📖Milk Blood Heat: 🍸the color of girls

📖: Dantiel W. Moniz’s Milk Blood Heat (2021)
🍸: the color of girls

Why this book?

If you haven’t read this yet, you MUST. This is one of my favorite short stories collections in recent years, and I’ll be returning to this book to learn from the skill and craft it took to sculpt these 11 short stories, presented in just under 200 pages.

Daniel W. Moniz balances lyricism with precision in her language, so that in just a few words, I was instantly drawn into this evocative world of mothers and daughters, spouses, siblings, and friends — all of whom are trying to figure out who they are, and what they are and should be to each other. I loved the way that the city of Jacksonville wasn’t just a setting but a feeling that shaped the decisions and desires of these women.

In these characters, I saw my own flaws and insecurities reflected back at me, and it was cathartic and reassuring — a relief that I’m not alone with these feelings. These are deeply human stories. Moniz knows exactly where and when to close her stories, and with endings that feel like openings, I wanted more.

I’m so grateful to have won a signed copy of the UK edition from @deezybotpress ’s giveaway last month. Thank you, Dantiel Moniz, for sending me your book!

Why this drink?

This pina colada inspired cocktail is a reference to the titular story in this collection, where two girls drink a pink mixture as part of a ritual to solidify their friendship. “Pink is the color for girls,” one of them says, mixing her blood with a bowl of milk.

In this recipe, I use canned coconut milk and a squeeze of fresh blood orange juice to recreate the blood-in-milk effect. See the second slide in this post for the recipe.

the color for girls

2 oz coconut rum
1.5 oz unsweetened coconut milk (from a can)
1 oz pineapple juice
3/4 oz coconut syrup or simple syrup
1/3 oz lime juice
1 small blood orange

for garnish:
blood orange and pineapple
optional: grated nutmeg

  1. Add all ingredients in a shaker, and shake well with ice.
  2. Strain into a glass with a generous amount of crushed ice.
  3. Cut the blood orange in half, and squeeze a small amount of its juice over the top of your drink for the “blood-in-milk” effect.
  4. Add garnishes. Top off with a pinch of ground nutmeg, if desired.

Notes: 🥂
*Coconut rum can be replaced by white rum.
*I used Liber & Co’s toasted coconut syrup, but if this is not available, make a simple syrup by heating 1 part water and 1 part sugar over the stovetop just until the mixture begins to boil and all sugar is evenly dissolved.
*To make your “blood-in-milk” ingredient thicker, you can make a blood orange syrup by heating 1 part freshly squeezed blood orange juice and 1 part sugar over the stovetop until it begins to boil and all sugar is evenly dissolved.

Another round, please! 🥂

You might also like:
Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women (2017)

Let’s discuss!

Finished the book? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

📖Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls: 🍸POG juice

📖: T Kira Madden’s Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls (2019)
🍸: POG juice

Why this book?

This past weekend, I took a Kundiman writing workshop led by T Kira Madden, which was super exciting because 1) I loved her book and 2) I’m starting to (finally!) put pen to paper to start writing some personal/family essays, and want to be more serious about working on craft.

T Kira Mahealani Madden’s memoir Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls covers her experiences growing up in Florida as a queer, biracial girl — the daughter of a Chinese Hawaiian mother and Jewish father — while reckoning with her family’s secrets, parents’ addictions, and father’s death. Each essay in this beautiful collection is extremely vulnerable and honest, and I’m in awe of the courage it took to create this work. While T Kira Madden writes about losing family, she also finds family she never knew she had. I recently connected with an estranged half-sibling, so reading this book gave me all the feels.

Why this drink?

I’m pairing this memoir with POG juice, which originated in Hawaii and consists of a mixture of passionfruit, orange, and guava juices. (Shoutout to my favorite local poke shop Manoa for introducing me to this delicious drink 🙌🏼)

If you’re in the Boston area, order from Manoa(!!), but if you’re not, you can try making it at home.

