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Archive for April, 2010

Talking at DePaul University

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

by Jian Ping

I gave a talk to Dr. Lucy Xing Lu’s Asian Culture and Communication class at DePaul University yesterday. The moment I stepped onto the Lincoln Park Campus, I felt the dynamics and energy unique to university—students rushing to their classes, chatting in groups, or riding their bicycles to get to their destinations. It was an atmosphere of youth and learning.

I barely made it on time to the classroom and started my talk immediately after Dr. Lu’s introduction. I knew the students had just read Confucius’ Analects and the focus of the class was on Asian philosophy, religion, and cultures. I put the emphasis of my talk on Confucian values, especially “filial piety,” using anecdotes from Mulberry Child to illustrate my points. I like the classroom setting and encouraged the students to raise questions at any time. They did—this group of 20 students was very engaging and asked many good questions. I planned to talk for 45 minutes, plus 10 or 15 minutes for questions. But we got into animated discussions and Dr. Lu graciously gave us the time to continue—letting us take over her planned readings on Taoism/Buddhism for the day. We ended up using up the entire period of class, and afterward, a few students stayed behind and continued our conversation. I was quite impressed by their interest and participation.

Of course, being a Chinese parent, I couldn’t help but finish my talk by encouraging them to excel in their studies—“the love of learning” (好学), as Confucius stated in his Analects.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: a Memoir of China.,

At the Southern Kentucky Book Fest

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

by Jian Ping

Left to Right: Dave, Margaret, me and Jessica

Last weekend, I attended the annual Southern Kentucky Book Fest in Bowling Green. It was a large event , organized by Western Kentucky University Libraries, Barnes & Noble and Warren County Public Library.

More than a hundred authors participated in the event, including featured writers such as Lisa Scottoline, Richard Paul Evans, local favorites and emerging faces. I was a panelist on the “serious memoir,” and had the opportunity to talk with my fellow panelists Randi Davenport, Jessica Handler, Margaret Edds and David Lanphear. Each of them shared their unique personal and inspiring stories. I also met with a few dynamic young adult authors, including Michael Reisman (Simon Blloom: The Octopus Effect) and Cynthea Liu (Paris Pan Takes the Dare) and a fellow writer from China Haiwang Yuan (This is China: The First 5000 Years).

It was a wonderful experience. I’d like a give a special thanks to Tracy Harkins, coordinator of the event. It was a joy working with her—a model of efficiency and hospitality.  
Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China.,

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010
Grandville : Cent Proverbes
Image via Wikipedia

by Nancy Werking Poling

author of Out of the Pumpkin Shell

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, as well as National Oral Health Month, March for Babies, National Occupational Therapy Month, Stress Awareness Month, Alcohol Awareness Month. Jazz Appreciation Month, National Car Care Month, Facial Protection Month, Train Safety Month , Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month, Youth Sports Safety Month, Cancer Control Month, and National Autism Awareness Month.

So many causes. So many people whose lives have been touched in ways that lead them to dedicate their energies and financial resources toward making a difference (though I’m not sure how National Car Care Month fits into this).

Why have I chosen to become involved in the domestic violence movement rather than Stress Awareness Month or Train Safety Month?

I have been influenced by real people, women and men of courage who have shared the pain of having been beaten as children, women who have been raped, fondled by someone they knew. I have heard women and men speak of the lifelong effects of child sexual abuse, usually by a trusted uncle or priest, a father even. They have pictures of themselves taken before the abuse, their eyes sparkling, smiles wide and engaging; pictures from afterward, their eyes lusterless, shoulders slumped. I fear for my grandchildren and every child I meet who still trusts adults and loves life.

In 1999 United Church Press published a book I edited: Victim to Survivor: Women Recovering from Clergy Sexual Abuse. One of the contributors, Marian (Et Al in the book), wrote about having been physically and sexually abused in childhood by her father. She told of the shame she felt, the vulnerability that led her to seek the counsel of her priest, who also abused her sexually. She became dissociative; that is she did not allow herself to feel the pain, the betrayal of trust. Several times she was admitted into psych wards of hospitals, the diagnosis being multiple personality disorder. Her career as a social worker was short-lived because of her fear that she might do harm to others.

