisin, she includes non-heterosexual pairings and considers them normative. Like Sanderson, is incapable of writing a short book, but I don’t mind at all. I love her writing. (My brother, on the other hand, is bored to tears by her.) I would start with Spirit Gate even though she is more well known for her Crown of Stars series.

6) Lynn Flewelling – Another fantasy author that includes non-het pairings in a positive fashion (I think she is famous for this, actually). I would start with The Tamir Trilogy, a truly creepy and horrific series that I still get the heebies thinking about. But it’s SO GOOD. *shudder*

Obviously, this list is not all-inclusive. I tried to include some famous authors as well as authors you may not have heard of. I may do another SF/F author list in the future but for now, since my brain is running on empty, this will have to do. If you want to see more of my SF/F books, check out my Goodreads shelf and filter by rating.

You know what? This post did not go as quickly as I had anticipated. *Shakes fist at sky.* I actually did some WORK! BOOOOO!!! 

Anyhow, like I mentioned, this is not an all-inclusive list. So, calling all my fellow SF/F geeks. What authors would you recommend?

Will You Still Love Me When I’m No Longer Young and Beautiful?

I’m not gonna lie to you, Marge. I think I’m beautiful. It sounds so wrong to say it, but I have eyes. I can look in the mirror. (I won’t kid myself and say what I really mean is that I’m beautiful on the inside. We all know I am the vain, flighty sort.) Sure, I’d look much better if I made any sort of remote effort to dress well or wear makeup, but I am really far too lazy and practical.

I used to tell Hapa Papa all the time that I was the better looking half of the relationship. He would retort, “For now…

Don ‘t all fight for him at once, ladies. He’s all mine.

Because although it may not be objectively true, it certainly is culturally true. (The only thing I’ve got going for me is that I’m Asian so I should age well. But Hapa Papa is half Asian, so it really could be a toss up.) After all, men allegedly just get better looking and more attractive as they grow older. (Personally, I think the thicker bank account has more to do with this “attractiveness,” but I digress.) Women, on the other hand, do not. Apparently we shrivel up and turn into desiccated old-lady husks as soon as we hit twenty-five.

Sometimes, I really despise American beauty standards.

Anyhow, I bring this up because a few weeks ago, I heard Lana Del Rey’s song, Young and Beautiful, on So You Think You Can Dance. I know I’m the leaky sort anyway, (from many parts of my body – but I blame that on babies and hormones. Too much?) but I teared up. I found the chorus particularly sad, lonely, and true to the insecurities we all have from time to time.

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?

– Young and Beautitful, Lana Del Rey
(You can find the full lyrics here.)

I initially heard it as more of a woman desperately trying to convince herself that the person she loves will still love her. But perhaps it is more the quiet declaration of a woman confident in her lover’s long-spanning love. I don’t know. Personally, I tend towards the cynical, but that’s a different topic for another day.

What this song really does, though, is make me feel sad and melancholy.

I think of Fiddler On the Roof’s song, Do You Love Me?

I remember the vows people make when they marry – to love and cherish the other person for better or worse, until death do they part – and that these vows are supposed to be the answer to the poignant question, “Will you still love me?” And yet, the question still has to be asked because in our American culture, people are disposable and vows aren’t really all what they used to be. 

I think about infidelity and how people always ask if the other woman is younger and more beautiful as if that’s a valid reason to leave a wife. 

I think of Hapa Papa and how I was a little dismayed after having Cookie Monster because my stomach got all poochy and my body was a little lumpier than before and how Hapa Papa told me he thought I was beautiful because my body grew and birthed Cookie Monster and wasn’t it worth it to have him even if my body had changed?

So is it any wonder that the song stirred up a longing to be loved that deeply and steadfastly? I’m just so grateful that I am.

Here’s the song for you to enjoy. I’ve also included the video for the dance. I won’t tell if you get something in your eyes.

Books I Will Force My Kids to Read

Yes, I know. Forcing my kids to read certain books is just guaranteeing they won’t like them. (This theory has not worked for snacks and desserts, however. They like their forced cakes and ice cream just fine.) However, I have several brilliant ways around this!

1) When the kids get old enough, we can read these books aloud before bedtime. Even better, I will make Hapa Papa read the books. That way, it kills two birds with one stone! (I doubt Hapa Papa has read more than ten unassigned books in his lifetime.) 

2) I will tell the kids, “I don’t think you’re old enough to read this book yet.” Then, I’ll leave it out in a conspicuous place and hope they will give into curiosity and “rebel” by secretly reading the books under the covers at night.

3) Read a lot of books in front of them.

I’m not talking about kiddie books, of course. I’m talking about meaty, classics. Books that I have read over and over again over the decades – and they just get better and better. For the sake of limiting this list, (because otherwise, I’ll just keep going), I will assign the arbitrary number of six.

Here then, are six books (pretty much all of them are series) in no particular order that I can’t wait to share with my children.  I have handily linked them to Amazon with my affiliate links for your convenience.

– The Chronicles of Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis (7 books)

– The Black Cauldron (The Chronicles of Prydain) Series by Lloyd Alexander (5 books)

– The Dark is Rising Series by Susan Cooper (5 books)

– The Lord of the Rings Series by J.R.R. Tolkien (4 books)

– A Wrinkle in Time Series by Madeleine L’Engle (4 books)

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling (7 books)

Now, of course, I cheated. This is really a list of thirty-two books. But come on! You can’t start a series and NOT FINISH IT!! Especially when it’s high fantasy! Sorry I am feeling lazy today. I purposely didn’t explain why I love these books. But I figure most people are aware of them. They’re not really that obscure and I believe every single one of these series has at least one movie adapted from it so pull from your general pop culture movie knowledge, ok? Or, you know, just follow the links.

If you are interested in what books I read and review, you are welcome to follow me on Goodreads. Just be forewarned. Just as with Facebook, I only friend people I know in real life.

Your turn. What books do you want to share with your kids? Tell me in the comments. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can even include why.