The first time I heard Billie Holiday’s rendition of “Strange Fruit” I was confused. What was she . . . could she be . . . NO! . . . and then the awful realization that she was singing about lynching — one of the most horrific, unconscionable atrocities in American history.
Strangely enough, before I read Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song by Gary Golio and Charlotte Riley-Webb, I hadn’t really thought of “Strange Fruit” as a protest song, at least not the kind of protest song popular at Labor Union rallies à la Woody Guthrie, or sung in unison at 60’s civil rights marches or counterculture anti-war sit-ins. Protest songs roused and inspired people to stand up to social injustice; they unified, mobilized and galvanized.
Of course “Strange Fruit” did all of these things, but I think it should be in a category of its own. It shocked and outraged people, leaving many anguished and ashamed. It was, and still is, hard to listen to, and it was hard on the singer, as it brought to bear her own struggles with racism, violence, drug and alcohol addiction — all the ugliness she had experienced as an African American woman. Billie’s performances of “Strange Fruit” could be thought of as visceral theater. Singing it became an act of courage, as she was sometimes “verbally or physically harassed” afterwards.
I’d been keeping my fingers crossed ever since Debbi first mentioned working on Mochi Queen, hoping and hoping over the years that just the right editor would champion this heartwarming story about an 8-year-old Japanese American girl who wants to help her family make mochi for New Year’s. So, it was beyond thrilling to hear that flamingo-and-dessert-loving Jasmine, a spirited and determined royal mess maker, would not only have her own book, but her own series. And how much do I love that the first title in the series is about food? 🙂
“It may be that poetry makes life’s nebulous events tangible to me and restores their detail; or conversely, that poetry brings forth the intangible quality of incidents which are all too concrete and circumstantial. Or each on specific occasions, or both all the time.” ~ Frank O’Hara
It’s always fun, after a delicious Chinese meal of won ton soup, spring rolls, lemon chicken, sweet and sour pork, Peking duck, steamed sea bass, and beef chow fun, to take that last sip of jasmine tea and crack open your fortune cookie.
Oh, the anticipation as you hope for something positive: “You will meet a tall British actor whose last name rhymes with ‘girth,'” “You will write the next picture book bestseller,” or, “You will travel to a foreign land and have many exciting adventures.” 🙂
For those few seconds before I remove that little slip of paper, anything is possible. I hold my breath as I read, “I cannot help you. I am just a cookie,” or, “You will be hungry again in 30 minutes.” On a really good day, I’ll get “You have rice in your teeth.”
Nothing that helps the digestion more than a cheeky cookie.
I’ve always wondered about the people who write these fortunes. Seems like it would be a blast. You have the power to determine destiny . . . or, at the very least, make someone feel good. If you’re a poet, you can take fortune cookie fortunes to the next level. If you’re Frank O’Hara, you can create food for thought that is thoroughly charming and delightful.
Though I had the usual first day jitters, it turned out fine in the end. I loved my kind teacher Mrs. Fujimoto, painting on a real wooden easel, listening to funny stories, taking a nap on my new denim sleeping bag, and best of all — snack time with milk and graham crackers. 🙂
Reading Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten (Doubleday, 2017)kindled such fond memories. Written by the delightful, diverting, kitty-loving Candice Ransom and illustrated by Christine Grove, this must-read picture book is absolutely adorable and officially hits shelves today.
It seems Amanda Panda (who loves the color brown, wants to be a school bus driver when she grows up, and can run really fast downhill), isn’t suffering from first day jitters at all. She knows precisely how her day will go: she’ll print her name “in big, important letters on the board,” build “the tallest block tower,” and run “the fastest of anyone.” After all, her big brother Lewis did all of these things, so why wouldn’t she?
Well, she hadn’t counted on Bitsy — a diminutive, cutesy, head-to-toe-in-pink pest, who glombs onto Amanda as soon as they board the school bus.
For some reason, Bitsy is bent on being Amanda’s new best friend. But she takes the wind right out of Amanda’s sails, grabbing all the attention as she repeatedly beats her to the punch. Bitsy hogs blackboard space with her big annoying handwriting, builds a Kitty Castle that Ms. Lemon loves, and even contributes to Amanda losing a downhill race. With Bitsy as Head Princess, it’s definitely “the end of the world.” But Amanda has a plan.