Originally created 01/30/05

Books briefs

How to celebrate the Chinese way

NEW YORK - Those who want to know the hows, whats and whys of the Chinese New Year celebration will find plenty of advice and information in "Good Luck Life: The Essential Guide to Chinese American Celebrations and Culture."

Rosemary Gong, a Chinese-American, cites history, legends, customs, rituals and cuisine to describe the celebrations and explain the significance of special occasions in Chinese-American life.

Besides the familiar lunar New Year festival, which begins this year on Feb. 9, there are the Hungry Ghosts Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, and Double Ninth Day - or Chong Yang - which falls on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month and marks the traditional end of autumn.

Gong also explains Chinese family occasions - the wedding, the Red Egg and Ginger party for newborns, milestone birthdays, and funerals - and offers lists of things to do to prepare for each event and when to do them.

She explains why the 60th birthday is so important, when and how a name is selected for a newborn, the significance of tangerines in the New Year festival, and why "4" is considered unlucky but "44" is a "very very good" number.

There are recipes for traditional Chinese fare - gai-jow (chicken wine soup), Mrs. Chan's ngow-sing cow tail cookies (not actually made with cow tail), and sauteed snails with black bean sauce - and a guide to the symbolism of certain foods commonly served at the New Year celebration.

The book is published in paperback by HarperResource at $14.95.

Workshop kit is something to write home about

NEW YORK -A writer needs three things: something to write about (a subject), something to write with (a pen) and something to write on (paper).

All three are contained in "The Writer's Workshop in a Box: The Ultimate Tool To Begin Your Writing Life" edited by Sandra Bark.

Not really a box, this compact kit with a magnetic closure unfolds to reveal compartments that hold a ball point pen, a writer's journal with lined paper, 30 cards with daily writing exercises, and a 90-page softcover book, "The Art of Writing."

The book contains writing lessons on topics that include getting started, evaluating your work, making revisions, and overcoming the dreaded writer's block.

Students can apply what they've learned to the writing exercises, which suggest, among other projects: use a travel guide to help write a story set in another country, create a fictional story based on an older person's real-life experience, or write an editorial that takes the opposite view from one in the newspaper.

"The Writer's Workshop in a Box" is published by Tarcher-Penguin at $22.


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