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Archive for April, 2012

One Book One Chicago spring program

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Lisa and I share a moment with Yiyun Li at the reception for her at HWLC

Chicago Public Library‘s One Book, One Chicago (OBOC) program this spring has selected Chinese author Yiyun Li’s Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, a collection of short stories. Li came to Chicago to conduct a “conversation” with Achy Obejas, a Chicago author, to discuss about her book and meet with readers in the city at the Harold Washington Library Center on Thursday, April 19.

Since its inception in 2001, OBOC has featured 21 authors, including Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice), Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird), and Saul Below (The Adventures of Augie March).

Li is the first Chinese author being featured in the OBOC program.

“It’s a great honor,” Li said in our conversation.

I asked her about her experience of writing in English, Li said writing was all about telling stories, no matter in what language. “I started writing in English. In a way, English is my first language in writing,” she said.

Born in 1972 in Beijing, Li moved to the U.S. 1996. She graduated from the famed Iowa Writers’ workshop with M.F.A. in 2005 and has published many short stories in major magazines in the West. She has received numerous awards, including the Guardian First Book Award, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, and the PEN/Hemingway Award. In 2010, Li was named by The New Yorker as one of the top 20 writers under 40.

A bus shelter ad for One Book One Chicago on Michigan Ave.

“Li’s book is one of the more contemporary stories set in modern China,” Susan Huizinga, a friend in my book reading group commented. “What struck me most in her stories is the sadness as a common thread. Listening to her talking tonight helped me understand better,” she continued.

Annie Tully, director of Chicago Public Library’s OBOC program said the selection of Li’s book was appealing to Chicago readers. “Everyone wants to know more about China right now…. More people are drawn to it because it’s a Chinese author and the stories are set in China.”

OBOC runs twice a year, one in the spring and one in the fall. This spring’s program will continue to the end of April. In addition to Li’s book, the program has also included film screening, performances, lectures, and discussions throughout the city. It’s one of Chicago’s major cultural events. There is still a few days and programs left before the end of the month. Read the book and check out the programs!

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into a feature-length documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.

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Chinese-American Museum of Chicago opens new exhibition

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

In the middle of Chicago’s Chinatown on 23rd Street stands the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago. After a devastating fire that destroyed nearly everything in 2008, the Museum, much like the journey of survival and triumph of immigrants in this country, re-emerged with splendor and opens with a new exhibition today.

The new exhibition “My Chinatown: Stories From Within” features the life stories of many Chinese in Chicago. The preview reception and celebration held at the museum last night drew a large crowd of community leaders and supporters, including Soo Lon Moy, Exhibition Committee Chair; Kim Tee, President of the Museum; Gary Johnson, President of the Chicago History Museum; and Terry Mazany, President of the Chicago Community Trust.

The joy and excitement of Moy and Tee were contagious. The new museum and new exhibition are the result of years of hard work and dedication.

“We re-did everything in the building,” Tee said with pride.

Mazany joked about Chicago’s history of getting “something good from devastating fires”, comparing the rebirth of this beautiful city from the fire in 1871 to the nicer Museum we have today.

In addition to My Chinatown, other exhibitions include “Great Wall to Great Lakes: Chinese Immigration to the Midwest” and “MAPPING”–An exhibit of works by students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago that explore Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood and its importance within the Chinese and Chicagoland communities.

Visit the Museum if you are in the vicinity. It is located at 238 West 23rd Street, 
Chicago, IL 60616. Phone: 312-949-1000. Check out more information at

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into a feature-length documentary movie.

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New York – New York

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

New York City

Having spent a few days in New York with my wife recently, which unusually was for pleasure purposes and not one of the many business trips that I’ve made over the years, I was able to observe Manhattan from a new perspective.  New York is undoubtedly a unique city.   The frantic pace and excitement pervades every corner of the City.  The elegant shops, hotels, offices and theaters crammed onto the rock that is Manhattan, gives the impression of one area after another overflowing into the next. 

The Broadway Theaters are some of the best in the world, as are the many museums and art galleries.  The Symphony Orchestra, Opera and Ballet are all represented in magnificent buildings, and sight-seeing opportunities abound from the Statue of Liberty, to Ellis Island, to the Empire State Building and the Rockefeller Center. 

Statue of Liberty National Monument, Ellis Isl...

