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Movies and Books

Last night Linda mentioned the book "On Gold Mountain: the one-hundred-year odyssey of my Chinese-American Family" by Lisa See. I read it about five years ago and not only enjoyed reading it but I learned a lot about Chinese culture. Lisa See's grandparent's interracial marriage at that time was unique! As I mentioned last, their sons were the first Asians to graduate from Lincoln High School in 1918 or 20. I don't remember the exact date.
You will learn a lot about LA's Chinatown. A good read!
In the movie department, Light the Red Lantern, is a great movie. It made quite an impression on me. My sister and I saw it together and we bring it up every once in a while.
Definitely rent it!

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Message from rmansdorf

Totally unsuspecting, I am reading a book called Kalimantaan by C.G. Gottchalk (sic?) (a first novel) that deals with the colonial period on Borneo. It describes the indigenous culture and the British and Dutch control of the island. Written from the colonizers point of view and really quite revealing and exotic. Not necessarily suitable for assignment to your high school classes, but an interesting recreation of the period. RSM

Author is C.S. Godshalk, Copyright 1998, pub. Holt. This is a work of historical fiction.[Edit by="rmansdorf on Aug 8, 4:58:25 PM"][/Edit]

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Message from dlevengood

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan is an amzing book. It takes place mostly in the US, but one of the main characters is orginally from a small town in China and the last quarter of the book takes place there. There is tension bewteen characters and cultures. A young asian american woman struggles with and against identity while her sister Kwan seems happy to just be "crazy." The character's journey is completely real and surprising. there are also jumps in time to Kwan's remembered "previous lives." Fantastic book. Magical and real.

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Message from rmansdorf

Many of Tan's books deal with the Americanized vs. more traditional women in America. In The Bonesetter's Daughter, she represents both the American part of the story as well as going back to the Chinese historical basis of the family. Tan explores family relations (specifically mother/daughter) and the traditions that underly the Chinese society both immigrant and at home.

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Message from jchan

The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices by Xinran

"For eight groundbreaking years, Xinran presented a radio programme in China during which she invited women to call in and talk about themselves. Broadcast every evening, Words on the Night Breeze became famous throughout the country for its unflinching portrayal of what it meant to be a woman in modern China. This unforgettable book is the story of how Xinran negotiated the minefield of restrictions imposed on Chinese journalists to reach out to women across the country." http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/xinran/home.htm

This is a powerful book. I strongly recommend it for anyone who is interested in the lives of women and their struggle to find a voice, their voice. I am a fifth generation Chinese/Vietnamese - American. This book not only touched my heart but served as a histroy lesson. I am blown away by the lives of the women in this book and the roles they had as women in China.

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Message from jchan

Made in China- Ideas and Inventions from Ancient China by Suzanne Williams is an excellent resource for sixth grade social studies teachers teaching ancient civilizations.
This book is filled with information, nicely illustrated and easy to read. Each section is a nice introduction to a topic which can later be expanded with further lessons. Even if you don't teach ancient civilizations, it will be a nice addition to your class library.

I found this book at Eastwind Books at Westwood - 923 Westwood Blvd.
310-824-4888 It's close to the UCLA campus. Go check it out! I've found a lot of great books there.

"Explore ancient China's scientific discoveries and technology. You will find out how the Chinese:drilled wells for natural gas to light their streets, made jackets,hats and shoes from paper, raised insects for silk to produce cloth, created compasses to find the best placement for buildings and graves, cured diseases with acupuncture needles, guarded the crossbow as a top-level military secret, and invented rudders and moveable sails so their ships could sail into the wind".

Table of Contents
Chinese Seeds/Living Chinese
Bronze
Shang and Zhou/Bells
Agriculture
Nomads and Farmers/ Crossbow
Qin/Find at X'ian
Paper
Scientific Traditions/Two Great Men
Han Dynasty/Salt, Iron, and Gas
Astronomy
Mandate from Heaven/Seismograph
Silk Road/Making Silk
Tang Dynasty/Printing
Monkey King/Changing Dynasties
SOng Dynasty/Su Song's Clock
Counting in Chinese
Mongols/Compass
Qi
Chinese Medicine
Ming Dynasty/Making Porcelain
Zheng He/ Building Better Ships
Changes

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Message from pdobkin

Woman of the Dunes
Posted: 01-15-2005 10:36 PM
A very old Japanese movie is available for check out at LACMA.
This is a movie that was released about l5 years ago and is
visually wonderful and quite sensuous. that really
was before it's time. If you get a chance, go over to LACMA,
check it out, take it home to see it.

