📖Love and Other Moods: 🍸sleepless in Shanghai

📖: Crystal Z. Lee’s Love and Other Moods (2020)
🍸: sleepless in Shanghai

Why this book?

This novel transported me across the world, following Naomi Kita-Fan to Shanghai. This is where Naomi moved to be with her fiancé, but finds herself suddenly single, learning how to navigate living in a new country, with some help from old and new friends who take her to exposition centers, glitzy restaurants, and architectural sites. During a time when we’re always at home, it helped me feel like I could get away for a little bit and live vicariously through these characters’ vibrant social lives!

I also enjoyed that this story put a spotlight on Asian characters in a non-US setting, all the while exploring some nuanced themes of identity and belonging — from the perspectives of “third-culture kids,” people who return to their home in Asia after spending time abroad, and indivduals who marry across nationalities despite familial expectations. As an Asian person who has only lived in the US, I found it very interesting to get a glimpse of these characters’ experiences in a very fast-paced and global city in Asia.

Thank you so much, Crystal Z. Lee, for gifting me a copy of your book!


Why this drink?

At one point in the novel, the characters go out to Party World for karaoke, where they have a drink that’s popular in Shanghai: whiskey mixed with iced green tea. Since I LOVE karaoke, I’m pairing this novel with a gingery, bubbly whiskey green tea drink, which has got me dreaming about future karaoke nights and all the songs that I can’t wait to sing again! 🤩🎤🎶


sleepless in Shanghai

ingredients:
2 oz whiskey
4 oz green tea
1/2 oz ginger syrup
1/2 oz lemon
oz seltzer water

garnish:
lemon wheel

  1. Add all ingredients (except for the seltzer water) in a shaker, and shake well with ice.
  2. Strain into a glass with fresh ice.
  3. Top off with seltzer water and garnish with lemon.


Another round, please! 🥂
You might also like:
Eileen Chang’s Love in a Fallen City (1943)

Let’s discuss!

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

📖How Much of These Hills is Gold: 🍸gold grass

📖: C Pam Zhang’s How Much of These Hills is Gold (2020)
🍸: gold grass

Why this book?

“This land is not your land.” This is the epigraph that opens this luminous novel about two orphaned Chinese American siblings that venture through the American West, in search of a new home.

But no matter where they go, they are still outsiders, and even though they were born on this land, they are excluded from owning any of it. On top of it all, the land was stolen from Indigenous Peoples, so it was never theirs to claim in the first place.

In a word, this novel was poignant. In thinking about my experiences as an immigrant in America, I related to Lucy and Sam’s feelings of being “othered” in the only place that feels like home. Like the children, I want that unquestionable sense of belonging, but it can remain elusive.

Another part of the novel that I kept thinking about was Lucy’s rejection of Ba’s fantastical tales about the land before the gold miners’ arrival. She favors the neatly packaged history she learns in school. Maybe because this sanitized version of history gives her hope that she can still find her place in this country. Or maybe it allows her to feel that her family isn’t also implicated in exploiting the land, despite their prospecting activities.

This aspect of the novel made me reflect on Baldwin, Coates, and Laymon’s idea of how much our country wants to avoid the truth behind our history, and in doing so, defines who can and can’t belong here. The versions of history we choose to believe indeed matter.

I love that this novel centers the experience of a Chinese American family in the West. And I appreciated that their narrative is complicated by the knowledge of how Indigenous Peoples are impacted as the family searches for prosperity. What does it mean to belong to a land that doesn’t belong to you? I can’t wait to see what C Pam Zhang will write next.


Why this drink?

I’m pairing this novel with the Gold Rush cocktail since this period sets the stage for the story.


gold grass

ingredients:
2 oz bourbon
0.75 oz lemon juice
0.75 oz honey syrup

garnish:
lemon peel and rosemary

  1. to make the honey syrup, heat 3 parts honey with 1 part water over the stove until the mixture dissolves into a syrup
  2. combine all ingredients in a shaker, and shake with ice
  3. strain into a chilled glass with fresh ice and garnish with lemon and rosemary


Another round, please! 🥂
You might also like:
Wendy Law-Yone’s The Coffin Tree (1983)

Let’s discuss!

