04 May, 2021

Rabbit in the Moon By Heather Diamond Tour and Interview!

Rabbit in the Moon

By Heather Diamond

Genre: Memoir

 

Brief description:

         Blame it on Hawaii’s rainbows, sparkling beaches, fruity cocktails, and sensuous breezes. For Heather Diamond, there for a summer course on China, a sea change began when romance bloomed with Fred, an ethnomusicologist from Hong Kong.

         Returning to her teaching job in Texas, Heather wonders if the whirlwind affair was a moment of madness. She is, after all, forty-five years old, married, a mother and grandmother.

         Rabbit in the Moon  follows Heather and Fred’s relationship as well as Heather’s challenges with multiple mid-life reinventions. When Fred goes on sabbatical, Heather finds herself on the Hong Kong island of Cheung Chau with his large, boisterous family. For an independent, reserved American, adjusting to his extended family isn’t easy.

         Life on Cheung Chau is overwhelming but also wondrous. Heather chronicles family celebrations, ancestor rituals, and a rich cycle of festivals like the Hungry Ghosts Festival, Chinese New Year, and the Bun Festival. Her descriptions of daily life and traditions are exquisite, seamlessly combining the insights of an ethnographer with the fascination of a curious newcomer who gradually transitions to part of the family.

         Moving between Hawaii, Hong Kong, and the continental US, Rabbit in the Moon is an honest, finely crafted meditation on intercultural marriage, the importance of family, and finding the courage to follow your dreams.

 

Author Bio:

Heather Diamond is an American writer in Hong Kong. She has a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Hawaii and has worked as a bookseller, university lecturer, and museum curator. She is the author of American Aloha: Cultural Tourism and the Negotiation of Tradition. Her essays have appeared in Memoir Magazine, Sky Island Journal, (Her)oics: Women’s Lived Experiences of the Pandemic, Rappahannock Review, Waterwheel Review, Hong Kong Review, and New South Journal.

 

Links:

Website landing page: https://heatherdiamondwiter.com/rabbit-in-the-moon/

 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57164283-rabbit-in-the-moon

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HeatherDiamondWriter

 

Twitter: http://twitter.com/heatheradiamond

 

Barnes & Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rabbit-in-the-moon-heather-diamond/1139095555;jsessionid=1EBDCB36C00AA0EDBED04F31F2CED634.prodny_store01-atgap15?ean=9781788692342

 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Rabbit-Moon-Heather-Diamond-ebook/dp/B08VNSB71D/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781788692342

 

Brief Excerpt from book:

                  Our gourmet eating tour includes visiting a series of tourist centers devoted to Chinese specialty foods. Our stops include a pork floss factory, a tea farm, and an eel farm where I refuse to get out of the bus. I’ll eat eels cooked and on rice, but I have no desire to discover how they’re raised, skinned, and smoked. In the bus, Amah passes around a package of sweet, dried, and shredded pork she bought to share along with all the snacks she purchased as gifts for friends. Americans give chocolates; Chinese give pork floss. I have to admit that it’s good. I gave up eating vegetarian somewhere between the last trip and this one, partly because of my desire to be a good traveler who can fit easily into a new culture and partly because I tired of being told that there was only a little pork or chicken in Chinese dishes “for flavor.” On the last trip, my special vegetarian soup was garnished with a chicken foot, which Fred quickly snatched from my bowl. Being too much trouble is an issue I’m working on.

         Because there are so many of us, meals require two large round tables. I have always had a weak stomach when it comes to cleanliness in restaurants. My father liked to tease me about going to his favorite hamburger joint, Mel’s Diner, where I once found a crispy fly in my French fries. This trip poses challenges that go beyond my issues with Chinese table etiquette.

         In a Teochew restaurant in Shantou, we’re squeezed into a tiny upstairs room that holds only four tables. We’re seated on stools like the ones at Number 10, and I’m sitting near the wall when I spot a good-sized cockroach lazily ascending. Not wanting to make a scene, I nudge Fred and tip my head toward the roach. Fred calls the waitress and points. She pulls the wet towel out of her apron pocket, smacks it against the wall and the roach, and tucks the rag back into her apron. She then calmly goes back to taking orders from the next table. I tamp down my gag reflex just in time to see a winking chicken head arriving on the next platter.

         I have never seen a naked, boiled chicken head, and I do not understand how anyone could think it attractive as a culinary garnish. Yet there it sits, propped up in the middle of its own chopped, steamed, and sauced flesh, one eye closed and its comb flopping left. Fred turns to me with an exaggerated wink, his fingers crooked over his head like the chicken’s comb. Stifling a giggle, I nearly choke on my tea. Mimi sees him and says she heard that if you go out with your boss and the chicken head points to you, you’ll know you’re about to be fired. This strikes me as hilarious, and as Fred plops steamed chicken into my rice bowl, I’m shaking with the effort to contain my laughter.

         Back in our hotel room, I put a shower cap on my head and prance around singing a made-up chicken head song in my beginner Mandarin to the tune of “Fish Heads,” by Dr. Demento: “Ji tou, Ji tou, heng pang ji tou.” We roll on the bed, whooping and wiping our eyes. Humor, it occurs to me, might be my secret weapon for surviving Lau family travel. I already adore this man for making me laugh, for the way he laughs with his entire body — shoulders shaking, head thrown back, snorting and gasping for air. For his playfulness, his silliness, his willingness to be the epicenter of a joke by laughing at his own mistakes and foibles. The first man in my life who makes me laugh out loud and thinks my jokes are as good as his own. Serious people like me are pressure cookers with stuck safety valves. Left to ourselves, we can ferment or implode. Levity lifts the lid, lets out the steam, and connects us to the world.