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Message from lchoi

I read this book with my English Language Learners and it was a hit.
This book is probably 3rd or 4th grade level reading but great for ESL students.
The story is about a young girl, Shirley Temple Wong, who arrives to America from China.
Her family settles in Brooklyn in the 1940's in a tiny apartment compared to their lavish home back in China and has to deal with and learn English.
But she knows, America is a land of dreams on opportunities.
She then learns about baseball and one of it's stars, Jackie Robinson and learns about his struggles.

There are so many issues you can relate to with ESL students regarding immigration to a foreign land, having to acquire a new language, and dealing with an obscure culture.
This serves as a great discussion piece with students who usually do not speak too often because of their accents or unfamiliarity with the English language.

This book is also fitting for the month of February because it is African-American Heritage Month and also tie in with Chinese New Year (Year of the Rooster).
Just some thoughts.
Also, this book is so easy and short, you can reading during homeroom or even as a motivational.



lc

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Message from tnguyen

I remember reading this book when i was in the sixth grade. At that time, i was a struggled reader, an immigrant, and an ESL student. It was quite difficult to understand, but it was the one book i read that year with my class that i still remember today. I was taught with numerous strategies that i still remember. One of them, was the story board. It's a great way to motivate ESL students to write their own book. I was also called Shirley becuase most of my friends see the similiarities between Shirley Temply Wong and me. Some of them still call me Shirley Temple today.

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Message from tnguyen

Fireflies to the Graveyard is an animated Japanese movie deplicting the lives of a brother and sister after the booming of Hiroshima. This movie really capture the aftermath of the war in a child's world after losing both of thier parents. It shows how the war has put these siblings into a world of loneliness, hardship, homelessness, and dependence on each other through sibliing love. Though they are both confused by the event, nevertheless they strive to bring happiness to each other.

This is a great movie to show after a lesson on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Both places can be compared and contrast in many ways and connect thorugh an interdisciplinary lesson through the teaching of East Asia. I have created lesson plans for this and is planning to implement it soon. You can also connect this with the Children's Peace Museum of Japan as well.

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Message from jchan

Chinese Cinderella written by Adeline Yen Mah is a true story of Ms. Mah from childbirth to the age of fourteen. Ms. Mah shares the many struggles of her childhood. She was considered bad luck by her family since the day she was born because her mother died while giving birth to her. Ms. Mah had the privilege of going to school and was the top of her class. It's her education, love of learning and love from an aunt that helps her cope with the feeling of unwantedness by her family. World War II is going on while Ms. Mah is growing up. This also has an effect on her life.

This book is wonderfully written. I often found myself filled with emotion. Ms. Mah painted a picture of what life in China was like for an unwanted girl. The book gives us a glimpse into traditions, gender and family roles and expectations for children. There is a universal theme of wanting to be loved and accepted by family and peers which students will be able to relate to.
[Edit by="jchan on Jan 21, 8:17:12 PM"][/Edit]

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Message from jchan

Science in Ancient China by George Beshore is a great resource to have if you are teaching sixth grade social studies. This book is highly informative and has a variety of illustrations and pictures. The glossary is helpful for students to quickly look up words they may not be familiar with. This book covers wonders of science, secrets of alchemy, medicine, astrologers and astronomers and math. The book also talks about the great influence China has had on the world. A must have book if you like your students working on in class research.

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Message from jchan

The Great Wall of China by Leonard Everett Fisher. This is another great resource to have if you are a sixth grade social studies teacher. This is a nonfiction picture book, a bit young but can be used as an introduction to the Great Wall of China. Fisher writes the history as a story yet manages to fit in the important facts.

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Message from jchan

I've been reading a lot of books about the lives of Chinese women. It was the title of this book that caught my interest. Bound Feet & Western Dress - A Memoir by Pang-Mei Natasha Chang "A gripping, candid, dual memoir that relates the stories of great-aunt and great-niece and their individual struggles to reconcile Chinese tradition and modern Western ideas" - South China Morning Post. This book touches on many of the subjects we've discussed in seminar, tradition, filial piety, gender roles and education. I find it interesting to read about different Chinese-Americans and their struggle to find their "place" and identity in America. This book also shows the life of
Yu-i, the great aunt and the challenges she faced living in a modernizing China. Although Natasha is "allowed" more freedom from the traditions and customs she still feels bound by them.

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Message from bbrown

This book sounds wonderful. I will look for it. But it gives me an idea of how students can write autiobiography paper in language arts class. I will ask the students to consider all of their favorite fairy tales or children's stories. Then, they should compare which one is closest to their own lives. They can write their own life story with illustrations. Using a bit of hyperbole, they can expand the story and make it a book. They could even write their own future into it. Thanks for the inspiration.

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Message from kmilton

I read a best selling book by Author James Bradley recently. It's called Flyboys and I recomend it of 9 American Navy and Marina pilots who were shot down off the Japanese held Island of Chichi Jima in February of 1945. It regards their experiences growing up in the pre war conditions of America and then to their deaths.....