POG juice

2 oz passionfruit juice
1 oz orange juice (freshly squeezed)
2 oz guava juice
optional: splash of rum

for garnish:

  1. Combine all ingredients together in a shaker with ice and shake well.
  2. Strain over fresh ice.
  3. Garnish with a citrus slice.

Another round, please! 🥂

You might also like:
Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House (2019)

Let’s discuss!

Finished the book? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

📖Mango and Peppercorns: 🍸hy vọng

📖: Tung Nguyen, Katherine Manning, and Lyn Nguyen’s Mango and Peppercorns (2021)
🍸: hy vọng

Why this book?

“Hy vọng,” which means hope in Vietnamese, is the name of the famed Vietnamese eatery that Tung Nguyen and Kathy Manning opened together in Miami in 1980. It all began shortly after the fall of Saigon in 1975, when self-taught cook Tung escapes Vietnam and arrives to live with Kathy, a grad student who volunteers to host displaced Vietnamese refugees. MANGO & PEPPERCORNS documents the ups and downs of how these two women built a business, life, and family together, across cultural differences.

This memoir includes 20 recipes that serve as a window into different points of Tung’s past life in Vietnam, her friendship with Kathy, and her daughter Lyn’s experience of growing up in their unique family. There are recipes for traditional Vietnamese fare, like phở and bún bò Huế – many of which are infused with Tung’s memories of Vietnam. There are also instructions for Tung’s original Hy Vong creations – like squid salad and chicken in pastry – that showcase the breadth of her culinary skills outside of VN cuisine.

In my family, no one keeps a written record of their recipes, so I was excited to hear about this new book. Now I can get my hands on instructions for Vietnamese dishes that I’m always so hungry for! 🤤

Why this drink?

In honor of Hy Vong’s special mango sauce, I made a mango margarita with peppercorns. The combination of these two ingredients “so different, yet somehow so right together,” just like Tung and Kathy.

hy vọng

2 oz mezcal
1.25 oz mango nectar
½ oz oz ginger syrup
1 oz lime
a dash of tumeric
salt, cayenne pepper, and peppercorn (use the green kind if available)

dried mango slice lightly coated with salt and cayenne pepper

  1. Rim your glass with a mixture of sea salt, cayenne pepper, and ground peppercorn.
  2. Shake all liquid ingredients and turmeric with ice.
  3. Strain into a chilled glass over fresh ice.
  4. Garnish with dried mango slice or fresh mango.

Another round, please! 🥂
You might also like:
Monique Truong’s The Book of Salt (2004)

Let’s discuss!

Finished the book? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

📖Good Talk: 🍸holiday talk

📖: Mira Jacob’s Good Talk (2018)
🍸: holiday talk

Why this book?

The holidays are usually a time with family (albeit socially distant this year), and this time can come with difficult and uncomfortable conversations. Mira Jacob’s graphic memoir is a timely and relevant read, especially during everything that’s happened this year — the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, the elections.

The conversations in this book can be serious, funny, and ambivalent, but always full of things to unpack and process. I read this book shortly before the US presidential election, and appreciated the parts that covered the author’s experience of living through the 2016 elections. It’s scary how four years later now, we’re still feeling anxious and fearful about the future of our leadership and democracy, and what kind of place this country will be like for people of color.

I especially enjoyed the candid way Mira Jacob presented her conversations with her son, husband, and in-laws, on the topic of race. Even though I’m not a parent, I am in an interracial relationship, and the nuances of these conversations resonated with me.

The central question the book left me with is: how do we navigate relationships with loved ones whose politics directly clash with our own values and identities as people of color? There is no clear-cut answer, but I finished the book feeling hopeful about how engaging in continuous conversations — especially with young people — can help move us toward a better future world.

Why this drink?

