At Which Speed of Life Must I Live to Understand “Five Centimeters Per Second”?

By Nhi

Four days ago, I met up with a high school friend whose passion for books converged with mine. We sat at a corner of a pavement cafe, watching streams of traffic flowing while sipping our drinks. My friend suddenly took out two novels that she wanted to give me as presents.

“Choose one!” she said.

Five centimeter per second novel! How do you know that I have always been wanting to read this?” I exclaimed in disbelief.

“You like it? I have never read this book, so I was a little anxious about giving it to you,” my friend said.

“Yes, I do. I watched the anime two years ago and it is one of my favorites,” I replied.

***

Continue reading “At Which Speed of Life Must I Live to Understand “Five Centimeters Per Second”?”

Citizen Kane

By Nhi

[Spoiler contained]

Many audiences regarded Citizen Kane, a black-and-white motion picture directed by Orson Welles in 1941, to be one of the best American movies ever produced. The movie brings to screen a riveting depiction of Charles Foster Kane’s opulent but tragic life, which leaves audiences with some contemplation over child development, the poisonous power of money and the media world.

Photo Credit: http://emmanuel-b.deviantart.com/art/Citizen-Kane-poster-324432562

Citizen Kane was sliced into different narratives recounted from the perspectives of people working and living closely with Kane. This creative storytelling method helps engage the audiences in the quest for learning about a seemingly eminent figure, whose death at the opening prompts many publications to have their first page announcing his death. It is also a quite journalistic approach to “reporting” Kane’s life, which is relevant to the movie’s media theme. Yet, rather than offering a wide array of views on Mr. Kane, every narrator seems to agree that the protagonist is an egomaniac. Each gives the audiences a glance at a phase of Kane’s life, which is connected with one another in a chronological order from when Kane was a child separated from his parents to when he became a lonely man dying after uttering the mysterious word “Rosebud”. Interestingly, no one knows and will know what this word means because every door leading to the understanding of Kane’s personality has been closed off after such an early separation from his parents. The rebellious and contemptuous look that the eight-year-old Kane (Buddy Swan) shot at his new guardian is powerful and haunting, especially to parents. Kane’s aggressive reaction to Mr. Thatcher, a guardian who will guarantee his future reveals Kane’s natural disdain for oppression. This trait will be shown again later, when Kane loses him temper and shouts at the political opponent who threatens to reveal his affair. From the perspectives of Kane’s mother, she is doing the best for him. But for Kane, it is different. Because he never felt loved, Kane grows up to be a person who can’t love anyone, even himself. This sharp detail reminds parents of the danger of raising a child with concerns only over materialistic but not mental needs. Even Kane himself said, “ If I hadn’t been very rich, I might have been a really great man.” “Rosebud”, which at the end is revealed (only to audiences), turns out to be the sled from his childhood. At the border of death, Kane longs for the item that symbolizes the happiness in that certain age, which he experiences very briefly. He, in a way, never grows up, forever trapped in his 8-year-old person.

Kane’s sled from childhood

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Movie Night with Family: Miss Granny

Nhi

The coffee’s lingering smell permeated the air. In the living room, two Swiss roll cakes were put on the table, waiting to be nibbled by the insecure sister (me, who is paranoid with the prospect of finishing the cake before even tasting it) and devoured by the overenthusiastic brother who was trying too hard to prevent me from snatching the chocolate roll cake away from him.

It was 9 P.M.
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Thank You, Mrs. Adeline Yen Mah

By Nhi

To me, biographical books often make compelling reading. Those books, recounted by people who may or may not be professional writers, provoke curiosity and give me many reasons to expect a rewarding read. I appreciate all the stories shared by people. I guess that’s why I am drawn to the WordPress Community, where I can find bloggers recording their lives with words and images. I believe that everyone has a story worth being known, and by seeking to listen to this story, I am walking the first step in forming a deep relationship and in the end, become more open and unselfish. Moreover, each person’s story can also teach readers valuable things and leave room for contemplation. I can never resist stories. They are powerful, acting as the source of wisdom and strength, joy and sorrow, inspiration and epiphany. A lot of people have interest in them; that’s why Humans of New York  becomes so popular, and at the same time, gossip is a rampant issue. By coincidence, I came by the book Falling Leaves while wandering in the library. The book was left lying on a shelf that has books unrelated to biography. Probably, someone forgot to put it back to its shelf. Looking at the cover, I was hooked by the black and white picture of a Chinese family and thus, with an old soul that always treasured old things, felt compelled to read this “memoir of an unwanted Chinese daughter”. The author, born in 1937, noted that the book was a true story she wrote for all “unwanted children in the hope that they will persist to do their best in the face of hopelessness.”

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Adeline Yen Mah was born as the fifth child of an opulent family in Tianjin, China during the time of political turmoil and historical transformation. After her birth several days, her mother passed away at the age of thirty due to puerperal fever. “After I am gone, please help look after our little friend here who will never know her mother,” she said to Yen Mah’s aunt. As her Dad burned all the pictures of her mother after the unexpected death, Yen Mah never knew how her Mom looked like. She grew up to become the least favorite sister and daughter, as some superstitious members in the family thought of her as an unlucky child who caused her mother’s decease. In the book, Yen Mah didn’t describe much how she might long for her mother; however, it was heart-wrenching enough to read Yen Mah’s reflection: “I confided to my Aunt Baba that I held a key in my head which enabled me to enter a magic land. Nothing in Shanghai was so mysterious and exciting as this secret kingdom which I could visit at any time. High up in the mountains amidst the clouds, this place was full of tall bamboos, twisted pines, odd-shaped rocks, wild flowers and colorful birds. Best of all, my mother also lived there and every little child was wanted and welcomed.”