In the book Bradley gives the culture of the Japanese military and the brutality young soldiers go through by their commanders in order to learn their place.

Bradley places guilt of the atrocities on both sides. He tries to give a balanced perspective of the war.

I found it interesting that one young pilot, George Bush, was the only young man shot down over the waters of the Island that escaped and thus was never a POW.

Anyway, I recomend this book to read for teachers interested in the culture of Japan, the Pacific war and/or aviation in general.

I find it too graphic to read in full with the age group that I teach (middle school). Though in bits and pieces, I believe that even this young age would have some interesting discusions regarding the text.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0316105848/104-1846532-4095936?v=glance

[Edit by="kmilton on May 21, 1:25:30 PM"][/Edit]
[Edit by="kmilton on May 21, 1:26:22 PM"][/Edit]

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Message from kmilton

I recently watched the international award winning 1991 movieRaise the Red Lantern. It is beautifully filmed with excellent cinematography and colors. It definitely keeps you thinking days after you watch the film.

It takes place in China perhaps 90 years ago. It is about a beautiful young woman, Songlian, who is educated (one year of university) but poor. The movie begins with her marriage to a very wealthy lord. She is the 4th wife and each "sister" as they are called resides in her own house on the manor. The whole movie takes place in this lavish manor/castle.

There is a custom in the household to light the lanterns of whichever woman has gained favor with the master. The woman wait by their houses and the servants then light that woman's lantern to show that the mater will sleep in thwat house for the night. Whichever woman gets the master's favor becomes the most political power in the household. Thus the woman play a sort of game with eacheother, acting sweetly, but plotting to get the master's attention and affections.

The movie was not approved by the Chinese government. Though the story seems simple, it is a parable of the Chinese corrupt communitst government. The movie has archaic customs which the household insists on following and though lax with a few light rules, gives extreme punishment to those that break the rules. (It is interesting that this movie came out so close to what happenned at Tiannamen Square).

I would recomend this film after a study of the Chinese Government in a highschool class. It would be interesting to see what connections the students can draw connecting the story to the government. I know the movie will genearte high level thinking discussion with our students.

[Edit by="kmilton on May 21, 1:26:41 PM"][/Edit]

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Message from fwiley

"Memoirs of a Geisha," by Arthur Golden.
I learned of this book during class Saturday and picked it up at Boarders. The story is set during the 1920s-1940s. It is a novel about Sayuri, a peasant who is sold to a Geisha house where she makes her climb from a maid to a Geisha. After reading reviews from others (women really seem to like this biography/novel) I realize others like this novel more than I. M of G is a great story, however, you must have a firm understanding of what a Geisha is and how they are schooled/trained because the book doesn't get into great detail on the subject. The book also stays clear of sexual details as well. In the end, the book has a bit of a Cinderella taste to it, which might be what I did not like about the story because I wanted to know more about what happened to Sayuri the thirty plus years after the story ends. This will make for a good movie.

Frank

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Message from fwiley

Ju Dou (played by Gong-Li) is young and beautiful. she is sold out of poverty to be the third wife of a much older and saddistic owner of silk dryer mill, Jin-Shan (played by Li Wei). The movie is set during the 1920s. The adopted son, Tian-qing (played by Li Bao-tian), is taken by Ju Dou's beauty, as he peeps through a not-hole to watch her bathe. The couple are drawn together and fall in love. However, the problem lies in their fear of being discovered as lovers and becoming branded as outcasts in their community--which seems too unbearable for Tian-qing, so their love is covert. The couple bear a son, who later disapproves of Ju Dou and Tain-qing's relationship because he believes that mill owner is his father-not Tain-qing. The movie ends in tragety after years of forbidden love. This a good movie in the vain of "The Postman Always Rings Twice." I personally enjoy the work of Li Bao-tian. The movie is tamer then the jacket cover of the video might suggest. I rented this movie from Hollywood video. It is available in both DVD and VHS.

Frank

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Message from clockwood

I just wanted to let you know that, once I saw your reference to this movie, I posted a review of the movie under the film form.

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Message from clockwood

I loved this book. Two of my students are currently reading it, and both my daughters read it, and they all really enjoyed it. It is long...my two students have been reading it for months, but very mezmerizing. My daughters and I couldn't put it down once we started reading it.

It is too long, I believe, for use as a classroom text. And, if Frank's review of it is reflective of the male perspective, perhaps it isn't appealing to men. (Though it was written by a man.) I have copies of it in my classroom library and offer it as an outside reading book. Perhaps I will offer it as a lit circle option for my World Lit class (12th grade) next year. Now that I'm being introduced to so many Asian books, I'll have to make some choices.