It is at once exhilarating and exhausting.  However the City clearly has many outdoor attributes.  Central Park – described as the lungs of New York – is truly one of the greatest parks in the world.  Its weaving paths and roads, soaring rock formations, cafés and of course the zoo provides something for everyone.  The joggers, walkers and cyclists, particularly on a Sunday, flood the Park, keeping up the frantic pace that is New York City.  It is only the tourists’ carriages with their boldly-dressed drivers and the clip clop of the slow-moving horses that brings the pace of the City down to earth.  On the sidewalks, the populace aggressively rushes up and down the street. Open air cafés abound and there’s every type of food you can possibly think of.  Every ethnic background and nationality is represented in New York, and it clearly shows in its restaurants.

One of the things I find fascinating however is the thought of the children growing up in the elegant streets of Manhattan.  Very expensive private schools find themselves squeezed between elegant homes and corporate offices.  You see beautifully dressed children with their Tod’s Shoes and Polo outfits, walking home with their nannies or being pushed frantically at an alarming pace in strollers by their super-fit, glittering white-smiling mothers.  Where else in the world do children come home from school through such clutter and clatter?  It’s an amazing sight.

New York however is a hassle as well.  The traffic congestion is impossible.  You never know how long it’s going to take to go from one place to the other.  You’re either 20 minutes early, or 20 minutes late.  I don’t think there is another city in the world which has so many limos.  They’re lined up, doubled-parked outside of every hotel, restaurant and office building.  Their customers include business tycoons, celebrities and tourists from every corner of the world.  Limo or no, they’re still going to get stuck in the traffic!

For me a few days in New York is exhilarating, exciting and quite enough.  I’m always quite happy to come home to the relative calm and hassle-free Chicago.

Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden:

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End of the Rainbow Opening Night

Monday, April 9th, 2012

My wife and I have just returned from a fun few days in New York.  We were invited to the Opening Night of End of the Rainbow at the Belasco Theater on Broadway.  End of the Rainbow is a play with music set in 1968 in a London hotel suite and a nightclub, where a shaky Judy Garland has arrived for yet another of her fabled comeback engagements.  Within a few months of that visit, she had passed away at the age of 47 from an overdose of drugs.

This harrowing story is interspersed with an incredible performance by the English Actress Tracie Bennett who won the Olivier Award in London where End of the Rainbow was a smash hit.  Her intense and electrifying interpretation of Judy Garland left us feeling exhausted, but my hair was standing on end as I watched Tracie Bennett turn into Garland in every possible way.  This petite English actress looked the part, sounded the part and had the Judy Garland movements to a tee.  This was a sensational performance which left the audience exhilarated and giving a standing ovation that lasted for minutes.

Ben Brantley of The New York Times said that Tracie Bennett gave one of the most complete portraits of an artist that he had ever seen and went on to say, “Touch this woman at your own risk – she burns.”

You can imagine the excitement and tension in the air at the end of this performance.  It was our first “first night,” and the black-tie red carpet event at the theatre was exciting and exhilarating as we were conscious that we were witnessing a unique moment in the theatre which would surely garner a Tony Award for the delightful Ms. Bennett.

However the evening wasn’t over.  We were also invited to the after-show party at the Plaza Hotel.  Drinks and abundant food added to the buzz when Tracie Bennett and the rest of the cast arrived. 

The Director and Producers were on edge, awaiting the reviews.  The old days of waiting for the newspapers to “hit the sidewalk” no longer apply, in this age of iPhones and iPads.  Within an hour or so of the closing, the word rippled through the crowd that The New York Times and others had given outstanding reviews to the show.  The champagne was flowing, hugs and celebrations were in the air. 

 We didn’t leave the party until after midnight, but End of the Rainbow and our Opening Night experiences were something never to be forgotten.


Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden:

Another successful run in Chicago

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

Sold Out Screening at the Gene Siskel Film Center

Mulberry Child finished its second run at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago last Thursday, with 11 screenings over a period of one week. Most of the shows were sold out, and each of the Q & A sessions lasted 45 minutes or more. I was and still am very touched and honored.

I was pleased to see some friends and friends’ friends come to the screenings; and more Asians, including many Chinese, in the audience this time. I was thrilled, like I was at the first round of screenings, that the audiences connected with the themes of Mulberry Child from various levels regardless of their backgrounds. When I saw several friends/viewers who had watched the film in January came back again, this time with their friends and family members, I was moved beyond words. Many members of

Jian Ping talking with audience after screening

book clubs, Women of the World, and the Asian Group of IWA that I had met and given talks to before also came to the screenings, some coming as far as Crystal Lake, more than 50 miles away!

Meanwhile, Nina Metz’ at the Chicago Tribune released a coverage on Mulberry Child the day the film opened its screening. The half-page write up was accompanied with a large photo of my daughter, Lisa, and me and gave a very good idea of what the film is about.

Many heartfelt thanks to you all for your interest and support!

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into a feature-length documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. The film just finished its second run for a week at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago.

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