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Entries in Family (14)


My weekend, now in Technicolor

American Gothic meets Jackson PollockAh, nothing turns my teenagers into whining, gnashing, feral creatures like the phrase, “Family Portraits.” Fortunately, the über-talented photographer, Phillip Procopio, came to our rescue. Okay, Phillip is my stepson; so I might be a little biased—but seriously—he’s amazing. And it was lovely to come home after the shoot feeling like refugees from Burning Man.

If you’re on Facebook you can see more of the photos here.

As far as that whole book thing I keep working on, the new version of Whispers of a Thunder God is at 214 pages, with another 200 pages to go. Most of the rewriting was in the first half of the book (the new version begins 5 years earlier), so I feel as though I’m coasting downhill at this point. Hopefully I’ll have this beast ready to go in about six weeks. Give or take a year or two, you know how authors are…

In other news, here’s a NYT article on mixed-race authors (that be me). Hotel is included, which coincides with it being named the Best Story of the Mixed Experience at this year’s Mixed Roots Festival in LA.

On a trivial note, Hotel is in its 27th printing. Someone asked me “How many printings?” at a recent book event and honestly, I stopped counting after 7-8. But my agent came to the rescue with that bit of Intel.

Speaking of my agent, Kristin Nelson, this week she had four clients on the New York Times Bestseller list simultaneously. I say this with pride and admiration because there were folks who wondered why I said NO to several NYC agents and went with someone in Denver. They're not wondering anymore.

Also, I’ve been invited to a book festival in Brazil, shortly after Thanksgiving. I’m hoping it works out. Like Sandra Bullock’s character in While You Were Sleeping, I went for most of my adult life without a stamp in my passport. I’d love to add one from Brazil. (Though I don’t think I’d be happy marrying Bill Pullman).

And on an entirely unrelated-to-anything, fanboy kind of moment, my favorite poet on the planet, Anis Mojgani, tweeted me. Now I know how teenager girls feel when Justin Bieber winks at them.

If you haven’t heard of Anis, stop reading this immediately and go watch this. Go now. It'll be the best four minutes you've spent in a long while.


A day (or two) in photos

At the Fourth of July parade with Leesha. No one mistook me for Charlie Sheen, despite the bowling shirt.Fireworks? Or did my golden retriever just spontaneously combust?Reenacting a scene from Lord of the Flies.Off to write at the library, where the parking is cheap and...atmospheric. Behold, the glamorous writing space of a bestselling author. The FedEx woman came bearing gifts from Poland, France, and Denmark.Went to a late showing of Super 8 with Kass. Screaming when I found out what the fake butter is made of.


She has my eyes, my nose, and my overbite. Hopefully my driving prowess is a recessive gene

My first car was a lemon-colored ’77 Honda Civic.

(I’ll pause while you Youtube that to see just how manly a vehicle that was).

My friends dubbed it the Yellow Peril, but a better aphorism might have been, “Babe Repeller.” I’m sure there’s a team of social scientist still trying to figure out how I managed to get a girl to go to homecoming with me in that.

A week later the Peril lived up to its name as I slid off the road one rainy night and put it on its side. I remember popping a cassette into the stereo and hitting rewind right before the accident (for you young’ins, cassettes were these arcane devices on which we recorded epic mix-tapes—a requirement for any road trip). Just as the car came to rest, Journey’s, Don’t Stop Believin’ began playing—a great soundtrack as I opened the passenger door like a submarine hatch to extricate myself from the vehicle.

Over the course of my high-school career (and two cars later) I managed to amass ten (ten!) tickets for everything from speeding to expired tabs, from rolling through a stop sign, to one for my muffler being too low. I even managed to get two tickets in a single week from the only female traffic cop in Kitsap County, named Officer Balls. I write fiction but some things you just can’t make up.

My driving record was so bad that they sent me to one of those weekend classes at the DMV where you sit with vaguely sober, drunk-tank residents and watch footage of auto accidents—the kind that would make the creators of Saw V cringe.

At the time, I blamed it all on bad car karma, though it was more likely that I was just an idiotic teenage driver with a leadfoot (and a lead brain).

So it is with much joy (and trepidation) that I gave my daughter, Haley, a set of wheels this weekend as an early graduation present. She's finishing high school a year early, getting the car ahead of schedule seemed like an okay thing to do.

Look out, citizens!


Hi Jamie,

We'll be going to Seattle next weekend because of your book, is there a map of related places we can visit?



Hmmm...here's an older blog post about a Seattle/Chinatown walkabout. But a truly great place to start would be the Wing Luke Asian Museum, which now offers a Bitter and Sweet Tour. Don't forget your umbrella.


Something in the blood

My oldest daughter, Haley, is ¼ Chinese and in most estimation doesn’t look Asian in any way. But there’s a little something about her. That something was strikingly apparent when I saw this photo of my grandmother, Ethel, taken at roughly the same age.

My cousin was volunteering at the National Archives in San Francisco when he stumbled upon my grandmother’s passport application from 1931.

The accompanying letter is written by hand and reads:


Dear Sir,

I am writing to ask you concerning necessary papers.

I want to have a passport to travel from state to state but not out of the United States. I am going to travel with an American family as a companion in an automobile and I don’t want any trouble when crossing the state line.

I was born in Winnemucca, Nevada, Oct. 21, 1910. My parents have been in this country since they were children. There are seven boys and three girls.

My father passed away in the month of May in 1922 at the age of eighty-six.

(She then lists all of her siblings, their employers, and their cities of residence).

Yours very truly,

Ethel Chew

At the time, my grandmother did housework for a Mrs. A. Taylor, so I’m assuming she’s traveling with that family, but that’s all I really know.

It's so interesting that my grandmother identifies her traveling companions as American, even though she herself was born in Nevada. Cultural and racial identities are tricky things to pin down.