This story is about two poor girls whose mother dies and so their father sells them. One is forced into prostitution, the other (main character) becomes a servant in a home of geishas. She describes her childhood, the work, the elaborate care of a geisha, etc. Eventually, this girl is promoted into being a geisha, one of the most popular ones in the city because of her blue eyes.

The images in this story stay with me. I can picture the geisha homes, the elaborate steps required to get ready to go out, the beautiful gowns. When my hair is dirty, I think of how uncomforatble it was for the geisha's to have to wait 10 days between hair washing and sleep in such a way as to not disturb their elaborate hairdos. I learned details about the society, the life of the geisha, the change in their lives during and after WWII, the politics, Japanese traditions, power politics, etc.

The novel ends with Sayuri looking back on her life 30 years later (from where she lives in NY), and one wonders what she did in that time. But, I was left very satisfied. The essential story was her life as a geisha and we saw a detailed portrait of that time in Memoirs of a Geisha.

Tanish Fortson
Topic replies: 62
Topic Posts: 6
Memoirs of a Geisha

I have not read Memoirs of a Geisha but I did watch the movie. I originally wanted to review the movie but soon realized it was inappropriate for my students. I really enjoyed the movie and feel like this book can be used in a high school setting for students that are a bit more mature. A possible lesson plan that could work falls under social studies for 10-12thgraders. Student can start a journal on what the know about a Geisha before they start the book. They can discuss their findings with a partner or in a small group.  Next show the students the movie trailer and they can then discuss how if their predictions were right or wrong. 

 

Next generate discussion questions for the students to answer.

 

1.  Inwhat ways can movies be a useful way of teaching about historical events? 

2.  What are some limitations of using films to teach about history?

3.  Do we watch films differently in an academic setting than we might in an informal setting (at home, with friends, on a Saturday night)? If so, how?

4.  What questions should we ask ourselves before watching a film about a historical event? 

5.  Thinking specifically about the film Memoirs of a Geisha – what are the possible advantages of using this movie as a teaching tool? What are the potential drawbacks? How might the teacher use the film in an effective manner?

 

Allow student to freely answer and chart answers. At the end of the lesson return to the original question of what a Geisha’s role is. Ask students if the film/book may mislead viewers into an inaccurate perception about what a Geishas actually are.

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Message from fwiley

I viewed Chi-hwa-seon (Painted Fire) this weekend and found the movie to be very captivating. The story in-of-itself reminds me a lot of the movie "Pollack" and American artist from the 1950s. Chi-hwa-seon is a tale about rags to riches, a life and times of one of Korea's greatest artist--Jang Seung-up. He leads a life of passion and hard drinking while trying to find his own identity as a great paint brush artist. This movie is set in turbulant Korea during the late 19th and early 20th century. I liked this movie, because of the poor street child to the genious artist success story. Some will find this movie slow moving. But watch it anyway.

Frank

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Message from smilanick

I want to thank all my classmates that reviewed Memoirs of a Geisha; it prompted me to read it in two days. I’ve always been interested in reading it but haven’t found the time, and yes I was completely hooked and now have a far better understanding of what a Geisha was exactly. My view before reading the novel was that Geisha were more like high-class prostitutes, obviously not a lowly streetwalker living in the red light district. I had no idea the training involved, excessive cost of kimono, and that Geisha represented a subtle eroticism, apparently fulfilling the male fantasy of wanting what they can’t have (male colleagues please don’t take offense).

I think that I could use this novel during the class I have SSR with each day. I can assign it as the book that we all read, or I could assign it for outside reading in my US History Humanitas class when we cover the Great Depression and WWII. It has intrigue, sex (but not explicit), rivalry, displacement, etc.; all topics that I think most students would be interested in.

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Message from jluesse

Murakami is one of the most widely translated Japanese authors. With the success of Norwegian Wood came instant celebrity, which he escaped by living and writing in the United States (and teaching at Princeton). Murakami has written a number of outstanding novels, the most acclaimed being The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. His are books that when lent out, are likely to never return. I have yet to read a novel by Haruki Murakami that has disappointed me. Because of his consistant quality it is difficult trying to decide which book is most appropriate to teach to a high school class, as most of his works are too complex. I suppose I might consider teaching Norwegian Wood because it is his most straight-forward book as well as being a bildungsroman. There is some legitimate cause for pause because of the sex in the book. Because of the sex I would only consider teaching the book to established mature senior classes. Here is a summary from Publishers Weekly via Amazon.com:

A successful, 37-year-old businessman, Toru Watanabe, hears a version of the Beatles' Norwegian Wood, and the music transports him back 18 years to his college days. His best friend, Kizuki, inexplicably commits suicide, after which Toru becomes first enamored, then involved with Kizuki's girlfriend, Naoko. But Naoko is a very troubled young woman; her brilliant older sister has also committed suicide, and though sweet and desperate for happiness, she often becomes untethered. She eventually enters a convalescent home for disturbed people, and when Toru visits her, he meets her roommate, an older musician named Reiko, who's had a long history of mental instability. The three become fast friends. Toru makes a commitment to Naoko, but back at college he encounters Midori, a vibrant, outgoing young woman. As he falls in love with her, Toru realizes he cannot continue his relationship with Naoko, whose sanity is fast deteriorating. Though the solution to his problem comes too easily, Murakami tells a subtle, charming, profound and very sexy story of young love bound for tragedy.

