Monday News: World Book Day, Apple stops services in China, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and American hypocrisy with “ethnic food”
World Book Day: century-old library distributes 50,000 books – World Book and Copyright Day was created by UNESCO is held on April 23rd (the birth and death date for some prominent authors including Shakespeare and Maurice Druon). The day is designed as a tribute to books and authors, and aims to inspire a love of reading, particularly in young people. Sarvotham Grandhalaya, in Vijayawada, India, celebrated World Book Day by giving away 50,000 books in only its second annual giveaway:
Raavi Sarada, who runs the library with a great amount of passion, believes that a book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition.
“Like money, books must be kept in constant circulation. A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold,” she says.
The library launched free distribution of books last year and intends to make it a tradition.
“Encouraged by public response last year, when we had a collection of only 6,000 books, I decided to repeat the exercise this year on a larger scale. A plea to publishers, organisations and individuals to donate used books evoked tremendous response while the public reaction was even better,” says an elated Ms. Sarada. – The Hindu
Apple Suspends Online Book and Movie Services in China – Although Apple only started offering book and movie services in China last September, they had to suspend those services after meetings with Chinese authorities. Apple has historically been willing to modify its content to meet Chinese content standards, so their self-suspension may not be extended, especially given how ambitious they are to distribute content via the iPhone.
Apple suspended its iBooks and iTunes Movies services in China last week after meetings with the country’s video and publishing regulator, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, two people familiar with the matter said.
The case highlights the challenges of navigating China, where laws are often vaguely worded and clarified later. In last week’s meetings with Apple, officials pointed to broad new rules issued in February that ban companies with any foreign ownership from engaging in online publishing, one of the people familiar with the talks said. – Wall Street Journal
Interview with BA and Ph.D Alum Viet Thanh Nguyen – This is a fantastic interview with Viet Thanh Nguyen, whose book The Sympathizer, just won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Nguyen is also associate professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. The Sympathizer is Nguyen’s first novel.
GP: Can you say anything about how your education here at Berkeley and especially your decision to major in English shaped your ideas for writing?
VTN: I double majored in Ethnic Studies. I never would have become a professor, at least of literature, without Ethnic Studies. While I became an English major because I loved to read, I couldn’t see myself committing my life to the study of literature for its own sake, which is how most English professors (at that time, and perhaps now) taught literature. I needed to see that literature had a connection to the world, to matters of social justice. Ethnic Studies allowed me to make those connections, through studying the literature, history, political struggles, and social movements of Chicanos, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans. I owe an enormous amount to teachers like Ronald Takaki, Elaine Kim, Sau-ling C. Wong, and Barbara Christian, in addition to the memorable English teachers I had in Oscar Campomanes, Abdul JanMohamed, Alfred Arteaga, David Lloyd, Steven Goldsmith, Maxine Hong Kingston, and yourself. The courses in English that were de facto Ethnic Studies courses, dealing with postcolonial theory and literature, the literatures of immigrants and border-crossers, the literature of African Americans, all were fundamental into shaping me into a writer who sees himself as participating in a tradition of literature as social critique. . . .
GP: What is you advice to all of those students in our English classes who study literature, but also want to write fiction or poetry?
VTN: Writing fiction or poetry will make you a better literary scholar. Writing creatively will give you a greater sensitivity to your own writing as a scholar, and will make you look at the literature you study in ways that can both affirm and subvert the purely theoretical approaches to that literature. But it certainly isn’t easy to be both a scholar and a writer of fiction or poetry. It means having two jobs, two lives, two languages. Persistence, stubbornness, the ability to deal with incomprehension from both scholars and writers who only do one thing, and the ability to absorb a lot of rejection, are key. – The Wheeler Column
How Americans pretend to love ‘ethnic food’ – A really interesting interview with NYU’s Krishnendu Ray about how American perceptions of food mirror cultural hierarchies in general. As certain cultures are perceived to be “lesser,” so are certain foods, and as certain cultural groups gain “prestige,” so does their food. An insightful look at how racial and cultural ignorance and biases affect the way we eat and the expectations we have about how certain foods should taste and what they should cost.
There is ample evidence that we treat these foods as inferior, as Krishnendu Ray, the chair of nutrition and food studies at New York University, writes in his new book “The Ethnic Restaurateur.” Ray points to the comparatively low price ceiling for various “ethnic cuisines,” as a telling sign. Despite complex ingredients and labor-intensive cooking methods that rival or even eclipse those associated with some of the most celebrated cuisines — think French, Spanish and Italian — we want our Indian food fast, and we want it cheap.
The double standard carries with it all sorts of consequences, which Ray chronicles in his book. The people who make the “ethnic food” we eat are not always what they seem. Nor is the food, which, because of our refusal to treat it with the same prestige we treat others, is not nearly as authentic as we imagine it to be. – The Washington Post