Marian and I stayed in touch after the book came out. Six or seven years ago she wrote that her only close friend, Darrell, had died. A year or so after that I was among several people who received a letter from her telling us she planned to take her own life. Without Darrell, she no longer had the energy it took to keep her different personalities under control. She was tired.

Like other friends I offered her reasons to live. But one day a letter was returned to me stamped, “deceased.”

Among my possessions are a small jar of sand Marian sent me from a trip to the Holy Land, a tea cup with the inscribed words, “You never know how strong a woman is until she’s in hot water,” and a photo of her as a child, a cheerful looking little girl with energetic eyes. On the back is written, “Before the abuse.”

Marian is one reason why I am committed to preventing child abuse and the sexual assault of women.

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Reading Chinese Classics (2) — Different Perspectives

Monday, April 12th, 2010

By Jian Ping

 When we started our class on Confucius’ Analects at the Asian Classics program, our instructor Alan suggested we follow three “rituals” in honor of Confucius.  

 “Number one,” he said, “we call Confucius Master Kong”. The romanization of the Chinese name Kong Zi didn’t reflect the proper respect for him. “Kong” is Confucius’ family name, and “Zi”, refers to a sage or master. We readily accepted the proposal.  

“Number two,” Alan continued, “We start our class with a formal greeting. I’ll say ‘Good morning, class’ and you’ll stand up and say ’Good morning, teacher.’” The 20 plus students discussed about it for a while and agreed to the practice.

It was the third ritual Alan proposed that threw us into dispute.

Alan taped a portrait of Master Kong on the blackboard and suggested we bow to the master at the beginning or ending of each class.

The word “bow” sounded like a bomb exploding in the classroom.

“Wait a minute,” one student said. “I have a problem with that.” He raised his voice: “We’ve been brought up questioning and challenging authorities in this country. We’d never blindly submit to a master or a government. I don’t feel comfortable bowing.”

“I can bow to knowledge, but not to a person,” another student chided in. “It’s not in our culture to bow, to be submissive.”

My friend Hong, my husband Francis and I were the only Chinese in our class. We looked at one another and were very surprised by our American classmates’ reactions.

“Bowing in this context is an indication of respect,” Hong said. “It doesn’t mean being submissive to authority.”

 “We are not talking about bowing at 90 degrees,” I added. “A lowering of the head is just like tipping your hat.”

The discussion got heated. Our American friends wouldn’t budge. Despite Alan’s explanation that the ritual only bound us for the duration of the class and served to simulate the way the Master would have taught, they objected strongly. In the end, we comprised by agreeing to stand up at the end of the class and bow to the center—to knowledge and to one another for sharing knowledge, but not to anyone in particular.

I was amazed by my American classmates. Kong Zi is a philosopher, a sage and a famed teacher, not a dictator.

Throughout the entire quarter, we practiced these rituals. We stood up to greet Alan. We slipped from time to time by referring to the sage as Confucius instead of Master Kong and corrected ourselves. Alan placed Master Kong’s portrait on the blackboard at each class, but we never bowed to him. Instead, we dutifully bowed to the center of the class from our circular seating at the end of each session and said: “Thank you.” It reminded me of our cultural differences each time we practiced the ritual.  

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. For more information, please visit or

Filming in Chicago

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

By Jian Ping

The docu-drama film based on my book Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China has rolled into production faster than I anticipated. Last Wednesday, film director Susan Morgan Cooper (her latest multi-award-winning documentary film is: An Unlikely Weapon: the Eddie Adams Story) flew in from Los Angeles. Since my daughter Lisa and I both live in Chicago, she wants to present a bit of our life in the city.  I took her to visit the Museum Park, Millennium Park, the Chicago Tribune and Wrigley Building… signatures of the city I love.

On Thursday, her film crew also arrived in Chicago from Los Angeles—Quyen, the cinematographer, and her two assistants Matt and Alex. On Friday, when we started shooting, two local soundmen also joined the team. I was quite conscious of the two large cameras rolling in front of me when Susan conducted her interview. One of them was less than two feet from my face!