I chose a holiday-themed drink for this pairing – also to match the book’s red cover. (The recipe comes from Williams Sonoma’s Pomegranate Champagne Cocktail.) Wishing you a restful and healthy holiday! 🥂

holiday talk

1 oz pomegranate juice
0.5 oz triple sec
3 oz or more of champagne

pomegranate seeds, orange peel, and mint

  1. Combine pomegranate juice and triple sec in a chilled glass.
  2. Top off with champagne, and add garnishes.

Another round, please! 🥂
You might also like:
Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do (2017)

Let’s discuss!

Finished the book? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

📖The Fire Next Time | 📖Between the World and Me | 📖Heavy: 🍸beauty wisdom abundance

📖: James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time (1963)
📖: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me (2015)
📖: Kiese Laymon’s Heavy (2018)
🍸: beauty wisdom abundance

Why this book?

I read all three of these books in quick succession, and the experience of doing so was like having Baldwin, Coates, and Laymon all in the same room talking to each other. 

In these books, all three writers try to unpack the question of what it means to be free as a black man in America. They examine the all ways that white supremacy destroys black bodies — through police brutality, incarceration, violence, poverty, and health disparities. “Black life is cheap,” Coates states, “but in America black bodies are a natural resource of incomparable value.” Our denial of America’s history of exploitation is at the root of what Baldwin calls our country’s “racial nightmare.” Laymon powerfully expresses this when he writes, “No one in my family—and very few folk in this nation—has any desire to reckon with the weight of where we’ve been, which means no one in my family—and very few folk in this nation—wants to be free.”

It feels devastating but urgent to read Baldwin’s observations on race and know that they remain as timely as ever. Coates’ letter to his son felt like a really powerful contemporary extension of the sentiments that Baldwin relayed in his own letter to his nephew in 1962. And I especially loved the intimacy and rawness of Laymon’s memoir, in the way that he uncovers his fraught relationship with his body and family, showing us how deeply embedded the effects of racism are in the personal sphere as they are in the political.

Aside from the searing social critique, each book provides a beautiful portrait of its respective artist. All three men reflect on the beauty, wisdom, or abundance they see as part of their black identity, and how that has helped them to not only survive, but also fuel their writing. These are among the most impactful books I’ve read this year, and I’ll be sure to revisit them often. I highly recommend prioritizing them if you haven’t read them yet!

Why this drink?

Because I think these three books are really amazing companions works, I’m pairing them with the Old Pal cocktail, which is made of only 3 ingredients, all in equal measure.

beauty wisdom abundance

1 oz rye
1 oz Campari
1 oz dry vermouth

orange peel

  1. stir all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, until chilled
  2. strain into a chilled glass
  3. garnish with orange peel

Another round, please! 🥂
You might also like:
Saeed Jones’s How We Fight for Our Lives (2019)

Let’s discuss!

Finished the book? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

📖Big Friendship: 🍸ward 8

📖: Aminatou Sow & Ann Friedman’s Big Friendship (2020)
🍸: ward 8

Why this book?

Oddly, the pandemic has made me feel closer to some of my friends who live the farthest away. We’ve started a new ritual where we designate a specific day of the week to check in with each other via text. It is a small gesture, but these weekly updates remind me of the precious connection that we have — something that I want to be more intentional about holding closer to me as I get older.

In thinking about my friends, this book felt like both a delightful celebration and helpful reminder of the necessary effort it takes to be present in each others’ lives. Sow and Friedman’s vulnerable account of their own friendship, supported by interviews and social science research, normalizes the fact that friendships ARE worth fighting for, just like marriages and familial relationships. (And when friendships end, they can feel just as painful as a breakup.) While sharing joyful experiences allow us to build bonds, addressing the conflicting and uncomfortable parts of our friendships are equally essential to fortifying them.

This idea feels a lot like common sense, yet it’s so often hard to act on it. By discussing how they’ve renewed their own friendship, Sow and Friedman show us an example of how we can do it too. 

This pandemic has been a wake-up call to pay attention to what’s most important, so the release of Big Friendship this year felt very timely — especially since it also touches on the challenges of interracial friendships. It’s made me think about reaching out more (digitally), until I can give my friends the biggest hug ever for their big friendship…IRL! 🧸🤗💖

Why this drink?

