petition to b&n to pull blog on chinese bootlegged books

Today I began the morning as I often do: perusing social media and checking out articles and other information I wanted to reference later on when I’d have the time to read. I came across this fun article on Barnes & Noble’s blog on why adults (ahem, like me) can put away their “YA shame,” that is, embarrassment over the fact that they still read young adult novels. I enjoyed this quick read, tweeted about it, and saw in the right-hand column that there was also a recent blog post about the bestselling 50 Shades phenomenon hitting China.


Not only in reference to 50 Shades; you know who they’re *really* for.

Now, I won’t touch the 50 Shades trilogy, in English or in any other language, but the headline grabbed me enough for me to check it out. The result? I spent the rest of my time at home before leaving for my personal training session in the afternoon in a huff.

The problems I have with this blog post all have to do with its author’s obvious lack of basic research. The strikes are twofold:

  1. She refers to the translations being smuggled from Taiwan into China as having been  “translated into Taiwanese.” All right — first off — a quick lesson here. Technically, there is no such thing as “speaking Chinese,” as Chinese is essentially a written language. All languages under the Chinese linguistic umbrella are pretty much written the same — the different regions simply pronounce the words differently. In fact, there is some disagreement among linguists as to whether to call it “Chinese language” or, more confusingly, “Chinese languages,” because of all the regional dialects. Additionally, the national languages of both China and Taiwan is Mandarin!
    I won’t bore you with the scientific nerdy stuff that goes into the differences between languages and dialects, but think about this: If Taiwanese were a separate language completely from Chinese, just how would the Chinese be able to read said “Taiwanese” copies of the book? That’s right . . . just as no standard American would be expected to blow up black-marketed copies of fiction imported here from Brazil, if in fact Taiwanese were a different language entirely, the Chinese would not be able to comfortably read it.
    Furthermore, as it turns out (and I only found this out a couple years ago when my cousin’s family came to visit), there is more than one Taiwanese dialect. The one my family speaks is the version common to Taipei. So when it comes to talking about a written book being translated into what is essentially only a spoken dialect, you can understand my confusion. Until I realized she was just lazy (keep reading).
    Now, I could perhaps forgive the writer of the article for not knowing that Taiwanese in fact is not its own separate written language, if not for . . .

    Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 6.32.22 PM

    Image courtesy of

  2. She refers to Chinese currency as “yen.” Now, if I’m mistaken and it is actually clear to others that she suddenly COMPLETELY SWAPPED COUNTRIES to Japan, which for me was never once mentioned otherwise in the article, then that’s my bad. My problem with her talking “yen” when meaning to talk “yuan” (actual Chinese money) is the negligence that implies that hey, it’s still an Asian currency — after all, aren’t all Asians the same?
    This is precisely the battle that we must beat every day. Look, even I had to look up Chinese currency myself, because I’ve never been to China, nor have my parents. When we talk about prices in their homeland, it’s always the New Taiwan dollar. But when it comes to perpetuating the ignorant grouping of “all Asians” as one and the same? That’s like calling Canadians, Americans, and Mexicans all the same thing because we happen to occupy the same continent, regardless of governments and culture.

I’ll point out as well that I only know what I do about the written Chinese language being more or less standard across dialects because I remember this fact surprising me when I took an Asian studies class as an undergrad. (I’m a writer; you can hardly fault me for taking an unnatural interest in the nature of words!) I checked my facts doubly before I made any snarky comments on the blog — there is nothing worse, after all, than someone who corrects others with the wrong information — and this is officially my complaint against this article . . . no, this writer.

This article makes several entities look bad besides its author: It represents Barnes & Noble, a national brand that I have VERY regularly supported since the early naughts (as I call the beginning of the 2000s); non-Asians and some of their not-so-savory decisions to classify Asians as one indistinguishable group of people; Americans, because after all this time this ignorance should not still exist; and writers BECAUSE YOU SHOULD NEVER PUBLISH SOMETHING WITHOUT GETTING YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT . . .

This all just reminds me of that huge scandal that hit Kitchen-Aid with their (now dismissed) social media marketer who tweeted an unspeakably insensitive remark during the presidential debates.

Having both mistakes present in the same article is just about the highest level of writing faux pas I’ve ever seen. It takes away everyone’s credibility (not to mention — and I kid, here — the Chinese people who are gobbling up that literary monstrosity!), and nobody wins.

Barnes & Noble, I love you, but please, for the sake of diplomacy and respect to the Chinese, Taiwanese, and Asians at large . . . take down the article, or at the very least, edit it.


looks like we’re still here (dongzhi festival)

Well, we braced ourselves for the Mayan apocolypse, and it seems things are still intact.


From — such drama!

What better time for another cultural lesson?

Apparently, the Chinese Winter Solstice Festival, also known as the Dongzhi Festival (the “extreme of winter”), happens today. In certain parts of China, such as Guangdong and Canton, the Winter Solstice Festival rivals — and sometimes even surpasses — the celebration of the lunar New Year (the one coming up in February) in importance! Thanks to my friend Robert, for cluing me in, when my own parents are too busy planning for Western holidays in Chicago to give me a heads up. 🙂 (Robert is married to a Chinese woman.) Evidently, some people treat the Winter Solstice as the dawning of a new year instead of waiting around for Chinese New Year. A little confusing for a “hybrid” like me, but anyway . . .