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

And check out this interview with C Pam Zhang to learn more about How Much of These Hills is Gold:

📖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

ingredients:
1 oz rye
1 oz Campari
1 oz dry vermouth

garnish:
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)

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

garnish:
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:

📖There There & Winter Counts:🍸apple pomegranate autumn punch

📖: Tommy Orange’s There There (2018)
📖: David Heska Wanbli Weiden’s Winter Counts (2020)
🍸: apple pomegranate autumn punch

How are you celebrating Thanksgiving this year?

While some of us may be celebrating Thanksgiving today, it’s also important to acknowledge that it is National Day of Mourning for some Indigenous Peoples, such as those who are a part of the United American Indians of New England, for whom “Thanksgiving day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience.”
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UAINE will be live-streaming the 51st Annual National Day of Mourning today at 12PM EST at www.uaine.org. On this site, there’s a list of other things we can do to support Indigenous Peoples not only today, but every day of the year – from donations to climate advocacy.
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If you do gather for Thanksgiving, UAINE suggests doing a reading before your meal about the truth behind the first Thanksgiving, recommending Matthew Hughey’s article “ON THANKSGIVING: WHY MYTHS MATTER.” UAINE also recommends the books OUR HISTORY IS THE FUTURE by Nick Estes or David Stannard’s AMERICAN HOLOCAUST: COLUMBUS & THE CONQUEST OF THE NEW WORLD.
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Featured in my photo are Tommy Orange’s stunningly moving novel There There, and Winter Counts, a new crime novel by David Heska Wanbli Weiden. Both are excellent #ownvoices stories on the contemporary experiences of people from several Indigenous Nations. I can’t recommend them enough – especially since November is also #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth.
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However you’ll observe today, I hope you are staying safe and feeling renewed by and connected to your loved ones — in a socially distant or virtual way!


*Note: The beverage featured here is adapted from the blog HOW SWEEET EATS’s Sparkling Pomegranate Cider Punch recipe.


apple pomegranate autumn punch

ingredients:
1.5 oz bourbon (optional)
3 oz apple cider
2 oz pomegranate juice
2 oz ginger beer
1 tsp autumn syrup, to taste*

for garnish:
apple slices, pomegranate seeds, cinnamon stick, and a cinnamon sugar rim

  1. rim your glass with the autumn syrup and coat it with a cinnamon sugar mix
  2. combine all ingredients with ice and stir well (You can add bourbon, if desired, but it’s tasty on its own, without the spirit.)
  3. strain out the ice and serve in glass with fresh ice
  4. garnish with apple slices, pomegranate seeds, and a cinnamon stick

*How to make the autumn syrup:
Heat these ingredients in a small saucepan on the stove, and stir until just boiling: 1 part brown sugar, 1 part water, pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon, star anise, and a few pieces of orange rind. Remove from heat and let cool before adding to the punch mixture.


Let’s discuss!

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

📖The Taste of Sugar: 🍸strawberry girl & 🍸 coffee farmer

📖: Marisel Vera’s The Taste of Sugar (2020)
🍸: strawberry girl
🍸: coffee farmer

Why this book?

The Taste of Sugar is an exquisite novel that spans three generations of a coffee farming family in Puerto Rico, from 1825 to 1902. It reminded me a bit of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, in the way that the story is multi-generational in scope, with a focus on the themes of emigration, inequality, war, exile, exploitation, and family.

At the heart of the novel is a love story between Valentina Sanchez and her husband Vicente Vega. We follow them through the joys and challenges of raising a family and cultivating a coffee farm in the mountains. Soon, the Spanish-American War, US invasion of Puerto Rico, and the San Ciriaco Hurricane bring major changes, prompting them to emigrate – along with over five thousand other Puerto Ricans – to work on the cane sugar plantations of Hawaii where they hope to gain greater economic opportunity.

In telling this story, Marisel Vera interrupts the flow of her third-person narrative with passages told in the first-person POV, keeping the story fresh and engaging. She includes letters that Valentina exchanges with her sister, along with short monologues from a handful of characters. I sped through the pages, and was sad when I got to the last one! I was deeply moved by the love and resilience of the Vegas’ relationship, and wanted to continue following the story of their family’s life in Hawaii. I highly recommend this book if you want to learn more about Puerto Rican history, which I did not know very much about until I began reading this novel.


Why this drink?