The novel, aside from inspiring heavy discussion of themes and style, is a trove of lesson possibilities. It is the kind of book, and Murakami is the kind of writer, that students choose to read rather than endure for a class. This can cultivate in students a genuine enjoyment and desire for reading and learning. A possible mini lesson could focus on the title, a reference to the Beatles song, and encourage students to think of music and the associations related to songs. The growth of Toru provides many lessons that can be used in class. If nothing else it serves as a great introduction to quality modern liturature and a possible springboard to Asian literature.

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Message from jluesse

Ryu Murakami might be known for writing what became the Miike film Audition, if he is known at all. Only three books of around thirty have been translated, one of which is Coin Locker Babies. Coin Locker Babies is not a book to teach in a class, and is probably one not to even recommend for outside reading due to excessive violence and some pretty graphic passages. It is, on the other hand, a book that many students would probably enjoy quite a bit because of the bizarre characters and events, not to mention violence. He is also an exciting Asian author worth paying attention to, because of his evident talent.
It is interesting to observe the narrative style in conjunction with the blurbs on the jacket cover by film makers Oliver Stone and Roger Corman, especially when considering Ryu has made movies and worked in television.
Again, a coming of age story but with some odd protagonists. From the book jacket:
"Abandoned at birth in train station lockers, two troubled boys are raised in an orphanage and by foster parents on a semi-deserted island before setting off for the city to find and destroy the women who first rejected them. Twisted together like a strand of DNA coded for ultimate havoc, both are drawn to an area of freaks and hustlers called Toxitown in the heart of Tokyo. One becomes a bisexual rock singer, star of this exotic demimonde, while the other, a pole vaulter, seeks out revenge in the company of his girlfriend, Anemone, a model who has converted her condominium into a tropical swamp to keep her pet crocodile in.
Together and apart, their journey from a hot metal box to a stunning, savage climax takes us on a brutal funhouse ride through the eerie landscape of late-twentieth-century Japan."
'nuff said.

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Message from jluesse

Soseki's first novel I Am A Cat is one I would delight in teaching to any of my high school classes. Natsume Soseki was a Meiji era writer. He is a major figure in modern Japanese literature, so much so that his image was emblazoned 1000 yen bills for some time. Any accolades he recieves are deserved based on the merit of his works. I Am A Cat alone is a classic in satire, and could mentioned alongside works by authors like Swift, Voltaire and the like. The novel is humorous, satirizing academics, middle class Japanese of the era, and human nature. Because of the time period the book focuses on, there is much play between tradition and western influence. And also there is much a teacher could cover about history/culture while going over context or setting for the novel. Because the book is steeped in customs and cultural references it becomes an excellent tool in spreading Asian information.
I think it (or excerpts as it is quite long) would fit well within a unit on satire alongside Candide, A Modest Proposal, The Onion, Spinal Tap, The Daily Show (possibly excerpts from their book America), excerpts from The Simpsons, etc.

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Message from aarmas

As a visual learner, I am always excited at the opportunity of getting new material to enhance the opportunity to expand and enhance a learning experience, a work of literature, a concept in Math. In the case of "Memoirs of a Geisha", I have to admit that I haven't read the book yet. I don't know how it reads, how the soul of its protagonist reaches to us from its pages. Henry James' characters are famous for being complex and introspective. It is difficult to do them justice in the movies; sometimes the results are puzzling and for the most part, incomplete, unsatisfying.

Not too long ago I had the opportunity to see a work in progress of "Memoirs" and was extremely disappointed by the acting and the emotional impact of the story. I could recognize the basic plot points and was in awe of the gorgeous art direction and camera work, but I couldn't help feeling that the delivery of the main actress was flat and probably didn't help the emotional content of the book. I could hear the lines and not help wondering what it would have been like if they had carried the proper intonation and emotional correspondence to the literary work. I heard some place that the actresses were chosen for their look and talent. Unfortunately, their English coach forgot to emphasize that there is such a thing as rhythm, inflection, and cadence to human speech. Otherwise, we might as well be some type of robot or clone. Wait, maybe that's what the director intended? Still, this was the man who directed "Chicago", one of the most enjoyable and perceptive films of the last decade. I'm a bit confused.