The Winter Solstice, to recap for those of us rusty on our astronomy, is the day when one hemisphere of the Earth (north or south) is farthest away from the sun, resulting in the longest period of nighttime. It usually marks the first official day of winter (at least, here), roughly around the 21st each December. This year, it’s today! The upside of the solstice — and yes, we have summer solstices, too (incidentally flipped on the hemisphere opposite ours) — is that it’s precisely when these long winter nights have peaked, and days start getting longer as we transition back into the warmer months.

In ancient Chinese “yin-yang” philosophy, the Winter Solstice symbolizes the restoration of balance within the cosmos. It’s the time when positive yang energy re-enters, and, consequently, the return of warmth?

yin yang

Photo courtesy of

Just like our traditional Western holidays, the Dongzhi Festival is a time of family reunion and eating. (Interestingly, people of the same last names are also expected to gather at this time. Must be fun for all those Chens out there.) The food associated with the Winter Solstice Festival is, true to Chinese mentalities of, um, just never quite living up to expectation (what? I said nothing), meant to remind us that we are now a year older and should strive for improvement during the new year.

What exactly are these shame-inducing goods?

Photo credit to the Taiwan Culture Portal

Photo credit to the Taiwan Culture Portal

They eat tangyuan, which are essentially little dumpling balls, made of glutinous flour and stuffed with sesame paste, peanut powder, or even plain. They’re then cooked and served in a sweet soup or broth. According to the Taiwan Culture Portal:

This festive food is eaten for several symbolic reasons. The word “tang” means “soup” and the word “yuan” means “round” or “ball,” and when the two words are combined, the phrase is similar in sound with the term for “reuniting” (tuan yuan) in Mandarin Chinese.

And what’s a celebration without a little mythology and sacrifice? I hear the Taiwanese also select a few tangyuan, in the shape of sacrificial animals (chicken, sheep, duck, etc.) to stick to the back of chairs, windows, and doors — this is an offering to ancestors, as well as a type of talisman to protect against evil that might come to harm the kids.

In Taiwan, also, it is a time to enjoy what’s known as “tonic foods,” which are meant to help immunity and keep you strong during the frigid winter months. These include different types of hot pot (loosely described by yours truly as a Chinese version of fondue) — which, now that I mention it, I’m happy to say my parents are thinking about making hot pot available to you fine ladies and gents sometime soon (probably in the new year — the Western one, that is)!

None of this could have been written (by me, anyway) without the help of Wikipedia or the Taiwan Culture Portal — so please check them out if you would like to learn more about the specifics of the festival.

Hope to see you soon as the days start getting longer!

(announcements) secret’s out launch party & restaurant makeover

It was a long, long weekend of sleeplessness and manual labor: After hours on Sunday night, the boyfriend and I showed up, dressed in “junk clothes,” to help my parents begin the visual transformation from the old, blah Mei Shung into something we hope you will all find much more visually appealing.

Turns out the restaurant, small as it may seem, is actually pretty big. I didn’t get my sweet rendezvous with the Sandman till four in the morning, and after peeling myself off the sheets the next day, immediately found my way back to Mei Shung to continue the job.

Moose and Anthony christening the old blue-grey walls with strokes of “zen” green 🙂

It was over-ambitious to expect the makeover to take place in 24 hours. Not only did we have to paint, but we have other additions to work on over time (which includes new dish ware and artwork), so in the interim, please “pardon our dust”:

What do you think of our new colors?

Once we’ve gotten a little more of our makeover underway (there will be another long night next weekend, I’m sure), I’ll post an article on the before & after — not that we’d like to dwell on the past, but it’s always fun to see how far you’ve come!

Now, for the other exciting bit of news . . . that Secret’s Out launch party I mentioned last time? If you’re keen on tasting the best and most authentic cuisine we’ve got to offer, tickets are on sale now so don’t forget to snag yours:

Secret’s Out All-You-Can-Taste Launch Party:
Thursday, 8 November 2012
Adult tickets $20 (includes tip) in advance, $25 at the door.
Children 12 and under $10.
Food bloggers/press enter for free.
Call us at 773/728.5778 to get on our list now. See our official event on Facebook!

What do you think of our new colors? Leave a comment below!

(special event) mom’s birthday & save the date

Happy birthday to my mom! (She always forgets, but I don’t!)

I thought today would be a great day to release our special save-the-date for our most loyal and foodie friends out there . . .

Stay tuned for further details.

We’re also undergoing a considerable makeover this coming weekend, just in time — so you’ll be able to enjoy the food and check out the new ambience of our restaurant space. Can hardly wait!

Tickets will go on sale within a week. Questions? Comment here or drop us a note on Facebook. (Don’t forget to like us!)

Are you a food blogger? Contact us here for a free ticket to our launch party. 🙂

(holiday) double-ten day

Parents dropped the gun on this one and forgot to tell me it was coming up! So I didn’t have time to write up about Double Ten Day — a national holiday for Taiwan — so, thanks to the Taiwanese-American Professionals (TAP) of Chicago organization, who wrote a little blurb about it on an upcoming event to celebrate the day, here’s a synopsis:

Double Ten Day (雙十節) … occurs annually on October 10th.

For Taiwan, Double Ten is similar to the Fourth of July for the USA, as it commemorates the start of the uprisings in 1911 that led to the collapse of the Qing dynasty and the establishment of the Republic of China. Overseas Chinese and Taiwanese played a key role in the birth of the ROC because founding father Sun Yat-Sen received support from many overseas communities. Large Double Ten Day parades  occur annually all over Taiwan and in the Chinatowns of San Francisco and Chicago.

For more information on the holiday, you can also visit this page. Come in and celebrate with some Taiwanese cuisine tonight!