I’m pairing this book with Chad Arnholt’s spin on the Ward 8 cocktail, which originated in Boston. I went to school and started my post grad career in the Boston area, where I met the people who remain my closest friends today, so this drink is for them! 🥂

ward 8 (by Chad Arnholt)

1.75 oz rye
0.5 oz pomegranate grenadine
0.5 oz lemon juice
0.25 oz freshly squeezed orange juice 

orange peel

  1. to make the pomegranate grenadine, mix equal parts pomegranate juice and sugar and bring to a boil and let cool
  2. combine all ingredients in a shaker, and shake with ice
  3. serve in a chilled glass and garnish with orange peel

Another round, please! 🥂
You might also like:
Zadie Smith’s Swing Time (2016)

Let’s discuss!

Finished the book? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

And check out this book excerpt and review to learn more about Big Friendship:

📖The Woman Warrior: 🍸silver bolt

📖: Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior (1976)
🍸: silver bolt

Why this book?

The Woman Warrior holds a special place in my reading life. I first read it in college for an Asian American literature class, which introduced me to a world of #ownvoices stories that helped me feel seen for the first time.

In her book, Kingston recounts her upbringing as a Chinese American girl in California. Rereading it gave me a newfound appreciation for Kingston’s craft. Defying the bounds of memoir-writing, Kingston seamlessly blends fact and fiction – incorporating myths and fantastical images – to the point where I wasn’t sure how much of her stories were grounded in memory or pure imagination. I love that the book challenges me to consider whether there’s really a difference between what we remember and what we imagine.

Why this drink?

In the chapter “White Tigers,” Kingston as a young girl imagines herself becoming the great swordswoman, Hua Mulan, as a way to process her experiences growing up female and Chinese in the context of her family and community. In her/Mulan’s warrior training, she describes her ability to make a sword appear out of the sky, like a “silver bolt in the sunlight,” signaling her coming of age as a warrior woman.

So for this pairing, I made a silvery-gold drink in a stemless flute to emulate the shape of a sword. I also incorporated grapefruit and lychee flavors because these fruits make an appearance in Kingston’s book.

And speaking of Mulan 🧐 I want to learn more about other adaptations of her story and understand how it has evolved over time, so I’m planning to check out Lan Dong’s book Mulan’s Legend and Legacy in China and the United States.

For a quick reference to other versions of Mulan besides the new Disney film, check out this NYT article: “Mulan, a Most Adaptable Heroine: There’s a Version for Every Era.”

silver bolt

1 oz vodka
0.5 oz lychee liqueur
0.5 oz fresh grapefruit juice
1 tsp simple syrup
4 oz champagne

for garnish:
grapefruit twist

  1. combine all ingredients, except for the champagne, in a shaker and shake with ice
  2. strain into a stemless flute glass
  3. top off with chilled champagne
  4. garnish with a grapefruit twist

Another round, please! 🥂

You might also like:
Amy Tan’s The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life (2004)

Let’s discuss!

Finished the book? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

And check out these articles to learn more about the book and the writer:

📖How We Fight for Our Lives: 🍸sangria in spain

📖: Saeed Jones’s How We Fight for our Lives (2019)
🍸: sangria in spain

Why this book?

Today is the last day of Pride Month, so I’m recommending Saeed Jones’ How We Fight for Our Lives, a poetic coming-of-age memoir that follows Jones’ experiences growing up as a gay black boy in the South through his early adulthood, navigating his relationship with his mother. In his story, Jones fights not just for physical survival as a black, gay man, but he also fights to claim his right to be himself at the intersection of his marginalized identities. Jones’ struggle for agency and power are intimately tied to his attempts to define himself in a world that is anti-black and anti-gay.

The book is also about Jones’ mother as it is about him. It begins with her and ends with her, despite Jones’ efforts to detach himself from his mother in his journey in finding himself. The memoir aptly closes with a reflection on how “our mothers are why we are here.” They are why we are.

