Hapa Reads

 
 Illustration by Naomi Takata Shepherd

Illustration by Naomi Takata Shepherd

 
 

Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter (series) by Laurell K. Hamilton

Alex Chester

I have been reading the Anita Blake series since I was 16, and I am still reading them today. That’s how many books are in this series. A whopping 26 and still going, to be exact. The one thing I love about this series of books is that Anita is one badass motherfucker of a woman. She is incredibly strong of mind and body. The one thing I dislike about this series is how much sex is incorporated now in the more recent books. It gets old after a while, but I keep reading because I love these characters so much.

Anita lives in a parallel universe where Vampires, Were-Animals, and other mythological creatures are real. She herself is a necromancer and a very powerful one to boot. Aside from raising the dead for a living, she also kills vampires that have broken the law. This series follows Anita as she navigates her personal and work life, all the while trying to solve “cases” being thrown at her by the police. Think Sherlock Holmes meets Nancy Drew meets Van Helsing meets Anne Rice… except these vampires don’t cry all the freaking time. Ms. Hamilton’s books may be sexually explicit but I don’t keep coming back for the sex. I come back to her series because I have become deeply invested in characters. I am always rooting for Anita and hoping she kicks the next bad guy’s ass!


Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

Autumn Henry

I wasn’t ready to read a word about giving birth until about 8 months deep into pregnancy. I felt nervous and baffled by what was about to happen. How on earth was I going to get this whole human that I’d been cooking out of my body and live to tell the tale?  As natural as I knew childbirth to be, and as many women that had shared their birth stories with me, I still had fears and doubts and questions galore. But eventually, with 1 month to spare, it was time for “the guide."

Ina May Gaskin is a legendary midwife known for founding a commune called The Farm with her husband during the 70’s in Tennessee. There, she and a group of resident midwives went on to open The Farm Midwifery Center where women from anywhere could receive prenatal care and give birth in the most natural conditions. Ina May eventually wrote several books based on the principles, practices and experiences on The Farm. The Guide to Childbirth is a marvelous read for women interested in any aspect of natural childbirth.

The book opens with dozens of real birth stories  from The Farm. Most were written by the mothers with occasional commentary by the midwives. I often held my breath with awe and suspense as I turned each page of these womens’ incredible sharing - their physical, mental and emotional states of being throughout labor and birth. The stories were extremely varied, offering many different points of view. My subway commutes flew by with my new commerades’ tales and although many of them made me tense imagining their experiences, I eventually started to gain momentum and courage in preparation for my own rite of passage.

The second half of the book is a more technical guide through the different stages of labor and delivery. Ina May writes in a way to invite women to feel empowered through knowledge and perspective. She reminds us of the infinite strength and innate wisdom needed to accept the process of childbirth and let our bodies proceed without fear. No matter the manner in which one actually plans or hopes to deliver a child - meds, no meds, hospital, home birth, c-section, I highly recommend this book to give faith and ground oneself in the power of the body.

Now that I’ve gotten through that whole childbirth thing, I’m looking forward to devouring Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone In The Dark and discussing with Melissa. Just ordered my copy.


The Hot Ones

Matthew Blank

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It’s not a book. I haven’t read a book since the last issue. Even then, I featured a book I was barely tolerating, because I wanted you people to like me.

Here’s a dark secret: not everyone reads books. Reading doesn’t make you instantly cool, and it doesn’t lead people to conclude that you’re smart. You can be smart and spend your day watching PornHub. It just means that you enjoy reading. It’s noble, and I salute you.

A lot of people just don’t have time. Then there are those who stare at text all day for a profession, so the last thing they want in their free time is to look at more printed word. Some people straight up just don’t enjoy reading.

At any given time, I’ve fallen into all three of these categories. At the moment, it’s more a combination of options 1 and 2. I started a new job a month ago, so my day is basically nine hours in front of a computer.

Statistics say that I somehow manage to spend another two hours a day playing with my phone. So that leaves me with maybe three hours of my daily waking life where I can do something else.

Forty minutes of that goes toward eating dinner, because I’m married to the best person ever and she makes me sit down and appreciate the tasty and sometimes healthy recipes she whips up with ease. We then spend about a half hour fighting because I’m jealous and convinced myself that she’s banging the UPS guy like in Legally Blonde. Then I end up on the couch where another screen awaits, albeit a screen with moving pictures and no reading involved.

I generally default to Netflix, half-watching Frasier episodes I already have memorized, since it makes me smile and requires very little concentration. More and more, I find myself drawn to programming that basically amounts to a live-action podcast. It involves immersion in ideas, tangents, whimsy, and introspection. It’s super-healthy.

I love The Joe Rogan Show. I love Joey Diaz’s The Church of What’s Happening Now. For my Korean friends, I spent a year doing nothing but mainlining David Choe and Asa Akira’s iconic podcast DVDASA.

