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Day of the Dead

Shanghai Noir

The Dancing Girl and the Turtle: publication date 01.04.2017

Last month at Ramona Convent was the first time in a long while that I heard someone say grace before a meal. I didn't think I could do it, but somehow I was able to dredge up the words to the Lord's Prayer from some hidden cache in my brain. So I'm hoping that it's more than my godlessness that makes me applaud this statement by Bishop Robert C. Wright, Diocese of Atlanta:

Let's not pray.
As someone who convenes and commends prayer for a living, what America needs now is less prayer and more action from her elected officials. When the doers of evil are foreign born, suggestions for policy and action flow forward. When the doers of evil are Americans with automatic and semi-automatic weapons we are invited to moments of silence and prayer. Silence is what we use to hear God speak, not a place to hide from our responsibility. Prayer is not a refuge for cowards. Prayer is where we steel ourselves to partner with God for good. Please do not invite me to pray in response to the horror of Sutherland Springs Texas, unless it is to pray courage over elected officials who intend to work for the ban of automatic and semi-automatic weapons.


The pledge of allegiance was another one of those muscle memories that came in handy last month. This time, I was at an elementary school in Chinatown waiting to speak to the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California. As the crowd rose to its feet, I couldn't help wondering, hand over heart, how long ago this practice had been introduced. Clearly, this was a demonstration of patriotism meant to belie the foreignness of the faces in the room. Did that need arise in the bad old days of Chinese exclusion and discrimination or the equally evil present of Trump's America?

History is an attempt to interpret the past in order to understand the present and predict the future. The task of historians is to uncover that truth though it may be hard to find. This week's blog is a riff on my tangles with historians, academic and amateur, during my book tour last month in Southern California.

Its title Day of the Dead comes from a whole different past. Quinceaneras and birthday pinatas. Eating tamales on el Dia de los Muertos. I have a Day of the Dead collection that includes a candelabra (pictured above), a wedding party, a mariachi band, a coffee mug and a pair of porcupine earrings. Remembering the dead is another way of understanding our past.

Shanghai Noir
Peace Court
Ghost Month
Genesis of a Quartet

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