For The Taste of Sugar, I made two drinks: one for Vicente, the coffee farmer, and Valentina, who he affectionately calls his “strawberry girl” (because of the strawberry-scented powder she wore on the night they met). I used cane sugar and rum as a common ingredient in both cocktails, since both prominently appear throughout the novel. Vicente’s drink is adapted from Cafe Correcto con Coco recipe on Liquor.com.


strawberry girl

ingredients:
0.75 oz white rum
0.75 oz black spiced rum
1 oz lime juice
0.5 oz demerara cane sugar syrup
1 – 2 oz seltzer water to top off 
3 strawberries
fresh mint

for garnish:
fresh mint & strawberries

  1. muddle the mint and strawberries in a shaker with a pinch of cane sugar
  2. combine all other ingredients in a shaker, and shake with ice
  3. serve with ice
  4. garnish with strawberry and mint

coffee farmer

ingredients:
0.75 oz black spiced rum
0.75 oz whiskey
1 oz black coffee
0.5 oz demerara cane sugar syrup
1 oz coconut milk

for garnish:
demerara cane sugar

  1. combine all ingredients, except for coconut milk, into a mixing glass, and stir with ice
  2. rim glass with cane sugar
  3. serve mixture in the glass with ice
  4. top off with coconut milk

Another round, please! 🥂

You might also like:
Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko (2017)

Let’s discuss!

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

📖The House on Mango Street: 🍸home in the heart

📖: Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street (1983)
🍸: home in the heart

Why this book?

Cisnero’s novel is about a young girl named Esperanza, who longs for a house of her own, far away from her family’s house on Mango Street in Chicago. She dreams of going somewhere else where she’s free to be herself, to be an artist, to be unmoored from the expectations of what it means to be a girl in her Latinx neighborhood.

But no matter how far Esperanza will eventually go, the house on Mango Street will always be a part of her. “One day I’ll own my own house,” she muses, “but I won’t forget who I am or where I came from…because I know how it is to be without a house…I have gone away to come back. For the ones I left behind. For the ones who cannot out.”

I was really swept up in Cisnero’s evocative portrayal of the aspirations, observations, and concerns of a girl in the process of discovering who she wants to become. I enjoyed that the novel was written in an unusual way (through a series of vignettes), and Cisneros has such a beautiful way of painting a scene with brevity and simplicity.

Through Esperanza’s reflections on the purpose and direction of her life, Cisneros poses the question of whether the work that we do (and the art that we create) should be done in the service of others. If yes, then what would this look like?

I was just finishing this book when I heard of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, which made these questions even more timely and relevant. When asked by the Stanford Daily in 2017 what advice she has for young people, she said, “Whatever paid work you pursue, do something outside of yourself that you really care about, that you are passionate about. Whether it’s the environment [or] discrimination. Do something that will make life a little better for people less fortunate than you.” ❤️️ RIP, RBG


Why this drink?

For this pairing, I made a mango-based drink 🥭 with Campari as a nod to Esperanza’s red house on Mango Street. 🏠


home in the heart

ingredients:
1.25 oz bourbon
0.25 oz Campari
2 oz mango juice
0.25 oz fresh lime juice
pinch of cayenne pepper

for garnish:
Tajin seasoning, or a mix of cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt

  1. combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake with ice
  2. use a wedge of lime to wet the rim of the glass, then dip your rim into the Tajin seasoning
  3. pour mixture into the glass, and serve with ice

Another round, please! 🥂

You might also like:
Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior (1976)

Let’s discuss!

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

📖Severance: 🍸the city

📖: Ling Ma’s Severance (2018)
🍸: the city

Why this book?

Published in 2018, Severance is a novel about NYC resident Candance Chen who becomes one of the few survivors of the Shen Fever pandemic, caused by a flu-like virus initially detected in China.

Like Candace, I was living in NYC when COVID19 began to appear, so reading the novel’s portrayal of Shen Fever’s spread felt eerily prescient – from its descriptions of the public’s skepticism and confusion; to the shutdown of businesses; to the residents’ flight out of the city.

But what felt most unsettling about the book was its exploration of late-stage capitalism and its absurdities. In the novel, the virus turns people into zombies who perform repetitive, mind-numbing actions until they waste away. Is this a metaphor for what capitalism does to us – trapping us in an endless loop of work, production, consumption, and desire for more than what we already have?

One of the story’s details that stuck with me the most was Candace’s decision to outsource a manufacturing job to a Chinese factory, even though she knew that the job would cause real harm to the workers’ health. This made me reflect on how capitalism works like a trick mirror: by exploiting others in the global market, we think we gain an economic advantage. But participating in this capitalist exploitation also re-creates inequalities at home, widening a wealth gap that underpins a system of racial disparities. With Labor Day approaching, I’m thinking about my role in the global economy: what effect does my work have on others and how do I spend my money? Can it be possible for anyone to truly live outside of capitalism?  


