first newsletter
 Shanghai street scene. Photo credit: Karen Kao

My first blog post appeared on this website on 22.10.2016. It took me a while to figure it out, but soon thereafter I started sending out a weekly newsletter to subscribers and fans on Facebook. My first newsletter went into the world on 24.11.2016 and I’ve been going strong ever since.

But some of you who visit my website may not know about my newsletter. And a handful of you might care to read them. So starting today, 26.01.2018, I’m putting all of them online for you to peruse at your leisure.

To help you find your way, I’ve listed the topics discussed, the famous and the not so famous people quoted. I’ve added any place that moved me from the theater to music, dance to film.

I’ve highlighted one search term per newsletter. If you click on it, you’ll go to the newsletter itself and whatever goodies I might have linked to it. For sure, you’ll find my blog post for the week and maybe a book review, too.

Check it out. And if you decide that you cannot bear the idea of missing another one, you can sign up for my newsletter here.


July: Dans les jardins | Mini-reviews: The White Album by Joan Didion; Florida by Lauren Groff

June: How does your garden grow | Mini-reviews: The Palace Thief by Ethan Canin; My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout; Upstream by Mary Oliver

May: Balance | Mini-review: The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story by Edwidge Danticat

April: Back in the Dam | Mini-reviews: Fiesta by Ernest Hemingway; Float by Anne Carson; Pleiades double issue 42.2 and 43.1

March: En España | Publication news: Food Fight goes live at Sweet: A Literary Confection | Mini-reviews: The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien; Having and Being Had by Eula Biss; frank: sonnets by Diane Seuss

February: When in Rome | Mini-reviews: If This Were Fiction by Jill Christman; Matrix by Lauren Groff; Bestiary by K-Ming Chang; The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard

January: Thanks for the literary gifts of 2023


December: Two Pushcart Prize and a Best American Essay nomination | Mini-reviews: Dishoom by Shamil Thakar, Kavi Thakar and Naved Nasir; The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs; The Lyric Essay as Resistance by Zoë Bossiere and Erica Trabold eds.; How to Cook a Wolf by M.F.K. Fisher; Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin; In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado; Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

November: Autumn’s bounty | Mini-reviews: A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam; The Part That Burns by Jeannine Ouellette; The Book of Delights by Ross Gay

October: This deadly love | Publishing news: “Food Fight” to appear in Sweet: A Literary Confection | Mini-reviews: Bao by Erchen Chang, Shing Tat Chung, and Wai Ting Chung; Not a Novel by Jenny Erpenbeck; Land of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen.

September: Women at work | Mini reviews: A Harp in the Stars: An Anthology of Lyric Essays edited by Randon Billings Noble; Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang; Intimacies by Katie Kitamura; The Promise by Damon Galgut

August: Publishing news: “Hats” appears in Issue 13 of Hinterland | Mini reviews: Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative by Jane Alison; The Lover by Marguerite Duras; The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

July: Carpe diem | Mini reviews: I Hold a Wolf by the Ears by Laura van den Berg; Festival Days by Jo Ann Beard; The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited by Louisa Lim; A Fish Growing Lungs by Alysia Li Ying Sawchyn

June: A new look | Book reviews: Negroland by Margo Jefferson; Laogai: The Chinese Gulag by Hongda Harry Wu

May: In the public eye | Book reviews: Niet van hier by Judith Maassen; The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

April: In the candy store | Book reviews: Circe by Madeline Miller, The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez

March: Out of the frying pan and into AWP | Publishing news: Pleiades publishes “Inventory” | Book reviews: Object Lessons by The Paris Review, The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch

February: Happy Year of the Rabbit | Publishing news: Brevity Magazine publishes “Taiwan 1969” and Kenyon Review prints “Fish Tales” | I get accepted to Hedgebrook for a writing residency!

January: Tooting my horn | Book reviews: Redeployment by Phil Klay, The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction edited by Tara L. Masih, The Perfect Loaf: The Craft and Science of Sourdough Breads, Sweets, and More by Maurizio Leo, Dear Life by Alice Munro


December: Achievement level unlocked | Publishing news: “Taiwan 1969” to appear in Brevity | Book reviews: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros; Dialect of Distant Harbors by Dipika Mukherjee

November: Study of the short story | Publishing news: “Inventory” is accepted by Pleiades | Book reviews: The Baby on the Fire Escape by Julie Phillips; A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li

October: En France | Publishing news: “Drift” is published by Hippocampus Magazine | Book review: Granta 63: Beasts

September: On the road (again) | Event announcements | Book reviews: The Glen Rock Book of the Dead by Marion Winik; The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht

August: Writers in the Wild | Book reviews: The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction edited by Dinty W. Moore, Weather by Jenny Offill, Mending Matters by Katrina Rodabaugh, The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

July: Field Notes from the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop

June: Going to the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop | Book reviews: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, Tahoma Literary Review Issue 22

May: I win the 2022 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest | Book reviews: HoodWitch by Faylita Hicks, A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Creating Nonfiction edited by Lee Gutkind and Robyn Jodlowski

April: Tahoma Literary Review publishes my short story “Spoons” | Book reviews: Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous by Manu Joseph

March: Listen to your eyes | Book reviews: The Boys of My Youth by Jo Ann Beard, Bluets by Maggie Nelson, The World Doesn’t End by Charles Simic

February: Ekphrasis | Book reviews: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, Field Study by Rachel Seiffert

January: What I did in 2021 | Book reviews: Granta: New Irish Writing, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, Half in Love by Maile Meloy


December: The long road to publishing “Lord Millet” in The Cleaver Quarterly | Book reviews: Slouching toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion and The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

November: “Mrs Yip” gets a study guide | “Spoons” to appear in Tahoma Literary Review | Book reviews: How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell and That Distant Land by Wendell Berry

October: pausing the blog

Armchair Travel

armchair travel newsletters

This newsletter series, Armchair Travel, tries to understand what I saw while traveling the world in the pre-Covid era.

End of the road | What I Did on My Summer Holiday 13.09.2021

Escape from Perth 06.09.2021

Wheriko | Foodie Down Under | Book review: Modern Love by Lesley Harding & Kendrah Morgan 30.08.2021

The art world Down Under | Body and Soul 23.08.2021

Tasmania | Wallaby World | Book review: When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Díaz 16.08.2021

Hobart | Stargazing 09.08.2021

Melbourne | Book review: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi 02.08.2021

New Zealand | A Cold Wind | Book review: Granta: The Map Is Not the Territory 26.07.2021

Hitting the Hump | Book review: How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee 19.07.2021

Destination: Napali Coast | Book review: Multiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra 12.07.2021

Destination: to visit the Birthday Boy | Book review: Tell It Slant by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola 05.07.2021

Detour: a birthday cupcake 28.06.2021

A week of firsts | Destination: Osaka 21.06.2021

Destination: Onsen | Book review: If I Could Tell You by Jing-Jing Lee 14.06.2021

A Tapestry of Colours | Destination: The Nakasendo | Book review: Citizen by Claudia Rankine 07.06.2021

Destination: South Korea | Book review: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis 31.05.2021

Traveling while Asian in Asia | Book review: A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders 24.05.2021

Destination: My Son and the Kingdom of Cham | Book review: Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson 17.05.20201

Into a tuktuk with Robbie 10.05.2021

Destination: Salon Saigon | Book review: Notes from No Man’s Land by Eula Biss 03.05.2021

Destination: Taiwan | Book review: Mothers and Sons by Colm Tóibín 26.04.2021

Shelter in place

Newsletter on shelter in place
Shelter in Place newsletter series

A newsletter series — hopefully brief — on life in lockdown:

and counting …

End of an era | Lost in Translation | Book review: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf 19.04.2021

Sweets for the sweet | Tap tap tap | Book review: The Four Books by Yan Lianke 12.04.2021

Happy Easter | Growing Season 05.04.2021

Month twelve

Leaving on a jet plane | Montebello 29.03.2021

Atlanta shootings | Sexy 21.03.2021

Strategies | The 36 Stratagems 15.03.2021

On stealing from life | Auntie May | Book review: Parallel Resting Places by Laura Wetherington 08.03.2021

Cows | The House Walsh Built 01.03.2021

Month eleven

Arts & crafts | Mosaic 22.02.2021

Anglerfish | I’m sorry I have to show you the next video 15.02.2021

Heaven or hell | Oh god | Books with a god-like narrator 08.02.2021

A kind reader | Quota | Book reviews: on refugees 01.02.2021

Month ten

Art and shadows | Shadow Box 25.01.2021

Goodbye | Book reviews: elegiac literature 18.01.2021

This is how we roll | Knock Knock | Books to be read 11.01.2021

Beginnings and ends | Fire | Book reviews: time travel 04.01.2021

Month nine

Goodbye 2020 | Looking back | Sneak preview | Book reviews: ghost stories 28.12.2020

Happy birthday, Dad | School days | Review of school books 21.12.2020

Adaptation | A Virtual Book Launch: Take 2 | Book review: For Work / For TV by Fee Griffin 14.12.2020

Wait | My Daily Practice | Book reviews: Craft 07.12.2020

Month eight

Writers: Near and Far | Double or Nothing | China books to be read 30.11.2020

Socially distanced dining | Knoxville | Book launch: For Work / For TV by Fee Griffen 23.11.2020

The long and winding road | Dirt | Book review: The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan 16.11.2020

Dawn | Writing the Other | Reviews of books written by Others 09.11.2020

Month seven

Fall | Green Thumbs | Book review: The Overstory by Richard Powers 26.10.2020

Time flies | Seoul | Book review: Mongrel Tongue by Megin Jiménez 19.10.2020

Amsterdam to Shanghai | Max Lazerich | Book review: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson 12.10.2020

Home to Home | Moon Cake | Asian Short Fiction Reviews 04.10.2020

Month six

Ruth Bader Ginsburg | Eucatastrophe | Fiction by American Women 21.09.2020

Fire season | Getting to Know You | Book reviews: Korea 14.09.2020

Do you remember? | Memory | Book reviews: Memory 07.09.2020

Month five

Pandemic Parties | Dinner Time! | Book reviews: New Zealand 31.08.2020

Sound | Soundscape | Book reviews: dystopia 24.08.2020

Heat wave | How Does Your Garden Grow | Book reviews: Poetry 17.08.2020

Home again | Re-Entry | Book reviews: Vietnam 10.08.2020

Escape from Lockdown | Road Trip | Book reviews: On the Road 03.08.2020

Month four

City of Angels | Ivory | Reviews of books set in Los Angeles 27.07.2020

Church | China book reviews 20.07.2020

My Dad died 13.07.2020

Hong Kong blues | Payback Time | Hong Kong reviews 06.07.2020

Month three

Lockdown Larks | At the Zoo | Book review: White Houses by Amy Bloom 29.06.2020

Food! | Private Dining | Food book reviews 22.06.2020

The Bund 1930s | Emily Hahn | Reviews of literary journals 15.06.2020

Protests and pandemics: Insta-politics | Reviews of books by Black authors 08.06.2020

A belated welcome home: Serendipity | Nonfiction book reviews from around the world 01.06.2020

Month two

On families and distance: All for One | Short fiction book reviews 25.05.2020

Green Amsterdam: Chaos gardens and feeding the Heartland | Book reviews – Japan 18.05.2020

On navigating without a map: The Street Where You Live | Book reviews – Australia 11.05.2020

The art of travel is knowing when to sit still: Creature Comforts 04.05.2020

Month one

Lateral thinking: King’s Day | Listening Pleasures 27.04.2020

Idle hands are the devil’s workshop: Home Project | Book review: Cloudstreet by Tim Winton 20.04.2020

A sociological experiment: A Covid Conversation | How to Write Historical Fiction 13.04.2020

Shelter in place: Writing on the Road 06.04.2020

The Curious Monkey Goes To …

Curious Monkey newsletter

This newsletter series tracks my progress as I embark on a round-the-world journey September 2019 – March 2020.

A quiet Amsterdam 30.03.2020

The end of the road in Australia 19.03.2020

Recycle on the South Island of New Zealand 15.02.2020

The isolation ward in New Zealand 28.01.2020

Hawaii 18.01.2020

Los Angeles 25.12.2019

Kyoto 10.12.2019

The countryside of Japan 18.11.2019

Eat Korea 4.11.2019

Korea 23.10.2019

Hanoi 13.10.2019

The Beach 03.10.2019

Angkor Wat 25.09.2019

Saigon 16.09.2019

Taiwan 12.09.2019


The Curious Monkey Goes To …

Hortus Botanicus Leiden | In the Chinese Garden | Master class Caoilinn Hughes | The Cleaver Quarterly

The Black Hands | Vortex Part 2

The Mapmaker | The Masters Review | In the vortex

July 2019

Caoilinn Hughes | Gardens | My Favorite Things | Submission strategies | Word-painting

Cha | Michelle Elvy | Master class Caoilinn Hughes | The Mapmaker | The Royal We

Democrats Abroad | The Common | The Devil’s Bargain

Banned Books | Ocean | Possessed | Talent on the Move

June 2019

Ghost City | Lights for Liberty | Millet

Bookish Asia | Expanded Field Journal | Master class Caoilinn Hughes | Novel Navigation

A Day of Writing and Publishing | Quiet Desperation | Talk to Me

#Tiananmen 30 | A Boot in the Face | Friendly Faces

MAY 2019

Dead Men Walking | Queen of Spring | Stone the Crows

Backlog | NUNUM Anthology 2019 | Torschlusspanik

Cultural Revolution 2.0 | Master Class Caoilinn Hughes | VERA

The Accidental Reviewer | Ingrid Mertens | Red Stick Festival

Have You Eaten Rice Today? | Science | Sweet Cheeks

April 2019

Amsterdam | Deaths in Venice | Writings on the Wall

Hecomi | Mass: Formulae | Me, Asian?!

Biters | Mouthfeel | You Know You Want This | VERSO

Bookish Asia | Fever & Famine | Han Kang | Kristen Roupenian

March 2019

Female Language | Han Kang |Mythical Saloon | Sheila Heti

Spring | The Smell of Memory | Vegetables of China

BreedReady | Fun in the Dark | VERSO / mass

Homeward Bound | Robert Macfarlane | VERSO | Witness

February 2019

Chinese Constitution | Prodigal Son | Uncle Xi Wants You!

Circus Animals | On Revision | Synchronicity


Chinese New Year | Lucky Strikes | Year of the Pig

Bearded Lady | ICAS 11 | Made in China

Feeding the Homies | How to Get Lost | Travel Fair | Winter Reading

Dragon Ball Z | Food Fight | Original Sin | Republican Fever

2018 | 2019 | Food | Flowers

December 2018

End in Sight – Favorite Foods – Lantern Festival

Christmas Prep – It’s All About Me – Wicked Witches

Cold – Head for the Hills – Lady Bankers

Fork & Knife – German Fairy Tales – Holidays – Ribbons

November 2018

the gift economy – Prize – The Slowdown

Maps of China – Ruben Terlou – sea serpents

Antwerp – Chain Reaction – US midterms – Zurich

100th blog post – Batting Average – Global Voices – Sentinel Tree

Blue Wave – Little by Little – Teaching

October 2018

Empty Pasture in Afternoon – Henny van der Meer – Richard Powers – The Cop and the Showgirl

Limbo – Numbers Game – The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Best of the Net – Frogs – Global Voices – Iron Horse – Treasure

September 2018

A Chinese Banquet – Chinese Cooking – Harvest

Amsterdam University College – International Writers’ Collective – Rules – Uighur

August 2018

Blue wave – Crazy Rich Asians – Lucky number 8

Chairman Mao – Cityscapes – Manu Joseph – Rewriting History

Annotated Alice – M50 – Shanghai Minds – social media – Tianzifang

Canoe – Mother Tongues – The Putz

July 2018

Blood moon – International Writers’ Collective – Violent Femmes

Bergen – Graffiti – Travel writing

Hope – Master Class – Reading with Your Ears – US Voter Assistance

Accommodation – Finding Nemo – Fourth of July

June 2018

Angel Island – Palm-of-the-Hand Stories – US Supreme Court

Bonsai – Master Class – More voter registration

Mindfulness – US voter registration – VERSO/

Gulag with Chinese Characteristics – Sacrificial Acts – Tank Man

May 2018

Modern Couples – Van Gogh in Japan – Who am I?

#bookstagram -Oedipus Rex – Truth or Consequences – Vacation

Body Parts – craft meetings – Skin in the Game

Family  Photos – Joodse Huizen – Women in China

April 2018

Green Dutch – Pollinators – Sweet Dream

Mirror, Mirror – Sloth – Spring Reading

Authors Electric – Global Voices – Ons moeder is dood – #RiceBunny – Spring Reading

Fact vs Fiction – My green thumb – More book reviews?

March 2018

Easter – Father Jacquinot – Jesuits in China

Dutch elections – FRIA Photo ’18 –  Global Voices – Low Countries – Mata Hari – Vivek Shanbhag

Francisco Cantú – Curve of the Land – Granta – Narrative Magazine

Authors Electric – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Janan Ganesh – Prisoner #24816 – Ward Road Jail

Bubble Life – Francisco Cantú – Jennifer Egan

February 2018

#VoteThemOut – Magazine Mashup – Orient Express

Afternoon of Readings – AM Homes – – POV – VERSO/ Uprising Seat at the Table

Coco – El Dia de los Muertos – The Impossible Voyage – Propaganda

January 2018

book clubs – book reviews – Migrant Writing

Bakery Institute – bread – Late Bloomers – poetry

Cory Booker – International Writers’ Collective – Model Minority – Shanghai Literary Review – Tracy K. Smith – Zadie Smith

Ai Weiwei – Geometry – Madeleine Thien – Madame Mao – Socialism Is Great! – Socialist Realism

2017 in Words and Pictures – bee hotels – Georgetown Law – Gustave Flaubert

December 2017

Kristen Roupenian – sushi – The Smell of Opium

Arts Council England – Francine Prose – Tim O’Brien – To Teach or Not to Teach – Will Self

Peace Court – snow – Speaking in Dialects

chiles Mexicanos – Facebook – House of Books – Mohsin Hamid

November 2017

Jiaozi – Laila’s Levain – short stories

Al Franken – John Lassiter – Say It Ain’t So, Joe

East LA – JRR Tolkien – Mind Map – Ramona Magazine – teaching

Bishop Robert C. Wright – Chinese Historical Society of Southern California – Day of the Dead

Devil’s Bargain – Laogai – plus ca change – San Diego Chinese Historical Museum – We Chinese

October 2017

By now, I’ve figured out how to post blogs wherever I am in the world. As a result, you’ll find no gaps in my October newsletters. All sent from sunny Southern California during my second book tour!

birthday cake – long life noodles – Phoenix Bakery – Shanghai Noir

#metoo – China Daily – Harvey Weinstein – Peace Court – Volkenkunde Museum

California book tour – Dipika Mukherjee – Ghost Month – Pages Bookstore Cafe Amsterdam

Afternoon of Readings – book blog tour – Genesis of a Quartet – Hugh Hefner

September 2017

Book Club Questions – newspapers – Pope Francis

A Book Blog Tour – Jeanette Winterson – London attacks – Narrative Magazine – William Carlos Williams

dance hall hostess
dance hall hostess Image source: Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Center

Until 21.09.2017, my newsletter went out under the name Shanghai Lady. That was, of course, a reference to Song Anyi, the main character of The Dancing Girl and the Turtle, but also to myself. Going forward, you’ll see my newsletter come in under the name Shanghai Noir, the genre in which I write.