Yen Mah’s Aunt, who took care of her with unconditional love throughout the tormented childhood

Her Dad remarried a Chinese-French beautiful woman soon afterwards, who treated the step children with neither affection nor sympathy. She tried to divide the kids, abused them verbally and especially disliked Yen Mah for her initial protest. “I do think Adeline is getting uglier and uglier as she grows older and taller’’ ”I shall never forget or forgive your insolence.” “Liar!” ”You know very well that you are not allowed to invite any of your friends home.”

These are just some of the words this step mother used to scold Yen Mah. The small girl was treated with cruelty and negligence for many years of her childhood. She was slapped, unfairly treated, abandoned in a boarding school when the Japanese invaded, etc. However, determining to never give in to this appalling emotional abuse, she strived to study well and work hard. Later, she became an independent woman, a physician, a writer and a teacher who founded Falling Leaves Organization, of which mission is to promote understanding between East and West and provide funds for the study of China’s culture, language and history. I adore Yen Mah’s elegant style of writing. She drew the readers in by offering not only a riveting story but also an honest description of Chinese history, culture and people. The events were told in a chronological order; yet sometimes, Yen Mah would narrate an event before another on purpose to create the suspense. For example, the book started with a scene in Hong Kong in May 1988, when everyone was baffled to find out that the father died without money in his estate. “Father had been a man of great wealth and substance. Why did we each hand back Father’s unread will as if we were mindless robots? In order to explain our collective docility that afternoon, I have to go back to the very beginning,” she wrote. I finished reading the book in two days. It was very disturbing to read such a painful story. And sometimes, I would debate whether the book was too biased, and whether everything was truthfully narrated. Nevertheless, I remembered myself constantly taking a break from reading and staring at nowhere while sitting on the train. Prior to leaving the house, I was really mad at my parents. But, the book changed my state of mind; I couldn’t appreciate them more, despite their sometimes hurtful words to me. Many people won’t like the book, since Adeline Yen Mah told a story in which she turned herself into a Chinese Cinderella. In fact, I read some negative reviews on Amazon and readers criticized the writer for writing a story in which she seemed to be the only good person of the family.

However, I appreciate this book from the bottom of my heart. It was written for unwanted children. And I believe that kids who feel unloved by their families or long for affection from parents they never meet, or struggle through their childhood and adolescence will find strength and inspiration by reading this heart-wrenching autobiography.

Thank you, Mrs. Adeline Yen Mah. You did an amazing job.

If you were Hannah Baker, would you choose to end your life?

By Nhi

After experiencing a series of traumatic events in her high school, Hannah Baker chooses to take pills as the least painful way to commit suicide. Not willing to die without telling a specific group of people the reasons why, she records seven tapes, narrating thirteen reasons why she is pushed to the point of letting herself go and sending the package to the first person in the group of people.

“The rules are pretty simple. There are only two. Rule number one: You listen. Number two: You pass it on. Hopefully, neither one will be easy for you.” — Hannah.

 Hannah is the main character in the popular book Thirteen Reasons Why  by Jay Asher, the #1 New York Times and International Best Seller published in 2007. The book deals with suicide, a pretty sensitive and heavy topic for readers to find pleasure in reading. Personally, I feel like it is very challenging to step out of my own life and understand why someone wants to end his/her life without having been in the same type of situation.

Jay Asher, realizing this, focuses on writing Thirteen Reasons Why  as a suspense novel, which keeps the readers turn the pages. He succeeds, which explains why this book gains so much popularity among teenagers. The novel is written in the form of two simultaneous narratives: one belongs to Hannah, another is Clay Jensen’s. Clay is Hannah’s classmate, a boy who works with her in the movie theater during summer and makes out with her one time, but barely knows anything about Hannah. And he apparently doesn’t understand why the tapes are sent to him either.

“These tapes shouldn’t be here. Not with me. It has to be a mistake.”–Clay

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You All And I: We Hold Up Half the Sky

By Nhi

 

I remember the first time feeling terrified of being a girl.

I was in fourth grade, naïve and never reading news.

It was during lunch when my friend told me about something that, well, haunts me until now – nine years later. The story was about a girl who agreed to meet a stranger after chatting through the Internet. She was then drugged, sold to a brothel, beaten and raped by many men. Afterwards, an old man bought her and turned her into his sex slave as well as house keeper. Luckily, the teenage girl managed to escape after two years and return to her family.

I remembered the chill that ran along my spine after she had finished talking. I couldn’t imagine that so many horrible things could happen to a person: being kidnapped, beaten, sold as if she had been something instead of someone. At the time, I was not quite aware of what rape exactly meant. However, I knew for sure, it was a form of violence.

When I became a little older, I watched a TV show that portrayed a young female journalist who risked being sold to a brothel to investigate how the whole process of sex trafficking worked. Intrepid, she pretended to be a girl coming from a poor village and sought a job in the city as a way to support her family at home. She ended up being sold, locked up with other girls, beaten and would have been raped if the police hadn’t had come on time. The show in all was terrible due to the poor acting, yet it was one out of not many TV shows that truthfully depicted a global issue that still, shamefully, happens at many countries during the 21st century.

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