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Message from cwangila

Good Women of China: Hidden voices by Xinran

I have been looking for this book to read. It sounds interesting . Iam doing some studies on women empowerment, and so this book is very resourceful. Is it in the bookstores now?

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Message from dockerman

Frank, they are making a movie of "Memoirs of a Geisha". Stephen Speilberg is directing and producing it I believe. I would not be surprised to see it as a Christmas release, since I think it has been in the works for some time.
A bit of light reading if you have time: The Jasmine Trade, by Denise Hamilton. She was a staff journalist for 10 years with the L.A. Times. This is fiction, but with what she knows of the "parachute kids" she had to do alot of research. It is in paperback. I teach in Torrance, and we see many of these children: left here with minor supervision to fend for themselves. The neat thing is the story takes plce in the Valley/San Gabriel/San Marino area, so it is very easy to relate to the locations. Hope you and others enjoy!

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Message from tsprague

I agree with your assessment of Memoirs of a Geisha: it was so beautifully written! It made me understand so much more about what a geisha is: the amount of training that she goes through, the expertise in dance, in seduction, in serving. The amount of strength that the main character has--I would never have survived having to endure what she did! I'm a little afraid that the film is going to mess up an already beautifully told story.
Tracy Sprague

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Message from tsprague

I do use this novel in literature circles in my 11th/12th grade elective. As long as the group is willing to tackle such a long text (they can choose it, it is not assigned), it has been very successful for me.

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Message from rterry

Adeline Yen Mah also wrote Falling Leaves. The story is the same ... Chinese Cinderella is a lower level of reading (middle school) and Falling Leaves is more appropriate for high school students. This story has stayed with me for years ... highly recommended reading. Students who have read it for their independent reading book (for an ethnic author unit I teach) agree.

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Message from ctchir

An excellent book about growing up under the brainwashing of Mao and the Cultural Revolution is Red Scarf Girl, a Memoir of the Cultural Revolution by Ji Li Jiang. I read it to determine if it would be a good supplemental 6th grade book. I loved the book, but cautioned that it would need a quick history of China under Mao to be understood by our middle school students -- who have no knowledge of the era. The book does have a helpful 12 page glossary of terms in the back.
It is well-written, showing Jiang's confusion about who to put first: family or state? The brainwashed side of her fervently loved Mao, who she saw as a god-like, benevolent figure , whose orders she should unquestioningly obey. But, when the state's teachings became personal, demanding that she turn against her grandmother because she was a landlord's (translate, hated and evil) wife, dilemmas and despair became the norm. Her parents were arrested , her teachers were humiliated at public struggle meetings, she was urged to be remolded by the state instead of her family. How she resists the pressure and survives with her soul in tact kept me reading.

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Message from selwood

The Asian version of the film _Shall We Dance_ was more effective than the American one. Richard Gere's struggle was no comparison to the lead character in the Japanese film. Both movies were incredible but the level of angst in the lead characters is not nearly the same. In American culture, men may struggle a little to get "out of themselves" enough to do something less than macho like learning to dance, but it doesn't seem nearly as difficult as for the Japanese male lead. The level of tension does not come across the same.

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Message from selwood

For the first time in my life, I enjoyed the movie more than the book. I read an excerpt from this book a year or so before the movie came out. Then I saw the movie and fell in love with it. The movie inspired me to read the book but I didn't enjoy it as much. The characters were just not as rich in the book. And the story also was a little bit different.

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Message from tsprague

I just finished Pang-Mei Natasha Chang's Bound Feet and Western Dress. What I loved about it was the idea that an American granddaughter attempts to tell her Chinese grandmother's story, and in the process, discovers her own Chinese identity. The grandmother, Yu-i, had such a rough life--promised to Hsu Chih-Mo for marriage, Hsu Chi-Mo was cold to her from the beginning, then asks her for a divorce, something unheard of at the time period. (Hsu Chih-Mo considers himself modern and Yu-i too traditional, in spite of the fact that Yu-i is the first in her family not to have bound feet.) Yu-i survives alone, even travels to and lives in Germany--she is a true survivor in spite of all the traditions oppressing her. In spite of her divorce (and Hsu Chi-Mo's remarriage), Yu-i ends up still caring for her in-laws--talk about filial piety. And, in spite of Hsu Chi-Mo deserting her, she still does not have a bad thing to say about him. Wow! In addition to this compelling story, it includes Natasha's plight as a modern Chinese-American woman. Great read.