Interview with author!


1. What do you find most challenging about the writing process, and how do you deal with it? 

In my writing, I struggle with being both a perfectionist and impatient. On the front end of the writing process, that means I’ve had to learn to not expect my writing to be pretty when I start. Instead, I have to let my ideas be their messy selves for however long it takes to shape them into something coherent. When I start a project, I make a lot of lists, and sometimes I write in disconnected fragments. With shorter essays, I often use a collage-like process until I find a structure that fits. With a book-length project, I create scaffolds. They help with mapping, but are more organic and flexible than outlines. I’m working on a second memoir right now that is still in the early stages, and although I am using a scaffold to set the parameters, I am also waiting for the writing itself to tell me what shape the book will finally take. 

On the the revising end of my writing process, I’ve learned to temper my impatience and not assume I know when a piece of writing is ready to go out. All of my published writing has benefited from honest critique partners and hair-splitting editors. I was fortunate to have two wonderful editors at Camphor Press who are expats in Taiwan and Chinese speakers. They asked me hard questions and caught minor details I had missed. Writing is often solitary, but I now I know that creating a book requires a team!


2. When and where do you do your writing? 

. I’m a binge-writer rather than a disciplined, daily writer. When I am rolling with an idea, I can write for hours. When an idea is percolating, I’m scrubbing grout with a toothbrush instead of writing. As for where I write, I wish I could say I retreat to a cabin in the woods or a lovely sound-proofed study with a view of a garden, but mostly I’ve been writing wherever I can. A year ago, I was writing on a card table in my mother’s messy guestroom full of stuffed animals. Parts of my memoir were written in the corner of a loft bedroom in a Hawaii condo inundated with construction noise. Some chapters were written in a Honolulu coffee shop. Most of the revision was done in a study (finally, a room of my own!) in our Hong Kong flat where construction noise often includes concrete drills directly overhead and the upstairs neighbor playing piano. Now that I think of it, I wrote my dissertation in a shared study in Hawaii with kids playing outside and someone practicing piano across the way. Noise blocking headphones are way up there on my list of sanity-saving modern inventions, and I’m most focused when there is a cat snoozing on my desk.


3. What have you learned about promoting your books? 

Book promotion might be the ultimate irony for an introverted memoirist. I spent four years writing and revising a book about being an shy introvert plunged into an extroverted culture and noisy Cantonese family. When I was living that, books were my escape, but to promote my book I have had to get out of that comfort zone and make some noise myself. That doesn’t come naturally, but through my connections on social media and elsewhere, I’ve discovered that this part of the process is a lot like teaching, which I did for many years. The only reason I could get up in front of a class full of college students was because the books and ideas I was teaching were bigger than me. I was just a conduit, the messenger. The same goes for promoting my writing. I wrote Rabbit in the Moon because I wanted to pass on what I had learned about Chinese culture, about families, and about reinvention and acceptance of others and myself. 

One of the most heart-warming rewards an author can receive is hearing that something one wrote resonates or opened a door for a reader. So far, I’ve heard from advance readers in cross-cultural marriages, expats remembering their acculturation process, women who’ve upended their lives midstream, and Chinese Americans who’ve lost touch with traditions. That kind of connection reminds me that writing has a life of its own once we launch it into the world and makes the efforts to get my book out there worthwhile.  


4. What are you most proud of as a writer?

I’m a late bloomer, and I’m most proud of myself for finally giving myself permission to write and for persisting once I started. I wrote poetry in my teens and studied art in my twenties, but I abandoned both to trying to survive as a single parent. I had a bookstore in my thirties, taught college composition and literature for decades, and became a museum curator on the cusp of sixty. In each of those jobs, I spent my creativity in the service of others. It wasn’t until I was sixty-five that I took an online writing class and realized that I had things I wanted to say and that creative non-fiction writing was something I could master if I was willing to be a beginner. Coming to writing so late has also lent it an air of urgency. I quit everything else to do this, so I can’t give up even though I considered quitting a few times along the way. Another factor is that I have no idea how long I have to write the books and essays I want, so I can't let life disruptions stop me.


5. If you could have dinner with any writer, living or dead, who would it be and what would you talk about?

 I’d love to have a long dinner with Pearl Buck, but we’d need more than an evening to cover all the topics I’d want to hear about. She was a remarkable woman who was ahead of her time in many ways. She was a child of progressive American missionaries who raised her in pre-re revolutionary China. She learned to speak, read, and write Chinese and became bicultural in ways many people in the missionary community did not. She witnessed the Boxer Rebellion, survived the Nanking Incident, and was denounced by Maoists as a cultural imperialist for championing the cause of peasants in Anhui Province. She became an advocate for adoption of mixed race children and against racism. She was a feminist and a human rights champion who was brave enough to speak out against western cultural imperialism in China. 

Once I stopped asking what it was like to be in China back then, I’d want to know what it  was like to always be going against the grain of your own country’s arrogance and ignorance? I’d want to hear what she thought would solve the impasses in American race relations today, especially the current wave of anti-Asian racism. What would help Americans better understand Asia and Asians? I’d be curious about her views on how Chinese society has evolved since Mao. And how on earth did she balance writing with motherhood and all the turmoil in her life? How might her life have been different if she had been raised in the West? We might never get to dessert. 


 


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