Pushing the Limits of Transracial Adoption

My sister Amy forwarded this thought-provoking article to me: Raising Katie: What adopting a white girl taught a black family about race in the Obama era.

In case it’s not immediately obvious, here’s the focal point of the piece:

So-called transracial adoptions have surged since 1994, when the Multiethnic Placement Act reversed decades of outright racial matching by banning discrimination against adoptive families on the basis of race. But the growth has been all one-sided. The number of white

Unaccustomed Earth

Today I was reading Unaccustomed Earth, a collection of stories which owes its title to this great quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Custom-House:

Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn-out soil. My children have had other birthplaces, and, so far as their fortunes may be within my control, shall strike their roots into unaccustomed earth.

Well put.…

Michael Jackson Matters to China

I wasn’t planning on writing anything about Michael Jackson’s passing, but when it came up again and again and again in my conversations with Chinese friends, I was forced to acknowledge something: although the average American pop star goes largely unknown in China, Michael Jackson really mattered to China. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting the reaction which his death provoked — the text messages, the email tribute forwards, the many conversations. What made this pop star so important in China’s eyes?…

Asian Poses is Hilarious

It might make you nauseous, but it’s also hilarious: Asian Poses.

puffy-cheeks-seo-you-jin-01-360x540

Via Adam Schokora (via Twitter).…

Shanghainese Stand-up Comedian Zhou Libo

Zhou Libo

Zhou Libo: Xiaokan 30 Nian

I haven’t noticed any online English language mentions of Shanghai comedian Zhou Libo (周立波) yet, but he clearly deserves a bit more attention. His DVD, 笑侃三十年, has been selling like hotcakes in DVD shops across Shanghai for weeks, and I hear his upcoming live performances are selling out.

You could say his act is “comedy with Shanghainese characteristics” because 笑侃三十年 is Zhou’s humorous take on the changes Shanghai has experienced in the …

Black English and Chinese

I was helping a Chinese friend with her English, and was very interested to read the following dialogue in her book. (I have preserved the grammar and punctuation of the original, but I didn’t feel like writing “[sic]” everywhere.)

The dialogue:

A: Your English is not like American English.

B: Oh, I see. What I speak is true American English, but it is not standard American English.

A: What kind of English is it?

B: It is Black English.

The Toilet Paper Excuse

My friend Sean has a hilarious post up about cultural differences compounded by generation gaps in China. This particular drama revolves around toilet paper. Here’s an excerpt:

By the time the night was finishing up and the massage was over, it was quite late, around 10:30pm. The parents live in a slightly remote part of Shanghai, only accessible by bus or taxi, and they always refuse to take a taxi because its too expensive (even if I offer to

Lisa Movius on the Shanghainese

Lisa Movius, an American that has been in Shanghai for almost 10 years, has written up some thoughts on the local language and culture in her post, Beleaguering the Shanghainese.

Some excerpts:

I also no longer think that Shanghainese are snobby. Somewhat, and some of them are, but not hugely more than anywhere else. The Shanghainese are proud, and they are defensive. That a scruffy, disparate batch of immigrants and refugees could have fused such a coherent urban

Failed Humor Begets Violence?

I read this article on Discovery.com last week: Telling Bad Jokes Invokes Hostility, Violence. It prompted me to reflect upon my struggles with humor in foreign languages, and in English too.

Random observations:

  • The more familiar I am with the people I am with, the funnier I am. Thus, in my nuclear family I am a comedic superstar, while at work or when meeting people for the first time, not so much. Other friends fall somewhere in the middle.

Cultural Angles on Donations

A Chinese friend of mine told me that at her workplace, there was a fund-raising effort going on for the victims of the recent earthquake. Most employees contributed 100 RMB. My friend wanted to give a bit more, so she was about to put in 500 RMB when a co-worker pulled her aside.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m giving 500 RMB.”

“Everyone else gave 100. The boss only gave 300. Who do you think you are, giving 500?”

My …

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