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Message from kokoro

Natsume Soseki

I am wondering if anyone has seen a film of Kokoro...please post if you have, I would like to see it, and my searches have been less that productive...Kokoro

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Message from tsprague

I just watched a movie set in contemporary China--directed by the same director as Raise the Red Lantern, called Happy Times. Zhao, a fifty something man, is attempting to get married for the 18th time. This time, he had decided to go for a "chunky" woman, since he claims that he hasn't had luck with the skinny ones. The start of the movie finds him trying to find ways to raise money for his wedding; he tells his fiance that he runs a hotel, but it is actually an abandoned bus in the park that he and his friend consider charging young lovers to enter. His fiance has a blind stepdaughter living with her, and Cinderella-esque fashion, the fiance makes her step-daughter work and gives her nothing (but instead gives all to her son, who is reminiscent of a wicked stepsister). Zhao's fiance insists that Zhao give Wu-Ying (the step daughter) a job at his hotel. Zhao goes to great lengths to give Wu-Ying a job: at his real job in a warehouse, he and friends set up a room that looks like a massage parlor, and set Wu-Ying to massage clients (since her stepmother said she had that skill); since Wu-Ying is blind, they can use scrap materials that feel, but don't look, like the real thing to set up the room. Since they have no clientel, Zhao's friends become the clients, presenting cut up paper as pay. Quite the friendship develops between Zhao and Wu-Ying--he acts as her father, unlike the father who deserted her with the stepmother. Even though Zhao and his friends are poor, they seem to have happy times together; they make Wu-Ying happy also. I don't want to reveal the end, but Wu-Ying does something totally selfless as a thank you to Zhao and his friends. Really likable characters here, with the exception of the step-mother. The film really could be set in America--someone pretending to be rich to get a woman; a woman using men for money; and, on a more positive note, happiness found among friends and friends going to great lengths to help their friends. It might be a good film for students to see as a way of connecting China with America--to compare--what are the universal themes? You'd have to preview it though--it's PG, I believe, so I think it's okay. You'd need to decide if it's appropriate for your students.[Edit by="tsprague on Dec 2, 10:42:19 AM"][/Edit]
[Edit by="tsprague on Dec 2, 10:47:52 AM"][/Edit]

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Message from tsprague

I just watched a movie set in contemporary China called The Shower. The movie explores the struggle between modern and traditional life in China. Mr. Liu owns a bathhouse that he runs with his mentally challenged son, Erming. At the opening of the film, the other son, Darming, arrives from Shenzhen, for a visit. (Erming had sent Darming a postcard with a drawing that showed their father laying down; Darming assumed that he was ill). It is instantly apparent that Darming doesn't fit in: he wears a suit; his family, casual jogging suits; he prefers a shower, his family bathes; he has a high powered, high paying job, his family runs a traditional bathhouse. Eventually, Darming finds the charm of his family's simple life, and when something happens to the father, he realizes his responsibility for his brother and decides to stay at the bathhouse. However, the bathhouse and the whole district in which it resides, is scheduled to be torn down and replaced by a shopping mall. So it is ironic--just when Darming is rediscovering the simple, traditional life, this life is being destroyed by modernization efforts. So while the movie seems to support a traditional, simple life, it is also presenting the idea that this life will not exist much longer--modernization cannot be stopped. A powerful film--it is PG-13: there is a little profanity and nudity (since it is a bathhouse)--you'd need to get it approved to recommend to students; perhaps students could just view a portion of it? Lots of interesting issues to explore.[Edit by="tsprague on Dec 2, 10:46:20 AM"][/Edit]
[Edit by="tsprague on Dec 2, 10:48:40 AM"][/Edit]

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Message from kokoro

聯通

The tenuous border between the so called real world and the also elusively recognized spirit world forms the narrative template for Lao Zhai Zhi Yi written by Pu Song-Ling. The link of the spirit to reality, whether it be in the practical form of belief (that takes its form in Taoist priests), or the more fantastic magical manifestation of reincarnative spirits (such as the fox spirit tales, or the magical creatures, or magical world tales) is the essence of all the elaborated 'zhiguai' that populate the collection. The stories, some five-hundred in total, (winnowed down to an essential few in the Victor H. Mair translation), are separated into three distinct genres: biji (notes/journal entries), zhiguai (tales of the supernatural and/or phenomenal happenings), and zhuanqi (prose romances).

While the imaginative exploration is truly splendid, it is Pu-Songling's magnificent ability to merge the fantastical tales into strong allegorical expressions that makes the work remain as important (and entertaining) today as it was three hundred years ago.

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Message from tsprague

Thanks for the reminder--I use Red Scarf Girl as a part of literature circles, and even in high school, the students struggle with it. I think that they are so unfamiliar with the time period and the culture that they have trouble connecting. You're right, the glossary helps, but they definitely need an "into activity" to help them through. It is such a powerful story--I think that Ji-Li is so brave to support her parents in spite of the pressures placed on her by the Communist party.