Why this drink?

I made this drink because Jones shares bottles of sangria with a new friend Esther, who he meets on a visit to Barcelona. They tour museums, go to the beach, share meals together, and mutually realize that their mothers are the reason why they both decided to take this trip to Spain. I wanted to highlight this moment of discovery, hope, and comfort that these two individuals found towards the end of the story.

sangria in spain

1 bottle red wine
4 oz brandy*
1 oz maple syrup*
1 orange
1 lemon, thinly sliced into rounds
3 cups of your favorite seasonal fruit, chopped up*

  1. cut the orange in half. juice one half and thinly slice the other half into rounds.
  2. red wine, brandy, orange juice, and maple syrup in a large pitcher or carafe, and mix well (or shake well if your pitcher/carafe has a lid)
  3. add the chopped fruit, and lemon and orange slices to the mixture. let the flavors infuse for at least half an hour before serving.
  4. you may leave it in the fridge to chill for 2-8 hours, if desired.
  5. serve with ice, optional.

quarantine substitutes:
If you don’t have brandy, I’ve read that you can replace it with a black spiced rum. I haven’t tried that but that sounds like it could be really interesting!
If you don’t have maple syrup, you can sub with a simple syrup made with regular white, granulated sugar or demerara sugar. You can also simply mix in white or brown sugar without making a syrup.
Seasonal fruits: use anything you’d like and/or whatever is available. I used peaches, strawberries, and blueberries because it’s summer. Apples, pears, nectarines, and pineapples also work. You can also add more or less lemon/orange to taste. The 3 cups measurement of chopped fruit is just an estimate — add accordingly based on your love for fresh fruit!

Thanks to Cookie + Kate for their Best Sangria Recipe !!

Another round, please! 🥂

You might also like:
Kiese Laymon’s Heavy (2018)

Let’s discuss!

Finished the book? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

And check out these reviews to learn more about the book:

📖The Best We Could Do: 🍸rewind, reverse

📖: Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do (2017)
🍸: rewind, reverse

Why this book?

Thi Bui’s graphic memoir opens with her giving birth to her first child. As she copes with becoming a new parent, she tries to understand the choices her parents made during and after the Vietnam War. Through her parents’ stories and experiences, she seeks to understand what kind of inheritance she can leave behind for her son. As she unravels her family’s story, she learns how memory, trauma and the refugee reflex are inheritances that are passed down through generations.

Why this drink?

Thi Bui’s graphic memoir resonates with me because my family’s memories of the Vietnam War are part of my inheritance growing up as a first-gen immigrant. Aside from memories, one of the things my grandma passed down to me is an acquired taste for sour, salt, and spice. This drink is a riff on the classic Paloma, but also inspired by the grapefruit wedges that my grandma likes to eat with salt and red Thai chili peppers. This grapefruit drink was also chosen because of the pink and red hues that permeate the pages of this beautifully illustrated graphic memoir.

rewind, reverse

2 oz tequila
4 oz freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
0.75 oz lime juice
0.5 tsp maraschino liqueur 
1-2 drops saline solution*
1-2 oz grapefruit seltzer (alcoholic or non-alcoholic)
2 slices thai chili peppers

for garnish:
2 slices of thai chili peppers, sea salt flakes, lime wheel, grapefruit wheel

  1. rim a chilled glass with salt
  2. muddle the chili peppers
  3. combine all ingredients (except for the seltzer) & shake with ice
  4. pour into glass with ice & top off with seltzer
  5. garnish peppers, lime and grapefruit wheels

*To make saline solution, dissolve 1 part salt in 4 parts water.

Quarantine substitutions:
Omit the maraschino liqueur if you don’t have any.
Ground cayenne pepper can be subbed in for the Thai chili peppers.
For the rim, sub the sea salt flakes with regular salt.

Another round, please! 🥂

You might also like:
Kao Kalia Yang’s The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir (2008)