Why this drink?

As a toast to the novel’s setting in NYC, I am pairing Severance with a dry version of the Manhattan cocktail. I used bourbon instead of rye, and because white vs. red vermouth was used, I garnished with a lemon peel instead of a cherry. The 2:1 ratio of whiskey to vermouth that I used aligns with the classic sweet Manhattan made with red vermouth.


the city

ingredients:
2 oz bourbon
1 oz dry vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters

*for garnish: lemon peel

  1. combine the all ingredients in a mixing glass, and stir well with ice
  2. serve in a chilled glass, straining out the ice
  3. garnish with a lemon peel

Pro-Tips:
*whiskey alternative: you may use a rye whiskey instead of bourbon for a drier, spicier taste.
*vermouth alternative: you may use red (sweet) vermouth to make a sweet version of this Manhattan cocktail. Or you may use a 50/50 blend of red and white vermouth to make a “Perfect” Manhattan.
*bitters alternative: you may use Angostura bitters instead of orange bitters. I chose orange bitters for a brighter, citrus-y taste.
*garnish alternative: if you are using sweet vermouth instead of dry vermouth, garnish with a maraschino cherry vs. lemon peel.


Another round, please! 🥂

You might also like:
Charles Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (2010)


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:

📖Edinburgh: 🍸flaxen

📖: Alexander Chee’s Edinburgh (2001)
🍸: flaxen

Why this book?

Edinburgh is HANDS DOWN one of the most beautiful works of prose that I’ve read. (Thank you, Alexander Chee, for gifting the world with your writing!!) This novel is a poignant and poetic coming-of-age story about a Korean-American boy named Fee, who joins a boys’ choir in Maine, where he meets and falls in love with his best friend, Peter. The choir is also where the director, Big Eric, sexually abuses several of the boys, including Peter, during an overnight summer camping trip. Much of the novel follows Fee into adulthood as he wrestles with his sexuality, faces shame and guilt for remaining a silent witness to Big Eric’s crimes, and grieves for the loss of Peter and his friends in the aftermath of their traumatic experience.

Much of the praise for this book cites how the simple, succinct language gives the story emotional depth and power — that what is not written expresses just as much as what Chee has put on the page. And I completely agree. There are many passages where I wanted to slow down, reread, and savor because the imagery was so vivid and lush.

For example, as the memory of Peter (and his death by burning) haunts Fee throughout his life, Fee’s narration becomes steeped with reoccurring images of fire and light — along with colors associated with flames: blue, red, and yellow. The novel also weaves in references to Western literature and Korean mythology, in which Fee seeks refuge, knowledge, and healing. This juxtaposition of Western and Korean influences is a nod to another layer of tension in the novel: not only does Fee grapple with his queer identity, but he also struggles to reconcile his bi-racial background as he grows up.

I finished the novel wanting to experience more of Chee’s writing. Since this novel is based on some of the author’s experiences, I am very much looking forward to reading Chee’s essays in How to Write an Autobiographical Novel to complement my reading of Edinburgh.


Why this drink?

The most tender moments in the novel are when Fee remembers Peter, often fixating on Peter’s white-blond, “candle-flame” hair — how this feature gave Peter a kind of emanating light that would draw you in. Of Peter, Fee recounts: “He walks and I feel the air come off him toward me, wherever we are…My mother calls him a towhead, the word, apparently, for that kind of hair, so pale, so bright, it seems to be what sunshine reminds you of. What do you want of him, I ask myself. I tell myself, to walk inside him and never leave. For him to be the house of me.”

And so, this yellow-hued cocktail is an ode to Fee’s love for Peter, the boy with the flaxen hair.