But recently I have been hooked on something called The Hot Ones. This series, found mainly on YouTube, features hip hop journalist Sean Evans interviewing huge celebrities as they eat progressively hotter sauces. A simple concept, it quickly proves genius. Once the wings reach a certain level of explosive spiciness, the heat produces a sort of narcotic effect. An endorphin rush takes place, and we see the interview subjects panting, crying, and generally letting down their guard.

Great example: a recent episode with Michael B. Jordan:

 
 

You know what it feels like when you eat something WAY too hot, or in that moment right before you throw up or shit your pants at Home Depot? For that split second, the totality of your priorities go out the door, and all that matters is surviving for the next few seconds. We find that it is in these moments that real truth and honesty shine through, and a person’s humanity comes to the surface.

Ever feel the need to find your one truth? Just eat something with half a million Scoville units, make sure you don’t rub your eyes or touch your dick, then have a pal ask you some questions. You’ll be amazed by the results.

Aside from being funny as hell, it allows skilled interviewer Evans to get some incredibly candid and entertaining answers out of a roster of subjects ranging from Neil Degrasse Tyson to Charlize Theron to Joe Budden to Kevin Durant to Ricky Gervais to Bobby Lee.

Check it out!


I’ll be gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

Melissa Slaughter

Like Autumn, I’m a die-hard fan of the podcast My Favorite Murder. So like everyone other murderino, I lost my G-D mind on April 25th, the day they caught the Golden State Killer. I had followed bits and pieces of the case and the book tour. But true crime novels aren’t quite my thing. They’re too creepy, too scary, and I’m nervous.

But I bought the last copy Barnes and Noble had and devoured it. It wasn’t just the crime or the recent capture that intrigued me. It was Michelle’s writing. People kept talking about way she uses prose to set a real-scenario. There’s nothing cold about her non-fiction, not is there anything sensationalized about her facts. I’ll Be Gone In The Dark is as much her memoir as it is a crime thriller. The poetry of her writing is all-heart despite the setting of despair and tragedy. Though it’s certainly not for the faint of heart, the book is worth it if you, like Michelle, Autumn, and myself, can’t help but look into the darker side of humanity.


Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Rebecca Lee Lerman

I’m not the best with books. I like things that cut straight to the point and make me feel something instantly. This is why Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur is a perfect read to me. Her short poems about sexual abuse, femininity, grief, heartbreak and coming back to her own power are simple, clear and profound. When you have gone through a painful breakup, she speaks to the heart of every woman. I highly recommend for comfort food. Reading her work is a way to healing your own heart.


Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

Sam Tanabe

I’ve never really been a big fan of poetry, so I was shocked to find how completely captivated I was by the artistry within Night Sky With Exit Wounds. Perhaps I was intentionally searching for a connection to these poems authored by a similarly aged, NYC-based queer Asian-American. Although our life experiences are vastly different, I found myself so moved by the stories and discoveries through Ocean Vuong’s writing. Vuong was born on a rice farm outside of Saigon and immigrated to the U.S. with his family at the age of two. His poems draw from powerful stories passed down orally from his grandmother and re-shape perspective on war, family, sex, and the world we live in. The juxtaposition of beauty and nostalgia with violence and chaos is breathtaking, and he uses words in the most fascinating and innovative way to create stunning imagery. Whether you are into poetry or not, I recommend the journey Night Sky With Exit Wounds will take you on.


Star Wars: The Last Jedi by JAson Fry

GUEST Contributor: LAUREN Lola (@akolaurenlola)

I'm currently reading Jason Fry's novelization of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The nice thing about books is that you can add a lot more detail to the story, without having to worry about a time limit. Books also provide detail into what's going through the characters' heads, and that is something that you can portray only to a limited extent in a film. I love how this book shows a little bit of the relationship that Rose and Paige had, and I was intrigued by Maz Kanata's thoughts when she saw Rose for the first time.

I'm about 1/3 of the way into the book right now, and I'm really enjoying it.

Before this one, I had read Cyan Night's Girl Fighter. It's about a young female MMA fighter who's struggling to navigate her way in both her male-dominated day job and the sport that she attends to in the evenings. But after suffering a brain injury, she is left dealing with its after effects - which it includes traumas from her past resurfacing - and that all eventually jeopardizes everything important to her.

The novel is set in 2010, and while that may not seem like too long ago, the ground the novel covers regarding women in MMA, brain injury effects, and mental health didn't have too much of a knowledge base at the time. You can see how quite the contrary can be said nowadays.

My reading list is always growing, for there are just so many books out there and will eventually be out there. Books currently on my radar include Emily X.R. Pan's The Astonishing Color of After, Peter Tieryas' upcoming Mecha Samurai Empire, and Sarah Kuhn's upcoming Heroine's Journey.


A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Guest Contributor: Max Nupen (@max_nupen)

Last book I read was A Wizard of Earthsea-- revisited it shortly after Ursula K. LeGuin's passing earlier this year.


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