shelf

📖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

ingredients:
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

ingredients:
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!

📖No-No Boy: 🍸summer sake sangria

📖: John Okada’s No-No Boy (1957)
🍸: summer sake sangria

Why this book?

This novel was not well received when it was first published in 1957, and was almost completely forgotten until it was rediscovered in a used book store and then reissued. Now it’s become a classic in Asian American lit.

The title refers to two questions on the Leave Clearance Application Form, aka the loyalty questionnaire, that interned Japanese-American men were required to fill out in 1943:

  • Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty wherever ordered?
  • Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, to any other foreign government, power or organization?

These questions were confusing, and like a Catch-22. Would saying yes to question 1 mean you’d automatically get drafted? Would saying yes to question 2 imply that you were once loyal to the Japanese government?

In this novel, the protagonist answers no to both questions, and was imprisoned as a consequence. After WWII ends, he is released to return home and is seen as disloyal by his Japanese American community, but he can’t see himself as fully Japanese either. In a broader sense, as an Asian American, I resonated with the feeling of: Where can you belong when you don’t quite fully belong anywhere? This book calls out the brutal way in which racism in America traumatizes, erases, and gaslights whole communities and generations. Anti-Asian hate is not a new thing. It’s been embedded in this country’s history all along.


Why this drink?

With Memorial Day around the corner, I made a sake sangria to pair with this book, for the summer days to come.


summer sake sangria

ingredients:

4 oz sake
3/4 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 tbsp simple syrup
lemon, grapefruit, and nectarine slices
club soda

garnish:
sprig of mint

  1. Mix sake, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a mason jar. (If you’re making this in a large batch, use a lidded pitcher or carafe.)
  2. Soak fruit in mixture overnight.
  3. Top off with club soda and ice before serving.
  4. Enjoy with or without the soaked fruit. Garnish with mint.

*How to make simple syrup:
Heat 1 part water with 1 part sugar over the stovetop until boiling. Make sure the sugar is all evenly dissolved. Immediately remove from heat and let cool before serving. Any leftover syrup may be refrigerated.


Another round, please! 🥂
You might also like:
Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer (2015)

Let’s discuss!

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

📖The Committed: 🍸the remedy

📖: Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Committed (2021)
🍸: the remedy

Why this book?

In this sequel to The Sympathizer, we meet a traumatized version of the “man of two minds,” with a bullet lodged in his brain, scrambling his perspective of the world. Turning to philosophy and crime, the protagonist unpacks our problematic relationship with politics and power. This book is an incredible dive into the intellectual process of decolonizing one’s mind.

From the epic prologue to the epilogue, my mind was constantly blown as I followed the Captain’s thoughts. 🤯 He mulls over the love-hate relationship we have with our colonizers, the hypocrisy of revolutions, and the necessity of violence for “civilization.” So many dualities and paradoxes to deconstruct! As a former anthropology student, I appreciated the protagonist’s exploration of the dialectic to reconcile ideas that appear unreconcilable.

This book was equally evocative as it was provocative. As Francois Chau mentioned during The Committed book event on May 7th, the novel’s details immersed me in emotional memories of growing up Vietnamese: the food, drink, Tết celebrations, the Paris by Night inspired show. On the flip side, the book exposes the flawed parts of our culture, from over-romanticized cultural performances to Vietnamese manhood, and everything in between. Once again, no one is safe from the Captain’s scathing critique. Not our colonizers and certainly not us Vietnamese.

Click here for the replay of Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Committed book event in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, featuring a lively conversation between the author and Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, Francois Chau, and Kim Ly. I’m grateful to be a part of this community that’s filled me with so much inspiration, self-love, and solidarity this year! 💖🥂


Why this drink?

For this pairing, I created THE REMEDY, which is a riff on The Penicillin cocktail, swapping out the whiskey for cognac — our protagonist’s drink of choice! 🥃 I hope this cognac-based drink will transport yourself to 1980’s Paris. 🇫🇷


the remedy

ingredients:

2 oz cognac
3/4 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz ginger honey syrup

garnish:
candied ginger and lemon peel

  1. Combine all ingredients in a shaker, and shake well.
  2. Strain the drink into a glass, over fresh ice. If you enjoy more spirit-forward drinks, you may also serve in a chilled coupe glass without ice.
  3. Garnish with candied ginger and lemon peel.

*How to make ginger honey syrup:
Heat 3/4 cup water, 3/4 cup sugar, and 1 cup of thinly sliced or grated fresh ginger in a small saucepan over the stovetop until boiling. Simmer on low heat for 5 minutes. After turning off the heat, let the ginger steep until the mixture cools. Strain out the ginger before serving. Any leftover syrup may be refrigerated.


Another round, please! 🥂
You might also like:
Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer (2015)

Let’s discuss!

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

📖Things We Lost to the Water: 🍸the bayou

📖: Eric Nguyen’s Things We Lost to the Water (2021)
🍸: the bayou

Why this book?