“Look at me,” Susan said. She sat next to me on my right. “Don’t ever turn to the camera.”

Susan would not reveal a word of her questions to me beforehand and I was shocked by a thick deck of notes in her hands. Five hours later—with short breaks to cool off the large camera and a short catered-in lunch—I realized we didn’t cover even a third of her notes! We filmed until the sun stopped cooperating with us.

We started early the following day and went through the same process. Susan was a wonderful interviewer—she not only engaged me with the story I had written, but brought me back to the moment of each scene she wanted to dig into and present. I soon found myself lost in the past and forgot all about the camera.

Susan interview Lisa for hours on Sunday. Afterwards, we filmed some outdoor scenes around the city. We were lucky that Chicago had a few unbelievable warm days and despite two evenings of rain, we had plenty of sunshine during daytime.

Susan and her crew worked non-stop—they filmed interviews during the day and night scenes of the city at night. When they returned to their hotel late at night, they had to spend hours downloading all the footage taken during the day. I realized how much work filmmakers must put in their project behind the scenes!

I worked with them nearly all day on Monday. Again, they didn’t stop for lunch and worked until they had to leave for the airport to catch their 8 p.m. flight. In the middle of the day, when Susan realized how desperately Quyen needed a rest, she ordered her to lie down on the sofa for 10 minutes. “I’m okay,” Quyen said five minutes later and went back to her camera again.  

They are certainly a bunch of energy and dedication. I’m very impressed and will certainly miss them. I look forward to working with them again soon on the next set of shooting. I have learned a lot and, I must say, very much enjoyed the experience!

   Jian Ping: Author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit, for more information.

An Earthquake Experience

Monday, April 5th, 2010

(Picture – Guillermo Arias/AP)

By  Ellis Goodman

It is not uncommon to feel little shakes and trembling of the earth at our home in the Desert near Palm Springs in Southern California.  Sometimes, these rattles feel like you are listening to a large truck passing your front door, but even though these may register in the region of a 4.5 magnitude, they do not really have the feel of an earthquake. Yesterday was different.

I was standing in the living room at 3:40 p.m.  We had just returned home from an Easter Sunday brunch in downtown Palm Desert. The wind had come up, and I suddenly heard a whoosh.  I noticed that an outdoor ceiling fan was whirring around and the water was sloshing in the swimming pool.  Suddenly, the building started to shake and my wife called out, “I think it’s an earthquake!”  We ran to each other and stood under a doorway, which is what I had seen as instructions to the public during an earthquake.  The violent trembling continued, paintings on our walls went askew, some books and papers fell off of our bookshelf, a couple of sculptures, including a birthday gift from my daughter three weeks ago, fell over,  and then it was gone.  The trembling stopped, and we checked the house for damage.  Luckily there was none.  

Of course on reflection, we should have run outside of the house as soon as the shaking started, but it’s hard to react so quickly for an event that probably didn’t last more than twenty seconds. But as we reviewed the television news and our computers, we found we had suffered a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, with an epicenter in Baja California, about 100 miles from we are located, some 50 miles from the Mexican border.

On the United States side of the border, there was scattered property damage, particularly in the San Diego area.  In our location we saw on the news, damage to our local Barnes & Noble bookstore and food items scattered all over one of our local supermarkets.  Luckily, there was no loss of  life, or even injuries from what it now transpires was the strongest  quake to hit southern California in nearly 20 years.  Unfortunately, there were two deaths and more than a hundred people injured in Mexico.

It made us think of the severity of the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile.  It must terrifying to wake up to a major earthquake in the middle of the night in a high-rise apartment building.  The shaking of a building is frightening and trying to get to safety when your home is shaking under your feet, power has failed, and the trembling continues for maybe forty seconds or more must be a horrifying experience.  

For my wife and I, it was all over quickly with no damage and no after-effects.  We feel lucky but can now appreciate the forces of nature that can change one’s life in a few seconds.

Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden:

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