(This pairing uses Danny Shapiro’s Weathered Axe cocktail recipe from Punch with a few slight substitutions based on what I have available in quarantine.)


flaxen

ingredients:
1.5 oz bourbon
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz triple sec
1/2 oz Suze or an Americano wine
1/2 oz ginger syrup*

*for garnish: rosemary and lemon twist

  1. combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake well
  2. serve in a chilled glass with ice
  3. garnish with a rosemary and a lemon twist

Pro-Tips:
*how to make ginger syrup: Pour sugar and water into a pan (using a 1:1 sugar-to-water ratio) and heat the mixture on the stove until it starts to bubble. Once tiny bubbles start to appear, immediately take the boiling syrup off the stove and pour it into the into a glass jar with freshly grated ginger. Cover the jar with airtight lid until cool. Strain out the ginger after liquid cools.

quarantine substitutes:
Bourbon: the original recipe calls for a 100-proof bourbon. I did not use a 100-proof bourbon, but it still tasted great. Use any whiskey of your choice.
Triple sec: the original recipe calls for a Combier, a brand of triple sec, so you can replace it with whichever triple sec you prefer — it doesn’t need to be an expensive brand (though Cointreau is a great choice)! I once omitted the triple sec by accident when mixing for friends, and it still tasted delicious (phew!).
Suze: I recently used Suze because I didn’t have Cocchi Americano available (what the original recipe called for), and because Suze’s bitter gentian flavor kind of mimics a substitution I’ve used in the past. In fact, I’ve never used Cocchi in this drink before. Instead, I’ve only used Short Path’s Americano Blanc, which is a cross between a vermouth and amaro, with white wine notes mixed with a gentian root flavor. In short, I think you can experiment with this ingredient – go for something a little bitter, dry, and white wine-like…maybe a dry white vermouth will do?!
No fresh ginger? You can try using ground ginger instead.


Another round, please! 🥂

You might also like:
Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (2019)


Let’s discuss!

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

📖Here Comes the Sun: 🍸here comes the sun

📖: Nicole Dennis-Benn’s Here Comes the Sun (2016)
🍸: here comes the sun

Why this book?

Here Comes the Sun is a novel about working class women living near Montego Bay, Jamaica, a neighborhood on the brink of being dismantled by the rise of new luxury resorts — on the “other side of paradise,” according to the author. As white developers swoop in to evict the local people, the disparities continue to widen between the wealthy and working classes.

The novel centers on four women who Dennis-Benn depicts in a lovely and nuanced way: Margot (who engages in sex work at the hotel where she works to earn extra money for her family), Thandi (Margot’s younger sister who is expected to attend medical school), Delores (their mother, who sells souvenirs by the dock), and Verdene (Margot’s partner and outcast of the town). All hold dark secrets that lead them to betray each other in some way. Throughout the story, Dennis-Benn unravels these secrets at a brilliant pace, making the novel a quick page-turner, all the while continuously complicating the readers’ impression of these characters throughout the plot.

While the novel deals with difficult issues like colorism, poverty, economic exploitation, homophobia, violence, and sexual abuse, there are beautifully quiet moments of love and recognition between some of the characters, which the author depicts with great tenderness and care. In spite of these moments of possible joy, the novel’s somber closing left me wondering if these characters will someday be able to find themselves in the light and warmth of the sun.


Why this drink?

I found a beer-based cocktail recipe that is also called “Here Comes the Sun,” from DC-based restaurant & bar Roofers Union. It’s a bright, light, and crisp drink that accompanied me through this heavy, but beautifully written story 😭. I swapped out the rye for a bourbon and replaced the wheat beer with a blood orange shandy. Recipe credits to Travis Mitchell via liquor.com.


here comes the sun

ingredients:
1.5 oz whiskey
3/4 oz ginger syrup*
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 oz summer shandy

*for garnish: lemon wheel

  1. combine all ingredients, except for the beer, in a shaker with ice and shake well
  2. serve in a chilled glass
  3. top with beer – add more than 1 oz if desired
  4. garnish with a lemon wheel

Pro-Tips:
*how to make ginger syrup: Pour sugar and water into a pan (using a 1:1 sugar-to-water ratio) and heat the mixture on the stove until it starts to bubble. Once tiny bubbles start to appear, immediately take the boiling syrup off the stove and pour it into the into a glass jar with freshly grated ginger. Cover the jar with airtight lid until cool. Strain out the ginger after liquid cools.

quarantine substitutes:
Whiskey: the original recipe calls for rye whiskey, but I used a bourbon. Tasted great! Use whatever whiskey you like 🙂
Beer: the original recipe calls for a wheat beer, but I used a blood orange summer shandy. If you don’t have exactly these kinds of beer available, choose something light, crisp, and fruity. Yum!
No fresh ginger? You can try using ground ginger instead.


Another round, please! 🥂

You might also like:
Alexia Arthurs’s How to Love a Jamaican (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: