Blog Monday Books Reading & Writing

Monday Books No. 20: Persian Girls by Nahid Rachlin

Aloha! For Monday Books I would like to recommend the classic memoir PERSIAN GIRLS by Nahid Rachlin. This memoir is an example of how lyricism and truth deliver transcendence. This is the art of literature at its best, and in its fluidity shows us how writing easily moves across genres. While categorized as memoir, the book gives reads like a novel. This is a masterful piece of writing and I highly recommend it as a necessary read for a range of reading lists: high school through graduate school. It’s that good, relevant, and accessible.

I have assigned this book for many classes and it has resonated with all of my students because this is the story of an individual woman both belonging and at odds with her culture. She loves with compassion and forgiveness, but rises with determination to assert herself into existence. This book was written decades ago. Rachlin still receives letters from women about this book. It’s a CLASSIC. I don’t say that about many books.

Rachlin weaves story and raises questions: How do women negotiate lives in a world where men determine their destinies? (Let’s be realistic here–this is globally…we do not have gender equity). What are the compromises between sisters? How do we long for freedom and comfort? When are we free to express our hearts and humanity? Who defines the terms of motherhood? The role of the wife? The duty of a daughter?

She is one of the first women from Iran to give Western readers a picture of life in the country of her origin and her body of work underscores a 21st century global aesthetic–transnational and polycultural.

I am THRILLED that Rachlin will be visiting my Women’s Creative Writing Workshop on February 27! I am also indebted to her for making a specific difference in my own life. She was the judge for the AWP Grace Paley Prize in 2015 and Swimming in Hong Kong was the sole finalist for this prize. She saw me. Forever grateful and deeply honored.

Monday Books Poetry Reading & Writing

Monday Books No. 19: A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora by Jenna Le

Aloha! It’s time for Monday books and I would like to recommend A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora by Jenna Le. This is a wonderful book of poetry full of texture, light, and feeling. 

Yes, this is a book that even that disinterested non-reading adolescent who sits in the back of your class and is a rather big pain in the neck most of the time, will really enjoy. Yes, Bored Teen Boy entered my class yet again, to the silent reading hour with nothing to read. I had a million things to do. I said PICK A BOOK. ANY BOOK. I think I just plopped the book in front of him. 

Bored Teen Boy liked this book.

THIS IS A MIRACLE BOOK. I’m not sure if Bored Teen Boy read much of the required reading.  Do know that Bored Teen Boy this book and the biography of Eddie Aikau. Reading can happen. And books like this make it happen.

Monday Books Reading & Writing

Monday Books No. 18: The Master’s Keys Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House


It’s time for Monday books and today is a special one. It’s 1/18, the day that we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and remember his legacy.

Like all people in the US, my life has been shaped by Dr. MLK. My father came to the US in 1959. He was 24 years old and a medical doctor. Dad chose UC Berkeley and obtained his PhD in biophysics. He quoted Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech when we were kids and he had a black and white poster of King on the door of his lab across from Einstein’s.

When I was in the third grade, I went to the library, made a copy of the speech and neatly stapled it into a piece of red construction paper and presented it to him for his birthday. In many ways, Dad believed the American Dream and he lived it.

On this day I would like to recommend the writer and poet Audre Lorde’s The Master’s Keys Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House.

Lorde writes with clarity, beauty and ferocity. She reminds us that yes, if we dare to live bravely, we can change the world. So on this day, I ask you to live with all the bravery you can summon and honor the legacy of the leaders who have shown us how to do this, and yes, dream that you can and believe in yourself. You can do this. And when you do this, others will follow.

Monday Books Reading & Writing

Monday Books No. 17: Pachinko

Aloha! Welcome to Monday Books in 2021.

I’ll be recommending Greatest Hits and more recent titles by Asian/Asian American women writers TWICE a month.

To kick off 2021, I want to recommend Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. Despite its length and its weighty subject matter, this is a book for everyone. It’s a book for someone who favors plot twist; it’s a book that gives a broad stroke overview of Koreans in Japan; it’s a book that reveals gender role obligations; it’s a book that never condescends to the reader. It resonates without judgement and offers hard truths without polemics.

The magic? Lee likes people. She gives us the turbulence of human experience: There is hope, pathos, and yes, han–the untranslatable Korean word that speaks to sorrow, perseverance, resilience, determination, intractable spirit, and memory.

This is a great book! Read it.

And register NOW for classes at

~empowering women through narrative~

#asianamerican #writing #women #creativewritingclasses
#POC #BIPOC #fiction #memoir #poetry
#drstephaniehan #womenwarriorwriter

Monday Books Reading & Writing

Monday Books No. 16: Pei Pei – The Monkey King

Aloha! It’s time for Monday Books and today it’s a collection of poetry–Pei Pei the Monkey King by Wawa.

Wawa writes in both English and Chinese and also publishes under Lo Mei Wa. This book references the 2014 Umbrella Revolution and features poems in both English and Chinese, along with an introduction by translator/poet Henry W. Leung and an interview with Wawa. These poems are playful, exuberant, and distinctly Hong Kong in their references to myths and locale, and the complexity of feeling that the poet expresses for her place of origin.

This is a highly teachable collection. The song, rhythm, and intelligence of Wawa/Lo Mei Wa’s poetry prompts student curiosity about Hong Kong, and its people’s dreams and desires.

Understand that the action and language of revolution is often viewed in terms of masculinity, but this voice tells us that there are personal angles within the political, and that women’s contributions to the narrative of societal change are significant and distinct. Read it!

Register now for classes at

~empowering women through narrative~

Monday Books Reading & Writing

Monday Books No. 15: The Prince of Mournful Thoughts and Other Stories

Aloha! I want to recommend The Prince of Mournful Thoughts and Other Stories by Caroline Kim. This is literary fiction, and in its craft and worldmaking is literary realism at its best. The stories cover a range of times, places, and characters—but the book’s central characters are unapologetically Korean or Korean American. This is the book’s strength.

I believe due to the proximity of whiteness, Asian American literature frequently navigates out of the space of the specificities of their group’s experiences, and what then follows is an explanation of the group or cultural ideologies or situations to a broader (white) audience. Kim has little inclination to do this; instead, she pulls the audience into the Korean/American experience. Thematically, this book thematically points to the Korean idea of han the belief of resilience and endurance. Pathos and blues. Memory, connection, and longing. There is no translatable English equivalent to han. It is distinctly a Korean expression and idea. Kim’s stories have this quality. Lyrical. Aching. Transcendent. Kim has a distinct literary voice.

This is a serious and weighty book and the crafting of each story is a remarkable testament to writerly technique. These are also teachable stories, so I recommend them to teachers – grades 11/12 on up. Formidable writing. Read it! 

Become the author you want to be. Honor your voice. Learn craft, narrative, and register for classes at