Mao Zedong – Martial Arts – Mohsin Hamid

Authors Electric – Forum van Rossum – Frank Dikotter – Fujianhua – Reverend William C. Barber – Sea Prayer

August 2017

#FreeRightsDefenders – Dudok Quartet – Hortus Ensemble – Nicole Krauss – The Art of War

Labels and Charlottesville – Kunstmuseum Kloster under lieben Frauen – Lucas Foglia

kokeshi dolls – McTyeire’s School for Girls – SieboldHuis

Britta Marakatt-Labba – documenta 14 – Richard Flanagan – Wanderlust

July 2017

Once in a while, I need a break from blogging and this newsletter. Recharge the creative juices with a little wandering. This summer, my holiday was in Germany: documenta 14 and the Skulptur Projekt, West and East and places in between.

Instagram – Lost in Translation – Not the Booker Prize – Summer reading list

Frankfurt Book Fair – Ginkaku-ji – Grandma – Natsume Soseki

Electric Literature – Fiftiness – foot fetish – Kitten Heels

June 2017

critique groups – Custom House – gardening – John Green

Gemeentemuseum Den Haag – Mine mine mine – Peace Court – Shanghai Quartet

Gong Ho – Hollywood Boulevard – Twitter etiquette

activist fatigue – Marianne Boruch – Glimmer Train – Lawyers for Good Government – The Five Stages of Trump

Fear of Failure

May 2017

Andres Barba – Holland Times – Qipao – vlog

Expatica – Fish – Jean Genet – Goodreads – Hendrik Ibsen – Simon Stone

California Dreaming – Historical Novel Society – LA Review of Books – On the Road – South China Morning Post

April 2017

This was a big month for me. First, the standing-room-only launch of my debut novel here in Amsterdam. Then, just a few days later, a whirlwind book tour through California: from Los Angeles to San Francisco, through Silicon Valley and ending in San Diego.

jetlag – playlist – SFMOMA – Show Don’t Tell

All That Jazz – Paul Beatty – jazz – In the Mood

March 2017

Leo van Gestel – Jackie Hatton – Korea – launch preparations – Singer Laren Museum

Amah – author events – countdown

ACLU – Dutch elections gone wrong – Politically Correct – For  Books’ Sake podcast – International Women’s Day – Kunisada – Rhiannon Jenkins-Tsang – Shame Is a Useless Emotion

family ghosts – Old House – Shanghai longtang

February 2017

book promotion – Bugs Bunny Show – The Sense of an Ending

A Death in the Family – book reviews – The Handmaiden – Park Chan-Wook – Sarah Waters

book promotion – War Without End

activism – galley proofs – The Language of Blood – Yiyun Li

January 2017

Beyond the Bestseller – book review section – – Pig Knuckle Soup – Women’s March

#writersresist – activism – The Good Immigrant

book cover – Labor Pains – Through the Looking Glass: An Asian-American Identity

A New Progressive Narrative – Book by Book – happy new year

December 2016

Christmas Chinese-American Style – Holiday wishes

A Reading List – Du Yuesheng – Suzhou

Slowly but surely, the coin drops. This week’s blog is about the family ghost who inspired The Dancing Girl and the Turtle and the Shikumen House Museum that helped me create that world.

Here’s my second newsletter. Still haven’t got the knack of providing content but at least I managed to link my post for the week: Origami for Authors.

November 2016

This was my very first newsletter. Before I knew what to say or how to attach my latest blog post Chicken Shit. At this point, all I could figure out to say was Welcome to Shanghai.