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Message from ccelis

Just in case you're as excited as I am, you can view an exclusive avanced screening of Memoirs of a Geisha on December 7th at the Sony Studios. The information is as follows:

Date: December 7th
Time: 7:00 pm refreshments; 7:30 pm screening
Location: Sony Studios, 10202 West Washington Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90232
Cost: $25. Seats are limited. Registration on first come first serve basis.
Phone: 213-613-9934 Extension 24

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Message from kllewellyn

I'm looking forward to seeing the movie but my boyfriend refuses to see it with me. He is Japanese and is disgusted that the producers used Chinese and not Japanese actors for the main characters. He says that all Asians are not the same !! Any body know why they did this?

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Message from dockerman

I remember reading something about this quite awhile back. It seems the producers/directors did not not feel there was a Japanese actress with enough "renoun" to carry off the role. Because of the "Crouching Tiger" success, that actress was chosen. Chinese throughout the world were very upset. There is just so much money riding on films today, I guess they cannot afford to take a chance.
I read the book several years ago, and can't wait to see the movie.
Have you seen the merchandising tie-ins with perfume, Banana Republic, etc? It's really interesting.

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Message from dockerman

I can't wait to see it also, but I am tied up on Friday night. Is it not opening in several places on Friday? I thought "The Grove" was one of the early release theatres. I will probably go see it Christmas Day. It should be in our local area by then.

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Message from kllewellyn

What is really interesting to me is that the book has become a hit among my daughter and many of her friends in 7th Grade. Nice tie in as they are will all be learning about Japan pretty soon...although really not sure this is the most appropriate first glance at the culture!! Anybody seen the movie yet??

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Message from tsprague

I've been posting so many "high school and above" level books, that I thought I'd post some that are more geared towards the junior high set. Namioka's Ties that Bind, Ties that Break tells the story of Ailin, a young girl in China who becomes the first in her family to refuse bound feet. Because of this, her marriage proposal is revoked, and she becomes a burden to her family: she is unmarriagable. Ailin makes the best of her situation by learning English, working for an American missionary family, and eventually moving to the US. It's a great story of survival--about how one can make it, even if one is rejected by her own family.
I've also read two Korean stories: the first is Linda Sue Park's When My Name Was Keiko, the story of a Korean family living during the Japanese occupation of their country. The story tells of how much the family lost: an uncle, who was working for the Japanese resistance and had to go into hiding; their son, who joined the Imperial Army as a Kamikazee pilot (though he intended to miss his mark; thus not destroying any American lives while destroying a Japanese plane; he also joined so that his family would receive special rations); their own names, trees in their gardens, many of their possessions and traditions. The novel ends at the end of World War II, and, in typical Young Adult novel fashion, ends happily. The second novel is a Korean American piece (which I think I've posted before) called A Step from Heaven by An Na: it traces a young Korean American girl's experiences adapting to America; which her parents, especially her father, are unable to do. Great choices for the middle school reader--they are easy reads that are engaging but still teach students about Asian history.

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Message from dockerman

I finally saw it yesterday with my Uncle. He had spent 1/1/2 years in Japan with the Air Force, so that gives you some idea of how old he is. He said it brought back memories, and he shed a few tears at the end.
I thought the film was a "chick flick". I could have done without a lot of the jealousely and back stabbing, and would have preferred more of the "nuts and bolts" of life as a Geisha. I was blown away by the cinematography. I will be shocked if the film does not get an Academy Award nomination for both costume and cinematography. The country is just absolutly gorgeous!!! The price of admission was justified just by the skill with which the movie was filmed.
I have always read how conjested Japan is, but I don't think I ever truly appreciated it, until the shots in the film showing house after house, after house, built right next door to the next one. "Teeming masses" comes to mind; and we think we have it bad near the beach?
I had read the book about two years ago, and would strongly recommed, reading the book first, and then renting the movie on video when it comes out in about 6 months. It kind of reminded me of the way they butchered "Bonfire of the Vanities" when it came out on film. But the filming alone, saved "Memoirs of a Geisha".

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Message from dockerman

I just reviewed an A&E Documentary about Emperor Hirohito, for possible use in the classroom. I intend to use a few clips in my lesson plan. For anyone dealing with WWII in their lesson plan, and Pearl Harbor, it would be well worth a look. It is 50 minutes in length. I have it in my collection, if anyone would like to borrow it to copy for their collection I would be happy to lend it to you. It also eplains a little about some of the "key players" in the war.

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Message from dockerman

I just reviewed another A&E Documentary, about Chiang Kai-Shek. This was fascininating. I really knew very little about this man, and it tickeled me to hear about some of the people who we are reading about, and hearing about, in class, shown and talked about in the tape. It is 50 minutes in length. I found nothing I could use in it for my lesson plan, but for those of you doing a lesson plan that deals with China, and what one of the commentators speaks of as "the man who lost China", I am sure it will keep your attention. I have my own copy, and again would be happy to lend it to anyone who would like to copy it for their collection.

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