This novel begins with Hương, a Vietnamese refugee who resettles alone in New Orleans with her two sons, after leaving Vietnam by boat. Before her escape, she and her husband Công had been running towards the ocean, hand-in-hand, to reach the vessel that would take them away, but she somehow loses hold of him and Công gets left behind. What happened to him?

The shadows of memories, questions, and secrets haunt Hương and her sons as the years pass without contact from Công. Hương protects Tuấn and Bình by telling them their father is gone, but each son, in his own way, keeps tracing a path back to finding Công and the home they lost.

One memorable moment in the book is when Hương encounters a young half-Vietnamese man in her nail salon near closing hours. He says he’s looking for his American father, who he thinks may still be somewhere in New Orleans – has Hương seen him?

Huong feels sorry for this man, thinking that “what is lost is perhaps best forgotten. The past is the past.” But is it truly? As a member of the diaspora, sometimes the past feels so much like the present and the future. So much so that looking backwards is the only way to move forward.

This book was deeply poignant in its exploration of how children can carry on the burden of loss and trauma of the generation that came before. And how this experience of post-memory can drive them to keep turning back to a past that their elders may want to forget. Cyclical in nature, this story ends where it begins – with water, displacement from home, and the loss of a father – and I was captivated the whole way through. This novel is a beautiful debut, and I look forward to reading whatever Eric Nguyen writes next!

Thank you to Knopf for sending me an ARC of this book!


Why this drink?

Eric Nguyen – this cocktail pairing was created for you as a gift from Michael Nguyen to celebrate the publication of your novel. It’s inspired by Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane cocktail from New Orleans. Congratulations and cheers to you on this very special #PubDay! 🥂


the bayou

ingredients:
2 oz black spiced rum
1.5 oz lite rum
1.5 oz passion fruit juice
1 oz blood orange juice
0.5 oz lime juice
0.5 oz ginger syrup*

garnish:
Thai basil, blood orange slice, fresh longan fruit (if available)

  1. Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, and shake well.
  2. Strain into a glass packed with freshly crushed ice.
  3. Garnish with a leafy sprig of Thai basil, a blood orange wheel, and 1-2 peeled longan fruit, if available.

*How to make ginger syrup:
Heat 1 cup thinly sliced fresh ginger, 3/4 cup sugar, and 3/4 cup water on stovetop until boiling. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let the ginger seep until the syrup cools. Strain out the ginger. Store syrup in an airtight jar, and store in the fridge.


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!

📖Klara and the Sun: 🍸klara’s sunset

📖: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun (2021)
🍸: klara’s sunset

Why this book?

This is the kind of book raises more questions than answers about humanity, spirituality, social equity, illness, and mortality. What kind of world do we create with the technological capacity to avoid loneliness, transcend death, and give children a headstart in life?

In the world of this novel, AI beings have replaced workers, privileged children can receive (genetic) modifications, and climate change is a big threat. Enter Klara — one of many Artificial Friends, robots who serve as intelligent and caring companions for children.

Like Never Let Me Go, this story is told from a narrator whom society considers to be not fully human. By forcing us to observe and learn about the world through Klara’s eyes, the contradictions and complexities of human behaviors are laid bare before us, alongside the systemic inequities that we often accept as the status quo.

While I wished for more depth, texture, and resolution for some plot points and characters, I did appreciate the way the author explored dualities. For example, the novel gave me a lot to think about regarding the tension between opposing emotions, the thin line between human and machine, and the different choices parents make for their children out of the same sense of love. How much more do we destroy, rather than create, when we step from being a mere mortal into the role of playing god?


Why this drink?

Klara is a solar-powered machine. She even begins to make requests to the sun when it sets over the horizon, on behalf of Josie’s well-being — much like how a human would pray to a deity. For this cocktail pairing, here is my take on the tequila sunset with a smoky, ginger twist.


klara’s sunset

ingredients:
1.5 oz mezcal
2 oz pineapple juice
1 oz grapefruit juice
1/2 oz lime juice
1/4 oz grenadine
3-4 fresh ginger slices

garnish:
dried orange wheel

  1. Muddle ginger in shaker.
  2. Combine all other ingredients (except grenadine) on top of the muddled ginger in your shaker tin.
  3. Shake well with ice and strain into glass.
  4. Pour grenadine slowly down the side of your glass to create the “sunset” effect.
  5. Garnish with dried orange wheel for your sun ☀️


Another round, please! 🥂
You might also like:
Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005)

Let’s discuss!

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

📖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!

📖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

ingredients:
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)


garnish:
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!

📖Interior Chinatown: 🍸lychee margarita-tini

📖: Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown (2020)
🍸: lychee margarita-tini

Why this book?

What does it mean to be Asian in America? Each of us will give a different answer because Asian Americans are not a monolithic group. And yet, we’re often treated as one. And throughout much of American history we’ve been seen as a threat. Not just in the 1880’s during the Chinese Exclusion Act, or during the WWII internment of Japanese communities. It’s happening right now, with COVID-related hate crimes against our Asian elders surging this past week. It’s been scary and devastating, during a time of year that’s otherwise celebratory for us who observe Lunar New Year.

Anti-Asian hate crimes aren’t new, but many go unreported because of systemic barriers that @_itslitbooks_ discusses in her recent IG post. The model minority myth also comes into play in this underreporting – to keep us quiet, to not rock the boat, to equate assimilation with the American Dream. This is white supremacy at work. It’s hurting not just our Asian communities, but all communities of color.

This week has been rough. Recent events keep bringing me back to Charles Yu’s INTERIOR CHINATOWN, which I think is an excellent exploration of the invisibility that often feels part of being Asian in America. Yu’s protagonist finds that no matter how much he advances in his acting career, he’s still trapped in a “show that doesn’t have a role for [him].” The novel brings up the idea that we also need to be aware of our complicity – whether it’s through internalized racism or when we fail to stand in solidarity with each other AND with black and brown communities who are also hurting. This is showing up in some responses to the hate crimes, with communities calling for more policing, a solution that’s rooted in anti-blackness.

Gifting and being in community with each other are important traditions for Lunar New Year. In honor of the year of the Ox, consider donating to orgs that do anti-racist work. Support your local Asian or Chinatown businesses. Speak up against race-related hate. Check in with Asian friends and neighbors.


Why this drink?

In Act I, we learn that this is the signature cocktail served at the Golden Palace restaurant where Willis Wu performs his role of Generic Asian Man.

(This recipe has been adapted from the Lemon Lychee Margarita, made by the Barrio in Chicago.)


lychee margarita-tini

ingredients:
1.5 oz golden tequila
1/2 oz Riesling
1/2 oz lemon juice
½ oz lychee syrup, from the can
4 canned lychees

garnish:
black lava salt and lychee

  1. Rim glass with black salt
  2. Muddle the canned lychees, and strain the juice into a shaker. (You should have ~3/4 oz of juice from the muddled fruit.)
  3. Add all other ingredients into shaker, and shake well with ice.
  4. Strain over fresh ice. Garnish with lychee.

Another round, please! 🥂
You might also like:
Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer (2015)

Let’s discuss!

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

📖A Pho Love Story: 🍸little saigon

📖: Loan Le’s A Pho Love Story (2021)
🍸: little saigon

Why this book?

Two Vietnamese American teens. Two competing phở restaurants in Little Saigon, California. And lots of chả giò, bánh xèo, and cà phê sữa dá. The novel’s premise alone made my heart warm and stomach hungry.

Aside from all the delicious foods, I loved the inclusion of Vietnamese language in the dialogue. Sometimes a term of endearment was mixed in with English, and other times a full sentence! Through the characters, I could hear the voices of my own family members talk to me through the pages. Not all of the dialogue was fully translated, though. And as an #ownvoices reader, this made me feel like the book was written for me.

This is the young adult novel I wish I had growing up. Like Linh, I also wanted to pursue a creative path. Linh wants to become a painter, but in a family of Vietnamese immigrants, art is seen only as a hobby, not a living. Our parents survived and sacrificed for us so we can be free to choose our futures. So why does this feel so fraught? Can we honor both our parents and passions at the same time? The tenderness, empathy, and care that Loan Le lends to the exploration of this theme struck an emotional chord with me – especially when Linh’s father lovingly confronts her about this over a bowl of canh sườn bí.

Overall, there is so much more to this story than just romance. It is about love for our families, our culture, our community, and ourselves. It is about our inheritance as descendants of Vietnamese refugees and immigrants, discovering our place in our family’s stories. And it is about standing in solidarity with one another to heal and reconcile, in the face of trauma and loss.


Why this drink?

I’m pairing this novel with a phở-inspired drink, with lime and Thai basil – from soup bowl to cocktail glass!

This recipe is adapted from abitwholesomely.com’s Lychee, Thai Basil and Ginger Limeade.


little saigon

ingredients:
2 oz vodka
4 canned lychees
4 slices of ginger
8 Thai basil leaves
1/2 oz lime juice
1/4 oz ginger-infused simple syrup
1/4 oz lychee syrup (from can)
2 oz club soda

garnish:
lime, lychee, Thai basil

  1. Muddle the lychees, ginger, and basil leaves.
  2. Combine the muddled ingredients in a shaker with all other ingredients (except for club soda) and ice, and shake well.
  3. Strain over fresh ice.
  4. Top off with club soda.
  5. Garnish with lime, lychee, and Thai basil.

Another round, please! 🥂
You might also like:
Gabby Rivera’s Juliet Takes a Breath (2016)

Let’s discuss!

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